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Rights & Privileges

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"Something's going on with Sheppard," Rodney said glumly. "Something bad."

"How do you know it's bad?" Radek asked.

"Because if it was something good he'd have told me. Wouldn't he?"

They were sitting in a booth in a dim corner of a bar, nursing drinks and a plate of nachos. Atlantis being stuck on Earth meant they had a lot of downtime: mandatory leave as the IOA sent in new batches of scientists to go over their work and double-check their procedures and policies. Rodney hated it.

"The Colonel is just as frustrated," Radek pointed out.

He had a point. Sheppard had been pulled into countless meetings at the SGC, the White House, the Pentagon. Rodney had the sense that declassification of the Stargate program was in the works and he worried what that would mean for Atlantis, and for Sheppard. Would they let him stay? If the city didn't go back to Pegasus, would he even want to?

Rodney was struggling with the same questions himself. There was still plenty to learn about the Ancients, still so much of the city that had been unexplored due to lack of manpower and the constant threat of violence by the Wraith and the Genii. But he felt very strongly that Atlantis belonged to the Pegasus galaxy, and they had an obligation to the people who lived there to try and eradicate the Wraith once and for all.

"What is real problem?" Radek asked.

"The real problem is that...that Sheppard and I used to spend a lot of time hanging out together and now I never see him. He's always busy, and not just with SGC political nonsense. What if he doesn't come back?"

What if he doesn't like me anymore? Rodney couldn't articulate his feelings about Sheppard, not in a concise manner. They were friends. Best friends, he'd say. They played together, worked together, practically lived together. Sheppard always made sure Rodney ate, even when he was immersed in something at the lab. They did that beer on the pier thing, sitting so close their shoulders touched. They'd saved each other's lives.

Losing that friendship would be devastating.

Rodney had thought maybe Jennifer was the problem, and Sheppard was feeling too much like a third wheel, but even after they broke up – for non-Sheppard-related reasons – the man was impossible to find. Even when he was in Atlantis, and Rodney always knew when he was, Sheppard remained elusive.

"You think being back on Earth changes things?"

"I don't know. Maybe. It's different here."

"Noisy," Radek said, pulling a face. "Too many people."

"Too many everything."

The first time Rodney had gone to the grocery store, back when the Asurans had kicked them out, he'd been completely overwhelmed by the variety of choices. Especially after that first year, when they'd had to ration and rely so heavily on native produce and meat. Being back on Earth was overwhelming in a lot of ways, even now.

Rodney took a sip of his Scotch. On the other hand, there were some benefits. One of them being that he didn't have to rely so heavily on Radek's homemade rotgut vodka.

"The Colonel won't leave Atlantis," Radek said. "It is his home."

"He sure isn't acting like it," Rodney replied with a sigh.

*o*o*o*

"Hey. McKay."

Rodney looked up from his laptop, surprised. Sheppard was in the lab, though clearly off-duty in jeans and a t-shirt.

"What are you doing here?" Rodney asked, wincing internally at how snippy he sounded. He hadn't meant it that way. But Sheppard just smirked and leaned.

"Take a break."

"What? No. I have too much work to do before they banish me stateside again."

Sheppard leaned even more, so he could look Rodney in the eye. "Take a break," he said again, only there was a tone to his voice that sent a shiver up Rodney's spine.

Something was definitely happening, though Rodney was pretty sure it wasn't his fantasy scenario where Sheppard proclaimed his undying love. Probably he wanted to tell Rodney, in private, that he was leaving the program. That tone, though. That couldn't be a bad news tone. Could it?

"Five minutes," Rodney said. "And this better be good, Sheppard. I'm a very busy man."

Sheppard just flapped a hand at him and led the way out of the lab. They ended up out on the pier, which was a surprise. That was usually something they did at night, to unwind after a particularly long or terrible day. It was different, being out there in the daytime.

It was lucky that the shield, with improvements Rodney had made himself, kept the inner temperature at a nice, comfortable level. Atlantis had been moved from the San Francisco Bay shortly after dropping in, and now floated in a much less traveled section of the ocean near the Arctic Circle. The view was pretty impressive, what with the glaciers and the blue, blue water, but it was cold as hell.

"No beer?" Rodney asked once they sat down, legs hanging off the end of the pier. "If you brought me out here to say goodbye, the least you could do is ply me with alcohol."

"Not saying goodbye," Sheppard replied. He shifted, tipping up on one hip and extracting something from his back pocket. "Here."

He handed Rodney a passport. A Canadian passport.

"What is this?"

"Open it."

Rodney did, and found himself looking at a little picture of Sheppard; he was almost smiling in it. Very few people took a good passport photo, but all things being equal Sheppard's wasn't too bad. He looked...wait.

"Why do you have a Canadian passport?"

"All Canadian citizens have to have one when they travel outside the country, McKay. It's the law."

"But...but..."

Sheppard laughed. "I got dual citizenship. Surprise!"

Rodney stared at him. All he could think of to say was, "You don't meet any of the criteria for dual citizenship."

"Dr. Gauthier helped me out with that."

Gauthier. The Canadian representative from the IOA. What possible reason could she have for facilitating Sheppard getting dual citizenship?

"I took the test last week," Sheppard said. "Ask me something Canadian."

"This doesn't make any sense, Sheppard." Rodney hated when he couldn't figure something out. Then again, Sheppard had always been a puzzle. A man of contradictions who hid a surprising amount of intelligence behind his smirky grin and spiky hair.

"You know they're talking about declassifying the program, right? I convinced Gauthier that it would benefit her country if the military head of Atlantis represented Canada as well as the US."

"But why --"

Sheppard interrupted Rodney by leaning in and kissing him, and Rodney froze, unable to wrap his mind around what was happening. Was he having a stroke? Or did he get exposed to some kind of hallucinogenic substance? Because he couldn't imagine a scenario where Sheppard kissing him was real, no matter how much he might've wanted it to be.

"Um..." Sheppard pulled back, his face flushed and his expression uncertain. "That didn't go the way I thought it would."

Rodney studied him. "Wait. You like me? More than friends? And the dual citizenship...is that some weird way of wooing me?"

Sheppard rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, when you put it that way it sounds stupid."

Rodney looked down at the passport in his hand. John had made himself a Canadian citizen for Rodney. That was a big deal. A huge deal. And possibly the dorkiest declaration of romantic intentions he'd ever heard of in his life.

"Maybe we should just forget --" Sheppard started to say, but this time Rodney leaned in and kissed him.

It was definitely better with both parties actively involved. By the time they pulled back, panting, Sheppard was fully horizontal on the pier and Rodney was practically lying on top of him. Sheppard grinned up at him.

"That's more like it!"

"You're a huge dork," Rodney said affectionately. "Come on. Let's go to my room. I'll show you how we do things Canadian style."

John honked out his donkey laugh, and Rodney vowed to make sure they got Atlantis back to Pegasus. One grand gesture deserved another.