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The two (McKay) Miller women, aged cough cough and aged six "and a half! Don't forget the half, Uncle Mer!", and pretty, pretty princess John (complete with plastic tiara, compliments of the second Miller, blackmail-ready photos taken by the first) were conspiring against Rodney, he could tell. They were hunched over the kitchen table, doing something horrific to some colored construction paper. The scent of magic markers warred with the aroma of baking cake.

Rodney spotted glitter-pens, exacto knives (washable markers and rounded safety-scissors for Madison) Jeannie's laptop and printer for the adults, and glue for everyone. It wasn't what he would call a safe combination, but hey, not his call, Luckily, not his laptop, either. He was just supposed to stay out of their way while secret birthday celebrations were plotted. Rodney hoped they would all get their fingers stuck together.

No matter how often Jeannie called him Bat Ears, he was not listening to their conversation. Really he wasn't, even if whatever it was John just whispered made Jeannie's eyes widen, and Madison squeal and cover her mouth. He didn't care what they have planned for him, as long as there was chocolate involved, or at least buttercream frosting, and no one sang to him in public.

But he couldn't help but glance over at John every few seconds minutes to try and figure him out. John looked ridiculous in the getup Madison made him wear, even more so with the pink and purple heart stickers she'd pasted all over his fiberglass cast. "Uncle John has Owies! This will make him all better." The thing was, Rodney kind of believed it. John seemed ridiculously happy. His willingness to jump headfirst into the whole 'my boyfriend's family is my family, too' thing made Rodney ridiculously happy, too. Equal emphasis on the ridiculous, because by all rights Rodney should have laughed snidely at the whole Hallmark card cuteness of the scene, but instead found himself, well, genuinely touched by it all.

It was nice to be back on Earth without any real emergency. No kidnaping, no deaths in either of their families. Just John's typical embarrassing heroic injury: falling out of a not-quite elm while rescuing some sniveling Pegasus brat's snarling, spitting not-quite-kitten. At least it gave Rodney ample reason to say John is out of his tree. He could almost pretend they're there for no good reason other than it was his birthday, and he wanted to (take his boyfriend) see his family. Yes, there would be meetings at the SGC to attend, but mostly he's there to de-stress, and to get John to de-stress, too. It's a lucky thing they need "The Princess Colonel" just as much. (If John's very good, Rodney won't call him that in public.)

"Why didn't you want me to wear a silly costume like John?" Rodney asked Madison. He was just curious, not complaining. His old fleece is perfectly comfortable.

"You don't need one, Uncle Mer. You're the Orange Ogre." She giggled, and looked over at John, who gave a not at all subtle wink at her.

Rodney shot John a stink eye. John had the grace, at least, to blush. "I simply told her that you were an ogre in the morning if you didn't have your coffee."

"It's true," Jeannie placed a warm mug at his seat, which, yes, reduced Rodney's ire. But he was no ogre!

"We can't all be Princess Hairy Sunshine, now can we?" Rodney defended his sensibilities.

"Will you quit it with the 'Princess' cra--" Jeannie slapped a hand over John's mouth.

"It's okay, Mommy. I know what crap means." Now Jeannie added a glare in his direction.

"What? Why would you assume it's me?" Rodney asked, stung.

"Because it was?" Jeannie countered. "I know you, Mer."

"She's got you there, Mer." John laughed his donkey laugh. "She probably heard you say worse when you stubbed your toe on the dresser this morning."

"We all heard that," Jeannie said.

"Well, since my ego is now as bruised as my foot, I think I'll head out and let you plot how to make it up to me." Really, he had to check in with the SGC, but Rodney was fine with scheduling itineraries for guilt trips.

Rodney made himself comfortable on the porch with his laptop and cell-phone at hand, and had gotten through eviscerating a few idiots when John crutched over to the chaise a little while later. He had a 'cat that ate the canary' look on his face, and Rodney wasn't sure if he wanted to kick him or kiss him for it.

After looking around for prying eyes, he decided on the latter, and pulled him closer. John tasted good, sugar sweet and he kissed whole-heartedly, like he didn't care who saw them. Knowing John, he probably didn't. Considering how often they've participated in alien bonding rituals, the whole plausible deniability thing was only hanging on by a thread.

