Rodney looks around the rec room warily, unsure what the evening's protocol is supposed to be. Teyla has already curled up against her arm rest with Torren, and springs are still squeaking from Ronon dropping down in the middle.
It's not as if there are any great alternatives for two people to sit on other than their team couch. The rug Kanaan left is at its feet, but no-one had sat on the floor a week after their return to Pegasus, when Ronon had brought Amelia. The big guy's girlfriend had fit in between Ronon and Teyla and seemed unperturbed by ending up with Atlantis' military commander's knees in her lap.
Before Jennifer can ask why they're still standing, John takes the decision out of his hands. He steps around Rodney and Jennifer, brushing against Rodney's arm while carefully avoiding contact with her. "So what are we watching?" he asks, as if there had been no hesitation at all, and flops down on the rug in front of Teyla and Ronon.
"The Matrix, apparently," Rodney says, eying the DVD case Ronon is still holding. "Again."
"Shut up, you love it," Ronon says, waving impatiently with the remote. There's little use of Rodney denying it – he kind of does – especially when John remarks, "Cool," Teyla hums approvingly, and Jennifer says, "I do."
Since everything seems sorted out, he finally assumes his accustomed place next to Ronon and half motions, half pulls Jennifer down against his side.
As the lights dim and a green-tinged Warner Brothers logo appears on the screen, Teyla calls out softly, "John, could you–" When John leans back to look up at her, she places a sleeping Torren into his arms.
"Hey, little guy," John whispers, face lit up with delight. Rodney shoots Teyla a grateful look and hopes that this substitute – though Teyla would kill him for thinking of her son like that – will be enough.
Rodney is on a date, and some things are not appropriate for a date with Jennifer.
I didn't know you two could be so... handsy.
Maybe it started when they all ended up in Rodney's room after surviving one hell of a storm and a Genii invasion. Maybe it started when they fell asleep in the back of the Jumper after a drone killed the 10.000-year-old Wraith, or even earlier, when Rodney mirrored Ford's awkward pat to the shoulder after Sheppard got bit by his very first Iratus bug. Or maybe it started all the way back when Teyla first touched her forehead to Sheppard's, less than twenty-four hours after Atlantis rose from the ocean.
It didn't progress much further while Ford was part of their team. He and Sheppard got along fine, and there were incidents of affectionate kicks against ankles and shoulder brushing. But Ford was a lieutenant in the major's military contingent, and it created a barrier between them that neither could get past.
Coming down from his own enzyme addiction, already more used to touching Sheppard than five measly months ago, Rodney had wondered if it might have helped if they had.
It all changed when Ronon joined the expedition. The former Runner followed Sheppard's orders and more than pulled his weight whenever the four of them were offworld. He was a soldier and far more competent than the SGC grunts as far as Rodney was concerned, but he would never become a marine.
Maybe it started with Teyla's forehead touches and Rodney's awkward pat on a scrub-clad arm, but it really took off after they'd been introduced to Ronon's unapologetic hugs.
On the screen, Mr Anderson is baffled by his computer's behavior, trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Rodney has been in a virtual reality – several times, if he counts the mist people's laughable recreation of Earth – and he is no longer impressed. "How could he know it is not the real world when he was born into it?" Teyla argues, as she always does.
"He knew," Ronon grunts through a mouthful of popcorn. "Tried to find things out. He knew."
Unlike during their previous eight or nine Matrix sessions, John is silent. Nestled into his chest, oblivious to the noise around him, Torren continues to sleep.
Follow the White Rabbit, the monitor beckons. Teyla pokes Ronon in the arm until he surrenders the popcorn.
Under normal circumstances, Rodney would be holding his own bowl to share with John, but that hand, too, is wrapped around Jennifer's, and the circumstances are not normal.
It started out with Sheppard wedged between Rodney and Teyla on a couch that was far too small for even the three of them, with Ronon sitting on the floor, half leaning against Sheppard's left shin.
