Title: Emotional Clockwork
Author: Keira Marcos
Genre: Romance, First Time, Humor, Minor Angst, Major Snark
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard — mentions of previous partners, sex with others, and multiple other pairings
Rated: NC-17 (for language and sex)
Word Count: 35,700
Betas: Ladyholder & Chris King
Summary: At thirty-seven, John Sheppard came to the unfortunate and completely fucked up conclusion that he was in love with Rodney McKay. McKay is fresh out of a relationship and John isn’t interested in ruining their friendship with a rebound thing.
Rodney waited for years for John Sheppard to look at him. There had been a time when he would have given anything for his best friend to turn to him and return the foolish, inappropriate love he himself harbored. He thinks he’s moved on but what happens when he turns to John and sees everything he’d ever wanted just waiting for him?
* * * *
His grandfather’s watch stopped working thirty-six days after he helped McKay pick out a diamond engagement ring for Jennifer Keller. Thirty-four days after he’d realized that the agony twisting around in his chest every time he saw Rodney and Jennifer together was jealousy. Twenty-nine days after he’d found out that Jack O’Neill and Daniel Jackson were going back to Pegasus with them. Ten days after DADT was abolished. Eight days after John had gotten so drunk he’d forgotten his own name. Six days after Jennifer Keller told Rodney no.
“You’re not wearing your watch.”
John looked up from his breakfast and found his best friend staring pointedly at his naked wrist. “It’s not working.”
Rodney frowned. “You have another watch. The black one.”
John nodded. “Yeah, digital.” He went back to his cereal and Rodney huffed dramatically. “You know the great thing about having O’Neill on the city?”
“Besides the fact that he brought his boy toy with him to make my life a misery?” Rodney questioned.
“That’s rude,” John admonished. “Dr. Jackson has proven to be quite an asset for the city. His work off world has been good. Teyla is impressed with him.”
“Right, he could be out there forming his own religious cult for all we know.” Rodney stabbed at his bacon with a thoughtful frown. “I wonder how long the bacon will last.”
“Hopefully as long as it takes you to finish the new programming on the gate bridge.” John chased a fruit loop around in the milk. “How is that going?”
“Fine. We’re almost ready for testing—Carter is reviewing our end of things at the SGC and then we’ll be prepared to run a test through the gates. The new midway station is up and functional. Carter has done the testing through to the station from the SGC and the station has successfully dialed the Alpha site with no glitches or errors. They’re doing tests with organics now—mostly plants and the like. I think mice are next on the list.”
“We could use Todd as our test subject,” John offered. “I bet we could get him to come for a visit.”
“I can’t believe you let that guy go again,” Rodney groused.
“Not my decision, I think O’Neill was tired of those weirdoes at Area 51 lobbying to dissect him.” Not that John had been against that, exactly. Sure Todd was entertaining sometimes but he was still a barely leashed feral dog on the best of days. “We sort of owed him one, I guess.”
“I suggested a stasis pod but that was apparently untoward.” McKay rolled his eyes.
“My first suggestion was a bullet,” John admitted. “Apparently that was inhumane.”
“They wouldn’t have felt that way if they’d woken up and found Todd lounging on the bed beside them.”
Sheppard snorted then shuddered at the mental picture that accompanied McKay’s observation. Though it was certainly true—the people on Earth hadn’t seen Todd as a monster. Not even when they’d watched the recordings of him feeding on John. Maybe it was because John came back whole, young and alive. He really didn’t know for certain. What he did know was that the people on Earth running the IOA and the SGC had no concept of an enemy that wanted to eat them for dinner. They were far too used to megalomaniacs who just wanted to enslave them.
Not that John was casting dispersions on the bad guys that Earth had to deal with when they’d first started strolling through the gate the like they owned the whole damned galaxy. Because even he could admit that the Goa’uld and the Ori were pretty fucked up. He didn’t like to think about their Replicators—the bug versions—because frankly that was on a level of fucked up that would give him nightmares. It just seemed to him that they’d gotten off kind of easy in comparison.
SG1 never had to put up with nuclear weapon wielding Amish and two-legged sort of humanish bugs that looked like the love child of Alice Cooper and a catfish who wanted to eat them. Also? He was pretty pissed that they got the nice, helpful Asgard while he got stuck with the anal probing feral kind who liked to kidnap his astrophysicist. He huffed and glared at his cereal. Just thinking about it pissed him off.
“You’re thinking about our feral Asgard again,” Rodney claimed.
“Oh, you are!” McKay wagged a finger at him. “You always get that face when you think about them.”
“It just seems to me that if anyone deserved to get nice, helpful, ‘oh we like you so much’ Asgard that it should have been us.”
McKay snorted. “You know they named ships after O’Neill and Jackson and then promptly got them destroyed in the Replicator war. I’m not so sure I like the symbolism behind that.”
“Right.” John frowned and chased after a few AWOL fruit loops with his spoon. “You’re an atheist, right?”
“Since I was six,” Rodney proclaimed proudly. “No Santa, no Tooth Fairy, no Easter Bunny, no God. It was such a relief to realize my parents had been pathologically lying to me about the whole thing.” He waved a hand. “The physics of it all were just damned impossible.”
“The Tooth Fairy thing frankly freaked me out,” John confided. “You know that’s when they started out all of that “stranger danger” stuff in school. Then my parents tell me somebody was going to sneak in my room while I was asleep and steal from me.”
Rodney snorted. “A whole generation of kids huddled in their bed wondering if a childhood icon was really a pervert in disguise.”
“Well, it wouldn’t have been much of a disguise,” John said with a grin. He flicked his spoon through his milk and sighed when he realized there were no more fruit loops. Across from him, Rodney snorted and slapped another single serving box of the cereal down in front of him. John claimed it happily. “What with the wings and the fairy dust.”
“And the tooth fetish,” Rodney finished up and smiled when John laughed. He paused. “Why did you ask about the God thing anyways?”
John exhaled sharply. “They sent out a chaplain—Navy guy. He’s settling in okay and the new psychologist put him up on the board to available for counseling if anyone wants.”
“Do you want?”
John frowned. “I barely talk to Dr. Stevens when I’m required to. Why in the hell do you think I’d seek out a chaplain?”
“Right.” Rodney glanced at his naked wrist again and John resisted the urge to pull a sweat band out of his pocket. “Except you’re talking about him.”
“You know DADT was repealed.”
“I saw the memo,” Rodney said neutrally. “I did try to inform most of my obviously gay people that just because DADT was abolished that it wasn’t going to turn all of these pretty, tight assed Marines gay for them.”
John laughed. “I’ll be sure to tell the Marines you think they’re pretty, Rodney.”
“You know what I mean,” Rodney said with a frown. “Now, what does the chaplain and DADT have to do with each other? Is he one of those anti-gay religious nuts?”
“Not as far as I know but he did make a point of telling me that if I encountered people who were having religious objections to the new regulations that he would be on hand to help smooth things out.” John shrugged. “That could mean all kinds of things, I suppose.”
“Yeah.” Rodney paused. “But you don’t think it does.”
“I think he’s career Navy and religious enough to have served as a chaplain that entire time,” John murmured. “I figured I’d talk to O’Neill about it if things get weird. That’s what he’s here for after all.”
“Right.” McKay pushed aside his empty tray. “Jennifer is going back to Earth. She says I make her uncomfortable.”
“You don’t even talk to her,” John pointed out unnecessarily. “You even avoid the infirmary when she’s in there which could be a problem if you were gravely injured or something. Carson is your doctor of record. What’s her problem?”
“Apparently,” Rodney began and then waved a hand. “I’m taking our break up too well and that hurts her feelings and creates a hostile work environment.”
John’s mouth dropped open. “What is she, twelve?”
“At least she didn’t put that down as her reason for leaving the city,” Rodney muttered. “She cited research opportunities at the SGC and the fact that she doesn’t like going off-world. I’d probably end up in a review if she spouted off that non-sense about a hostile work environment. The IOA loves to make me explain my very cruel intentions concerning my underlings.”
“She’s the CMO—she’s not an underling. In order to claim sexual harassment or whatever, she’d have to be a subordinate or something. Right?”
“Fuck if I know.” McKay shrugged. “Still, I think if she were honest about how I’m hurting her silly little feelings with my epically stoic resolve—I’d end up back on Earth being interviewed about my behavior.”
“Epically stoic resolve?” John repeated with one raised eyebrow. “Don’t you mean your whoring around? You’ve slept with two different women on the city; one the mainland and I know I saw you coming out a supply closet with Katie Brown the other day.”
“I was just welcoming her back to the city,” Rodney exclaimed.
John grinned. “With your cock?”
“Oh, fuck you, Sheppard.” Rodney stood. “I have work and don’t you have some paperwork to delegate to Lorne?”
* * * *
“The colonel has pissed you off again,” Radek surmised as McKay stalked into the lab they often shared. “I find it distressful that I’m the one that has to deal with you after he does that.”
“He said I was a whore,” Rodney snapped.
Radek shrugged. “You have been free with your physical affections since you and Dr. Keller broke up.”
Rodney huffed and filled up his coffee cup before going to his desk. “Did Carter send the code back in the morning data burst?”
“Yes, there are just a few issues left to address regarding some of the redundancies they removed at the SGC in the dialing program.”
McKay’s gut clenched and he exhaled sharply. “I’m glad we insisted on installing a DHD on the new Midway station.”
“We are in agreement,” Radek assured. “Some of the ‘fixes’ the SGC has implemented through the years have done great deal to damage both themselves and others. It is best, I believe, to leave such things to the devices designed to do it. Pulling that DHD out of crashed Jumper was good solution.”
Rodney nodded. Sam Carter hadn’t necessarily agreed but Rodney wasn’t going to ever forget the event that lead him to being shoved off to Siberia. He’d like to avoid accidents like what nearly happened to Teal’c and the best way to was use a DHD instead of the dialing computer the SGC used. Also, he wasn’t interested in another failed biological test. The last test had been horrific.
The door to the lab opened and Jennifer came in. Rodney suppressed a sigh and only glared when Zelenka demonstrated his ability to practically disappear. Sometimes he sincerely hated the little Czech bastard. He set aside his coffee as Jennifer came to stand by his desk.
She huffed. “Rodney.” She folded her arms and stared at him pointedly. “Don’t you think it’s time we talk about your behavior?”
“I thought we did that—when you said I made you uncomfortable and was creating a hostile work environment.” He said it like it was stupid because it was stupid. He’d been going out of his way to avoid his ex-girlfriend. He didn’t speak or interact with her at all outside of staff meetings.
“Look, I realize that being in a relationship like we were sort of curtailed your personal freedoms and now you feel like you’ve got to establish yourself…” She trailed off when he started to laugh. “Rodney, I’m being serious.”
“Oh, I know.” Rodney exhaled impatiently. “I’m not acting out. I’m not having some kind of weird midlife crisis. I asked you to marry me. You said no. I broke up with you because we didn’t have the same goals. I think that’s pretty much the end of the conversation that we had weeks ago.”
“You are using people to get back at me,” Jennifer hissed. “You’ve slept with three different women since we broke up and it’s barely been a month.”
“No, I’m not. If I was going to do something that petty I start sleeping with Marie—we were fuck buddies for over a year before I decided that I might want a relationship.”
Besides, he thought privately, both John and Keller were wrong—he’d slept with three women and two men since he’d broken up with Keller. Though he did think the two men should only count as one since that had been a threesome. He also didn’t count Katie since he’d just kissed her and gotten her off with his hand after she blew him. Well, maybe it counted. It sure had been a great “nice to see you again” present.
Jennifer’s mouth fell open. “Excuse me? Marie? The nurse that I’ve worked with for two years? She’s your ex-girlfriend?”
“No, she’s the woman that I used to let use me for sex on a regular basis,” Rodney explained patiently. “That’s how adults who don’t actually want to be romantically involved with someone get laid in a safe, comfortable way. They establish a sexual arrangement with someone they trust. That’s what we did but I’ve avoided her because I thought it would make you uncomfortable.” He waved a hand. “More uncomfortable.”
“I didn’t even know about her!” Jennifer shouted and then huffed. She pursed her lips. “Why didn’t you ever say?”
“Everyone knew about us,” Rodney said bluntly. “We started up after things ended with Katie Brown. It wasn’t a secret from anyone who bothered to pay attention. I think at the time, however, you were panting after Ronon.” He paused. “At least until you came to the mistaken conclusion that he was too primitive for you.”
Jennifer frowned at him. “He is… not like us.”
“He was a scholar and a teacher on his home world before the Wraith culled. His wife was a talented and popular Healer. He courted her with poetry he wrote himself and delicate little flowers he grew in his own garden for fuck’s sake. He was twenty-two when the Wraith culled his home world and he already had the equivalent education of a Master’s degree in history and philosophy. Since coming to Atlantis, Ronon has learned Ancient and the Wraith language.” Rodney paused and considered her. “I should have realized then that you weren’t who I thought you were. He and I had been playing a little game—to see which one of us could win you. You aren’t even the first we’ve done it with but you were the first to ever treat him like he was unworthy because of the way the Wraith forced him to live—what they forced him to become.”
“I didn’t know—“
“You didn’t bother to find out,” Rodney snapped. “I’m on duty, Dr. Keller. Don’t you have work to do yourself?”
“We aren’t finished talking about—“
“Who I put my dick in is none of your business,” Rodney said sharply. “It was, briefly, your business when I was regularly sticking it in you. Now… not so much.”
“You’re horrible,” Jennifer snapped.
“That’s not exactly a state secret either.”
* * * *
John didn’t know if he considered himself an atheist. Plenty of men he’d known throughout his life prayed before missions, tucked a crucifix into a pocket just as they would any other item they might need to save their life. He’d always tried to be respectful of those with faith… because he figured that life without faith in something was a pretty bleak thing. He had faith in his father as a child. Patrick Sheppard had been the center of his world until things had changed between them.
It had been an inevitable the break between father and son. Patrick was a career military man who had been raised by a career military man. He rubbed his thumb over his bare wrist and thought about his grandfather’s watch in pieces on his desk in his quarters. He’d sent an email to Carter—letting her know what he would need to repair the watch. He was confident that she would eventually come through. John William Sheppard had served during World War II. He’d flown more missions than any other man on the base where he was posted—coming home time after time when those around him routinely never returned at all. He’d worn his watch on every mission.
A week after John’s seventeenth birthday and the day of his first solo flight—his grandfather had taken that watch off his own wrist and slipped it on John’s. John hadn’t flown without it since that day. He’d kept it secure in his shirt pocket; hands unmoving even as time and space bent around him as he’d piloted the city back to Pegasus. He didn’t know what it said about him—maybe it was a matter of faith. His own personal tradition. The talisman of his grandfather’s repeated survival during the Second World War secure on his wrist mission after mission.
It had taken him three weeks to recover from crashing in Afghanistan. It had taken him a month to find a watch like his grandfather’s so he could cannibalize it for parts. He’d had to replace the face—had spent hours with a pair of tweezers arranging the gears he’d had to replace. Repairing his grandfather’s watch had done more to settle him after the death of his team than the hours of therapy the Air Force had forced down his throat while he’d been sitting on ice at McMurdo.
“I assume you came to my office for a reason, Colonel Sheppard.”
John pursed his lips and let his gaze flick briefly to Dr. Thomas Grant. He knew the man’s qualifications—degrees in psychology and religion. Naval chaplain for fifteen years. A scholar, an officer, a man of religion who had made himself at home on Atlantis with little fanfare. John supposed it didn’t hurt the man was insanely attractive with his dark blue eyes and sun touched blond hair. He was fit, clear-eyed, and very much the epitome of a Naval Officer.
“Doctor,” Thomas corrected. “Sir. You’re in my office—when you’re in here, it’s Dr. Grant or even Thomas if that would make you more comfortable.”
John didn’t huff but he allowed himself a small sigh. “I’m sure my medical records make it quite clear how much I do to actually avoid counseling situations.”
Grant laughed abruptly but schooled his face when John glared at him. “Kate Heightmeyer was quite blunt in her assessment of your reluctance to participate in therapy or even field assessments.” The man relaxed on the small couch he’d settled in once the door had closed. “Is this personal or professional?”
“I need to know, off the record, what your position is on gays serving in the military,” John said bluntly. “No bullshit. No politically correct language. Just you being honest with me – man to man.”
Thomas blinked in surprise and he sat aside the computer pad he’d brought with him from his desk. “Ah. Will you sit? John?”
Sheppard forced himself to move to the opposite side of the arrangement of furniture. He sat down, stiff and bordering on furious. He didn’t even know why he was so damned angry all of a sudden.
“I have served a long time,” Thomas began. “I have counseled men and women in the Navy—combat fatigue, grief, rape, torture, sexual identity crisis—you name it I’ve dealt with it. Two years ago I had a very talented male pilot have a complete mental break down on me in the middle of the Mediterranean because he couldn’t pretend to be straight any longer. In the end, no matter how much I beat around the bush, the Navy found cause enough to discharge him. Though, I threw a big enough fit with JAG to make sure it was an honorable discharge.”
“Did it bother you that he was gay?”
“It bothered me that he was so destroyed personally that he could barely function. He’d hidden his sexuality from everyone in his life. Hell, he had a wife and baby living in San Diego waiting for him to come home.” Thomas frowned briefly and closed his eyes. “Hiding from the Navy was actually the least of his concerns in the end. The rules—DADT specifically, were cruel and thoughtless and it created horrible situations for people who wanted to do nothing more than serve and protect their country, Colonel. The answer to your question is that I don’t have a single problem with homosexuals – no matter their career choices.”
John nodded. He sucked in a breath. “Okay. Good.”
Sheppard met Thomas’ gaze unflinching. “Dr. Stevens had been handling my field assessments and any issues since he was assigned to the city. I’d like to… I’d prefer to see you from now on if that is alright.”
Grant appeared startled for a moment and then he nodded. “Has Dr. Stevens done or said something to make you uncomfortable with him?”
“He’s a civilian,” John murmured. “He has no idea what it means to be in combat. When I told him I didn’t know how many people I’d killed during my career—he actually paled.” John laughed abruptly when Grant snorted. “Right. He’s a good guy but I don’t think he really has the experience necessary to deal with heavy combat military assets.”
“It’s interesting to hear you categorize yourself that way,” Thomas murmured. “Your war record certainly bears that out but you’ve always… from the notes I’ve seen in your file… shied away from discussing your combat experience.”
“Heightmeyer was a soft, beautiful woman who had no business being out here,” John said after a long silence.
“You resent her for dying the way she did,” Thomas said bluntly. “In that nightmare, being chased by a phantom version of you.”
“I can’t…” John slouched back against the couch and stared at the ceiling. “I should’ve realized then—that day when I thought he was dead. That’s when it should have hit me.”
“What are you talking about John?”
John lifted his head and met Grant’s gaze, calm and sure. “Seventy-three days ago I realized I was in love with McKay.”
* * * *
“I like sex.”
John snorted and opened up another beer. “You aren’t alone in that buddy.”
“I just don’t think there is anything wrong with enjoying it with other consenting adults,” Rodney continued with a glare in John’s direction. “I’m good at it. I don’t stick my dick where it isn’t welcome.”
John glanced at McKay startled. “You’re good at it?”
“Christ, yes, I’m an excellent lay,” McKay said in that tone John associated with all those times Rodney had said something so certainly that he could take it as the goddamned gospel. “All of my ex-lovers would and do come back for more sex if I make myself available. Even the women that hate me will fuck me.” He paused and inclined his head. “I could bag Keller right now if I wanted.”
John blew out a breath. “You realize you’re the kind of man that causes the rest of mankind to suffer. You have probably turned a score of women into man-haters.”
“Only two outright hate me,” Rodney said defensively. “Though Keller is certainly coming close and we still have a few weeks left until she leaves for Earth.”
“Carter actively resents you.”
“She’s always resented me,” Rodney confided. “I still had no problems getting her into bed. You can’t really underestimate the value of grudge sex.”
John couldn’t even disagree with that. He’d pretty much hated Marshall Sumner on sight but that certainly hadn’t stopped him from being the first man in ten thousand years ago to get a blow job in a supply closet only hours after they arrived. He shivered a little and focused on the water in front of him as he remembered Sumner’s mouth grazing the back of his neck as he’d roughly prepped him. The Marine had been a toppy son of a bitch but John still jacked off often to the memory of being fucked by him.
“You cold?” Rodney questioned.
“Nah, I’m good.” John smiled and took another swallow of beer. “Grudge sex can be fun.”
“Women love you,” Rodney said roughly. “Who have you had grudge sex with?”
John paused and then sat his beer down. “We’ve been best friends for a while.”
“Yeah,” Rodney agreed. “This is the longest friendship I’ve ever had. Though I’ve certainly done my part to alienate and treat you poorly.”
John laughed. “I think I got a few things in there, too.”
“Right—I’m sure I’ve been so furious with you I couldn’t breathe.”
“Chaya,” John pointed out.
