Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

Author's Notes:: This is set post-season.

Rodney is always accused of being one oblivious mofo, so it's with some surprise that he seems to be the only person who notices that John Sheppard has a bad tooth. The first indication is that John stops automatically handing Rodney his puddings, which sends Rodney into subsequent epic pudding withdrawal (somehow John's pudding always tastes better). He holds out for two days, but on day three Rodney comes to the conclusion that dignity is way overrated and begging is in order. Rationalizing that his pathetic pleas will be much more effective on a full stomach, Rodney decides to wait until John has finished with his entrée and then pounce. The best laid plans and all that jazz. Because John has stopped eating anything that isn't the consistency of, well, pudding. Scrambled eggs are standard breakfast fare, yogurt for lunch, and pudding and/or jello for dinner.

John Sheppard, the man who faces Wraith for a living and never turns a hair, is afraid of the dentist?


But the evidence is right there in front of him. Every day Sheppard's mouth—now twisted into a perpetual grimace—gets tighter and tighter. Plus, he's constantly sucking in the right side of his cheek just like Rodney had done when he had to undergo that horrendous root canal; Rodney saw his life flash before his eyes no fewer than ten times.

So, yes, more than enough evidence: the puckered cheek, the stoicism (not that Rodney can relate personally to stoic but he probably could do his third Ph.D. on John Sheppard and stoicism), the short temper, and the baby food. Rodney spends three days mentally debating the issue. Should he say something? As a rule, Rodney doesn't respect other people's personal boundaries because half the time he honestly doesn't get their issues—and, yes, he knows that as someone with issues up the ass and beyond it's a level of gall not to be believed—and the other half of the time he doesn't believe they deserve consideration. Either they're like Kavanagh—stupidly intelligent or intelligently stupid; Rodney could never figure out which—or they have shit for brains, screwing up simple algorithms that any thirteen-year old could calculate successfully, and hello death by explosion and subsequent raging firestorm, so glad you could stop by.

Of course, there are boundaries and then there are Sheppard's boundaries. Which is a whole different level of emotional physics, the data nearly non-existent. Teyla being Ph.D. smart about people and Ronon with his phenomenal ability to cut through any and all bullshit, plus add in that incalculable loss and grief factor the three of them share—uh, plus the killing people thing—means that Teyla and Ronon usually have a leg up. But even though they might be graduates of Sheppard Emotional Physics 1A, they haven't matriculated to Sheppard Emotional Physics 1B. Because John has walls even against Teyla, which irks her to no end. Rodney is weenie enough to actually get a perverse kick out it. What Rodney is absolutely dead certain of is that saying anything will earn him the Sheppard death glare for months and get his ass royally creamed in chess for the next twenty years purely as a matter of principle.

By the end of a week no one has said anything. True, Torren's molars are coming in, therefore Teyla is dealing with her own issues of chronic exhaustion, and Ronon is on assignment at Quantico, cleaning the clocks of a bunch of FBI personnel. The rest of the old timers probably assume that John is in one of his funks, and the newcomers assume that the military commander is an asshole. Taciturn by nature, John's comments are now even rarer, to the point of nearly being mute, and when he does reply, his typical sarcastic rejoinders are void of their usual humor. They now have an edge, with some of them being downright nasty. Rodney has been on the clueless end of events too many times to count, but rarely has he been the only one to get it. In fact the only other time had been regarding that Ancient Mata Hari, Chaya. One could categorize these as definite outliers. Noise. Something to filter out. Except he had been right about Chaya, and that tooth keeps getting worse if the deepening grimace on John's face is any indication.

Part of the whole Sheppard gestalt is getting on board with "don't ask, won't tell anyway." Rodney tends to be of the "don't ask, just yell" style of management, but even he knows that if he finally snapped and like a normal person said (to another normal person), "We are done with this idiot behavior as of this moment. Please see the base dentist about that goddamn tooth because you look about three hours out from mowing all of us down in a hail of bullets," that he'd be crossing a line from which there might not be a return.

For an entire week the first thing Rodney does when he enters the conference room for the morning senior staff meeting is to get a cup of coffee. The second thing he does is scope out John's face in what he's privately labeled "Operation Root Canal." Every morning John's mouth is nothing more than a grim line, his face gray from exhaustion.

Over pillow talk one night Rodney asks Jennifer if the Colonel has stopped by the sick bay for any reason.

Jennifer props herself up on one elbow and narrows her eyes. "Why should he?"