Rodney was never altogether sure how it had happened, but an indeterminable number of movie nights later the credits were rolling and he realized that Sheppard was half asleep against his elbow and he himself had spent most of the movie trying to smoothe down Sheppard's hair.
It should have felt awkward, especially considering how Sheppard had shied away from enthusiastic villagers and Elizabeth only hours before. It didn't.
Ronon clearly didn't feel embarrassed either, making a contented sound as he retrieved his arm. His arm that, when Rodney thought about it, had been comfortably slung around Sheppard's outstretched leg.
Sheppard, to Rodney's relief, didn't comment on anything anyone might or might not have been doing to his person. He simply let Ronon pull him up from the couch and stretched, reminding Rodney a little of his cat.
Teyla, who had been dozing in her corner of the couch, caught Rodney's confused stare and blinked at him, once, gracing him with a most beautiful smile.
Nothing to feel uncomfortable about here.
Mr Anderson – Neo, now – is pretending to think about what pill to swallow. The second time they'd watched the movie, near the end of the first year with Ford, they had stopped the recording at this point for a discussion on whether either of the Earth-borns would take a blue pill if it meant never knowing about the Stargate, Pegasus, or the Wraith.
Rodney almost reaches out to John like he always does during this part, but then Jennifer's breath tickles against his ear. Neo swallows the red pill as she whispers, "The whole expedition would make the same choice," and Rodney has to turn and kiss her for getting it. For not thinking twice about going back to Pegasus with him.
When they turn back to the screen, Neo is having a grand unpleasant time waking up in the real world, Rodney is on a date, and the moment has passed.
It didn't even occur to him that it might be a bad idea to bring Katie until he had linked arms with Sheppard and felt the Colonel stiffen against him. Rodney had snatched back his arm in dismay, abruptly aware that this growing intimacy between them was private, not to be talked about to anyone.
Katie, though, Katie just looked at the man who rarely added more than a nod and a handshake to his many smiles, and not even the latter if he could help it. She stared at him until he almost got up, then she shared a glance with Teyla. Rodney didn't understand their silent communication, but Teyla slid down from the couch and effectively trapped Sheppard's legs against it between her body and Ronon's.
Once Ronon started the movie, Katie snuggled into Rodney, and while he'd certainly never thought that she weighed a lot, it was enough to shove Rodney closer into Sheppard.
By the time the Ent agreed to give Merry and Pippin a ride, Sheppard's body had lost its tension.
Morpheus is showing Neo how the real world looks above ground. Jennifer hisses and Teyla hides her face in Ronon's jacket as the screen shows the machines harvesting newborns.
A soft whimper makes Rodney look down, where John is holding Torren a little too tightly. His shoulders are hunched, his head bowed too low, but it is a horrific scene.
"They are worse than the Replicators," Teyla mutters, and everyone agrees.
At least with the Replicators, there had been swift extinction.
They found their favorite position shortly after Rodney and Sheppard forcibly ended their exile on Earth. Unrelatedly, though perhaps curtsey of General O'Neill, the rec room was furnished with a larger couch.
Sheppard was fresh out of the infirmary, where he had no more than patiently endured even Nurse Ko's long-familiar touch. Now here he was, blissed out on top of them, anchored by one of Ronon's arms thrown over his stomach, legs angled so that his long body could fit.
Teyla had both of his feet in her lap, fingers stroking the crook between shin and foot. Sheppard's head was pillowed against Rodney's thigh. Rodney's popcorn-free hand had found its way into Sheppard's hair, and sometimes he caught himself caressing the bridge of Sheppard's nose.
A still wary Neo convulses as Tank downloads gigabytes of knowledge directly into his brain. Jennifer playfully elbows Rodney in the side, and Teyla and Ronon both shoot amused grins in his direction.
It's no secret that he would love to get his hands on such technology – "Applicable to the real world, thank you very much, and without pesky side-affects like, oh, say, insanity or ascension–" And they're all liars anyway, "As if you wouldn't like to have that level of efficiency to teach your staff, or you a blink-of-the eye solution to learn new moves–"
He waits for John's commentary, Yeah, that'd be awesome, but it doesn't come.