John winced. “Right well, the thing is that I have… shit.” He picked up his beer and finished off the can.
“John.” Rodney frowned and shifted on the pier so he could stare at him straight on. “Are you sick or something?”
“No, nothing like that.” John opened up another beer and exhaled sharply. “Remember how—you got all bent out of shape because you slept with a Marine and he made some offhand comment about not getting caught because he figured I’d be an asshole about it?”
Rodney had the grace to blush. “I remember yelling at you and some stuff. You were pretty upset with me afterward. I thought it was because I was bi and then that stuff with Doranda happened…” McKay frowned and averted his gaze. “You told me you didn’t care that I slept with guys.”
“Right.” John nodded. “The thing is that in a perfect, more tolerant society that would have been the time and place to tell you that… I’m gay.” He glanced towards McKay and found that the color had drained from his face. “And that no matter how often you get accused of using women for sex—at least you aren’t a douche bag using them to hide the way you were born. I even went so damn far as to marry a woman to keep my career.”
Rodney huffed, reached out blindly for a beer. He popped the tab, drank it all in one swallow and then tossed the can out into the ocean in front of them in a fit.
“Hey, litter bug! Respect our planet.”
Rodney glared at him. “You fucking bastard.”
“I know, McKay.”
“What about Teer?”
“She was intent on being a virgin when she ascended,” John explained reluctantly. “I only had to kiss her a few times to keep her happy.”
“I didn’t have sex with her!” John protested. “Christ, like I’d be interested in a woman like that even if I was straight. You realize she’s a psycho, right? I mean, that woman is evil.”
“Chaya?” McKay demanded with a frown.
John paused and nodded reluctantly. “Ascended sex. Frankly? Best sex I’ve ever had with a woman, what with the tentacles and the glowing, and her total lack of shame.”
Rodney stared at him, opened mouth for several seconds and then he snagged the last beer with a preemptive glare to prevent John from bitching about the blatant beer Bogarting. “I… I realize I have a big mouth and I’m not particularly discreet about my own sexual relationships. But I’ve had liaisons I had to keep a secret. Why didn’t you trust me with this?”
“Rodney.” John huffed. “I’ve said the words ‘I’m gay’ twice my whole life, okay. I said it to my Dad and he disowned me. I said it to you and you called me a bastard.”
McKay frowned. “Sorry.” He glared out at the ocean, his posture stiff. “I thought you were just really fucking repressed. I mean besides a few Ancient women throwing themselves at you… alien princess here and there.” He snorted. “I should have realized you were a total homo when you didn’t hook up with Teyla. Who turns down quality ass like that?”
“McKay! Don’t talk about Teyla like that!” He nudged him with his shoulder. “And don’t call me a homo, fag.”
“If the swish fits,” Rodney muttered and then he laughed outright. “The hair. The slinkiness. The leaning. Please don’t ever tell anyone that I didn’t already know you were gay because they might contact Mensa and get my membership revoked.”
“Well, you’re kind of socially indiscriminate,” John said pretending to be thoughtful about it. “I mean you just blunder along… insulting people left, right, and center. I used to think you were just so smart that you were disconnected emotionally from your environment. Then I realized you were just a sociopath and you genuinely didn’t give a shit what most people thought. It was kind of relief. I spent six months trying to figure out what I was going to do when I brought it up to Elizabeth and she realized our CSO was an emotioal wasteland.”
“Fuck you,” Rodney muttered. “I can’t even imagine how much therapy I would’ve had to endure if you’d had that ridiculous conversation. She always looked at me all squinty-eyed and disappointed.”
“That’s the ‘Mom Look’.” John shuddered. “She did that to me after the thing with Chaya and then again when I was in that sanctuary thing for six months which was totally not my fault. But Radek got the worst look ever when he didn’t want to get in the Jumper to help search for you.”
“He admitted to me later that you and Elizabeth bullied him into doing it. I berated her for a half-hour over that bullshit. He was scared out of his mind and neither one of you had the right to demand that from him. He’s a civilian—a man who lived a rather cosseted life in research on Earth. Granted, he came through the gate and he learned to fire a weapon but Radek isn’t like…” He waved a hand.
“You didn’t fuss at me.”
“You were emotionally compromised. I yelled at her about you, too. Neither one of you should have been in that Jumper launching a rescue mission. He was scared stupid and you were reckless with both of your lives to save someone who should have been dead. My survival was a complete fluke.”
“Yet, here you sit,” John said sarcastically.
“I would have never asked you to take a risk like that,” Rodney murmured. “It’s like your life means less than everyone else’s. That is easily your worst fault as a friend. One day, I’m going to have an empty grave and a headstone to visit with your name on it. That’s a bullshit thing to do to your best friend, you know.”
“I don’t set out to try to kill myself,” John protested.
“No, but you certainly don’t have any expectations of surviving long term,” Rodney murmured. “But I knew that when you tried to blow yourself up with a nuclear weapon and I let you slither your way further into my life anyways.”
“Like a pretty, slinky, little snake,” Rodney clarified.
John rolled his eyes but didn’t say anything else. It wasn’t the first time someone had commented on his looks. It wasn’t even the first time McKay had commented on how he looked. Though he hadn’t used the word pretty last time.
“So, hmm, top or bottom?”
John turned to stare at his best friend and found the scientist looking at him—his expression set on ‘thinking’ mode. It was unnerving since McKay normally only looked at science stuff that way. “I… that’s a really inappropriate question, Rodney.”
“Fuck that,” Rodney muttered. “I’m your best friend and you’ve been holding out on me. Who was the last person you had sex with? It wasn’t one of your men because you don’t seem the type to dip your pen in the company ink so to speak.” McKay frowned as he continued to ponder. “One of my people then or someone off world. Maybe someone at the SGC? Cameron Mitchell? He isn’t under your command. The two of you hung out a lot when you were doing your debrief in Colorado.” He glared at him. “Did you sleep with that asshole?”
John rolled his eyes. “No, and it doesn’t matter if I did. You sleep with plenty of people who are complete and utter assholes.”
“Ha. Name three!”
“Jennifer Keller, Dean Bates, and of course – your most consistent sex partner – yourself.” John reached out and snagged the beer Rodney hadn’t finished. “Do you have cooties?”
“Of course not, those vampires in the infirmary…” He trailed off as John drained the rest of his beer. “That was mine.”
“No, it wasn’t. It was mine and you stole it.” John shoved the empty cans in the plastic bag they’d used to transport them and sighed.
“Bates isn’t an asshole.”
John was not surprised that McKay wasn’t prepared to defend Keller. The truth was, McKay’s relationship with Bates had irritated the hell out of John and at the time he hadn’t understood why. “Yeah he is. I mean, don’t get me wrong – he’s an excellent Marine and a good man. I’d have him at my back any day of the week but the man is a certified, Grade A asshole. Even Sumner thought so and that’s saying something since he picked Bates for the mission.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“You don’t deserve an answer to your question!” John huffed and leaned back on his hands. “It’s none of your business.”
“It would certainly improve the quality of my fantasies if I knew,” Rodney said sullenly.
“You jerk off thinking about me?” John sat up straight and glared at him. “Seriously?”
“Christ, Sheppard, really?” McKay stared at him exasperated. “Who doesn’t? You do realize you’re the hottest fucking thing this city has seen in ten thousand or more years, right? Even men I know are straight look at you like they want to crawl on top of you. Last week? That new engineer guy of mine nearly got himself killed because you walked by his lab and he forgot what he was doing! Radek laughed so hard he cried.”
John blushed and averted his gaze. “That’s… stupid, McKay. It’s just stupid.”
“I know you don’t like it,” Rodney said after nearly a minute of silence. His voice was subdued and thoughtful. “I see it on your face when Hot Chick of the Week is throwing herself in your lap. You try to play it off but sometimes you look so uncomfortable that I feel like I need to rescue you.”
John laughed abruptly. “I noticed. I totally appreciate the… whole thing… you know. Sometimes it’s so obvious that you’re trying to be offensive that even Teyla can’t be angry with you. Well, unless, we get thrown in a prison because of it. Then she gets kind of bent. Have you noticed that she doesn’t have much patience for that anymore?”
“I think motherhood did something fundamental to her personality,” Rodney confided. “She had those people with the IOA cowering in corners all over the planet when she was campaigning with Woolsey to return the city to Pegasus. Not that she hasn’t always been badass but lately there is a whole layer of… female power over the entire thing.”
“Right.” John nodded. “Scary. Even Ronon hesitates to spar with her lately. Maybe we should talk Kanaan into knocking her up again.”
“That man doesn’t breathe without approval,” Rodney muttered. “Not that I blame him. I’d let her boss me around, too.”
“Right.” John stood. “I’ve had my fill of you for the evening.” He stretched and then picked up the plastic bag. “I’m telling the environmental science department you littered, you most certainly cannot attempt to bed Keller because she might actually complain about you back on Earth, and while I’m comfortable with either position—I really love to be fucked.”
He strolled away, leaving McKay sputtering in the darkness without even a beer for comfort.
* * * *
Jack O’Neill was easily the worst boss John had ever had if he were going to be honest. It wasn’t because he was too desperate to prove his strength like Elizabeth Weir. O’Neill wasn’t bogged down in command issues and keeping the IOA happy like Carter had been. He wasn’t a paper pusher with a fetish for rules like Woolsey. O’Neill was career military but it didn’t show at all. He had little patience for science unless they were in a life and death situation and every time John had a meeting with him—he got the feeling the man would much prefer to be fishing. Which was how after their fourth meeting, John had casually suggested they start meeting on the southwest pier so that at least one of them could be happy during the meeting.
O’Neill casually flicked his fishing pole and John set aside his tablet. “Want to tell me what’s on your mind?”
“Just thinking that you’re a horrible boss, sir,” John admitted honestly. “I’m not sure it’s going to work out since I’m pretty sure your ‘give a fuck’ is broken.”
“I’m a great boss!” O’Neill protested with a good-natured grin. “I don’t even make you take notes in our meetings.”
“Right.” John nodded. “We wouldn’t even have meetings if I didn’t schedule them. I kind of feel like the kid that grew up to take care of his parent and that’s not fair, really. I miss Woolsey.” He frowned even as he said it. “He made color coded mission schedules and gave me detailed feedback, whether I wanted it or not, about every single report. It’s like there was a divorce and I got stuck with the ‘fun’ parent who doesn’t eat balanced meals or make me go to school.”
O’Neill snorted. “You just don’t like the responsibility.”
“Not remotely, sir.”
“The IOA wants to put you in charge of the city when I really retire. You might as well start doing it while I’m around to take the flak if you fuck up,” Jack said. “That should happen in the next five years. I’ll probably stay out here until I die because… well Daniel fell in love all over again with his field and has this plan for the Pegasus galaxy that I’m not sure anyone would approve of if they knew.”
“McKay says he’s out there forming a cult,” John waved a hand as if to encompass the galaxy. “Could be worse, I suppose. Some of those assholes still worship the Wraith.”
“You’ve been distracted lately,” O’Neill said. “I didn’t say anything about the hangover you seemed to nurse for two straight days because I figured I knew what was going on.” He cleared his throat. “You’re not even bisexual are you?”
John flushed and averted his gaze. “Not remotely, sir. I like women but they don’t do a damn thing for me.” He exhaled sharply. “I told McKay last night—at first I thought he knew. I mean he’s not the most observant man but he is bisexual himself and most men who have sex with other men have decent instincts when it comes to that.”
Jack nodded. “I knew you were gay or at least bisexual within an hour of meeting you. So when did you figure out he was clueless?”
“Shortly before he blew up a solar system,” John admitted. “Then that whole issue got stupid and hard between us because of the fall out of that mission. Elizabeth was furious with him and I was at a loss as to how to deal with him and with her so I avoided them both. That avoidance created other issues that nearly had McKay leaving the city altogether which Elizabeth thought was a pretty fine idea, actually. I don’t think she ever forgave him for failing her.”
Jack sighed. “No, you’re right, she didn’t. During the third annual review of the mission she admitted that she hadn’t regained her trust in McKay and wanted him replaced. She wanted Carter. When it became clear that the only way I’d send Carter out here would be if she were in charge of the expedition, Weir backed off trying to replace McKay.”
“I think that’s why he activated the nanites,” John said lowly. “He wanted to save her. To prove to her that she could trust him. He was desperate and Keller—well she was too young and too foolish to understand what she was going to let him do. I think even if she had understood, she would have allowed it because her curiosity is far more important than anything else for her.”
“I know.” Jack sighed. “She’s not leaving the city of her own freewill by the way. I know that she’s telling everyone that she’s transferring back to Earth by her own choice but it’s not true. I had to make a choice between her and McKay because she submitted a report questioning his ability to function as the CSO.”
“What?” John demanded.
“She said his brush with death last year and the lingering effects of the parasite drastically altered his personality and that he was no longer fit to be in charge of the sciences on the city,” Jack murmured and then winced visibly at the language that poured out of Sheppard. “Language, young man, don’t make ground you.”
“Right.” John snorted. “I need a beer for this.”
“Agreed. It doesn’t impress me much at all that McKay gets to sit on the pier with beer while you bitch at him and all I get is a pole.” He flicked his fishing pole again. “I don’t even want to know what kind of fish I might actually hook as is.”
“I brought you a chair. I make McKay sit on the actual pier.”
“There is that,” Jack agreed with a nod. “So, you came out to McKay.”
“And that’s why he sent out an email letting everyone know he was working in his quarters today? He did that after he broke up with Keller.”
“I thought…” John trailed off with a frown. Had McKay actually said that Keller dumped him? He sighed but couldn’t remember because that entire conversation had a layer of Athosian wine tossed over it.
“He told Daniel that she accepted the ring initially but then they argued because she wanted to return to Earth when her contract expires next year and didn’t understand why he would want to stay out here.”
John knew he hadn’t been told that part. “Oh.”
“He didn’t tell you?”
“Well, not the details. I didn’t push because he seemed pretty pissed about the whole thing actually. Which, in retrospect, is issue enough. He was really sort of broken over the thing with Katie Brown but I thought that was because he sabotaged himself.”
“Seems like he did the same thing with Keller. I don’t suppose he thought she would even say yes so when she did…”
“He picked a fight with her about leaving the city,” John said. “Right. It’s par for his course, actually. The only thing he is really committed to his work.”
“And you.” O’Neill flicked the pole again and lounged back in the chair. “He’s all about you.”
“We’re best friends,” John defended.
“Do you know that he never left the chair room? Not in the entire fourteen days it took us to return to Pegasus by hyperspace. He had a bed brought in from the infirmary. When the chair… well when it launched that field around you, we didn’t know what to think. It was a nightmare for a few hours around here until we realized that it was like the field in the stasis chambers. Then Jackson found the right entry in that ridiculously unorganized Ancient database. Even after McKay knew you were safe and that the city was just protecting you for the trip home—he slept in there, ate in there, and had to be threatened with a decon shower by Ronon to leave at all to get fresh clothes. He didn’t even shave until we were a day out from our destination. Keller was furious with him for days on end. Which makes her initial acceptance of his proposal kind of sad.”
John agreed. “I didn’t know that. No one told me.”
“No one but me and Danny even thought it was weird. Keller didn’t think it was abnormal behavior for him, she just found the whole thing irritating. Zelenka said… well he said that was the way it was between the two of you.”
He didn’t blush but words—denial caught in his throat. John didn’t have it in him to lie to O’Neill even if the man even if he was retired from the Air Force. “We’re a team, sir.”
“And that I understand better than most,” Jack murmured.
* * * *
Dr. Rodney McKay didn’t like to be in touch with his feelings. In fact, he spent a great deal of his life suppressing and even actively repressing them. He had references from several well known psychologists to back this up. He didn’t like shrinks. He’d thought Kate Heightmeyer was beautiful and toyed with the idea of sleeping with her but really the idea of banging someone who would then try to delve into his psyche was too much of a turn off.
He shoved aside his lap top and went back into the small kitchen in his tiny apartment for coffee. With a better power situation on the city, they’d finally opened up the residential towers instead of the entire population making due in what turned out to be an administrative tower. There were apartments for singles, couples, and those big enough for a family of four. The anthropologists wondered if the Ancients had limited the number of children a couple had been allowed to have but they had nothing to back up their ideas on the subject.
McKay leaned on the counter and sipped his coffee. Even the blissful, smooth blend of Kona coffee wasn’t enough to set his mood right. Almost six years of friendship and John Sheppard had kept a fundamental part of himself a secret from him. Before last night, McKay would have told anyone that he knew John best but that wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true because there were men on this city that probably knew John better than he ever would be allowed to. It burned hot and furious in gut—jealousy, resentment, and betrayal. He didn’t have the right to feel any of those things.
Intellectually, Rodney understood the depth of John’s situation. He’d hidden what he was his entire life—forced himself to accept intimacy only in secret and always with a thick layer of fear over the entire thing. His hand tightened around the warm ceramic cup in his hand and he closed his eyes. John had used women to hide. Rodney had spent the last four and half years using women and other men in an effort to get over John Sheppard.
The first time he remembered seeing John Sheppard—he was sitting in the Ancient chair at the outpost on Earth. It wasn’t the first time though—Rodney had been a passenger in Sheppard’s helicopter fifteen times leading up to that day. He knew it because he’d looked it up later—because he couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed someone so beautiful moving around in his life.
John had been hidden—behind cold weather gear and aviator glasses and stupid helmets. It irked the shit out of him that he’d never seen him before. Because the moment he did finally see Sheppard it was too late to subtly hit on the man. He was too important to the mission to risk him having a homophobic freak-out because the CSO hit on him. Then, weeks later they were fighting to survive and building an unlikely friendship. He’d never had a friend like John Sheppard—one who smiled when he ranted and didn’t flinch away from when things got awkward.
By that point, he’d decided that the man was straight and that his friendship was too important to risk. That he’d fallen in love with the smarter than he’d first thought Air Force pilot was neither here nor there. McKay was perfectly capable of pushing those feelings aside and he had, quite successfully until the stupid bastard had gone on a suicide mission with a nuclear weapon. Rodney had loved and hated so fiercely in those few seconds that the entire universe seemed to stop around him. Then everything had snapped back into place because despite all the odds, John Sheppard had been returned to the city—alive. Hate and love and fear and fury had boiled inside of McKay but he’d been forced to set it all aside and work.
When it was over… when Everett was in the infirmary, half dead from being fed on by a Wraith and they were being recalled to Earth to debrief Rodney had set aside time to himself to bury it all again. Because John’s friendship meant more to him than he could even say. On Earth, he’d gone through the motions but none of it felt real until Sam Carter had smirked at him when he offered sex in the bluntest possible terms. She took him home with her and the results had been physically very satisfying. John Sheppard’s disbelieving look when he realized where McKay had spent the weekend had been kind of nice, too.
His relationship with Katie Brown had been a balm for his soul. She was pretty, sweet-natured, and demanded his full, undivided attention when he was in bed with her. It was easy to get lost in that need and when he’d bought the engagement ring—designed just so that it would fit on her delicate finger but never get in the way of her work—he’d meant it.
He’d carried it around for weeks and when he’d finally showed it to John it became real. Sheppard’s reaction hadn’t been exactly what he’d expected—subdued and kind of shocked. Then supportive and friendly with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. Months later, after things were over with Katie, John would admit that he’d been more worried about her than his own best friend. John had said that Katie Brown was too delicate and too sweet to live a life with him. Rodney had agreed. He would have eventually destroyed all the things he loved about Katie. It had been a horrifying realization.
Then Carter had been around again and sex with her was never a disappointment. It had been easy to fall into a quasi-relationship with Sam Carter. They both loved sex and they were very compatible physically. The woman had very few boundaries when it came to fucking and the first time McKay had strolled over to her quarters with David Parrish at his side—she’d just quirked an eyebrow and let them both in. He shivered a little just thinking about the hot, nasty sex the three of them had indulged in.
McKay refilled his coffee cup and sighed. David Parrish’s off and on again relationship with Evan Lorne was in full force again—at least it was based on his own observation from several nights before. The invitation to join them hadn’t really been a surprise, he’d slept with them individually and together more than once. It had been intense and fun and honestly, he didn’t get it. He could have never shared Katie with another man… well… at the time maybe John, if he’d been interested.
It hurt to think about how much his best friend had kept from him. He felt cheated in more ways than one and there was nothing he could do about it. He was an asshole, but certainly not asshole enough to berate John for something so personal and obviously painful.
The chime on his door sounded and he sighed. He went to the door and opened it with his free hand. “What?”
Ronon stared at him. “I’m heading to the mainland on the transport out. I heard you took the day off… thought you might like to come with me.”
“Oh.” Rodney waved him in and went back to his desk. “Actually, I’m working. I just didn’t want to be in the lab today. There are about twenty papers in my in box and I have to approve a bunch of proposals.”
“Sounds boring as hell,” Ronon slouched down on the couch. “Did you tell Keller something about me?”
“Why?” Rodney asked.