John's refusal to countenance any medical intervention beyond the sewing his intestines back into his stomach and the setting of broken limbs is the stuff of legend.

Although what Rodney is dying to say is, "Because he's in agony and would probably actually welcome a morphine drip right now," instead he stammers out, "No, no reason. He was, uh, talking one day about, um, donating blood. Yes, that's it. He's putting together an Atlantis blood drive."

The frown on Jennifer's face says that she doesn't believe him at all, and not for the first time did Rodney wonder why he is the smartest man in two galaxies but sucks big time at lying. To forestall the Q&A, he begins fondling her right breast.

Rodney has to do something. Because when his molar went bad, he wanted to hang himself. Seriously, just grab the nearest electrical cord and strangle himself so that the pain would stop. Sheppard had been fighting this for at least a week, and even given that John's pain threshold is on par with religious martyrs being consumed by flames, Rodney can't stand this anymore. Sheppard will either thank him or hate him forever. Five years and fifty-five near-death experiences later, Rodney still can't call these things.

At the staff meeting the next morning, even before Woolsey can say good morning, Rodney thinks, "Pain, think pain. I'm in pain." Which isn't a huge stretch because when isn't his back killing him.

"I'm taking two days off. As of tomorrow. I have a six a.m. flight booked out of SFO to Vancouver."

As usual, Woolsey is unflappable; Rodney's estimation of him only goes higher and higher with each passing week. "Dr. McKay. Good morning. Care to enlighten us?"

"I have a bad tooth." Rodney pauses to do some judicious sucking in of his left cheek. "Based on my previous experience, I expect I'll need a root canal. I don't trust the dentist here. That Bauer woman dates one of the botanists, and you know how I feel about them, Dr. Brown, notwithstanding. So, two days off, maybe three. I've already made my appointment."

Woolsey doesn't roll his eyes like Sam Carter used to do, but his face gets that "McKay's about to embark on one of his righteous tears, I might as well get comfortable" forbearance to it. Exactly like Elizabeth used to do. "You're going to the dentist. In Vancouver."

It is too easy. Although not planning on getting combative this early in the argument, Woolsey has handed him his opportunity on a silver platter. The more unreasonable he appears, the more likely people will believe Rodney has a pathological fear of dentists. Which he does. And apparently he isn't the only one.

"Yes, yes, yes! He's the only one I trust. He's the only one who can stand over me with those mini pick-axes they use and not have me go into hysterics at the very sight of them."

No one in the room says a word, not even John, which Rodney sees as a sign that this might actually work. Then Jennifer slams her empty coffee cup down on the conference table with a decided thunk.

"You know, Rodney, we could knock you out," Jennifer says in a stern, brittle voice completely unlike her normal tone so that he knows that she knows he's lying. Besides if he'd had a sore tooth he would have begged off the oral sex marathon they had had last night. Which, uh, he hadn't.

"I have no intention of subjecting my brain to more anesthetic than I have to," he snaps and thrusts his chin up in a defiant gesture. "Anyway, I trust this guy. Don't you get it?"

Without waiting for her reply, Rodney swivels back to Woolsey and takes a big breath before saying, "I need Colonel Sheppard to come with me."

Woolsey raises his eyebrows in question; John mutters, "What the fuck?" under his breath; and Jennifer snorts out a, "Oh for God's sake!"

"Because, because," he sputters, "I'm terrified of the dentist. When I was ten I had a dentist that put the 'S' in sadist. He drilled something like six of my teeth in one fell swoop. I was sobbing by the end. Since then… And I know that all of you think that hysterics is just standard operating procedure for me, but that's the way it is. I hear the sound of a drill and it's all I can do not to start shrieking. And it's not like either of us don't have something like nine thousand hours of comp time!"

"I'm going to hold your hand, McKay?" John says in his sarcastic best.

Rodney turns to him. "In a word? Yes."

"You could have just told me, Rodney. I don't understand why you felt you had to lie to Woolsey. And the rest of us," she says pointedly as she stuffs a bunch of clean clothes into a duffle bag.

"It wasn't really lying."

She stops to look at him, a pair of his socks in each hand.

"Okay, it was lying, but the bottom line is that both of us need to go, so what's the harm? He wouldn't have done anything about it until his entire body was raging with some sort of infection. You know what he's like."

She can't refute that, but Rodney notices that she yanks up the zipper of the duffle with a little more force than is necessary.

