When Rodney McKay had first crawled into bed beside Colonel John Sheppard while staying at Carson Beckett's mother's small farm house, John had put it down to drinking too much of the smooth McCallan malt whiskey that was poured while she told them stories about her beloved son's youth.

John, Rodney and Ronon had stayed with Carson's mum after the funeral, unable to leave because something in the elderly lady's sky-blue eyes told them she needed closure, and only they could provide that for her.

They told her about Carson's bravery, and how he had died saving another man's life. They told her of the many times he had saved their own lives, working around the clock in his lab or his operating theatre, with no thought for himself.

They couldn't tell her that her son had seen things and been part of something that was so wondrous that it could have been a fairy story. They couldn't tell her that the tall, good-looking man who had gone to her aid when her legs had failed her as she left the church was an alien.

She had allowed Ronon to wrap his strong arm around her waist and guide her to the waiting car and then she wouldn't let him go, taking his hand as silent tears ran down her pale cheeks. He had followed her into the car which took them from the small graveyard to the community hall where the wake was to be held.

A gentle giant of a man who had been her son's friend--that's all she knew and that's all she needed to know. And Ronon stayed by her side until the last of the mourners left.

When they had made their way back to the small farmhouse she placed John and Rodney in the room with the twin beds and Ronon had been shown to a room with a double bed that she had remarked would still be too small for him. "It's Carson's room," she had said quietly, and then taken them back down stairs.

There they had sat for another few hours, talking about Carson, the things he had done and the things they would miss, before Cathy Beckett left them to go upstairs and shed more quiet tears for her lost son.

All three men had drunk too much, using the liquor to deaden the pain of loss, and when Rodney had slipped out of his own bed and into John's, John had merely moved closer to Rodney, slipping his arm around Rodney's waist and drawing him closer still.

Nothing was said the next morning when the sunshine woke the two of them to the sounds of someone chopping wood below their window.

Nothing was said the next day either, or the next, and when John opened the door to his quarters in the dead of the Atlantean night a week later, he merely stood back and let Rodney pass him as he mentally locked the door and then followed Rodney to his bed.

It was at the end of the third week that things changed. Rodney had turned in John's arms and had sought out the soldier's lips with his own. The kissing was soft, gentle and undemanding, and John allowed Rodney to take his fill, allowed the scientist to trace his lips with his tongue and then to part John's lips to explore inside. No explanation was given and none was sought.

A few days later found John nipping at Rodney's neck while both men rutted against each other, seeking the friction that would bring each of them to completion. A few days after that saw John mimicking the rough touches that Rodney was using, gripping the scientist's arms hard
enough to bruise, twisting and biting sensitive nipples.

As soon as John reciprocated, Rodney stilled beneath him, allowing him to mark him as he wished: scratches, bruises, bite marks, skin rubbing against skin until both came hard.

And in the morning, as always, nothing was ever said.

Another two weeks and John noted the vivid red marks around Rodney's wrists as he gently bound each in turn and secured them to the corners of the bed. Rodney's body was a mass of small scratches, teethmarks and bruises.

Somewhere in the back of his muddled mind, John thought this was wrong, but each morning Rodney left and nothing was ever said. And now John slid a pillow under Rodney's ass, raising it up. John hadn't touched the scientist's cock with his hand, but it was hard and leaking. He reached between Rodney's legs and fondled his balls, tugging and twisting at them as he bit the soft flesh between Rodney's legs, causing him to whimper in pain. John's teeth nipped at the crease where buttock met thigh and then his tongue danced over the slightly reddened flesh and he saw Rodney's posture soften for only a second before John moved away and lifted his belt.

Rodney had asked for this, and John didn't know what it was in Rodney's eyes that compelled him to carry out his wishes.

The strap came down on Rodney's back and thighs, crisscrossing the already-damaged skin, and Rodney whimpered again, finding the friction for his release by rubbing against the pillow John had placed under him.

Another few days and John was behind a kneeling Rodney surveying his work: the streaks of semen beneath the shaking scientist and his cock embedded to the hilt in Rodney's reddened ass. His nails were digging into Rodney's shoulders as he started to pound into the fragile flesh.

And then he heard the small, anguished voice, just as he emptied himself into strangely quiescent, docile body beneath him:

"I should have gone fishing," and the tears ran and ran.

John froze, then gently pulled himself out of the grief-stricken body beneath him. He loosened the bindings, then pulled Rodney into his arms.

"It's over Rodney," he whispered to his temple. "It's over. It's over. It's done."

John rocked him and soothed him, kissing him over and over. Rodney had been using him. John knew that now, but he wasn't angry.

He knew that Rodney had felt responsible for Carson's death. But he hadn't understood the depth of it, hadn't known how the guilt, the remorse had torn at him. He hadn't known why Rodney had come to him, exactly, what Rodney had been searching for.

John knew now.

"Your penance is over," John said, holding Rodney in his arms, rocking him, tracing kisses over his temple, his eyes, his jaw. "It's time to let me love you and help you heal. Let me help you, Rodney," John said.

And Rodney lifted his arms and slowly, slowly, held John back.