“Amelia said she’s looking at me all wistful—whatever the hell that means.” Ronon threw one arm over the back of the couch.
“Well, I might have berated her for the way she dismissed you when you were interested in her,” Rodney explained and then frowned. “It was horrible and I should have realized then that she wasn’t exactly sensitive to other people. I mean I know I’m bad with people but God…”
“You were worse when you were younger.” Ronon shrugged. “At least that’s what I heard. She’s naïve and young. She seems to be glaring at you a lot lately.”
“I’m not mourning our relationship the way she thinks I should.”
“Well, you dumped her, right?” Ronon grinned when McKay glanced his way. “I heard from Marie who heard from Katie who heard from David Parrish that you dumped Keller because she wanted to return to Earth and you didn’t.”
“She wore that engagement ring for like five whole minutes,” Rodney confided. “I think she wanted to keep it. I sent it back to Earth. My sister is returning it for me.”
“I have too much work,” McKay said as he stared into his coffee.
“You’re sulking in your quarters.” Ronon inclined his head. “Oh.”
“What do you mean ‘oh’?”
“You look disappointed but the Keller thing was weeks ago and you’ve already gotten a leg up on like five different people since then so…” Ronon trailed off.
“The Marines are ruining your vocabulary,” Rodney hissed and then blushed furiously. “And don’t you dare invite me to your quarters with Amelia again.”
Ronon grinned. “You always tell me no. If I didn’t know how awesome I am, it would hurt my feelings.”
“You’re team,” Rodney said shortly. “I’m not going to use you to…”
“Forget about Sheppard?” Ronon finished and shrugged when McKay glared at him. “Come on, McKay, it’s only a secret to him. I don’t even know how Keller thought she was going to get you off this city to begin with. Everybody knows you aren’t going to leave as long as John is here.”
“Everyone knows,” Rodney repeated—horror and denial swirled around in his chest and settled in his stomach like a solid lead balloon.
“You had to be threatened with a public decon shower just to get you out of the chair room during the flight back,” Ronon reminded him. “That’s hardly a secret from anyone. Seriously. We all know the score.”
“Go away,” Rodney grumbled. “I want to stay here and wallow in my misery for a few more hours. I’ll come out for dinner.”
* * * *
“I came out to McKay.”
“And his response?” Thomas Grant questioned as he stirred his tea.
“He called me a bastard,” John admitted and slouched down in the chair by the window. He angled away from Grant so he could stare at the ocean. “He was… I guess he felt that I had lied to him since we met and I did. Well, I let him assume I’d slept with women when I hadn’t. I didn’t tell him about lovers I did have. He doesn’t know that I was… he has no idea about Peter.”
“Dr. Peter Grodin.”
“You were lovers.”
John nodded and closed his eyes. “It wasn’t strictly physical but we weren’t so emotionally invested in one another that it felt like a serious relationship. Still, when he was killed—it hurt and I had no one…” He exhaled sharply and let his head fall back on the chair. “I had no one to confide in.”
“You know that’s not true,” Thomas rebuked gently. “You could have found solace and comfort with the members of your team.”
“Teyla.” John nodded. “But it was a secret and confessing it afterward felt disrespectful somehow. I hadn’t claimed him while he was alive and to admit to the relationship after his death just to… comfort myself seemed extremely selfish.”
“Grief is selfish,” Thomas allowed. “And it is a natural process. Were you a man of faith, I would tell you that God provides and nurtures us all differently. He brings people like Ms. Emmagan into our lives when we need the most. She is a spiritual and peaceful woman. I believe you would have found yourself in good hands if you could have confided in her at the time.”
John nodded. He didn’t disagree with that. “I’m not an atheist.”
“No, I don’t suppose you are,” Thomas said. “But you aren’t religious.”
“I’ve seen too much suffering and death in the name of religion,” John murmured. “I realize it’s not fair to paint it all that way but being in the Middle East changed me. Coming out here—where some of the more primitive people worship the Wraith and the more advanced worship the Ancients… it’s fifty/fifty on any planet that human sacrifice is going to happen. They are so accustomed to death that they have no respect whatsoever for the sanctity of human life.”
“A by product of being repeatedly hunted to near extinction by the Wraith?”
“Perhaps,” John allowed. “Or a left over remnant of the Ancients’ desire to abandon the physical plane in favor of Ascension. I was on a planet once—the whole village was dedicated to achieving Ascension. Not one of them, not even the children, were exempt from this goal. I watched them for six months—continuously preparing for a mass ritual suicide and when it happened…” John shook his head. “Well, visually it was beautiful to watch but the waste of life and potential was sickening.”
“That’s interesting coming from a man who is known for having no respect for his own life.”
John glared at Grant in silence for a few seconds and then lowered his gaze when the man didn’t even flinch. “Anyone ever tell you that you’re kind of an asshole?”
“Not recently—that whole man of the cloth thing sort of makes people more respectful,” Thomas admitted dryly.
“Your ministry on the city is nondenominational.”
“Yes.” Thomas nodded. “But I am a Presbyterian minister.”
“So Father Thomas.”
Grant laughed softly. “At times, yes, I’ve been called Father. A few of the Catholics on the city are far more comfortable with me using that particular title. Yet, others, who are not so comfortable with religion, are content to call me Dr. Grant. The enlisted men insist on calling me Lt. Commander. I play many roles.” He paused and then offered John a rueful look. “O’Neill calls me Tommy.”
“Well, he’s a two-star,” John said as an excuse. “He has, on occasion, called me Johnny. It’s annoying as hell. My paternal grandfather called me that—it was irritating when I was little, too.”
“Are you worried that McKay won’t forgive you for your deception?”
John shook his head. “I’m worried that he’s going to… I won’t be able to tell him no if he… he’ll break me into a million pieces.”
“You’re worried he’ll express interest you in physically.” Thomas leaned forward. “Do you think he would risk your friendship for sex?”
“He regularly has sex with several people who he considers to be friends,” John admitted. “I won’t be able to deny myself if he makes himself available to me sexually.”
“No matter how much it will hurt you,” Thomas said neutrally.
“I…” John cleared his throat and swallowed hard. “It’d be like asking a man dying of thirst to turn down water.”
* * * *
It had been his intention to let McKay sulk in his quarters all day. Except, Teyla hadn’t appreciated John’s planning skills on the matter of the team geek and promptly sent him off to Rodney’s quarters with a bag of sandwiches for lunch. McKay shot him a practiced glare as he motioned him.
“I have brought an offering,” John said in an attempt to make light of the tension that had suddenly bloomed between them. He brandished the bag of food with false bravado and sighed when he got another withering glance for his trouble. “McKay.”
“I’m processing,” Rodney muttered. “I keep trying to work but then I think about all the things… especially those weeks when I thought you fucking hated me because I was sleeping with a guy.”
“That was your assumption!” John exclaimed.
“Yeah, and you were so busy avoiding me and Weir and trying to be slick and indifferent about the whole thing to even notice that I was…” Rodney dropped down on his couch and picked up his laptop.
John watched him settle in behind his computer screen. A protective gesture if he’d ever seen one. McKay often hid behind his work when he was upset. “I apologized for that, Rodney. I apologized and I meant it. I fought with Elizabeth more than once about your position on my team and on this city. I was half-convinced she was going to ask the SGC to replace me because we couldn’t agree on…” He waved a hand in frustration. “She cared about you—worried that we were putting too much pressure on you.”
“She didn’t trust me again after Doranda,” Rodney said roughly. “Even when a team of sixteen engineers and astrophysicists working at Area 51 proved that I wasn’t wrong about the device. It should have worked and that it didn’t… well it broke the known laws of physics. Those guys are still trying to figure out what went wrong and how to make a simulation repeat the eventual result.”
John flinched because he remembered that day—when Zelenka had cleared his throat noisily during the staff meeting and Elizabeth had looked at him with some kind of weird glee shining in her eyes. He hadn’t understood until afterward, when that glee had turned to disappointment and impotent fury. Radek had been succinct about his own final results and the results of the team at Area 51. Rodney had been right and the Ancients had apparently broken the universe with the device on Doranda.
“You’re pretty pissed with me.”
Rodney glared and took the sandwich. “Well, at least you don’t have to sit in your room and wonder if I’m having a homophobic freak out because you like to suck cock.”
John glared briefly at him even as his mind helpfully supplied a few visuals on the subject matter of cock sucking. He’d always thought McKay would be a greedy bastard when it came to giving and receiving head. “I don’t… I didn’t… look, McKay, after my dad’s reaction it didn’t even cross my mind to tell people no matter how close the friendship. There are only three people on the whole city who knew I was gay before—well to be honest I came out to Dr. Grant first and then you but that was therapy and getting the words out of my mouth were difficult. I don’t think I’ve even used the word ‘gay’ to describe myself to him, yet. It’s… it’s really fucking difficult, okay?”
“I’m your best friend,” Rodney hissed. “I have done everything I can think of to regain and keep your trust!”
“I trust you,” John said quietly. “With my life. With the lives of every single man and woman on this city. I know you, McKay. I know how you think and how dedicated and strong and goddamned loyal you are. Even when you blew up a solar system—it wasn’t you I lost faith in, it was myself. I let our friendship interfere in my judgment and you nearly died. It’s my job to reel you when things go too far.”
“I’m a grown man. I don’t need a fucking babysitter.”
“During our first debrief on Earth, after they’d asked me ten thousand questions and made me feel like I’d failed not one but two different galaxies O’Neill took me home with him.” John walked away from McKay and paused at the open balcony doors. The sea normally calmed him but it did nothing for him suddenly. “He poured half dozen beers in me and let me sleep in his guest room. We talked most of the weekend about what it meant to be part of a team and how invested I was in the success of the expedition.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“He told me—that it was my duty to you and to the city to make sure that you had the freedom to explore and the safety to discover what the universe had to offer us as a species. I didn’t do that on Doranda. I failed you—I let you get caught up in the minutia of the experiment because I was excited about a weapon to use against the Wraith. Neither one of us just stopped to think about why the Ancients had left the experiment behind—why they never took the risk to return and finish it.” He turned and found McKay pale and shaken. “Right.”
“Elizabeth wanted you off the city. I knew it and apparently the people on Earth knew it. If she hadn’t died—I imagine she might have succeeded eventually.” John rubbed the back of his neck. “I never understood why she didn’t let it go.”
“She was in love with you,” Rodney said shortly. “Desperately in love with you and it was so obvious that you didn’t return those feelings. Near the end it was clear that you didn’t even respect her and she resented the fact that I nearly got you killed. Our friendship baffled and infuriated her.”
John flinched. “I… well shit.”
“She came to see me about six months before we left Lantea and she was hurt. There she was in my quarters in the middle of the night.” John rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I’ve had a lot of practice turning women down but for some reason she just didn’t get it. I had to be very blunt with her.” He sighed. “It soured things between us and between her and Teyla. About a month before the Replicators came, she implied that Teyla should be moved to a different gate team because people in a relationship weren’t allowed to be on the same team.”
“That’s stupid—no one thought the two of you were together after that first year.” Rodney frowned and sighed.
“Teyla was extremely irritated by Elizabeth’s assumption. The conversation was probably the most uncomfortable one I’ve ever had to witness. And that includes you making every attempt to be awkward and weird so women won’t expect you to have any kind of social awareness.” John dropped the bag of food on a low table in front of Rodney’s couch and shoved his hands into his pockets.
“It’s an art form really. But one day some woman is going to realize what you’re doing and she’s going to clean your clock. Then, Ronon or I will have to defend your honor from some short, blond scientist type person as they do tend to be what you go for.”
Rodney huffed. “What’s your type? I mean really? It isn’t like I even know. You’ve fucking lied to me since we met.”
John pursed his lips. He wanted to be angry about the attitude and the accusation but he wasn’t. He had lied to McKay since he’d met him. There had been plenty of chances to tell the man, to confide in him. “For sex or a relationship?”
“I…” Rodney slumped and turned his head. “Either I guess. I just want to know this about you because you’ve kept it from me and it’s not fair because I stripped myself down to my goddamned bones more than once for you over the years.”
“I prefer strong, masculine men. I’ve never liked that twink boy-toy type at all, not even when I was younger myself. Due to my position on the city, I’ve never had a serious relationship with anyone since I met you. I think if I’d had something serious with someone that I would have eventually told you. I had several sexual encounters with Sumner before he… before I was forced to kill him off-world. It was physical and very gratifying actually. The man was a total warrior.” He paused when Rodney laughed abruptly. “Well, it’s true enough.”
“And after he died?”
“No one military,” John murmured as he dropped down in the chair that was usually the throne for Rodney’s cat, Dewar. “I had a few encounters off-world when it was safe to do so and then I settled into a rather inappropriate friends with benefits arrangement with Peter Grodin that lasted until he died.” He looked up and found Rodney staring at him—blank faced, eyes dark and furious. “I think we could have maybe made something of it if he hadn’t died. I don’t know.”
“Did you blame me for his death?”
“No. Never, not once,” John promised. The sleek black cat that Rodney had brought home one afternoon on Earth last summer slinked into the room and hopped into John’s lap with a scowl. “He didn’t blame you either, McKay. I know that. Peter admired and respected you. He made a choice for the mission—to protect the city and I respected that.” He stroked Dewar’s back and the animal melted against his chest.
“And then you tried to kill yourself.” He glared at John and the cat individually.
John blinked. “No. Rodney. Just…” He stood, depositing a malcontent cat on the floor in the process, and went to his friend. “To be honest, I didn’t even let myself think about Peter until we were back on Earth doing the debrief. I missed him because he was my friend.”
John sighed and dropped down on the couch beside McKay. “Yeah, he was my lover. It was an easy relationship to have—no strings, no serious emotional entanglements. He was bisexual and I wasn’t his only intimate relationship. It was safe to have sex with him.”
“Because he wasn’t going to demand more?”
“Maybe, sometimes I think he wanted more and I know that during that last month that he stopped seeing other people. He’d realized that I wasn’t… and then I couldn’t figure out how to tell him that his other relationships didn’t bother me.” John shrugged.
“I realize this is supposed to be your big angsty crisis,” Rodney said after a long, silent moment. “I mean, you’ve spent your entire adult life in the closet and as your best friend I should be supportive of your efforts.”
“Right, except you’re pissed at me.”
“Yeah.” Rodney rifled through the bag of food and pulled out a wrapped sandwich. “At least I’m not all horrified and disgusted.”
“True enough because that would’ve sucked.” John accepted the sandwich McKay offered. “Will you come to dinner in the mess? Teyla will probably send someone else if you don’t.”
“She’s already sent Ronon. I think if I skipped dinner she might come herself and I’d like to avoid that if at all possible.”
* * * *
“It’s my understanding that McKay barricaded himself in his quarters yesterday.”
John nodded. He sipped his rapidly cooling coffee and then set it aside with a grimace. “I stopped by and saw him. He said he’d come to dinner—instead he just locked down his quarters and told Teyla he had a plague. She was not amused by his behavior.” He laughed abruptly. “Though seeing her reduced to banging on his door and stomping her foot in frustration was golden.”
Grant laughed. “Yes, I imagine most people aren’t used to seeing her get frustrated like that.”
“Understatement.” John slouched down on the couch and wondered how he’d managed to get himself into his third therapy session in a week. It was some kind of record since it hadn’t even been ordered. Though, he thought, if O’Neill knew how fucked up he was—the man might have ordered it.
“Was he hostile with you?”
“Disappointed,” John murmured. “Hurt that I didn’t trust him with it. Angry because of the lies and the half-truths.”
“And the assumptions you let him make to keep yourself safe.”
“That too,” John agreed.
“When are you going to tell him how you feel about him?”
Sheppard blinked in surprise and turned to stare at Grant in horror. “What?”
“You think you can keep your feelings from him?” Thomas questioned softly. “After his reaction to your keeping your sexuality a secret? Is it your desire to destroy your relationship with Rodney?”
“My father used to take that tone with me,” John muttered. “When he thought I was being an idiot.”
“Do you want to talk about your father?”
“He’s dead,” John said. “He died—happy with the one son that wasn’t a complete fuck up and the two grandkids David gave him. That he never had to see me again was probably a relief to him.”
“When is the last time you saw him?”
“Before we left on the expedition,” John admitted roughly. “I had a week of down time and I flew to Virginia to see him. I needed some closure I guess. I told him I had a big mission and that I was going to be out of contact for a while.” John laughed weakly, sad and suddenly more hurt than he’d ever wanted to admit. “He met me at his office. He said he didn’t want me to… be in his home.”
“That must have hurt.”
“I pretended to not care—threw on my dress uniform with all of the little ribbons in place that I still can’t talk about in the company of most of the people I currently serve with. He looked at them—his mouth got all tight like he couldn’t believe half of what he was seeing.”
“Did he say anything?”
“He asked how long I was held as a POW,” John admitted roughly. “When I said it was close to five months—he looked genuinely sick and demanded to know why he hadn’t been informed. When I admitted that I didn’t have him listed as next of kin, he looked like he’d been sucker punched. Things went downhill from there.”
“Who did you have listed as next of kin?”
John paused and took a deep breath. “At the time, no one.”
“McKay,” John admitted. “It’s been McKay since we mended fences after Doranda. He’s my medical proxy as well.” He cleared his throat and rubbed his hands on his BDUs. “He made me his after that mess with the parasite. If I’d been his medical proxy from the start—Jennifer couldn’t have vetoed going to the shrine for weeks. We could have saved him sooner.”
“Prevented the trauma of losing himself,” Thomas pointed out. “It must have been difficult to watch.”
“He’s a brilliant man,” John said. “Watching him reduced to a combative child mentally was easily the worst thing I’ve ever had to witness. Having Keller say I had no right to make decisions for him was like getting stabbed in the gut and I’ve had that experience.” He looked up and found Grant frowning. “What?”
“Once McKay began to have a serious relationship with Dr. Keller, did he change his medical proxy to her or did it remain with you?”
John exhaled sharply. “He didn’t change it. I know they argued about it on Earth because he had an accident at the Mountain and they recalled me from an off-world mission to deal with it because he was unconscious for nearly twenty-four hours.” He cleared his throat. “Keller was furious.”
“John, how do you feel about Jennifer Keller?”
“I can hardly stand to breathe the same air as her and I’m not sure I’d been all that keen on rescuing her if she were to be kidnapped again.”
Grant laughed abruptly and then schooled his face into a somewhat neutral expression. “It’s good that you’ve gotten so in touch with your feelings.”
* * * *
“This whole gay thing?” Rodney began as he sat down in front of John in the mess for lunch. “You’re doing it wrong.”
John shrugged and glanced towards the scientist he’d been actively discouraging. The man had made a complete retreat when John mentioned he’d just seen McKay enter the room. “Thanks for the timely cock-block, there, buddy. I try not to hurt your minions feelings if I can help it.”
Rodney huffed. “Seriously? Doing it all wrong. I’m pretty sure you can’t get laid if you don’t let people pick you up.” He snatched John’s muffin off his tray. “Sorry about yesterday.”
“We’re all entitled to a little freak out,” John murmured. He slouched back in his chair. “I didn’t tell on you for the littering by the way. I was going to but then I noticed that Dr. Saulis putting out recycling bins and making a list of people who are in violation of the city’s garbage ordinances. You know he’s kind of crazy, right?”
“Don’t blame me. Your government likes to recruit the crazies in some sort of effort to keep them on the ‘right side’ of the law. If they hadn’t pulled him straight out of grad school—he’d be running a gun boat for some anti-whaling movement on Earth. He’d be the modern day scourge of the seven seas.”
* * * *
“What is your biggest regret?”
Ronon glanced at Sheppard and then changed his stance slightly as he used the scope to line up his shot. “Listening to my wife—I should’ve forced her to leave Sateda. She would have stopped being angry with me eventually.”
John nodded, did some quick math in his head and gave the measurements for the shot. The sniper rifle recoiled smoothly but Ronon didn’t move as the bullet hit the target. “Looks good.”
“I liked the training on Earth. It was a little… easy at times but I still enjoyed it.”
John snorted. He didn’t even know how O’Neill had managed it but Ronon had managed to do a Special Forces tour while they were stranded on Earth with the city. The younger man had come back to the city a legend as far as the Marines were concerned. John figured Ronon’s badassness was confirmed on a visceral level for half the men and women serving in the Marines and the Navy.
“McKay has been acting weird,” Ronon offered as he reloaded the weapon. “He wasn’t this weird with the Keller thing.”
“Right.” John recalibrated the targeting system for the next target on Ronon’s list and rattled off the measurements. “I came out to him. He didn’t take it well.”
Ronon snorted. “Wow.”
“What?” John demanded.
Ronon took the shot and grinned when the target signaled the impact. “We’ve almost exceeded the limits of this rifle based on Earth’s gravity.”
“Good,” John said as he set up the next target and used a hand signal to tell the team on the side of the target range that they were moving into the series of shots that was supposed to be physically impossible for the weapon. “I don’t think we’ll get much more than an extra thousand yards out of this on this planet. We can test a few different gravity environments.”