If anything, his shoulders have hunched down even more. He's not asleep, still has a firm grip on Torren, but he doesn't seem to be paying much attention to the movie at all.
Only once and only out of Sheppard's earshot had the three of them put a word to it, confirmed to each other that they never would, never could push for anything sexual. It had been harder than it should have been; the gate translator, which had no problem getting across science and strange rituals, had first refused to work with the concept at all, then stuttered.
"If they care so much about orgasms, what the hell are they even doing in glowy form?" Rodney had griped and spent half an hour exhausting ways to call the Ancients backward.
In the end, he had liked the Athosian ash i an better than the cold, clinical English term anyway.
The last time they had watched The Matrix, Rodney had scoffed at Neo's blank face as Morpheus and Trinity explained the programming change signified by the black cat. John had murmured "At least he saw it," and burrowed into Rodney's touch with a contented hum.
Now, he hasn't made a sound in over an hour, some things are not appropriate for a date with Jennifer, and things are very, very wrong.
When weeks went by without a hint of the Athosians' whereabouts and Sheppard ordered Teyla to take a leave of absence from the team, the atmosphere during movie nights became markedly strained. Distracted by his recent break-up with Katie, Rodney blindly agreed to Ronon's plan to avoid a move to a single chair. He was desperate enough for something to go back to normal that he didn't even complain about Back to the Future.
He knew it had been worth it, knew they'd be alright, when he woke to see Sheppard's arm resting on Teyla's pregnant belly, her fingers absently stroking his.
After Teyla gave birth, they were unsure whether there would be room for Kanaan, Torren's father or not. Kanaan, however, quite liked the idea of Earth movies and brought his own rug. He sat down on the floor and let his chest be cradled by Teyla's feet, which he stroked with much the same tenderness as she did John's.
They're getting close to John's favorite part of the movie. More importantly, Rodney knows that getting to hold Torren is one of John's favorite things in the world. It's not even that he is completely deprived of the usual team snuggling. One of Ronon's powerful legs is pressed firmly against his side, and one of Teyla's... Actually, when Rodney looks over, it seems that Teyla has fallen asleep, but he is positive that earlier she was doing something.
Rodney doesn't want to be the kind of guy who compares his almost-maybe-soon fiancée to past girlfriends, but he can't help but remember how different the one and only time he had brought Katie with him had been.
John is a giant compared to the bundle of baby he is holding, but Rodney has never seen him look so small.
Before he's even aware of what he is doing, Rodney has shoved Ronon further into Teyla's part of the couch, disentangled his right hand from Jennifer's and reached down.
After the first time Ronon brought Amelia, Rodney realized that he'd waited and waited to invite Jennifer until it wasn't reasonable anymore. They'd been together for more than a year, Atlantis was back in Pegasus, and there was a tiny gift box lying in Rodney's nightstand.
Natural pessimist that he was, he couldn't foresee any complications. After all, John had spent more time with Jennifer than he ever had with Katie, Amelia or Kanaan.
The tense line of John's shoulders goes rigid at the touch, and for a moment Rodney fears that he has made a fatal mistake, that he has waited too long. Ronon – big, wonderful Ronon – makes an approving sound and shifts to grant Rodney better access. Encouraged, Rodney stretches his fingers as far as they can go and runs the tips over the ridge of Sheppard's ear.
There's a soft moan from below, and from one second to another, all the tension in John's body bleeds out. It's a miracle that he doesn't let go of Torren.
Rodney has rarely been so relieved in his life.
Hesitantly, he chances a look at Jennifer, whose face is free of the disapproval he dreads to see. Instead, her expression appears a little fearful and full of questions. It softens when he gives the hand he is still holding a hopeful squeeze.
He never should have bit back his first reaction to her I didn't know you two could be so... handsy, which had been an unequivocal Yes, and?
As Neo is stopped at the police station and holds open his heavily armed coat, Rodney holds on to the people he loves with both hands.
He can only hope Jennifer will still accept his ring when he makes it clear that he needs to keep his lifelong commitment to John, too.