"The harm is that you didn't tell me sooner. That you lied about your dentist phobia and—"

"It's not a lie. I am pathologically terrified of the dentist," Rodney insists. "And I wouldn't trust that Dr. Bauer to even say the word 'tooth' in my presence, never mind performing actual dental surgery. I think they have a real nerve, awarding doctorates to people who basically are—"

She cuts him off. "Rodney, I really do not want to hear one of your soft-sciences screeds and how all these third-rate credential whores take away from the rest of us with real doctorates. I've heard it before." Of course, Rodney always includes medical doctors in that assessment, but even he has enough common sense not to allude to that now. "I don't understand why we couldn't just talk about this as adults, instead of these backdoor, adolescent machinations to get John Sheppard to the dentist. Why you couldn't just tell me?"

Rodney tries to tamp down his rising frustration and fails miserably. Before he can zip his lips, Rodney doesn't quite know why but finds himself shouting, "Because it's not my secret to tell! I had to do something. I couldn't just watch him suffering, day after day!"

She goes very still.

Something has just happened, something very serious. She hands him the duffle.

"Do you want some pain meds for the trip? The pressure in the cabin might play havoc with that tooth. And some antibiotics would be a good idea." Her voice is bland, as if she were talking to a stranger.

They meet at the dock at 4:00 am, nod at each other, and get on the launch, John huddling on one end of the seat, Rodney on the other. Their passports have special superdedooper stamps that get them waived through security and customs. It isn't until they are sitting in the airport lounge waiting to board their plane that Rodney says anything.

"Have you eaten anything yet?"

John shakes his head.

Here," Rodney hands him a jello cup that he'd secreted in his pocket. "You can't take these on an empty stomach. No arguments." John holds up his hands in mock surrender. After he slurps down most of the jello, Rodney shakes some pills into the palm of John's hand. "Take two of these and one of these." John throws them in the back of his mouth followed by a jello chaser. By the time they get on the plane the pain killers have kicked in and John's having trouble focusing. He sleeps the entire flight. Rodney spends the entire flight composing apologies to Jennifer.

They pick up their rental car, a Beamer convertible, which elicits a smile, the first smile Rodney's seen on John's face in days. He won't let John drive given the amount of pain killers John's ingested, but they put the top down and the wind buffets their faces in a pleasant whoosh. He'd debated staying with Jeannie, but then realized that if this whole thing went FUBAR Jeannie would never forgive him for subjecting Madison to John's impending psychotic break. He reserves a room at the Fairmont down on the waterfront instead. He is so used to living on water at this point that he has to fight off a righteous case of claustrophobia when he can't see or smell water. He assumes John feels the same. They check in, Rodney gives the bellman forty dollars to put their bags in their room, and they head to the dentist.

Rodney had spent at least three hours negotiating with this dentist—who specializes in people who hate dentists and brags to Rodney every time he sees him that he will be able to retire at forty. Credit card numbers were exchanged, appointments moved and cancelled so that John doesn't have to face other patients, and Rodney is to be there the whole time. The dental office isn't far from the hotel, housed in some ridiculously chromed-up high-rise with parking rates in the range of twenty dollars an hour. They sit in the parking garage for a few minutes until John is able to peel himself off his seat. Once in the waiting room, John sits down and hunches forward, reminiscent of the posture he adopted in the prison cells that they've shared. Rodney can't see his face, but John is gripping his knees so tightly that Rodney is certain that John's giving himself bruises.

When the receptionist says, "John Sheppard," Rodney hears the faintest of whimpers. He stands up and offers John a hand, ignoring the stare of the receptionist. He'd given the dentist the low down, informing him that Rodney's phobia was kindergarten phobia compared to this, and they just had to deal with him in room, because he wasn't leaving Sheppard to face this by himself. And since he was paying triple the going rate, deal.

During the entire procedure John crushes his hand like it's a lifeline. It will be three weeks before Rodney has full use of his hand again. By the seventy-minute mark Rodney begins fighting back the nausea of his own panic. He passes the time by giving some serious thought to the cosmic inflation problem, but at a certain point he can no longer ignore the chemical smells and the high-pitched whine of the drill. Then he looks up to see that John is crying, silently, as the dentist works away. He squeezes John's hand. John squeezes back.

After three hours they are done. The dentist rattles off a bunch of post-op directions that both of them ignore. Once back at the hotel parking lot, John is out of the car even before Rodney has had a chance to set the parking break. Sprinting to the elevator, John punches the elevator buttons like there are Wraith on his six. The back of his tee-shirt is soaked through with sweat. There is something about both of their faces that terrifies people because although the elevator stops several times, no one else gets on. No sooner is he in the hotel room than John makes a beeline for the bathroom, slams the door shut, and even through the inch-thick door Rodney can hear John retching. After a while it stops and then the shower goes on.