“A heavy one like Sateda would be helpful,” Ronon said. “I talked Zelenka into trying to build me a rifle based on my gun.”
“I’ve seen the plans,” John muttered. He was kind of pissed because McKay and his minions had been pretty adamant with him about not building him a damned ray gun. It wasn’t fair in the least. Though he knew that the IOA had adjusted their opinions on weapon construction on Atlantis.
“I thought he knew you were gay,” Ronon said conversationally as he hit another target with a grin. “Those SEAL guys I trained with on Earth would really like to see this. We pushed the limit of this rifle and several other models while I was with them.”
“Right.” John sighed. “He’s being a bastard about it.”
“He’s bisexual so he’s not pissed about that,” Ronon reasoned. “So it’s about the lying?”
“Lying.” John agreed. “I’m pretty good at it actually. I spent quite a few years lying to myself, too.”
“Noticed,” Ronon mentioned. “You should fix his problem before it becomes a team issue.”
* * * *
Rodney flinched when Teyla entered his lab and unceremoniously dropped his godson in his lap. He bounced Torren nervously and cleared his throat. “Teyla.”
“I find your avoidance of emotional issues very unhelpful, Rodney.”
McKay sat back in his chair and concentrated on Torren. “It isn’t like I have experience dealing with that stuff in a healthy way.”
Teyla sat down in the chair he kept for her by his desk and she raised one eyebrow. “I am aware that your parents were less than forthcoming with their affection and as a result you have a difficult time expressing yourself emotionally.”
Rodney scowled at her. “How are your studies going?”
Teyla lifted one eyebrow at him. “I’ve recently finished my last class and I transmitted my final paper to Earth. I expect to earn my bachelor’s degree in psychology within the next two weeks. I’ve already prepped my application for graduate school with Dr. Carter’s help. I wanted to thank you for suggesting it and for helping smooth the way with the financial matters.”
“The IOA should’ve been paying you and Ronon all along. The back pay and the salary package were the least of what they owed you both. Ronon nearly died for Earth and your contributions to the expedition insured our survival. We wouldn’t have survived the first year without you.” Rodney pulled a small ancient device out of his middle desk drawer and offered it to Torren. It lit up in the child’s hand. “I keyed it to his genetic signature so it would work for him.”
Teyla smiled and watched Torren shake the device. “What is it?”
“It stimulates his mind with colors and shapes. Eventually, if he plays with it often enough he’ll be able to manipulate it and create a little show for himself. I played with it for six months before I keyed this one for him.” Rodney paused and looked toward her. “I found it in the Ancient database—it’s a toy designed for children. It promotes mental acuity and eventually problem solving. I’d never let him play with it if it was dangerous.”
“I trust you,” Teyla said. She reached out and touched the device and blinked in surprise. “It… I can see it, too.”
Rodney flushed. “The most unique thing about Torren is the Wraith genetics—something you share.”
Teyla nodded. “Yes, I understand. I’m glad it works for me as well—perhaps we’ll learn to play games together.” She lifted her fingers away and frowned at Rodney. “You’re upset with John.”
“I think I’m entitled.”
“I think perhaps you are angrier with yourself,” Teyla returned evenly. “John doesn’t deserve your ire, Rodney. This is a very difficult time for him. Eventually the news of his sexuality will reach the military on the base. Then, we will have to deal with those who do have a problem with how he conducts his personal life. It could be dangerous.”
“I’m…” Rodney frowned. “I’d never let someone hurt John if I could help it in anyway.”
“I know.” Teyla glanced towards Torren who was happily entranced with the Ancient toy. “You should ask yourself why you never considered that John might prefer men to women. You and I both know that he’s never had any kind of serious relationship with a female on the city.”
Rodney opened his mouth to respond but couldn’t. Had he ignored vital information in his relationship with John? The man had always been something of a cipher to him—strong, brave, suicidal, and beautiful. Sheppard’s physical appeal was obvious to anyone but he was more than that and it hadn’t taken long for him to realize that his mind was just as attractive.
“He hides a lot,” Rodney finally said. “Far more than just who he’s attracted to. He hides his intelligence and his dedication to this mission with a flippant laziness that is so obviously fake that I don’t know how I fell for it at first.”
“But you did realize his duplicity.”
“Maybe that’s why I… didn’t notice the rest,” Rodney admitted. “I thought I’d discovered all there was to know so I didn’t dig deeper. I didn’t try to find out more. I was content with what he gave me—his time and trust.” He grimaced. “At least, I thought he trusted me.”
“Rodney.” Teyla sighed. “Do you think that John trusts me?”
“Of course John trusts you,” Rodney said with a frown. “I can’t see him trusting anyone more than you.”
Teyla smiled. “Rodney, John has never discussed his sexuality with me.”
“No buts, Rodney,” Teyla interjected softly. “He has never discussed his personal relationships with me. I guessed early on that he preferred the company of men because…” She flushed prettily and shrugged. “I’ve never had a problem bedding a man when I wanted one until John. At first, I blamed my own vanity—assuming that he would be interested but then I realized that he never made time for women on the city.”
Rodney snorted. “I have no doubts whatsoever about that. I never could figure out why the two of you didn’t hook up. I feel like an idiot.”
“Yes, and I imagine feeling that way has made you lash out. Your intelligence is often your shield against everything that might hurt you.”
“I don’t need therapy,” Rodney groused.
Teyla snorted and then bit down on her bottom lip briefly. “Oh, Rodney, that’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever said.”
* * * *
The labs were ripe with gossip. It was the worst thing about working with a bunch of people with science and sex on the brain in somewhat equal parts. By mid-afternoon he’d heard from six different people that his best friend was seeing Dr. Thomas Grant which was stupid because the man was in the Navy for fuck’s sake and under John’s command. Except, of course, for the fact that the man didn’t really function inside the command of the city and was extremely attractive.
Rodney was pretty sure that John would be more discreet about dating an officer in his own command. It was career suicide, which honestly wasn’t much of a change when it came to how John managed his career except for the fact that the man didn’t make a habit of actually trying to sabotage his own career—he just often let his own moral compass interfere with given orders.
“You’re dating that Navy Chaplain guy.”
John’s spoon dropped with a clank into his soul bowl. “No, I’m not.”
“Lunch with him in your office, running with him in the morning…” Rodney said and then shrugged. “I just thought we were at a point in this whole thing where you could be honest with me.”
John huffed. “I’m seeing Grant professionally, Rodney. He’s the only military psychologist on the base and I’ve never been all that comfortable with your civilian staff.”
“Oh.” Rodney frowned. “Well… what about the running with him instead of Ronon?”
“We run the same five mile course and Ronon is on the mainland for the next week. I met up with Grant about a half-mile in and we finished the course together.” John sighed. “Christ, Rodney, you know me better than that. I’d never fuck around with someone in my direct command—I don’t have the best jacket but I don’t outright try to kill my career.”
“Right.” Rodney frowned. “Well, that’s the rumor. I’ll try to quash it in my department but you might want to clue O’Neill in before it ends up on his desk. Caldwell loves to get in your business after all.” He paused. “You were involved with Sumner.”
“I was under his command,” John said simply. “He was hot and he had more to lose than I did. It was a strategic decision that led to orgasms.”
Rodney sighed. “Okay, fine, I see the distinction.” He paused. “Wait, does that mean you’d sleep with O’Neill?”
“Christ, McKay, who wouldn’t?” John asked and then laughed Rodney nodded his agreement. “He’s got that whole silver fox thing going on.” He retrieved his spoon and started searching for the not-potatoes that were supposed to be in the soup.
“Teyla says that I’m being an asshole and that I should be more worried about your feelings and physical safety.”
“She did not call you an asshole,” John said and then laughed.
“She did say I was dumb,” Rodney mentioned. “I still haven’t recovered from it. Still, I am worried about how you’re adjusting and stuff.”
“I’m not going to get gay bashed, McKay. First and foremost, the SGC screens asshats like that out early on because Daniel Jackson has never made any secrets of his bisexuality. He was pretty much the center of the program on Earth for so long that Hammond didn’t want to anyone in his command that might make Jackson uncomfortable. They didn’t even enforce DADT in the Mountain as far as I know. No man or woman ever serving in the SGC has been discharged for homosexual activity. In fact, there are even codes and language to use in mission reports for military personal that are persuaded, encouraged, or blackmailed into homosexual contact off-world in whatever situation that might arise.”
Rodney snorted. “I tried my damnedest but I’ve never been able to offend someone into making us participate in a weird sex ritual.”
“I know you did, buddy.” John nodded. “It’s not your fault this galaxy is full of vampires, prudes, and feral Asgard.”
“Right, well, if it’s that friendly at the SGC why did you wait until the official repeal?”
“Because the SGC hasn’t always been friendly to me,” John said shortly. “Plenty of people never forgave me for not saving Sumner’s life. More than half the officers in the Mountain didn’t want me to remain in command out here. O’Neill and Weir kept me despite the protests. I didn’t figure it would be wise to add to it and give them no choice but to push me out. Even if I am the strongest gene carrier in the program.”
“I could have found something for you in my department if they’d been that stupid. You’re ABD in Engineering. When are you going to finish that by the way?”
“I did some of the research when we were stuck on Earth,” John admitted. “Carter even help set up a committee for me at the SGC. I’ve been working on it but the move back to Pegasus has put a little hassle in the schedule. I have six months to finish unless I request an extension.”
“Don’t request it unless you get shot,” Rodney advised. “That’s the only reason good enough—they’ll be horrible to you otherwise. I asked for an extension on my second dissertation and they tore me a new one during my defense because they assumed I was better prepared since I had three more weeks. All committees are the same—it’s like academics develop this vicious pack mentality when they’re put together.”
“You haven’t asked why I didn’t ask you to be on my committee.”
“First and foremost it would be a conflict of interest. Second, I get the feeling that it would mean more to you if there is no question of favoritism.” Rodney poked him. “You know you’re my favorite human being.”
John laughed. “Well, that’s not much of a distinction since you think most of our race is too stupid to live.”
“Granted,” Rodney said and then frowned down at his food. “Sorry about thinking you were lying to me again.”
“Well, you’re my favorite asshole so you’re forgiven.”
* * * *
Rodney was staring intently at this most favorite purchase from Earth—a new coffee maker—as it ground the beans he’d especially ordered from a roastery in San Diego and then brewed his coffee. His lab was blissfully silent as most of the staff had signed off for the day. The swish of his door opening and shutting would have normally signaled the arrival of John but he knew that Sheppard was taking a night shift Jumper run to the mainland.
“I was hoping we could talk.”
Rodney barely managed to refrain from banging his head on the counter. He filled his coffee cup with a sigh and then turned to stare at Jennifer Keller. “Oh, what about? I’ve already gone over the infirmary budget with Carson and we went through the list of emergency medical supplies you proposed for off-world teams to carry.”
“I’m not on duty, Rodney. This is personal.”
She was wearing that little green sweater he liked and the worn jeans she’d worn that day she’d talked him into going to a county fair with her while they were visiting her father. A man who had adored Rodney from the moment they’d met. Richard Keller had sent a long email to Rodney telling him how sorry he was that Jennifer wasn’t going to marry him. It had been kind of embarrassing because he’d cc’d Jennifer on it.
“We don’t have anything personal to discuss.” Rodney sat down at his desk and opened up his laptop. “And I am currently on duty. There are simulations running that need to be monitored.”
“I heard that John is dating Lt. Commander Grant.”
Rodney rolled his eyes. “That’s not true.”
“I just thought we could talk now that it’s clear…” Jennifer trailed off. She came and leaned on the corner of his desk. “Now, that he’s out of the closet he didn’t even… Rodney he’s never going to choose you. Don’t you think it’s time you cut your losses and come back to Earth with me? We could make a life together—get married and have children later after I’ve established myself in a hospital.”
“What are you talking about?” Rodney demanded.
“Look, you were waiting for the repeal right?” Jennifer sighed and looked at him with so much pity that Rodney wanted to reevaluate his stance on hitting unarmed women. “Everyone knows you’ve been pining after Sheppard for years and now that… well now that he doesn’t have to hide he’s made his position pretty clear. You’re just a friend for him. That’s all that you’ll ever be.”
Rodney stared at her for a few seconds in shock and then he sighed. He slumped back in the chair. “I’m going to admit something to you and I’d rather you not spread it around.”
“Okay.” She crossed her arms and frowned at him.
“It never crossed my mind that Sheppard was gay,” Rodney admitted roughly. “Not once. I haven’t been pining for him or waiting for DADT to be repealed. I’ve never once in the six years I’ve known the man considered that I might have a chance of a relationship with him. He’s my best friend.”
She stared at him in shock. “Are you serious?”
“Of course, I’m serious.” Rodney huffed. “Do you know how embarrassing it is that I didn’t know he was gay? I feel like an idiot. As for you and me, our relationship was nice and I might have considered continuing it in the past but I’ve read the reports you filed with the IOA and the SGC about my mental fitness for the mission.” He watched her face flush dull red with embarrassment. “Right, you didn’t do yourself in any favors playing the vengeful ex-girlfriend. I had to write an email to Dr. Lam personally to keep you in the program for that research you want to do on Earth. She wanted to fire you for being unprofessional and whiny.”
She scuffed the floor with her shoe. “I don’t understand how you can say you love me and not…”
“Bend myself to fit the mold of the person you want to marry?” Rodney asked dryly. “Look, I tried that but it was ridiculous and people started to look at me like I was a pod person. O’Neill asked Jackson if I needed to be checked for parasites again.”
Jennifer sighed. “It’s not my fault you have a history of bad behavior.”
“No, but certainly is your fault that you think your way is the only way. It’s selfish and immature but you’re young so you don’t understand compromise yet. No relationship between us would have lasted because you’re mentally around nineteen and I’m not sure what it’s going to take to get you to grow up.”
“Are you being horrible to make me go away?” Jennifer asked.
“No, I’m being honest and I can see that hurts your feelings. It’s one reason why I tried fairly hard not to be honest with you too much in the past—you just can’t handle it. Additionally, I’m going out of my way to avoid you and you aren’t cooperating. It’s rather annoying.”
“No, I think all of your cards are on the table and I’m not interested in playing the game with you anymore. I have no interest in leaving this city in anything less than a casket. I don’t even want to be buried on Earth. It’s not my home and hasn’t been my home for a very long time.”
Jennifer frowned and sat down abruptly in a chair near Rodney’s desk. “I wrote that evaluation for the SGC because I believe it. You weren’t this… damaging in your interactions with other people before the parasite. You’re using people for sex and actively creating hostility in your relationships with people. I heard you even had a fight with Sheppard—something that hasn’t happened since the second year of the expedition apparently.”
“Not true actually, Sheppard and I argue all the time,” McKay said and frowned at her. “Not as much as I’ve been arguing with you since we ended our thing but close. I was a little angry with him for not being honest with me about his sexuality but that is between us and none of your business.”
“He doesn’t love you,” Jennifer snapped, frustrated. “He’s never going to give you what you want! Even with the repeal, he’s a career officer and he’s going to risk his retirement with a relationship with another man.”
“You know next to nothing about John Sheppard,” Rodney said coolly. “You spent most of our relationship talking about him like he was a morally corrupt womanizer because he refused to engage in a serious relationship and now you’re sitting there trying to find another way to debase him. Were you always jealous of him?”
She blushed furiously. “It’s so damned obvious that you’re in love with him!”
Rodney paled and shut his laptop abruptly. “Shut up. You don’t have the right to make such assumptions about me or my feelings for John. He’s done nothing to deserve your jealousy or obvious hatred.”
“He was always in the way,” Jennifer snapped. “He didn’t even agree with me that I should be your medical proxy after your accident on Earth. I should’ve realized then that you weren’t serious about me.”
“I would’ve made the change if I’d married you,” Rodney said shortly. “But at the time we weren’t serious enough and I wasn’t sure I wanted to ask you to marry me. You were just my girlfriend, Jennifer, and frankly John has been in my life a great deal longer than you have. I also knew that I could trust him to make the best decision for me. If you’d been allowed to continue the way you wanted—I would’ve been dead for nearly two years.”
“It was ridiculous and it shouldn’t have worked,” Jennifer snapped. “A holy shrine to the Ancients? Even you wouldn’t have agreed with it.”
“I trust Ronon,” Rodney said shortly. “Had I had the awareness, I would’ve agreed to his suggestion and not because it was some kind of holy relic but because I know that he’s just as skeptical of religion as I am. I would’ve trusted that he suspected there was more to the shrine than what was believed. I would’ve had faith in him because he’s never given me reason not to. You let your own prejudices and judgments interfere with my medical care. You thought he was an uneducated thug and you treated him like it.”
“I never thought he was a thug,” Jennifer protested.
“I don’t believe that and I know he doesn’t either,” Rodney said sharply. “It isn’t like we haven’t compared notes on you, Jennifer. You wanted a certain kind of man—one you could control and mold into someone you wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen with in public. You hoped I’d go back to Earth and settle into an academic career while you pursued your own.”
“And you just wanted a woman young enough to have children for you,” Jennifer snapped.
“Of course, I did,” Rodney replied and then dismissed her shock at his admission. “That was obvious, right? I do want children but maybe it’s best if it doesn’t happen. I could always hire a surrogate or whatever. I can spend a year or so on Earth if the desire comes back. Hell, maybe I’ll start up the Ancients reproduction lab and make a kid that way. That’s not say you were just a potential womb. I really enjoyed my relationship with you and the sex was great.”
She paused and frowned. “Yeah, the sex was great.”
“Don’t act so surprised—most of my ex’s can’t deny that I’m a great lay.” Rodney stood and stretched. “Look, my behavior in relation to sex is really no different than it was before I ever met you. After I broke up with Katie—I was sleeping with two different women and a man. Those relationships were casual, consensual, and completely without any kind of angst on anyone’s part.” He paused and watched her digest that. “You’re still at that stage in your life where you think sex and love must go together. That’s charming really but that’s not how the universe works.”
“You loved me.”
“I still do love you—in an abstract, semi-friendly way. I wasn’t in love with you but I was content and I would’ve been happy in a marriage with you,” Rodney said without an ounce of guilt. “It would’ve been enough for me but it wouldn’t have been enough for you. I should’ve realized that sooner but that is neither here nor there.”
She rubbed her bare ring finger. “You disappoint me so much.”
“Not as half as much as you disappoint me,” Rodney returned evenly. “Stop dragging your ass around this city like I broke your heart. You didn’t even pretend to cry when we broke up. You’re just upset I messed up your plans and your bitching to the SGC is just petty.”
She glared at him. “Why can’t you be what I want?”
“Why can’t you be what I want?” Rodney asked in return. He watched her shoulders slump and nodded. “Right, compromise – look it up.”
* * * *
“There is this big rumor that I’m dating you,” John admitted ruefully.
Thomas laughed. “Well, it’s not really a surprise is it?”
“Not so much but I did try to quash it,” John blushed. “I mean, it can’t be good for your ministry.”
“No one has asked me directly,” Thomas said and motioned John to sit. “Stop pacing, it’s annoying. I’m not insulted, John.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive, I know enough about you and this city to realize that most on this city just want you to be happy. No matter who you end up in a relationship, the majority are going to be supportive of you.”
“The majority.” John frowned and rubbed his bare wrist. He’d passed off a mission to the mainland this morning because he hadn’t been comfortable flying without his watch. He felt like an idiot. “On my first solo flight, my grandfather gave me his watch.”
“Do you still have it?”
“It stopped—the second hand stopped and then the rest of the watch sort of jammed up. I have parts coming from Earth to fix it.” John rubbed the back of his neck. “The thing is that I haven’t flown a mission without that watch—not one my entire career. Last night I took the second seat in the mainland run and this morning, I just took myself off the flight rotation because…”
“You didn’t have the watch.”
“It’s in pieces on my desk. I had it on me when I flew the city back to Pegasus—it was broken then but I still had it.” John rubbed his thighs and let his head fall back on the couch. “My grandfather flew a bomber in World War II—by all rights he should have died over there but he always came home. When he put that watch on my wrist, it was the most tangible symbol of his approval he’d ever given me. My father wasn’t a pilot and my brother never had any interest in flying either.”
“You’re named after him—your grandfather.”
“Yes.” John nodded. “How did you know?”
“Your jacket listed him due to his own military service, just as it did your father,” Thomas explained. “As a Chaplain, it’s my job to know about the next of kin for the men and women I minister to.”
“Rodney is my next of kin.”
“And yet you have a brother on Earth who requested information on your whereabouts six times in the last three years,” Thomas murmured.
“I eventually received his emails,” John admitted. “I did start communicating with him regularly and even visited him while we were on Earth.”
“And yet McKay is your next of kin.”
“Yes.” John nodded.
“How long will you keep your feelings to yourself?”
“As long as humanly possible,” John admitted without hesitation. “I can’t… lose him.”
