Thanks to Spike for betaing and Livia for listening.

John moved slowly through underground level B-17, watching the detector for any sign of a power spike that might mean more of Caldwell's sabotage. There was no reason he should be down here himself, in this cramped, dimly-lit corridor lined with wiring and pipes. But he wasn't in the mood this evening to take a pleasant stroll through Atlantis's surface, so he'd cut the grunts a break and assigned himself this sector. It was as close to musty as the city ever got, his boot occasionally slipped in a puddle of an iridescent slick substance, and he had to keep stooping beneath hanging wires or tubes. He hadn't found anything. He probably wasn't going to find anything. But on a day when he'd nearly had to shoot another superior officer—a day when he'd nearly lost the city again—he didn't feel like he had anything better to do.

The footsteps behind him, slow and patient, were just a distraction from the monotony.

He'd been hearing them for twenty minutes at least, probably long after they'd started, and he wondered just how long they'd keep going if he didn't acknowledge them. He reached the end of his stretch and snapped the detector shut.

"Going to follow me forever, Ronon?"

A chill touched the back of his neck as Ronon prowled out from a shadow only a few feet back. He'd been much closer than John had realized. "If I have to."

He rubbed his jaw. "What's going on?"

"You made the right call tonight," Ronon said, coming closer. His voice seemed huskier than usual, closer to the way he'd sounded when John had first met him.

"Yeah," he said, but his voice didn't carry much conviction. He knew he could make the case, had made it to Elizabeth. But they hadn't told Teyla about the Kavanagh plan beforehand. Still hadn't told her, in fact, and if John had his way, they never would. It felt like a secret, cold and thick and dirty in his chest.

"You had to protect Atlantis."

"I shouldn't have sent you to do it," John said. Easier to think about the collateral issues. "It was my responsibility—"

"You needed me to do it." Ronon was almost against him now. John saw that he was tense, thrumming with the frustrated need to serve. From the look in his eyes, Ronon could also tell what John was sick with wanting. John had been half-hard since he had first made his suggestion. Now, with the rush of adrenaline past, he was desperate for something to feed the feverish sense that anything, anything he did for the city was right. They were both tangled up in the guilt, but Ronon was so sure—John was leaning back, bracing himself against the pipes even before Ronon went to his knees.

He'd never had sex with a subordinate before, but, down here, it suddenly felt like they'd already crossed that boundary. John couldn't deny any longer the ragged pornographic edge of the order he'd given. Ronon didn't bother to unbutton the BDUs, just growled and gave them a healthy yank that sent buttons flying. That might be hard to explain later, but maybe he shouldn't be able to hide what they'd done. He wondered if the city could see them now. What the Ancients would've thought. They'd probably judge, be all disappointed and disapproving. They seemed to be good at that. Down deep, though, he'd bet they'd be glad to have him save the city without them having to get their hands dirty. They'd abandoned the whole galaxy to lesser beings, after all—left them in an impossible situation with no clean way out. John had been there before: blood and metal sparkling on desert sands, smiling brown-skinned men who turned streets into infernos, intelligence officers he'd flown in his chopper and their prisoners with hoods over their heads and bruises on their arms and no questions asked.

Ronon's mouth on his cock felt raw, almost too raw, and his fingers tightened hard on the pipe as the pleasure surged through him. It was warmer down there than on the surface. There were hums and vibrations behind his head, all the subterranean shudders of the city. The light above them gleamed on Ronon's arms, went dull in his hair. His face was shadowed. His mouth yanked low guttural noises out of John, but his hand on John's hip was steadying him through it.

Ronon had lived the grim truths of Pegasus. He knew the realities, what you had to do to survive. He didn't have to talk to tell John—he urged it all silently with his hands and his mouth. Flesh on flesh, the connection that mattered, that was everything it was so important to protect. And the secret knowledge that he wasn't alone, that what he and Ronon did bound them together in a hot, fierce intimacy. He might be cutting himself off from Teyla, and the thought might eat away at him, but he and Ronon understood each other, down there in the deep dank heart of the city. Ronon wouldn't fail him, if he was strong enough himself. Ronon would do whatever it took. Do it for him.

He came, gasping and jerking against Ronon's hand, and Ronon swallowed easily. After, he rose to his feet, his face dark with grim satisfaction. John slumped back against the wall and looked up at him, panting.

"Do you want—"

Ronon shook his head. He grasped the back of John's neck and looked into his eyes. "Whatever you need, Sheppard."

John nodded, straightening, fascinated by his stare. "I know."

"They'll be looking for you upstairs soon." He clapped John on the shoulder, then turned and strode away. John stood still for a moment, feeling the city's visceral pulse behind him, and then followed, back towards the light.

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