Feeling gutted and helpless, dealing with something that is clearly much bigger than just your garden-variety phobia, Rodney flips channels for ten minutes, not really seeing anything on the screen, but keeping an ear open for any more ominous sounds from the bathroom. The roar of the waterpipes coming to life eases his anxiety a little, and he realizes he should call Jennifer and try to salvage their relationship. This is probably a good idea to do so when John's got shampoo in his hair and soap in his ears.

Turns out it's a really good idea because Jennifer is still ticked and only getting more furious with every passing minute.

"Look, Rodney, I can't explain it to you other than you should have come to me for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that I'm a doctor and someone who is ignoring an infection like that is playing Russian roulette."

"I know. But—"

"There are no buts," she ground out.


"And then you lied to me, in a meeting with other senior staff, and I'm supposed to just roll with the punches."

"No, but—"

"Then the two of you have this secret little McKay/Sheppard semaphore thing going on where he knows that you've pulled an end run, but he's letting you pull an end run, and even gives you a glance of approval and God knows what else, and the two of you are all nice and cozy."

"I keep telling you, Jennifer. It wasn't my secret to tell!"

She is on a roll, her voice angrier with every word.

"The only thing missing was Teyla and Ronon. It could be a movie: Gate Team One Goes to the Dentist. The esteemed Dr. Rodney McKay, future Nobel-prize winner, deals with Colonel John Sheppard's raging case of dental phobia, while Teyla Emmagan and Specialist Ronon Dex battle Replicators in the waiting room. Will the surgery be successful? Will Teyla and Ronon defeat the Replicators? Turn in at ten to find out," she spits out.

Later he's sure that he actually hears a faint high-pitched whine that signals the end of his relationship with Jennifer Keller. Perhaps it's only John opening the door to the bathroom and the squeak of hinges that need oiling, but he feels something break emotionally as well as hearing it shatter.

"They come first. They will always come first," he says in a dull voice and hangs up.

"I'm sorry." It's the first thing that John has said to him since they left Atlantis that morning.

John is standing in the doorway to the bathroom, wrapped up in one of those luxury hotel robes, the super white of the terrycloth looking slightly obscene against the dark of his body hair.

Rodney waves a very tired hand. "Do you want to sleep?" Without waiting for an answer he gets up to close the drapes/blackout curtains and the room goes pitch dark. Fumbling for the edge of the bed Rodney crawls up to the head of the bed, curls up into a ball, and lies there in misery, not even bothering to take off his shoes. He falls asleep when he's sure that John's asleep and even in his misery marvels at how they've switched roles for once. Him waiting for John to fall sleep. John actually letting himself fall asleep.

A firm hand stroking his forehead wakes him up. Rodney tries to fight off that fuzzy, afternoon nap fog, wondering why is John in bed with him and why is he…

"What? Are you—"

"I'm fine." The hand eases up, but then cups Rodney's cheek. John's thumb grazes back and forth over the patch of soft skin under Rodney's ear. "Thanks. For, you know. Real stand-up, McKay."

Rodney nods. "Well, we have our moments. You'd do the same for me."

"Kidnap you for a root canal?" John sounds like himself, all drawly and sarcastic.

"Never let it be said that astrophysicists don't know how to have a good time. You up for ordering room service?"

John ignores him and the hand on Rodney's cheek tightens just a bit.

"When I was ten I had a dental appointment. I went to some stupid prep academy for school so my mother tended to load up on things like dentist and doctor's appointments during my breaks. It was Christmas time and winter had come in early. It was fucking freezing pretty much from November through April that year. Anyway, I get my teeth checked and wait for my mother to pick me up. Soon the office closes and the receptionist asks me if my mother is coming to pick me up. Yes, ma'am, I say, she'll be here any second. I wait in the doorway for another three hours. By the time the maid realizes I'm not home yet and sends the gardener to pick me up, I've got a pretty decent case of hypothermia, and they have to take me to the hospital."

Rodney has an idea of what is coming but has to ask.

"Your mother?"

"Passed out drunk in her bedroom. My brother, Dave, was spending the night at someone else's house or he probably would have said something. We kept an eye out for each other."

John's hand is now wrapped around Rodney's neck. Warm, slightly proprietary, John's fingers begin massaging the knots there.

"So yeah, thanks. And I am sorry. About Jennifer."

Rodney can't respond because he's sure that John is sorry but it's a moot point.