“Again,” Thomas murmured. “But you will, John. He’s already demonstrated that he wants a permanent relationship. I realize you think he’s actively sabotaged every serious relationship he’s ever been in but I don’t agree.”
“With Katie Brown,” John began. “It was obvious that she would’ve withered in a marriage to him. I was relieved when he realized it before he did her harm she’d never recover from.”
“She was…I don’t know. I thought he’d go through with it and maybe he would’ve if she hadn’t wanted to leave the city. I don’t think they were really honest with each other about what they really wanted.”
“He wanted the comfort of a permanent relationship and she wanted…” Thomas trailed off.
“The guy he briefly became when he had that parasite in his head—easy going, amusing, and comfortable with expressing his emotions. She wanted a husband who was comfortable and successful in academic circles on Earth,” John murmured. “I don’t know how either one of them thought that was going to happen.”
“You can’t see Rodney returning to Earth permanently.”
John snorted. “He picked out his final resting place on the mainland shortly after we landed on this planet the first time. He doesn’t even want to go back to Earth and stay as a corpse.”
* * * *
John looked up and straightened in his chair as Jennifer Keller entered his office. He could count on one hand the number of times that she’d come to his office and never without an appointment.
“Can I help you, Dr. Keller?”
She glared at him briefly and went to stand near his only window. “I need your help, Colonel.”
John held back a frown and closed his laptop. “I can assign a few men to help you gather your stuff in the gate room for your dial out next week but I won’t order them to help you pack or anything.”
She flushed. “I… no that’s not what I meant.” Jennifer crossed her arms defensively and rocked on her small feet for a second. “Rodney needs to come back to Earth with me. The city—the pressure he’s under is not good for his health.”
“I was pretty sure that McKay dumped you,” John said bluntly.
She huffed. “Yes, well, I only accepted that initially because I figured he would come back to me after a week. I mean—he’s in love with me and we talked about a house on Earth and having children. He’s just nervous and afraid of commitment.”
“Children?” John questioned and tried to ignore the hard knot forming in his stomach.
“He spent a lot of time with his niece and new nephew on Earth. We even looked at few positions and houses near his sister,” Jennifer went on to explain. “I need your help in getting him over his fear so he can have what he really wants.”
“Which is you and a few kids?” John questioned dryly.
She turned then and looked at him with what could only be pity. It made John want to shoot something. “Of course. I mean, you didn’t honestly think… that we split up because of you, did you?”
John raised an eyebrow at her and realized she was trying to play him. “Don’t play your little games with me, Doctor. McKay dumped you because he doesn’t want to go back to Earth and because he wants kids and you’d like to put them off until he’s old enough to be a grandfather.”
“He doesn’t love you,” Jennifer snapped. “He loves me.”
“Have you ever seen Fatal Attraction?” John questioned seriously. “Look, I’m warning you to stay away from Rodney’s cat. If that animal has so much as a scuffed toe nail—I’ll make you regret it.”
She blushed and huffed in fury. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“To be entirely serious, I’m sure that McKay did love you in his own, distracted way but you’re not any different than any other woman he’s come close to marrying… in the end he couldn’t be what you wanted and got fed up with pretending. He really doesn’t give a fuck what most people think and doesn’t bother remembering his coworker’s names because he thinks most of the people he works with are transitory at best and cannon fodder at worst. He’s a brilliant man but he treats sex like a hobby and most people like experiments.” He waved a hand when she paled dramatically. “No offense.”
“What about you?” Jennifer demanded. “When does his experiment with you end?”
“Who knows?” John shrugged. “For all I know, I could be McKay’s own personal ‘god particle’ or he’ll figure me out tomorrow and become BFFs with Daniel Jackson.”
* * * *
Dr. Daniel Jackson was as happy as a pig in the mud. He had been since he’d picked out the quarters on Atlantis for him and Jack to share. Granted, they were sharing a two bedroom apartment and hadn’t made any big coming out statements. He didn’t figure Jack ever would but he was fine with that. He had the job he wanted, the man he’d wanted since he’d set eyes on him, and all the time in the universe to explore.
They’d turned the second bedroom into an office for him shortly after the city had landed on New Lantea and Daniel had happily spread out his books and scrolls and collected data crystals. While Jack had contented himself with a small desk near the large bay window for his one laptop. Daniel had yet to see the man sit there for more than ten minutes but that was fine.
He could hear Jack puttering around in their kitchen—he’d been doing so for nearly an hour so he wasn’t surprised when a plate of spaghetti appeared in front of him suddenly. He took the plate with a smile and plucked off his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose. “Hey.”
“Hey yourself,” Jack leaned in and brushed his lips over the side of Daniel’s neck as he took his own plate to his desk across the room. “I’m pretty sure you’re the trophy wife in this situation, Danny, so I don’t know why I do all the cooking.”
“I can’t boil water,” Daniel reminded. “Well, unless I use the coffee pot and that’s awkward, right?”
Jack grinned and shook his head. “I’m going to have to have Keller fired, just FYI.”
“Sheppard was in my office shortly before I went off duty—cursing a blue streak and generally having the kind of conniption that I would expect from McKay. He says that Keller tried to enlist his help in getting Rodney kicked out of the program because of his so-called ‘emotional instability’. I’m surprised Sheppard didn’t tell the Marines they could hunt her for sport. He was as furious as I’ve ever seen him.”
“Wow,” Daniel swirled pasta around on his fork. “Is this beef from Earth?”
“You wish,” Jack said blithely. “It’s that thing with the six legs from the mainland. I don’t remember what they call it.”
Daniel shrugged and dug in. “Right, well, she’s obviously a poor loser and her ego is suffering due to McKay’s… lack of grief over the end of their relationship.”
“You mean his manwhoring,” Jack said. “That’s what Sheppard called it.”
“Right, well, he’s not wrong but it’s par for McKay’s course. Even at Area 51 he was known for enjoying sex with quite a few partners with no strings attached. He’s an excellent lover and is always careful about practicing safe sex. I don’t consider him a risk to the expedition. He’d certainly never try anything sexual with someone who isn’t willing.”
“You’ve slept with McKay?” Jack asked casually.
Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack’s tone. “Yes, I did. It was fantastic and if I wasn’t with you—I’d certainly hit that again at the first opportunity.”
Jack half-glared and then slouched down in his chair. “Right. Well, Sheppard was furious and obviously I shouldn’t let him have any more therapy—he’s getting frighteningly good at expressing himself.”
“Maybe you should make some appointments with Dr. Grant.”
“Right, no.” Jack pointed at him with a fork. “I’m in touch with my emotions, thank you very much. As to Dr. Keller, she did file another report on the server for the data burst but I pulled it.” He fished a thumb drive out of his shirt pocket and tossed it his lover’s way. “I haven’t looked at it, yet. I did have Zelenka limit her ability on the network so she can’t add it to the data burst again without my direct approval. She was notified that it was removed from the server by me so I expect to see her in my office in the morning.”
“Let’s take a look.” Daniel plugged the thumb drive into his laptop, put his glasses back on, and quickly opened the document. He read it silently—slightly horrified by the content. “Wow.”
Daniel sighed. “More of the same actually, but she’s also insinuated that Sheppard and McKay have an inappropriate relationship that make their being on the same team dangerous to both themselves and our mission. She goes so far as to imply that John is the reason for McKay’s emotional instability and that they should be separated for the good of the mission.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Is this petty revenge stuff or something else?”
“Sore loser,” Daniel surmised. “She’s young, immature, and extremely irritated by McKay’s behavior since their relationship ended. Maybe we should put her in therapy.”
“John said he asked her if she’d ever watched Fatal Attraction and then warned her to leave McKay’s cat alone.” Jack grinned when Daniel burst out laughing. “Right, but is it a concern?”
“I don’t think she’s a bunny boiler, but I do think she’s trying to manipulate McKay into doing what she wants.”
“Great. Fantastic. Is it the money?”
“Maybe. I mean he’s loaded even if most people don’t know it. He’s worth millions but I think it’s more likely that she had a plan and he isn’t holding up his end of things. I know plenty of people who don’t handle that well.”
Jack glared at him. “If you’re implying that I’m…”
“Of course not, Jack, you’re very… adaptable.”
“Fuck you,” Jack muttered.
“I’m totally game for that,” Daniel said honestly and smirked at O’Neill when the older man blushed. “We could try that new lube I bought before we left Earth. It gets warm… with friction.”
Jack’s mouth dropped open and his fork hit the plate with a thunk. “Danny.”
“Scandalous, I know,” Daniel said sagely. “Should I start without you?”
“I’m an old man—but I think I can catch up.”
“Sure, sure,” Daniel allowed as he finished off his plate and strolled away from his desk with a sweet smile. “I’ll just go get naked then.”
* * * *
“Have you ever jerked off thinking about me?”
John huffed in mildly disguised horror and covered the cat’s entire head. “You’re going to corrupt Dewar!”
Rodney snorted. “That cat spent six weeks in an animal shelter watching all sorts of atrocities before I saved him literally on the eve of his would be execution. Trust me, he’s already beyond redemption.”
“Maybe I knew you were going to be inappropriate and my subconscious encouraged me to keep my homosexuality from you for my own protection,” John offered snidely.
“Right.” Rodney nodded. “Answer the question.”
“Sure, you have that fantastic ass and your cock is practically flawless—thick, long and hanging straight as you please. It’s a thing of beauty really and I haven’t even seen you erect,” John said as he rubbed his thumb between Dewar’s ears. “Did Jennifer get visitation rights for the cat because if she did—I think you should deny her access on the grounds that she’s obviously suffering some post-relationship stress.”
“Nah, I mean, we adopted him together but she didn’t like him much after…” Rodney shrugged. “Well, she stopped having anything to do with him when she realized how much he clearly preferred you over her.”
“He’s a good judge of character,” John defended. “She came by my office today—tried to enlist me in her efforts to have you transferred back to Earth for your own good because you can no longer handle the stresses of your job.”
John paused and frowned. “She’s said… that she allowed you to break up with her because she figured you’d last a week before you came back to her and agreed to return to Earth with her.”
Rodney sighed and took his cat back from John with a huff. “What’s that got to do with Dewar?”
John raised an eyebrow. “You have seen Fatal Attraction, right?”
“Ah, the movie that made men all over the planet reconsider being heterosexual,” Rodney said wisely and just grinned when John nodded his complete agreement. Then he frowned. “Wait! You think that silly girl might hurt my cat?”
“Nah, but she’s crazy to keep this up.” He paused. “She submitted another report—O’Neill pulled it out of the data burst but I did see it. She implied in it that you and I have an unhealthy relationship and should be separated for the good of the entire SGC.”
Rodney frowned. “I’d like to have a completely inappropriate sexual encounter with you but that is neither here nor there.” He blushed. “She said… never mind.”
“Tell me,” John said quietly.
“She was under the impression that I dumped her hoping I’d have a chance at some kind of intimate relationship with you. She said you’d never want me.”
He doesn’t love you. John could almost hear her little girl voice in his head, repeating those horrible words over and over again. At least, she hadn’t taunted McKay with that. Unless, John turned and looked at his friend in the fading evening light. Their quarters shared a balcony but they rarely sat out on it. John found the space too intimate and it reminded him of things he didn’t and wouldn’t have with McKay. Rodney looked tired and hurt. John wanted to kick Keller’s ass for it.
“She’s stupid,” John said simply and looked back out over the city. “Of course, I’d have sex with you. After all, you already told me you were great in bed and I’ve fantasized about you fucking me on and off since we met. You’ve always struck me as a pretty toppy bastard and I like that.”
Rodney blushed. “You ass.”
“I’m serious,” John said. “As much as I like it, I don’t let many men fuck me, McKay.”
“You let Sumner.”
John raised an eyebrow at the tone. “It was life affirming, I guess. We’d just stepped through the gate to another fucking galaxy. I honestly didn’t think we’d even make a gate connection—I don’t think Sumner did either. He was a real bastard, you know, and then suddenly he was prodding me into an empty supply closet and ordering me to lock the door.”
John snorted. “You bet your ass I did.” He shuddered. “Then he dropped down his knees and proceeded to blow me like a professional.” He grinned when McKay’s breath caught. “Half way through the blow job I was telling him I had a condom in my kit. He didn’t let me rummage through my back pack until after I’d come so hard I saw stars in that windowless little room.”
“Then you let him inside you.”
“Yeah, I sure did. He was great and he kept touching me like I was the most amazing thing he’d ever had,” John murmured. “Killing him messed me up in ways I can’t even say—not even now.”
“Did you let Peter Grodin…?”
“No.” John shook his head. “He was a total bottom. I can hardly see how he got much out of being with a woman.”
“It’s a different kind of experience—softer,” Rodney murmured. “You’ve slept with a woman.”
“Never enjoyed it,” John admitted. “Even with my wife I had to think of men to get hard and to get off. It was very dissatisfying—her body was all wrong for me. She was too soft, yielded too much, and was never a match to my strength. I don’t want to fight in bed but I do like to be on a somewhat equal footing physically—very few women could offer me that.”
“I hate how you kept this from me,” Rodney admitted roughly. “I hate that your father turned on you when he found out and I hate that you were so damaged by his rejection that you let it taint you so much.”
“I’m a lot better about it than I used to be,” John defended. “I couldn’t even get head for more than a year after my divorce without wanting to throw up. His disapproval and what he said…” He huffed. “He told me that he was disgusted and that I was damaged.”
“Well, not technically but certainly in spirit,” John murmured. “He’s dead and there is nothing can be done about that. I wish I’d had the words to make him accept and understand me before he died.”
“Understand you,” Rodney repeated. “You say that like you understood him.”
“He was a man of his time,” John said after a long moment of silence. “He was raised by a strong, career military man who rarely minced words.” He stroked his fingers over his bare wrist. “My grandfather figured out I was gay around the same time I did.”
“And he didn’t tell your father?”
“No, he knew my father would never understand. Of course, he didn’t either but he didn’t hate me for it. He admitted he thought it was wrong but he never made me feel like he regretted my existence.” John sighed. “He just told me if I went into the military that I should make whatever sacrifice I had to make to serve with honor and courage.” He laughed. “And then he told me to never get caught with another man because he didn’t want his grandson dishonorably discharged from the service. It’s ironic that when I nearly was court marshaled it was for an entirely different matter. I like to think he would’ve understood those circumstances.”
“Your choice was honorable—if misguided.”
“Misguided?” John questioned with a frown.
“Like that thing with you and Radek and the Jumper. Christ, I would’ve protested that mission left, right, and center if I’d been around to do so.”
“That’s the second time you’ve implied that I was an idiot for rescuing you,” John pointed out dryly.
“Reckless,” Rodney said quietly. “I’d never want you to die for me, John. Christ, it’s bad enough that you go out of your way to sacrifice yourself for the expedition, Earth, and random kittens.” He grinned when John laughed but then he sobered. “Just don’t make me the reason, I couldn’t tolerate it.”
“Your opinion is noted,” John said dryly. “But just to be clear—my reasons were selfish. Even then, I knew that I didn’t want to do this thing without you. You were the whole reason I didn’t retire my commission once Earth reestablished contact with the expedition. Back then I never expected to be promoted—not after what happened in the Middle East. I kept waiting for the general at McMurdo to invite me into his office and quietly request that I resign the entire time I was in Antarctica.”
“He never did?”
“Shortly after I agreed to go on the Atlantis mission, he called me into his office to hand me my new official orders. He praised me for saving General O’Neill’s life. The flight data from the helicopter painted the picture pretty well. He said pilots all over the base were pretty impressed with me but that didn’t excuse my previous behavior before coming to his base.” John sighed. “He said that he was used to getting a mixture of men under his command—special ops pilots for top secret flight squadrons and then assholes like me that no one wanted but the Air Force didn’t want to let go because of the money invested in them.”
Rodney snorted. “Wow.”
“Right.” John shrugged. “When I was promoted over the summer to a full bird, he showed up at the ceremony with a bunch of people that I never expected to be in the same room with. Most of them thanked me for saving the planet, ironically enough. But General Madison, the guy from McMurdo, he just shook my hand and asked me if I was still an asshole.”
Rodney grinned. “What did you say?”
“No, sir, I was promoted to bastard sometime ago.” John flicked off a half-ass salute to the night air. “O’Neill handed me a beer and told the whole room that saving the whole planet required a special kind of crazy.”
“What did Madison say?”
“He offered me command over the entire X-302 program on Earth,” John murmured. “I came pretty close to saying yes and they all knew it. O’Neill asked me to hold off while he negotiated with the IOA because he figured Madison would fight like hell to keep me if he succeeded in getting me off Atlantis.”
Rodney huffed. “I might have blown up that asshole’s house.”
“I was the odd man out on Atlantis at the time,” John admitted. “You had Jennifer, Teyla had her family, and Ronon was following Amelia around like a big puppy. I felt like some change might do me some good. A week before the decision was due, the IOA ordered Atlantis back to Pegasus and I declined Madison’s offer. I understand he still sends O’Neill regular hate mail.”
McKay stroked his cat, obviously lost in his own thoughts. “I don’t think… you have to know that I never considered Jennifer a viable replacement for you. I think she wanted me to think of her as my best friend but it just wasn’t true. I don’t see how it could’ve ever gotten there between us. We have very little in common, actually. The entire relationship was so shallow that I ought to be ashamed of myself. Even without factoring in her age… Christ, I must have looked like an idiot.”
John laughed abruptly and then shrugged when McKay glared at him. “It wasn’t… I never… look, I don’t think anyone actually said anything about your age difference. Though I do think several women in your department implied that she wasn’t smart enough to date you—much less marry you. Additionally, since you are socially retarded, the general consensus was and remains that you should be with someone who has the emotional maturity of an adult. She fell short on that front.”
“Obviously,” Rodney muttered. “Look, I don’t even know why she’s keeping this up. The sex was great, granted, but the rest of our issues had to have made the relationship not worth it on her end.”
John sighed and shook his head. “McKay, what is your net worth on Earth?”
McKay turned to stare at him, horrified and suddenly so furious he could barely breathe. “What?”
“You heard me.”
“But… that’s ridiculous… she’s a doctor for fuck’s sake.”
“And you’re a multi-millionaire,” John said dryly. “I’ve seen your financials, buddy; I have to sign off on the civilian security clearances. Trust me, money matters—whether you have too little or way too much. It matters.”
Rodney blushed furiously and Dewar protested the lack of attention with a yowl. He hissed and left McKay’s lap to go back into the room. “When I took her to Earth for that stupid thing… it was after that things got serious between us.”
“I thought you said it was a bad trip.”
“It was and the whole thing was stupid and I…” Rodney shook his head. “But after we landed in Colorado we had a few days to waste so we went into Denver and stayed at the most expensive place I could find on short notice. I pretty much let her have cart blanche when it came to meals. We even did some shopping…I offered it as an apology for almost getting her killed.”
“And your vacation last spring?”
“Paris,” Rodney said dully. “I hated it but she really enjoyed it. I actually wanted to go to Scotland so I could see Carson and his mother. You know I love his mother.”
“She said that it wasn’t romantic and that I should be concentrating on her,” Rodney rubbed his mouth with a slack hand. “I probably spent close to a hundred thousand dollars on that two week trip—if you count rental cars, private plane flight there and back, drivers, the hotels, meals in the most exclusive restaurants Paris had to offer… shopping… since she didn’t have the right clothes for Paris.” He sighed. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“It didn’t cross my mind until lately,” John admitted. “I didn’t know you spent that much in Paris. I mean I know it didn’t even put a dent in your bottom line but that’s… a stupid amount of money for two weeks in a place you didn’t even want to be.”
Rodney winced and then rubbed his face with one hand. “I paid off her medical school bills. She had about eighty-thousand dollars left on her loans. I just wrote a check and sent it off with the bill notice that came to our PO Box in San Diego. She acted all stunned and tried to say that I shouldn’t have done it but looking back on it—she wasn’t really surprised nor was she particularly grateful. It was just like she expected it.”
“I wonder how she would’ve reacted to a prenup,” John murmured.
“Not well at all actually. We discussed it before I ever bought a ring and she implied that she would never sign one and would consider it insulting for a man to even ask her to sign one.” Rodney shook his head. “Of course, I never would’ve married her without one. I might be an idiot when it comes to women but I’m not that stupid with my future or my money. When I retire, I want enough money set aside that I can do my own private research until I die.”
“Well, at least you have a plan.”
“You don’t?” Rodney asked.
John shrugged. “If I live that long—maybe a nice house on a beach in Hawaii somewhere. A dog who likes to run and swim would be cool. Private charter work until I’m too old, I guess.”
“Surfing and flying,” Rodney muttered. “Right.”
“Don’t forget the dog,” John admonished.
“Right.” Rodney sighed. “You’d retire back on Earth?”
“I figure the only way I’ll live to retirement is if I come precariously close to a medical discharge without getting myself killed. O’Neill is here as a civilian—they’d never let him in the field at his age as a military asset and he knows it. Sometime in the next five years, the mission is going to change and I’ll be given the leadership of the city. It’ll change a lot of things around here, unfortunately. They’re easing the way with O’Neill—softening you civilians up for it. I’ve seen a lot of civilians that were always permanently stationed in the Mountain filter through the last few months.”
Rodney nodded. “Is it a response to the Alliance?”
“Of course,” John murmured. “The people on Earth aren’t going to give Atlantis up to the natives of Pegasus. Less than one percent of them have even have the potential for gene therapy and finding a genuine ATA gene carrier that can actively work with the Ancient technology is practically a miracle. Atlantis was built on Earth and that makes a lot of people think that she is more our birthright than anyone’s in Pegasus.”
“I’ve heard the arguments,” Rodney murmured. “Teyla was furious at first—especially when she found out you agreed.”
“None of you—not even O’Neill—knows what it felt like that first time for me. When I stepped through the gate to the city, it was like something fundamental had been returned me. Something I didn’t even know was missing. We could talk about genetics, if you want, because genetically speaking no one has more right to the city of the Ancients than me. Unless Ancients start desascending en mass and tell me to fuck off—I’m going to continue to work under the assumption that she’s mine and I let you people live here,” John said and waved his hand in way that Rodney was famous for.
McKay snorted. “You’ve had too much to drink.”
“Have not,” John defended and picked up an empty beer can. “Just one.”
“And people call me arrogant,” Rodney said fondly. He sighed. “You really think she wants my money?”
“I think she’s a woman who had a plan that came to involve an obscenely wealthy husband because she met a man she thought she could manipulate into marriage,” John said. He reached into their cooler and pulled out another beer for them both. “But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have feelings for you.”
“Fuck that,” Rodney griped. “Who cares if she did? Doesn’t the money thing sort of make any feelings she had for me… redundant?”
“It would in my book,” John admitted then paused. “Of course, I can’t stand Jennifer Keller and I wish, sometimes, that I hadn’t rescued her when she got turned into a big Wraith plant because upon further consideration she just wasn’t worth getting stabbed in the gut again.”
Rodney carefully reached out and took John’s half-full beer from him. “Okay, I’m staging an intervention, John.”
“An intervention?” John questioned with a frown.
“Yes, Christ, no more therapy for you!”
* * * *
There was a time when Sam Carter’s voice really tripped McKay’s trigger. Sleeping with her hadn’t dulled that little kick in the gut that happened ever time she spoke. He wasn’t sure what had, exactly. It certainly hadn’t been Jennifer—he isn’t even sure when it stopped happening.
“Transmission received, Colonel Carter.” Rodney watched the data stream on his laptop and his gaze flicked up briefly to the open wormhole. “Are you ready for a solid matter test?”
“I have two things to send,” Sam said. “I’ll do the test object first.”
“Understood.” He sat back in the chair and watched the wormhole until a push cart rolled gently through it. He raised an eyebrow at the cargo. “You sent us a keg of beer?”
“That would be ale, McKay. I think I just became the record holder for the longest bootlegging haul. That came all the way from Scotland,” she announced cheerfully. “Happy Birthday, Carson!”
Carson Beckett laughed from his place near the top of the gate room. “Give her my thanks, Rodney.”
“The lush and all those that will party with him next week thank you kindly for your efforts,” Rodney said dryly. “Scans show that it came through exactly as it exited on your end.”
“Great. I have a box for Colonel Sheppard.”
Rodney stood and went to the gate. “Ready to receive.” A few seconds passed and a long, flat wooden box was pushed through. He frowned at it then carefully picked it up. He unlatched the small gold clasp and opened it. The box was lined with velvet and contained various watch parts and three entire watches that looked a great deal like the one John had worn every day until shortly before they left Earth. “Received.”
He glanced up Radek who gave him a thumps up. “Material has same composition as when it was sent. I would call that a success. We are ready for organic testing.” He paused. “Please don’t send through anything adorable, Carter. We had to have a funeral of your last test subject and Kusanagi was inconsolable. Who sends a bunny? I ask you?”
“Sorry, McKay, I had no idea it was going to fail like that. The new security protocols on Midway II have been recalibrated extensively. You won’t get… a body this time.”
“Right.” Rodney didn’t believe her. He took John’s box up to the console where he was working and tucked it away. The Colonel wasn’t in the control room for the new test. McKay doubted he’d expected his spare parts to be sent through the gate. He looked up just in time to see a little kitten dart out of the wormhole. Solid white and wearing a bright red bow.
“For Dr. Kusanagi,” Sam offered cheerfully. “If you would ask her to stop sending me death threats it would be appreciated.”
Rodney sighed as his head of stellar cartography darted over to pick up the kitten. “I think you might be forgiven.” Miko rubbed her face against the kitten’s head and smiled with big bright eyes. Rodney almost forgave her for the bunny funeral she’d made him attend. Almost. “Materialization was normal and we are squared away. I understand you have some food to send our way?”
“Yes, I have six crates on standby.”
“I have Marines on our end waiting to receive,” Rodney glanced towards Lorne who nodded abruptly. “You have a go, Carter.”
* * * *
John took a shuddering breath and braced one hand against the wall. It was easy to lose himself in the moment and in the hot mouth wrapped around his cock. An empty storage room near the edge of the occupied part of the city and an ex-Air Force officer turned civilian engineer on his knees for him had been a really fucking good idea. He should be fucking ashamed of himself but Graham Simmons was making soft gasping sounds around his dick and it was probably the best thing he’d had in recent memory.
He exhaled sharply as he ran his fingers through Graham’s hair, an encouraging petting motion that had no real place in the circumstances they were in. He tugged gently. “I want to fuck you. Can I?”
Graham groaned and pulled off his cock. “Hell, yes.”
John laughed softly and pulled the younger man to his feet. They sank into an easy kiss as he tackled Graham’s belt. He slid one hand and cupped his cock and balls as soon as he could. The kiss broke as Simmons moaned soft and needy against his mouth. “I have supplies.”
“Good, good.” Graham let his head fall back against the wall and his eyes fluttered shut briefly. “Christ, Colonel.”
John chuckled. “You little pervert, you don’t still wish you were in uniform do you? You want to go to my office—I could bend you over my desk.”
Graham groaned. “Don’t be a tease, John.”
“Hmm.” John released his cock and then helped the scientist out of his shirt. “Strip.”
He took care of his own clothes, pushing off his unlaced boots unhurriedly as the younger man did the same. Simmons was all efficient movement and easy smiles. John knew he had no business with him—they were both emotionally tied up over other people and Graham was deeper in the closet than even he was. He pulled the small tube of lubrication, a condom from his pocket and didn’t bother to pretend to be embarrassed. He’d sought the young engineer out—dropped by his lab because he knew McKay was in the gate room being King Geek to Carter’s Queen. It was hardly the first time the two of them had met up in this particular storage room.
Graham turned and braced himself against the wall then he tilted his hips just slightly in invitation and John bit down on his bottom lip to keep from groaning. “You’re such a pretty bastard, Simmons.”
“I could say the same,” Graham murmured as John brushed his mouth over the top of one shoulder.
John slicked up two fingers and nudged Graham’s legs a little further apart. He prepped the other man carefully—working his slick fingers into his hole with deliberation. “God, you’re tight.”
Graham groaned and let his forehead rest against the wall. “Hasn’t been anyone since the last time we hooked up.”
“Oh.” John kissed the back of the man’s neck. “You’re not going to get attached to me are you, Dr. Simmons?”
Graham chuckled. “Nah, I’ve already taken on my share of crushes on unattainable men.” He hissed in a breath when John pressed against his prostate. “Though, I would go on record and say you’re the best sex I’ve ever had. It’s practically a…” He gasped. “Fuck.”
“Practically a what?” John questioned as he added a third finger to Graham’s hole and twisted them just so.
“A religious experience,” Graham murmured reverently. “But that could just be my prostate leading me astray.”
“It’s happened to the best of us,” John said sagely.
Sheppard pulled his fingers free and rolled on the condom. He slicked it up with what was left of the small tube of lube and tossed it. He wiped the excess lube on his own thigh then shifted Graham to his liking before positioning the head of his cock at his entrance.
Graham shivered as he pushed in gently and pressed back against him with a needy little moan as John settled balls deep in him with one thrust. “Fuck.”
“Yeah,” John murmured against his neck. He gripped Graham’s hip with one hand and let his other rest on top of the scientist’s. John thread their fingers together and rocked gently for a few seconds before he pulled half way out and thrust back in hard.
“Fuck!” Graham shuddered. “God, yes, just like that.”
“Hard then,” John murmured.
He obliged the younger man—fucking into him repeatedly with the same heavy thrust until they were both damp with sweat and Graham was leaking pre-cum onto the floor between their feet. A part of him wished he’d talked the man back to his quarters—he would’ve loved to spread the scientist out on his bed, his legs hooked over his arms as he pounded his ass. He groaned at the image that flicked through his mind and nuzzled against Graham’s neck to keep from saying it. Their situation was entirely physical and it’d never be more—beds were simply not on the table.
“John,” Graham hissed. “Just… damn it.”
John laughed softly against his hair and tightened his fingers on the scientist’s hip. “You’re such a great time.”
Graham let his head fall forward and he took a few gasping breaths as John picked up his pace and gave him three hard, fast thrusts. “I refuse to worship at your altar.”
He released his hand and ran his fingers down the man’s arm before gripping his shoulder to keep him completely still. “Is that what you really think?”
He pulled his cock from the younger man, turned him around and prodded him against the single empty desk that was tucked into the corner of the room. He cupped Graham’s ass and lifted him easily onto the smooth ancient surface. The damn thing lit up prettily under them as John claimed his mouth. The kiss was rushed, ramped up with need and a desperate need for release.
Graham pulled his mouth away with frustrated groan. “John.”
Sheppard pressed him backward and Graham immediately took the hint, laying out on the desk and grasping his own knees to spread himself open to be fucked. “Yeah, that’s good.”
John pressed into Simmons again—taking his time. Graham’s eyes widened briefly before he shut them and arched on the desk, his cock head smacked against his stomach as John tagged his prostate. After a few thrusts, John caught the younger man’s legs and guided them up to his shoulders. Graham sighed with a mixture of relief and pleasure as he gave himself over completely to being fucked. In the position he was in… he had little to no maneuverability. John tried not to think about how much he enjoyed having the younger man at his mercy.
He powered him into a few more times before wrapping one hand around Graham’s leaking cock. “Come for me, Graham.”
Simmons shuddered and his body bucked under the double stimulation. “Jesus fuck!”
John rubbed his thumb over the head of his cock and jerked Graham roughly as he came in a hot rush of cum. “Yeah, that’s perfect. You’re gorgeous like this.”
He fucked him roughly then, using his pliant satisfied body to get off with a harsh groan. John shivered as his cock grew too sensitive to handle the hot, grip of Graham’s ass. He slid fingers between their bodies and held the condom in place as he carefully withdrew from the younger man’s body.
* * * *
John entered his quarters humming under his breath and smelling like sex. Thankfully, he hadn’t run into anyone on his way back so that was one thing not to stress over. Not that he cared particularly if people knew he’d been off having sex but he wasn’t going to do anything to damage Graham Simmons’ status quo or his reputation on the city. Being the military commander’s fuck buddy probably wouldn’t be an outstanding character reference. He grimaced at the thought and pulled off his t-shirt as he headed towards his shower.
“John,” Rodney called out as he entered through the balcony doors. “Carter sent you some watch parts…” He trailed off and his eyes widened. “Hey, you look like you just ran a marathon or something.”
John sucked in a breath. If McKay took a few steps forward he’d know exactly what John had been up to and he wasn’t sure… then Rodney gently waved the wooden box he had in his hand and set on his desk. “Cool, I didn’t expect to get that until the next Daedalus run.”
“Yeah, well, we’ve been experimenting since the incident with the bunny and now all of the protocols are all hammered out…” Rodney frowned and stared at him. “Did you…” He huffed. “Did you get laid?”
John held back a wince. He had nothing to be ashamed of. Engaging in consensual sex with another adult was perfectly okay. “Yeah.”
“Who?” Rodney questioned, as he crossed his arms.
“I… I can’t say, actually,” John admitted. “He’s not out and I’m not sure what it would take to get him out of his personal closet. I think he built a storm shelter in there while he was…young. His father was a lot less tolerant than mine and didn’t content himself with emotional disownment.”
“Oh.” Rodney’s widened briefly and his expression shuttered. “I see… okay… well I wouldn’t want you to violate anyone’s privacy by telling me.” He looked away and cleared his throat. “Did… is he special or just someone you hook up with?”
John relaxed and offered a sad smile. “He’s a great person but we don’t have anything exclusive or whatever. I’d never get involved that deeply with a man who’s in the closet—not when I don’t have to suffer through that anymore.”
“Right.” Rodney flushed and then shoved his hands into his pockets. “I should go before I ask inappropriate questions.” He grinned when John laughed. “Right, well dinner?”
“Yeah, I need a shower.” John motioned towards the bathroom.
“Oh, sure, so thirty minutes?”
“Sounds good.” John paused. “You could go get us some stuff and we could eat out on the balcony?”
* * * *
Rodney allowed himself to slump against the wall beside the double doors that lead out to the balcony in his own quarters. His gut churned with misplaced anger and jealousy. He had absolutely no fucking right to be pissed with John for… getting off with someone. It wasn’t like he was a monk. In fact, he was personally so far from being a monk that the idea was alien. He went into his own bathroom and washed his face with shaking hands.
A small part of him hated John for being beautiful and smart, for being such a good and loyal friend, for being gay and so damned unavailable. Rodney had never had a serious relationship with a man—he’d saved romance and the idea of marriage for women. He could take John to bed—they were the best of friends and he knew that John would be game if the right circumstances came along. But he didn’t want that emotionally empty but physically gratifying sex he normally had with men to happen with John. The last thing he wanted in the universe was a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship with Sheppard. It would eventually be the end of him if he allowed a situation like that to happen.
He pushed back his irrational anger and buried the hurt that he couldn’t help. It served nothing and no one to get upset about what he didn’t have with John. He had his friendship and that had been enough for six fucking years.
* * * *
John was pacing around in front of Thomas Grant’s office in a snit when the Lt. Commander came around the corner. The Navy man took the time to watch the Colonel—his anxiety was tangible. He continued down the hall and offered his CO a smile. “Sir.”
“Commander.” Sheppard stopped pacing and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I don’t have an appointment.”
“You look stressed out,” Thomas murmured as he waved a hand over the door lock and the door slid open. He motioned Sheppard in a head of him and then placed his lap top on his desk before taking his coffee to the chair where he normally sat. Sheppard was already seated, glaring at the floor. “Perhaps it would be best if you just said it quickly.”
“I had sex with a friend yesterday. Very satisfying sex in an empty supply room. To be blunt about it—I came back to my room smelling like exactly like I’d just spent an hour having sex with someone.” He rubbed his face in a frustrated gesture. “McKay stopped by to give me the parts for my grandfather’s watch… and he being the fucking genius that he is figured out I’d had sex before he could even get close enough to smell the evidence of it.”
Thomas nodded. “And his response?”
“He asked who I’d been with but I couldn’t tell him—the man in question isn’t out and I think it would take a natural disaster and the entire eradication of every female in the universe before he’d admit in public that he could in theory sleep with a man. He’s got serious issues with his father that make mine look like they could be solved on an hour long Dr. Phil special. His father was physically abusive,” John murmured. “At any rate, McKay took that part well but… something is wrong.”
“Well, I tell him I’ll take a shower and then we can have dinner and he agreed. He came back with food and we ate it on the balcony we share.” John rubbed his fingers over knee cap with a frown. “The thing is that I know McKay pretty well and for all that he acted like he was cool with it—he wasn’t. He wasn’t cool with any of it. I don’t know if he was angry or disappointed in me. I acted like a complete coward and didn’t ask.”
Thomas hummed under his breath and pursed his lips. He didn’t think he was far enough into his therapeutic relationship with the Colonel to actually tell the man what he suspected. Sheppard would deny it outright and probably get angry. He’d long ago made assumptions about McKay and about the friendship they shared. It probably had never crossed his mind that his feelings for Dr. McKay were, in fact, whole-heartedly returned. It was like watching an awkward romantic comedy.
“Jealousy, perhaps?” Thomas questioned and waited for the denial to burst out of Sheppard. He was mildly surprised by the shock and then the fear that shifted over the colonel’s normally stoic expression.
“I… well… of course not. McKay isn’t interested in me romantically, if he was—he would have certainly made it clear a long time ago.”
“I was in the closet,” John protested.
“You were involved with more than one civilian during that time and you knew McKay was bisexual. You are aware, of course, of your own physical appeal.”
“I told you—I don’t want to be…” John trailed off.
“How long has it been since you realized you were in love with McKay?” Thomas questioned. “Be honest with yourself, John. It’s been a hell of a lot longer than eighty-two days.”
“I…” John closed his eyes and shook his head. “I don’t even know how long it’s been. I don’t remember when a time when I didn’t love him. Even when I was so furious with myself and with him about Doranda… I couldn’t imagine my life without him. When we were separated on Earth after the Ancients kicked us off the city,” John said with a sigh. “I don’t know what hurt more—not being here or not being with him. It felt so wrong and stupid to live the life I was living without him.”
“I’ve heard rumors that McKay has engaged in sexual relations with several people since his separation from Dr. Keller,” Thomas began and lifted an eyebrow when John glared at him. “On a scale of one to ten—how would you rate your emotional response to that information? One being, perfectly okay with it and ten being, homicidal.”
Sheppard laughed and then sighed. “I suppose it depends on the situation—the thing is that when I heard he had a little welcome back to the city celebration with Katie Brown I was amused. The other women… well, that’s par for his course.”
“But I heard from someone yesterday that he slept with two men as well recently,” John sighed. “It was why… I sought out… Graham.”
“Dr. Graham Simmons,” Thomas clarified. He held up a hand when John started to speak. “Doctor/patient confidentiality applies to everything we discuss, John. You were upset when you discovered that McKay had slept with a man since his break up with Dr. Keller?”
“I was furious,” John admitted roughly. “Hurt, jealous, pissed off, and thank God I don’t know their names or I might have done something extremely fucking stupid like warn them both off of him like some caveman.” He huffed. “It’s stupid because I shouldn’t be… I’m not allowed…”
“Of course you are,” Thomas admonished gently. “You’re entitled to your feelings, John. You just aren’t entitled to act on them. He’s your friend—not your lover. You don’t have the right to protest any sexual relations he has with others—any more than he does you. Did he say anything last night about the casual sex you engaged in with Dr. Simmons?”
“Not directly, no, but he was clearly upset,” John murmured. “Do you think he’s jealous?”
“I think…” Thomas sighed. “I think that Dr. McKay needs to explain himself to you and no explanation I could offer would be accurate enough.”
“He tried pretty hard to not let on that he was upset,” John admitted.
“Then you should let him, John. We’re all entitled to our emotions and he chose to bury them when we both know that isn’t something he does often. He’s a very demonstrative man and for him to lock down such a visceral and emotional response speaks to how uncomfortable he was with his own reaction to your activities.”
“Right.” John frowned and shook his head. “He’s not jealous.”
“When did you start thinking you were unlovable, John?”
“The day my mother died,” John said and then blinked—completely startled. He stared at Grant in shock then exhaled through the sudden and intense emotional pain of the acknowledgment. “Jesus.”
“Indeed,” Thomas said and set aside his coffee cup. “You see, I’ve been laboring under the impression that I was helping you come to terms with your coming out of the closet. That isn’t even your issue is it, John?”
“Fuck me,” John muttered.
* * * *
Ronon didn’t have an office, per say, on the city but he did have an official location for “work” which was Gym Six in the barracks tower. Woolsey had made the room officially Ronon’s during his tenure as the city Leader—citing that everyone needed defined work space. The Satedan had shrugged when it had been announced and eventually he’d set up real training schedules and then individual training for civilians. Rodney had not been spared.
Rodney stalked into Gym Six tablet pc and coffee cup in hand. “I checked your schedule—you’re free this morning.”
“Did you want a work out?” Ronon asked as he finished putting away a set of weights into the shelving bolted to the wall.
“Hell no,” Rodney glared at him and motioned towards the balcony leading off the room. Ronon gamely followed the irritated scientist. McKay threw himself in a lounge chair and said nothing as Ronon settled down beside him. “John is sleeping with someone on the city.”
“Not a surprise, he’s very attractive.”
“Right.” Rodney frowned at the highly offensive bright blue morning sky. “It’s… he won’t say who. He says they’re in the closet and don’t intend on coming out.”
“People from Earth make sex way too complicated,” Ronon said.
“Right.” Rodney huffed. “How can he be satisfied with a ‘in the closet’ fuck buddy? He doesn’t have to hide what he wants anymore!”
“Maybe it’s easier,” Ronon offered and crossed his booted feet. “He doesn’t have to make any adjustments to his life. Nothing changes for him and he gets laid.”