Then he notices that at some point John has removed his shoes, got him under the covers, and put an extra pillow between his knees for his back. Without thinking he turns his head slightly and kisses the inside of John's wrist. It's a blessing that they can't see each other's faces because Rodney knows that he's probably projecting confusion and God knows what John's face looks like. But then a thumb swipes Rodney's bottom lip. Oh. He has another split second to pull away before John brings their foreheads together in the unmistakable gesture that has come to characterize how Gate Team One feels about each other. He has another second before John presses his mouth to Rodney's forehead. Rodney thinks, oh, John, as a hand runs the length of his waist.

Rodney is something of a greedy lover and it's strange to be in the position of the giver as opposed to the giver who is really a taker. Because whatever John wants to do with him is good. John can't kiss because of his mouth, but the number of times John presses a wet mouth to Rodney's shoulders, the corners of his mouth, and the nape of his neck tells him that John is dying to just eat him. It's strangely hot. Rodney rolls with the punches. Because this is John Sheppard taking something, someone. Which is unheard of. The man doesn't even bogart his own pudding. And yet with every squeeze and groan he's asking Rodney to give it up. To him. It never gets beyond hands on each other and humping like they are each other's prom date, which is fine, because this is not about getting off so much as moving to another plane in their friendship. The next level of trust, camaraderie, and love, with bonus sex. John Sheppard 101. Rodney's never failed a course in his life and he isn't about to start now. Rodney doesn't second guess, wonder if he's now gay, or even suffer his usual neurotic hesitation about someone seeing him naked for the first time. Guy sex is a little different; it's rougher, edgier, and there's a pack animal dynamic that you don't have with a woman. Even as Rodney's giving it up, he's can't help but try to dominate in his subservience, and when John's mouth is healed, Rodney thinks that mind-blowing sex is going to be the order of the day.

Lying there listening to John sleep, Rodney can't help but speculate whether John's felt this way for a while, just had an epiphany between throwing up and scouring off the smell of dental office, or it is just time. Rodney is done with Jennifer, DADT is being repealed, and they are stateside. He suspects he will never know. What he does know? John Sheppard isn't the sort of person who puts his hand on your ass and not have it mean something.

With that thought he falls asleep, his arm over John's chest, John's ridiculous chest hair tickling the underside.

Rodney wakes up to the sound of the curtains being raked back and the smell of coffee. It's still dark outside.

"We've got a plane to catch. Get your ass out of bed." John hoists a coffee cup in the air. "Good astrophysicists get a cup of coffee after their shower."

Rodney is too sleepy to be an asshole back. When he shuffles out of the bathroom, John has scored a paper from somewhere and has it up in front of his face. Getting dressed and shoving his dirty clothes into his duffle doesn't take any time, and pretty soon Rodney's inhaling his first cup of coffee. For hotel brew it's not bad.

"I need to speak to Jennifer when we get back."

The paper doesn't move, but the hands holding up newspaper tighten and the newspaper crackles a little.

"To officially break up, you son-of-a-bitch." Rodney snatches the newspaper from John's hands, crumples it up, and throws it at John's face.

John's reflexes are phenomenal so he successfully dodges the paper ball. When he uprights himself he's smiling. "And people say you're an insensitive jerk, Rodney. They just don't know the real you."

"Unlike you."

John reaches across the table to grab one of Rodney's hands. They have a wee Hallmark moment and then John says in a low voice, "Unlike me."

Rodney wishes they could talk about things. Is John gay? How long has he felt this way? Does John want this to be a secret? Has he ever given a blow job? What are his thoughts on anal sex? All of this and more. Being a scientist is about asking questions, seeking answers. And yet Rodney's knows implicitly that this is part of the deal. He will just have to take his lead from John and then throw caution to the winds on the odd occasion. At some point soon he will mourn Jennifer. Oddly enough, he thinks John will get that. In addition to being a first-class stoic, John Sheppard is something of an expert on mourning people. She is a very decent person whom Rodney does believe loves him. But she's not John Sheppard.

Bringing John's hand up to his mouth, Rodney kisses his knuckles, one by one.

"How's the tooth?"


"You are an idiot."

"That's why I'm with genius. Can we take the long way to the airport?"

John utters this with such faux innocence that it tells Rodney two things: he really does feel better and there's been a change in plans.

"Long way to the airport? As in driving the length of the coastline to San Francisco in that sweet BMW convertible?"

John brings his forehead to Rodney's and murmurs, "Like I said, that's why I'm with genius."