“John isn’t that kind of person.”
“Isn’t he?” Ronon asked softly clearly amused. “He certainly hasn’t invested in anyone intimately since I’ve known him. The strongest relationship he has is with you.”
Rodney flushed and then frowned. “What are you trying to say, Conan?”
Ronon grinned at the nickname. Spending time on Earth had broadened his pop culture knowledge if nothing else. “That maybe of the two of you he’s more damaged,” he murmured gently. “Granted, you treat people like sex toys but you do try to invest yourself in people. Sheppard is only personally invested in his team and in this city. I don’t think he planned on any of us.”
“I agree with that,” Rodney admitted and then frowned. “I hate this person he had sex with and I don’t even know who it is. It’s stupid, right?”
“If the person I was in love with was having meaningless sex with someone—I’d hate it,” Ronon allowed. “But then I’ve never slept with someone I didn’t love… romantically or otherwise. I joke about inviting you into my bed with Amelia—but I mean it, too, you know. I love you—just as much I love Teyla and John. It’s different than how I loved my wife or even how I feel about Amelia but it’s all there.”
Rodney blushed furiously and bit down on his lip. “I know it’s important to you and you know I love you and Teyla like family.”
“And you love John like no one else you’ve ever known,” Ronon summed up. “I know, McKay. I don’t like to interfere with people’s relationships, you know. I don’t like to butt in and give advice.”
“Right, I know.”
“Except I’m going to have to make an exception because if I don’t—you’re going to end up hurting each other and that’s stupid.” Ronon frowned out at the ocean.
“I’m trying so hard to keep my feelings to myself,” Rodney protested. “His friendship is very important to me!”
Ronon huffed. “Rodney there is nothing you don’t feel for John Sheppard that he doesn’t feel for you.”
McKay paled and his eyes darkened with temper and hurt. “That’s not true. Don’t say things like that, Ronon, no matter how well you mean it—it’s just a fucking horrible thing to say.”
“McKay.” Ronon grabbed his hand when the scientist started to leave. “I’ve never lied to you. I’ve hurt you with the truth more than once in the past, you know that. John is in love with you. He’s been in love with you since before I even met him. When I first joined the expedition—I assumed the two of you were mated. Teyla had to tell me otherwise. You’ve spent six years ignoring his sexuality to keep your friendship and he’s spent six years ignoring that he was in love with you to protect himself. It’s time for one of you to man the fuck up.”
* * * *
John found McKay holed up in his office which the scientist rarely ever used. He leaned in the doorway and stared at him. “You look… pissed again.”
“It’s been a week for surprises,” Rodney muttered. He closed his laptop with a decisive click and turned to stare at him. Vivid blue eyes serious and thoughtful. “How was therapy?”
John winced and then slid into the room to let the door close behind him. “I’m apparently completely fucked up.”
Rodney snorted and picked up a thermos of coffee. He poured refilled his cup and shook his head. “It’s a good thing you aren’t paying for that.”
John grinned. “True. The hourly rates would eat up my combat pay pretty quickly.” He leaned on McKay’s desk with a sigh. “I don’t… look… I’m trying really hard to see things from your point of view. The thing is that you’re the most important person in my life and you’re really fucking unhappy with me. I don’t know why because you aren’t talking about it which is pretty interesting considering your usual behavior.”
Rodney frowned into his coffee. “I realize this is supposed to be your angsty little crisis not mine.”
“Granted, but we’ve been practically joined at the hip for years and what happens to one of us eventually happens to the other.” John sighed and reached out for McKay’s cup. He took the coffee from him and set it on the desk. “Let’s have some kind of communication.”
“Oh, fuck you and your therapy,” Rodney groused and stared pointedly at his coffee.
“No, seriously, we need to talk.” He paused and sighed. “I was jealous, McKay. I found out you’d… hooked up with a couple of guys since you dumped Keller and it pissed me off. The women didn’t bother me and I know what kind of asshole that makes me but I don’t care. I’ve never liked the attention you give other men and it pisses me off that I feel this way.”
“So you… went off and fucked someone?” Rodney demanded.
“Yeah, I sure did,” John agreed then sighed again when Rodney’s face shuttered. “You had sex with two men.”
“At the same time!” Rodney defended and the blushed furiously when John’s mouth dropped open.
John exhaled sharply and then before he could talk himself out of it, he grabbed a fist full of McKay’s shirt and hauled him bodily out of his chair. Rodney sputtered briefly but John was beyond talking. He covered his mouth with his own and McKay’s hands clenched on his arms briefly before he just gave in to the kiss.
Sheppard lifted his head and glanced over McKay’s face—watching shock, anger, and confusion war on his face. “You’re so fucking clueless.”
“Me?” Rodney demanded. “You come home smelling and looking like someone rode you like a thoroughbred and I’m clueless? Fuck you!”
“Fuck you back,” John snapped.
He prodded Rodney up against the wall and took his mouth again in a hard, exploring kiss. McKay tasted like coffee and anger. It wasn’t at all surprising. His mouth was greedy and talented against John’s. A soft groan passed between them and he pulled back slightly. He trailed his lips along McKay’s jaw and moved in closer. “Figure out what you want, Rodney.”
“What about you?” Rodney demanded in a near whisper.
“I think I’ve made myself perfectly clear,” John murmured.
“You. I want you. I want the attention, dedication and the goddamned fidelity you’ve given women without pause. And if you can’t give me that, Rodney, if you can’t have that kind of relationship with me—you need to be honest and admit it.” He paused. “And if all we have together is friendship—I can live with that I just—I need to know.”
“You can live with that?” Rodney questioned his voice soft and unsure. John hated the sudden insecurity he saw in McKay. “I’ve never had a friend like you, John; I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
“Is that why?” John asked with a soft, amused laugh. “Is that why you’ve never hit on me?”
Rodney flushed with a mixture of anger and embarrassment. “After Doranda…” He trailed off when John stepped back. “It was so painful without you around. When I thought we were never going to be close like we were before it was so hard to be alone like that. I wouldn’t want to ever experience that again.”
“I wasn’t blameless in what happened,” Rodney began lowly. “But your reaction was extremely hurtful. It was professional and personal failure all wrapped up in one horrible situation and I hated it. I hated myself.”
John sighed and pulled McKay close. The scientist was rigid against him briefly and then he relaxed and accepted the hug. “I am sorry. I really regret everything about that situation. You know… you know that I would never want to hurt you that way.”
“This… if we let this happen we could hurt each other a lot,” Rodney whispered. “If it were just sex…”
“But it’s not,” John murmured. “Is it?”
“Not for me,” Rodney admitted roughly. “It never has been.”
John lifted away slightly and pressed his mouth against McKay’s. Rodney groaned softly against his lips and opened his mouth slightly. John prodded him back against the wall and stroked his tongue between his lips with a little sigh of his own. He pulled away reluctantly and rubbed his thumb over McKay’s bottom lip.
“I don’t know if either one of us is ready for this,” John murmured. “But I think we owe it to ourselves to figure out what we want.”
“I agree,” Rodney nodded. He laughed abruptly and shook his head. “Ronon said one of us needed to ‘man the fuck up’.”
“It’s a good idea,” John murmured. “I’ve been living with assumptions and fear for more years that I’d like to think about.”
“Fear.” Rodney’s hands clenched on John’s hips to hold him in place. “I didn’t think you feared anything to be honest.”
John laughed sadly. “I fear nothing more in my life like I fear living a life without you in it.” He stepped back and ran a shaking hand through his hair. “Therapy is making me a nervous wreck.”
“Me, too!” Rodney said in agreement. “Your therapy is driving me insane.”
* * * *
“You.” Rodney pointed a finger at Dr. Thomas Grant. “If you were a civilian I would transfer your ass back to Earth so fast you’d get friction burns on your rather attractive ass.”
Thomas laughed and motioned McKay to sit on the couch. The man slouched down in the same spot that Sheppard favored and glared pointedly at him. “I was surprised when you made an appointment to see me, Dr. McKay.”
“I had no choice!” Rodney snapped. “You’ve managed to do something completely irresponsible to Sheppard. He’s precariously close to acting like an adult in his personal life.”
Thomas finished making his tea and took his own seat. “I see. Are you upset with him?”
“I.” Rodney stopped and frowned. “I don’t know what I am. I had this… process for dealing with him and our friendship. I had no expectations for anything beyond the strong, intimate friendship we have. It’s easily the most stable and rewarding relationship I’ve ever had in my life. I would never want to do anything to damage it.”
“Or change it?” Thomas questioned. “I reviewed your personnel file when your appointment appeared on my schedule. You’ve never once made an appointment with a therapist on this city that wasn’t required. You’re a great deal like Colonel Sheppard in that respect.”
“Right, well, therapy is a waste of time.” Rodney crossed his arms and stared. “A total waste of time actually and I’m only here because I don’t know how to handle John like this. He’s being all open and communicating on a level completely unprecedented.”
“And unwelcome?” Thomas questioned. “You aren’t fond of change—you expect people to act and be a certain way. When someone surprises you—you often react poorly to it.”
Rodney huffed and clenched his hands into fists against his thighs. “It’s not unwelcome. I’m proud of John for coming out. I’m relieved because he’s obviously more comfortable and happier than he ever has been before. So, not unwelcome. I was just surprised and unprepared to deal with a complete paradigm shift. You’re right, of course, I don’t like change. It’s rarely a good thing.”
“Sometimes change can be a catalyst for good.”
“And sometimes it leads to more trauma than is even reasonable,” Rodney snapped.
“Tell me about Jennifer Keller.”
“She’s young,” Rodney murmured. “Idealistic. Stubborn. I never should’ve gotten involved with her. We had little in common and what we did share was shallow and foolish. I don’t know why I thought I could marry her and have a family with her.”
“Were you lonely?”
Rodney shook his head. “No, not at all. I have good friendships with my team and strong relationships with a few co-workers that I work well with despite rumors the contrary. Granted, I’m not an easy man to work with nor am I someone who can build friendships easily.”
“So, why Jennifer?”
“It’s crass to admit but it started out as a game with Ronon. Just a little friendly competition to see which one us could get her into bed. He’s young and extremely good-looking. A lot of women like that whole alien barbarian thing he has going on but I can hold my own against him when it comes to picking up women. It’s a horrible little game but we were both always careful not to treat women like objects. Maybe we weren’t always successful but it was never done in a way that I thought was disrespectful.” Rodney shrugged when Grant raised one eyebrow in question. “I’m not saying it wasn’t horrible but there you go.”
“So, it was this thing and then it turned into something else that I didn’t expect and can’t even explain. I thought… well, I’m getting older and that I might as well settle down with someone I could love. I did love her. I’m not sure I do now but mostly it’s because I’m so furious with her about her behavior after our break up that I can’t touch on those feelings anymore.”
“You weren’t in love with her,” Thomas clarified.
“No, not exactly. I found her attractive physically and intellectually she didn’t bore me out of my mind. I thought we could be comfortable together and that she would be a good mother.”
“You want children.”
“It’s… my sister recently had a second child,” Rodney admitted. “His name is Max and I was there when he was born. I didn’t know it was possible to love someone instantly. My niece Madison is awesome and I love her but I wasn’t around when she was a baby. It was different with Max. I wanted that—I wanted a baby and Jennifer was there looking at me like she wanted to get married. I thought we were on the same page but I don’t even think we were reading the same book.”
“She didn’t want to have children immediately then.”
“She said that she’d prefer to wait until she was in her late thirties—that it was a perfectly reasonable age to have children but I’m almost forty and that wasn’t a good situation for me. She wanted to live on Earth starting next year and that was a deal breaker.”
“Because you can’t leave Atlantis?”
Rodney sighed and sent the Navy man full of scorn. “I can’t leave John. He probably wouldn’t survive out here six months without me.”
“He’s a capable and strong man,” Thomas said neutrally. “An excellent officer with a fine combat record and…”
“And a hero complex to so overdeveloped that his life means next to nothing to him,” Rodney snapped. “Suicide missions are par for his course in case you missed it when you were looking at his personnel file.”
“He is a man whose duty has often lead him to a path that most wouldn’t be able to follow,” Thomas Grant allowed. “He’s not suicidal, Rodney.”
“No, he’s not,” Rodney murmured. “But one day I’ll be visiting an empty grave with his name on it and then I’ll be lonely.”
* * * *
“Thanks this will work out great,” John said as he set the magnifying lamp on his dining table. He glanced at Graham Simmons who was lingering near the door of his quarters. “You could come in and sit down.”
Graham laughed and shrugged. He dropped down on the couch and looked around. “Where is it?”
“Where is what?”
“I heard you had a giant poster of Johnny Cash,” Graham admitted and then grinned when Sheppard flushed.
“Oh, he’s in my office.” He made a motion towards a door to the left of the kitchen area. “I don’t spend that much time in there actually but I was encouraged to have work space in my new living quarters.” He rolled his eyes and shrugged.
“What are you working on?”
“My watch, it’s an antique and I had to have parts sent from Earth,” John admitted. “It stopped working before we left Earth but I didn’t get a chance to get the parts I needed before we left.”
“That’s cool,” Graham murmured and frowned suddenly. “We really… have nothing to talk about do we?”
John grinned. “I don’t suppose we ever took the time to learn about each other, Graham.”
“Right.” Simmons started to stand and Rodney strolled through the open balcony doors. “Oh.”
“Simmons.” McKay’s eyes went hard and flat in an instant. John sincerely hated how smart the man was sometimes. “I didn’t realize you were entertaining, Sheppard.”
John held back a wince. The only times Rodney called him by his last name was when he was irritated or when they were in the field. “Dr. Simmons had a magnifier on a stand in his lab that he said I could borrow.” He motioned towards the work area he’d set up. “I was going to start work on repairing my watch.”
“Right.” Graham stood and offered John a small knowing smile. “I’ll just go. Bring it back whenever you’re finished with it, Colonel. I won’t have any use for it for a while.”
“Thanks.” John watched him leave and then turned to Rodney who had turned to leave also. “McKay, what’s up?”
“I thought you might want to go to dinner,” Rodney said dully. He shrugged. “I didn’t mean to run your piece of ass off.”
John frowned at him. “That was horrible and completely unnecessary, Rodney.”
McKay huffed. “I never pretended to be nice, Sheppard.”
“Right. He was just bringing me the magnifying glass. Some of the parts on the watch are delicate and tiny—I have to be careful when I’m taking the others apart for spare parts as well.” John moved around the table and sat down. “I thought I’d work on this for about an hour. We can do dinner then if you want.”
“Was it him? Was it Simmons? I mean, he’s attractive enough, I guess.”
“He’s gorgeous and you know it,” John muttered. “I’ve seen you check him out in the past, you know. As to the other, I told you that I’m not discussing my friend with you. It’s not appropriate.”
“Friend,” Rodney muttered. “Look, I’m not the most observant man, obviously, but he looked like a deer caught in headlights. Obviously he’s the guy you’ve been fucking.”
“Obviously,” John muttered snidely. “Right. Well, either way I’m not discussing Dr. Simmons with you and I told you why.” He paused and stared pointedly at McKay. “Don’t talk to him about it either—he doesn’t deserve that kind of disrespect from you. I won’t ask you to treat him any better or differently that you treat any other member of your staff but don’t you fucking dare treat him worse because of what you suspect.”
“You think I’d do that?”
“I think you’re an asshole,” John returned evenly. “I know you’re vindictive and capable of being incredibly petty when it suits your purpose. He’s inconsequential to your life and that means what he feels is so unimportant to that it can’t be measured. The only time he’s been on your personal radar in the last two years is when he’s done something you hated on his job or when he walks by you in the mess in that those jeans he shouldn’t be allowed to wear in public.”
Rodney huffed but didn’t deny John’s assessment. “He does have a fantastic ass.”
“So he does,” John agreed and opened up a small black case full of tools that he’d bought on Earth years before.
“That watch is pretty important to you.”
“It belonged to my grandfather, I’ve never flown without it,” John said shortly. “Not since he gave it to me on the day of my first solo flight. It’s a piece of my familial history that I’ve carried with me my entire adult life.”
“I see,” Rodney murmured. “I went to talk to Dr. Grant. He’s… an interesting person.”
“Yes, I’m surprised. I figured his religious ideals might give you the hives.”
“Well he didn’t bring up Jesus or God so it was an okay conversation,” Rodney admitted roughly. “I just…. I want you to know that you aren’t the only one who is fucked up. My father was a drunk and a mother was so emotionally distant that she might as well have lived on the Moon. I left home when I was fourteen and never willingly returned. They forced me home twice but when I was eighteen, I cut myself off from them both. My relationship with Jeannie was always difficult—even before she married that idiot English teacher. She justly believed that I abandoned her. My parents didn’t let her leave home for college—once they realized how little control they had over me after I left home. She had to attend school and live at home until she turned eighteen. When they were killed, Jeannie buried them and sent me half a dozen letters berating me for leaving her to do it by herself.”
John exhaled sharply. “Okay.”
“The thing is that until you—my friendships were shallow and meaningless. I did my best to keep everyone at a distance—even sex partners. I didn’t want to love anyone. I didn’t want anyone to have that kind of power on me. My parents were such a fucking disappointment.”
“Well, we all have fucked up childhoods,” John murmured. “It prepares us for how fucked up and horrible adulthood is going to be.”
“Maybe.” Rodney crossed his arms and stared pointedly out at the ocean. “Graham Simmons—his father really…” He trailed off when John huffed. “John?”
“I’m honestly surprised that Graham Simmons lived to adulthood. It’s all in his personnel file, Rodney. The medical records from his childhood read like a textbook case of child abuse. I don’t see how the Air Force didn’t intervene, frankly. His father was a career NCO and they lived primarily on bases most of Graham’s life. We’ve never discussed it but I’ve read all of the files of everyone on the city—I knew what I was getting into when I approached him.”
“He really just came here to drop off that thing?” Rodney questioned, his hand flicked towards the large magnifying glass that John set to the side.
John laughed, amused and a little tired. “Yes. I asked him to bring it by my office actually but we both busy and he brought it here because he figured I might need it tonight. It was the first time he’s ever been in my quarters.”
“What?” Rodney frowned. “But you’ve been hooking up with him…”
“For a while,” John admitted roughly. “But never in either of our quarters. His closet door is locked, McKay. Can we drop it? It’s not right to discuss this with you.”
Rodney frowned. “I don’t like it.”
“I know,” John said gently. “Despite your efforts in the beginning, it isn’t a secret. You were furious yesterday.”
“Yes.” Rodney shook his head. “Which is stupid I know—it’s ridiculous that I have a different standards for your behavior and mine. Things that seem perfectly reasonable for me to engage in…” He trailed off. “The thing is that despite how much I teased you in the past about being Kirk—I knew you weren’t being intimate with that many people. I knew you’d been with Chaya but it wasn’t normal. I suspected you’d slept with Teer and it was a surprise when you admitted recently she wanted to ascend a virgin.”
“It certainly was a waste,” John agreed. “Not that I wasn’t thankful because her romantic interest kept me safe from the other women in the village. But she was satisfied with emotional intimacy which I could easily provide. I like women, Rodney, as long as they don’t expect me to fuck them.”
McKay snorted and then cleared his throat. “I’ll go get us some dinner and bring it back then? I could pick up supplies from the stores and we could cook?”
“Yeah, that’d be cool. I do have some steaks—frozen from Earth. How about I thaw those out and you pick up some stuff for sides from storage?”
“Great,” Rodney murmured. He glanced towards the mess on John’s table. “You never said the watch was that important to you.”
“My grandfather died,” John murmured. “Shortly after I finished OTS and well before I offered Nancy a ring. The day I was married, I couldn’t help but think he would’ve been disappointed in me.”
“For lying to her, for lying to myself—for being such a fucking coward and dishonoring us both with those marriage vows. I didn’t wear his watch that day. I went to put it on and I stood there in my dress uniform staring at it and I knew I couldn’t wear it and stand in front of our friends and family and promise her a life. I never should’ve married her but it made my father happy and it the higher ups stopped looking at me like I might be wrong. I was promoted to Captain six months after I married Nancy.” John set aside his tools and stood. “I’ll take out the steaks.”
* * * *
Rodney was looking through the selections in the food storage catalog which was stored on a pad when Teyla arrived with an empty basket. “Hey.”
She smiled. “Kananan is here and Jennifer is watching Torren.”
“Ah, romantic dinner then.” Rodney nodded thoughtfully. “John and I are making steaks so I was trying to figure out what to pick up for it. We still have potatoes left from Earth and some frozen asparagus. I figure that might do. It won’t be as great a fresh but…” He trailed off with a shrug. He marked his selections so that the inventory would be updated and went to retrieve his choices.
Teyla hummed as she picked up the pad and started to browse through the selection herself. The food storage area was a recent addition to the city—planned and implemented by Daniel Jackson who didn’t always appreciate the mess hall. It was stocked with a variety of food items from Earth and from their trading partners. Most of the city still ate in the mess but those with apartments often made at least three or four meals a week in private. It was a nice arrangement.
“Are you and John having a date?”
Rodney froze in his efforts to rummage through the large freezer of frozen vegetables. “Huh, no, not… I mean… I guess, maybe.” He sighed. “Can you mark off one summer squash as well for me?” He plucked the bright yellow vegetable from the cooling unit next to him as he arranged the small sack of potatoes and the package of frozen asparagus.
“Of course,” Teyla murmured. “Have you admitted your feelings for each other then?”
“Not in so many words,” Rodney admitted reluctantly. “It’s pretty difficult, you know, to go from being friends to potential lovers. I don’t… want to lose him.”
“You won’t,” Teyla assured. “Just be honest with him, Rodney, and never set out to hurt him.”
Rodney huffed. “I’m capable of being faithful—I never cheated on Jennifer or Katie for that matter.”
“I have no doubts in your ability to devote yourself to a woman,” Teyla said shortly and eyed him until McKay blushed. “Yes, you see the difference then.”
“I’d never hurt John like that,” Rodney snapped. “It’s a new experience for me, yes, but he made it clear what he would expect if we tried to have a romantic relationship. I’m working very hard to get my head around it.”
“Well, your emotional retardation aside,” Teyla began as she started to fill up her basket. “You owe it to yourself and John to make an honest effort. You’ve loved him for a very long time.”
“Yes, I have.”
* * * *
Dinner had gone better than he’d hoped. McKay hadn’t mentioned Simmons again and after a few minutes of awkwardness when they’d begun cooking—they’d fallen into a familiar rhythm. They often shared meals and cooked together even when Rodney had been dating Jennifer, which should’ve been a clue for someone. John passed Rodney a glass of wine as they got settled on the balcony.
“I’m sorry about before,” Rodney murmured. “Yesterday and this afternoon and the thing I said about Graham. You’re right—he’s not any of my business and I promise you I won’t treat him any differently professionally because of it.”
“Okay.” John slouched down the double lounger beside him. “But?”
Rodney sighed. “Are you going to keep seeing him?”
“Do I have a reason not to?” John asked. “Because I have to tell you, Rodney, you’re sending me a lot of mixed signals. You’re saying one thing but I can tell you’re upset and even hurt by what you think is going on between me and Graham.”
“You’ve yet to deny he was the one,” Rodney pointed out.
“I’ll never lie to you again,” John said snapped. “It’s not something our friendship would survive and I know that. I think you’ve forgiven me for not telling you I was gay when the first chance popped up but maybe you haven’t. Still, I’m not going to make that mistake again.”
“There is nothing to forgive—I understand self-preservation better than most. Yes, I was upset at first and maybe I was entitled to some of it but not all of it because mostly I was just irrationally jealous that there was someone on this city who knew you better than I did.”
“That’s not true,” John protested.
“John.” Rodney huffed. “There are parts of everyone that only a lover sees. I don’t mean physically—I’ve seen you naked often enough in the showers. I mean—that even with casual sex partners, you reveal parts of yourself that no one else in your life gets to see. There is vulnerability in opening yourself up to sex. You know that… even more so with a gay man who prefers to be topped.”
John flushed and turned his head slightly. “Well, there is no man on this city who’s had me in that particular position, McKay. I told you I don’t trust many with it at all. I haven’t had a man inside me in… well… since we were kicked off the city by the Ancients. I hooked up with an old friend from OTS when I was on Earth. He was a good friend after my divorce was finalized and I needed someone to take care of me.”
“I’m glad you had someone,” Rodney said quietly. He sipped from his wine glass and then tilted his head. “This is from Earth?”
“Yeah, I bought a few bottles when I was in California visiting friends,” John admitted. “I think that’s when you were in Kansas meeting Keller’s father.”
“Ah.” Rodney nodded. “It’s nice—excellent flavor. Though I think I might prefer that aldberry wine from PX4-587.”
“I agree,” John admitted. He sat aside his empty glass and crossed his legs at the ankle. “I’m in love with you.” He paused and took in Rodney’s silence. “I figure you know that—I assume Ronon got fed up with us both and told you. I wish I’d had the guts to tell you first. I didn’t admit it to myself until after I realized how serious you thought you were about Keller. When you bought that ring, Rodney, it was like someone put a few rounds in my chest. I hated it. I hated her. I hated you for a few days, too, and that was stupid because I had no right to be that hurt and angry because you were trying to be happy with someone else.”
Rodney stared into his wine glass and exhaled sharply. “I made myself set it aside years ago, you know. The physical attraction, the inappropriate crush turned love. I acknowledged what it was and then I put it in a box and I left it there. I pushed it into the back of my mind and took what I could get from you. It was a lot actually—you were always willing to give me your time and your undivided attention. You accepted me, had obvious affection for me, and you never once made me feel like I was abnormal. You can’t even know how rare that was. Being as smart as I am has never been easy. Carter calls it ‘Anti-Social Genius Syndrome’. She only escaped it once she was at the Air Force Academy and even then only because she proved herself to be a physical powerhouse as well. Academically she was often ostracized because no one could keep up with her.”
“Is that how it was for you?”
“I started undergrad when I was thirteen,” Rodney admitted. “I commuted to a local college for a year until I could prove that I could handle a college environment and then I transferred to a university in the states when I was fourteen to escape my parents. I emancipated myself at sixteen from a hospital bed.”
“A what?” John demanded.
“My father dragged me home—literally. He had to hire a private plane and basically he kidnapped me over Christmas break my first year of grad school. I’d been going to school year round since I was thirteen—even summers. He’d found out that I was being courted by several major engineering firms in the US and Canada and he wanted the money. He tried to force me to sign a contract that would allow him to control my income until I was twenty-one. The contract was for six million dollars. I refused. I wanted no part of building weapons—I’d made that clear shortly after the CIA interrogated me for building a non-working model of a nuclear weapon. They’d found my improvements on the design fascinating.”
John sighed. “He beat you?”
“He nearly killed me,” Rodney corrected shortly. “I’d already published extensively and won several government grants. I had money stashed away from consulting jobs I’d started taking when I was fifteen. I hired a lawyer as soon as they pulled me off the respirator—he collapsed a lung during the beating. I returned to school with a broken leg and arm,” Rodney admitted. “Due to the extreme amount of physical damage he caused me—my lawyer blackmailed my parents into signing emancipation papers. I agreed to not press charges and refused to tell the police who beat me up. I had no contact with my parents after that.”
“Had he hit you before?”
“Casually,” Rodney admitted. “A slap to the back of my head when I wasn’t paying enough attention to him. He punched me once in the stomach for… well he was an Engineer and he’d been invited to speak at a conference. He’d left his speech out on the table and I corrected several mistakes he’d made. My interference was not well received.”
“How old were you?”
“Seven.” Rodney shrugged. “I stayed out of his way after that as much as I could. Then when I could I left home. My sister called me a coward.”
“Survival is the better part of valor,” John murmured. “She must regret that now.”
“He never hit her. In fact, he didn’t hit me in front of her until I was sixteen. She witnessed… what he did. She called for help after he stormed out of the house. My mother just fixed herself a drink and went upstairs to sleep. I don’t know how long I would’ve lain on that floor in the kitchen if Jeannie hadn’t called for help. I would’ve certainly died there. I received a letter from her six months later that she mailed from a friend’s house. We used that address to exchange letters until our parents were killed in the accident.”
“It was an accident,” John said. “You know if it wasn’t you can tell me, McKay. I’d never speak of it to anyone.”
Rodney laughed softly. “Well, I certainly thought about killing him a lot over the years. I didn’t though—if it wasn’t an accident then he must have pissed off someone else.”
John nodded. “Yeah, okay.”
“You’re the love of my life,” Rodney murmured and flushed when John turned to stare at him in shock. “I never thought I could have you and now that you’re sitting there returning my feelings and being stupidly open about what you want and your past.” He paused and grimaced. “You were safe to love that way, you know completely. I gave myself over to it because you were straight.”
“You’re something of a serial monogamist with bouts of severe manwhoring,” John began conversationally. “Are you afraid you can’t give me what I want?”
“No. I have no doubts that I can give you what you want—the only thing missing from what we already have is the physical intimacy. I’m not a sex addict or anything ridiculous like that. Sexual pleasure helps clear my mind and sometimes I need the physical connection with another person. I’ve never considered an exclusive relationship a sacrifice.”
“But you’ve never had a relationship with a man,” John murmured. “I’m safe for you to be in love with… what does that mean?”
“I trust you,” Rodney admitted roughly. “It’s not often in my life that I’ve met someone I could trust like that.”
“And you thought I was straight… so you’d never have to risk me hurting you.” John shifted closer. “But it really isn’t safe to love me, is it?”
Rodney bit down on his bottom lip. “I guess it never was but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
John made a soft humming sound and then leaned forward. He pressed his mouth against McKay’s and sighed when the man moved into his arms without hesitation. They exchanged a series of kisses that left John breathless and hard. He felt all of sixteen years old. He buried his face against McKay’s neck with a huff of exasperation.
Rodney laughed and moved closer. He slid one broad hand down the length of John’s back and sighed. “Delayed gratification on your agenda?”
John sighed and sank his teeth into Rodney’s neck in retaliation. McKay groaned and arched into the bite. He lifted away and stared at his friend with an amused grin. “I figured you’d be a freak.”
“I never figured you for a cock tease,” Rodney griped.
“You didn’t think I liked cock at all,” John murmured. His fingers deftly worked open McKay’s belt. “Not much of a genius it seems.”
Rodney huffed and then groaned when John’s hand slid confidently into his pants. Talented fingers encircled his half-hard cock. “No, clearly, I’m an idiot.”
“Fortunately, you have a very pretty cock to make up for it,” John murmured as he worked Rodney free from his boxers. He rubbed his thumb over the fat head and wet his bottom lip. “Really pretty, actually.”
Rodney lifted his hips with a heavy groan. “I thought you weren’t a cock tease.”
“Oh, I’m not,” John assured. He shifted the moved down the lounger.
McKay’s breath caught as John sucked the head of his cock into his mouth. “Jesus.”
Sheppard groaned as Rodney’s hips flexed abruptly and he pulled McKay fully into his mouth. The way the head of his cock tucked into back of his throat was so perfect that John shuddered and nearly came himself. He worked Rodney’s cock carefully and with all the skill he could muster in the midst of his own excitement.
Rodney’s fingers trailed through his hair and clenched briefly. “John.”
The tone was enough to let John know that McKay was getting worked up faster than either of them wanted. He backed off a little and flicked his tongue over the head briefly before he pulled away and moved back up. He caught Rodney’s mouth in a hard kiss, not surprised that McKay curled into him immediately.
Rodney’s hands immediately clenched on his hips and then drifted around to clutch at his ass. He sucked in Rodney’s tongue in a weak imitation of the attention he’d given the man’s cock and pulled away with a sigh.
“Let’s go to bed, Rodney.”
“Yeah?” Rodney questioned softly.
“It’s about time, isn’t it?” John asked.
“Yes,” Rodney said in agreement. “Maybe my bed? I have supplies…”
“Yes, I bet you do.” John pulled him off the lounger with a small laugh and they managed to make it into McKay’s bedroom with little physical damage.
At the end of the bed, they both paused and made a complicated mess of undressing each other. Eventually, John tumbled Rodney onto his much discussed prescription mattress and claimed his mouth eagerly. When he lifted his head, he shifted down and immediately claimed one of McKay’s tight nipples.
“For a man who is a self-proclaimed bottom… you’re actually quite dominant.”
John snorted and with a little smile shifted around until he could slide astride McKay’s thighs. He rubbed his hard cock against Rodney’s and watched the scientist shudder against the contact. “You aren’t one of those cavemen who assumes that being on bottom equals submission are you?”
“Huh…no?” Rodney asked and then grinned when John pinched one of his nipples. “Nah, you don’t strike me as submissive at all actually. If you were, obeying orders might come easier for you.”
John laughed and rocked their bodies together. “It’s been a few years since I’ve had someone inside me.”
“Yeah,” Rodney agreed his eyes dark and serious. “Did you want me to fuck you?” He rubbed John’s thighs as he watched the man process the question. Maybe it was something they’d have to build up to, he thought.
“I would like that a lot actually,” John admitted. He trailed his fingers along the length of McKay’s cock. “I’ve certainly thought about it often enough over the years and the thing is I rarely get what I want. I never thought I’d have you.”
“You could have had me on day one,” Rodney admitted roughly. “But you know that.”
“It wouldn’t have meant anything then.”
He took a deep breath as McKay nudged him onto his back and just sighed as he spread his legs for the scientist. Rodney pulled a condom and a bottle of slick from a drawer in his headboard. The condom he dropped on John’s stomach, the lube he opened a little flick of his thumb.
“The one good thing about all of this is neither one of us is inexperienced,” Rodney murmured as he leaned down and licked John’s cock from base the very tip. He sucked on the head and hummed as he was rewarded with a little burst of precum. He let go with an obscene pop and licked his bottom lip. “There is nothing quite like a virgin to…”
“Totally fuck up a good time,” John finished with a grin and wrapped one hand around his own cock as he spread his legs further apart.
Rodney nodded his agreement and tilted his head. “Get on your knees.”
He closed the lube and dropped it on the bed. John raised one eyebrow, glanced at the closed lube, and scrambled gracelessly to his knees. He adjusted his legs when Rodney nudged him and shuddered as McKay ran his hands down his back then over the swell of his ass. The position was undignified as hell, but John knew there really wasn’t much about sex that was dignified. Really, the dirtier sex was—the better time everyone had.
McKay parted the cheeks of his ass with his fingers and John barely had time to exhale before a hot, wet tongue swept over his hole. He clenched his fists in the sheets and let his head drop forward. Rimming hadn’t been on his agenda in over fifteen years. The last man to do it for him had been his roommate in college. The guy had liked nothing more than to spread John out on his narrow bed and eat his ass out like it was his last meal. John really missed that guy. He’d been an Olympic contender in rimming but Christ; McKay was definitely working towards a medal himself.
John groaned, snagged a pillow and buried his face in it as McKay worked the tip of his tongue into his ass. He was pretty sure he’d just figured out why all of the man’s ex-lovers would probably still sleep with him given half a chance. Dr. Rodney McKay was a morally corrupt sex god.
John’s mind went entirely blank and he shivered through an intense, hot sensation that felt like an orgasm but that wasn’t possible because his cock was hard and throbbing. Pleasure rolled over him and he shifted on his knees to get closer to Rodney.
“Fuck, McKay, I don’t…” John trailed off and sank his teeth into the pillow. Cotton in his mouth wasn’t distraction enough. He let it go with a sharp exhaled. “Rodney… you’re killing me.”
Teeth scraped across his ass cheek and he shivered at the soft kiss McKay placed on the small of his back. He relaxed minutely as he heard the lube’s cap snick open. John took a few calming breaths and clenched his fists under the pillow. He’d be goddamned if he would do something so unproductive as come from being prepped for anal sex. Though, honestly, he didn’t think Rodney was the kind of man that would let that deter him from breaking off a piece of ass.
Slick fingers traced over his hole, already wet and slightly open from McKay’s eager tongue. John shivered and arched his back helplessly as his body was pierced skillfully with one finger and then another almost too quickly. He started to protest, to remind his friend and new lover how long it had been but then Rodney twisted his fingers and John forgot English. It was certainly the only explanation of the nonsensical noises that fell out of his mouth in the minutes that followed.
He lifted his head as McKay pulled three slick fingers from his ass and clenched briefly before he made himself relax as much as possible. He pressed his forehead against the pillow briefly and then lifted up as McKay tossed the condom wrapper on the bed.
“Just relax,” Rodney murmured as he put one hand possessively on John’s hip. His fingers were tacky with drying lube, his nails scraped blunt and delicious against the thin skin covering his pelvic bone.
John exhaled softly and bore down slightly as McKay pushed the head of his cock inside. He shuddered, his stomach tightening with anticipation while his heart hammered wildly in his chest. “God, Rodney.”
“I’m here,” McKay murmured as pressed, slowly and without pause deep into his friend. “Am I hurting you?”
“No,” John answered his voice soft and scratchy with want. “Just… fuck me, Rodney. Christ.” He arched into McKay’s hand as it trailed possessively down his back.
“You’re mine,” Rodney murmured. “All mine—I’ll never let you go—not after this.”
“I’m…” John groaned as McKay started to stroke into him with strong, deep thrusts. “Fuck!”
“Mine. Say it, John. Tell me you belong to me.”
“It’s going to take a hell of a lot more than your cock in my ass to get me to admit something like that,” John snapped and bit down on his bottom lip hard to keep from giving McKay what he wanted. “I’m not some kind of trophy wife, McKay.”
Rodney laughed and pulled his dick out of John’s ass. “Get on your back.”
John rolled over on his back and stared at his friend, wide-eyed and a little stupid with lust. “I’m not as bendy as I was when I was twenty, you know.”
“I don’t believe that,” Rodney murmured as he slid between John’s legs, used one hand to tilt his friend’s hips just so and then slid right back into his ass. “I’ve watched you work out with Teyla after all.”
John wrapped his hands around the edge of the mattress as Rodney tilted his body further and he obligingly wrapped his legs around McKay’s waist. “I love you—even when you’re an asshole.”
“Maybe especially when I’m being an asshole,” Rodney said and grinned when John laughed. He pushed in deeper and watched as Sheppard’s eyes went dark and unfocused. “I don’t need a trophy wife, you know. I can have a trophy husband—I’m Canadian after all.”
“Shut the fuck up and screw me,” John ordered. “Christ, after all the time I had to wait for this… oh fuck, Rodney, right there.”
Rodney rolled his hips and tagged John’s prostate repeatedly as he fucked into Sheppard’s pliant ass. “Mine.”
“Fine,” John hissed. “I’m yours, but you’d better earn it McKay. I’m going to fucking end you if you don’t make me come soon.”
Rodney laughed softly, challenged and amused at the same time. He slid one hand between them, wrapped it around Sheppard’s long, thick cock and started to jerk him roughly. “I’m never going to run out of dirty, morally reprehensible things to do to you—just so you know.”
“We’ll put that in our vows,” John offered breathless as he let his legs drop from around McKay. He planted his feet flat on the bed and spread himself open as much as he could. “Just… God… Rodney, I love you.”
McKay’s thrusts faltered briefly as John arched under him and started to come. He thrust in deep, rocked the head of his cock against John’s prostate and jerked him hard until his fingers slick with John’s release. He moved—fucked into the vice like grip of John’s ass three more times before he came, too.
After a minute, he pulled carefully out of his lover and wiped his hand on the sheets. “Let me get rid of the condom.”
“Okay,” John murmured. He stretched out on the bed and as an afterthought plucked at the sheet at the foot of the bed. He pulled it over him haphazardly and ran his left foot along his right leg.
“You’re very attractive,” Rodney muttered dryly from the doorway of the bathroom. “It’s disgusting really, I’ve always thought so.”
John laughed. “Come here, McKay.”
The scientist gamely left the doorway and strode to the bed, naked and slid under the sheet with Sheppard. “Did you agree to marry me during that?”
Sheppard looked at him out of the corner of his eye. “Maybe, who knows? I almost started rambling in Klingon.”
Rodney grinned and rolled on his side. “Seriously.”
“I’m fluent in Klingon,” John said without a single ounce of shame. “But don’t tell Zelenka—I always refuse when he tries to invite me into his Star Trek Fantasy RPG.”
“Oh. My. God.” Rodney laughed. He leaned down and pressed a soft kiss on John’s mouth. “Is this the kind of thing you’re supposed to keep hidden from your best friend?”
“Well, yeah, that’s the kind of secret reserved for sex partners,” John admitted gravely. “After all, you’ll easily overlook it because the sex was good.”
“It was,” Rodney admitted.
“Did you ask me to marry you during sex?” John questioned.
“Absolutely not,” Rodney protested and flushed when John lifted one eyebrow at him. “I mean, per my own rules—I can’t even think about asking you to marry me for at least a year and then I have to obsess about it and bitch to Ronon about it and make Teyla look at rings for a while. Then I’ll go visit Jeannie and spill my guts like I’m required to and she’ll tell me I’m a moron and then we’ll research proper engagement gifts for gay men and commitment rings and then I’ll come back to the city armed with whatever we decide.” He paused and grinned when John laughed. “Then, I’ll make an appointment with Dr. Grant so I can properly freak out in a safe environment. Once I’ve done that—I’ll turn myself inside out trying to make it perfect, then just get frustrated and demand you marry me while handing you the ring/gift/whatever Jeannie makes me buy thing. Then you know, we’ll ask O’Neill to officiate and Daniel Jackson can be the flower girl.”
John wrapped one hand around the back of Rodney’s neck and brought him close. “That sounds like a plan, buddy.”
Rodney brushed his mouth over John’s and sighed. “Will you wear your grandfather’s watch when we get married, John?”
“Absolutely,” John promised.