The thread broke entirely with the sound of three throats being cleared (when did Kaleb come back?) and Jeannie called them into the dining room for lunch. Maddie forced home-made party hats on each of them -- the glitter's going to be stuck in John's hair for weeks, Rodney's pretty sure -- and pointed out the un-missable "Happy Birthday Uncle Mer!" sign she's made. It has coffee cups and kittens drawn on it, as well as what he first thinks are smiley faces, but on second look turn out to be lemons with the circle and diagonal 'no' bars on them.

"You're quite a talented little lady," Rodney kissed her cheek. "Did you come up with that all by yourself?"

"I certainly am capable. I'm a McKay-Miller." That was abundantly clear, her pose mirrored ones Rodney had often seen in the mirror. "Uncle John helped a little, by telling me some of your favorite things."

"I thought the anti-lemons really added something," John said proudly.

"I should have figured those were yours. Thank you, I think."

 

Kaleb carried in turkey sandwiches piled high on a plate. Well, most of them are tofurkey, but a couple are the real deal, and Rodney wondered how John slipped them in.

"Special dispensation from Queen Jeannie, just this once," John read his mind. The sandwiches were very good, but Rodney really hasn't changed much since he was a kid, and it was dessert he anticipated the most.

 

"S'good, but when's cake?" Rodney stuffed the last bite of his second sandwich into his mouth, and licked his fingers. John gave him a highly inappropriate look at that, which meant now Rodney looked forward to private time more than he did cake. John was a terrible influence on him, and Rodney was going to tell him so, just after they were done being naked together.

"Jesus, Mer. You could swallow first." Jeannie sounds so much like a mother it's a little creepy. Not their mother, of course. She would have disappeared with a headache by now.

"Healthy food first, then dessert. That's the rule, don't you know?"

 

"When you get to be my age, you can eat dessert first."

"We want her to get to be your age, that's why we all eat healthy." Of course Kaleb backed her up.

"Why don't we get the cake now. Rodney, sit here and close your eyes." John stood and patted him on the back. "We'll be right back."

"Okay, but let someone else carry it. No sense in letting you drop it when you're limping along."

 

"Your sympathy for my plight is underwhelming. See if I give you your birthday spankings now."

 

Jesus. That was all his sister and Kaleb needed to think. "He's kidding!" Rodney did as asked, closing his eyes (mostly) while random noises emanated from the kitchen. He felt the warmth of candles grow nearer, and heard Madison tell him "Okay, open your eyes!"

 

It was a dark chocolate cake, with buttercream and ganache, and Rodney selfishly didn't want to share, but of course he did. The candles obscured whatever message they've written on it, so he just blew them out without reading it.

 

"Do you like it?" John asked him, but he gave Rodney a weird look when Rodney said 'It's chocolate. Why wouldn't I?"

 

"Mer, you might want to actually read your cake before pigging out." Jeannie said. He stood to get a better look, and instead of the expected "Happy Birthday", there was "Marry Me, Mer" piped in white icing on the cake.

 

"Very funny, John."

"I'm serious, Rodney. I mean, obviously we can't be completely official, but I want you to know that I would be if we could." That made Rodney plop right down again.

 

"But... we can't... they won't... you're serious?"

"As a heart attack. Which, come to think of it, my father had, so now I can't strike him dead with my ill-thought choices, like he always said."

 

Rodney really didn't know what to say to that, and he probably looked more than a little flabbergasted. Or twitterpated. Some silly sounding word that meant he had absolutely no idea what to say next. Except, "Yes, John. To whatever it is you actually want."

 

That seemed to be the right answer, because John kissed him right in front of everyone, Jeannie hugged them both, and Kaleb high-fived him, before saying "We'll, um, leave you guys alone now. It looks like you have some talking to do." They edged out of the room, Madison moving a bit more slowly, her parting words "Are they going to make out now?"

"Madison!" Jeannie and Kaleb each took an arm and dragged her away. "We're going to the park for awhile."

 

"Have fun. I know we will," John assured them. Rodney just sank further into his chair and tried not to die of embarrassment.

 


 

"So, you sure like to spring surprises," Rodney said, once the coast was clear. He was still grinning, so John figured everything was good between them. Great, even.

 

"Good surprises, right? Not like Wraith attacks."

"Or broken puddle-jumpers."

"Exactly." They'd been through enough together to deserve some damn happiness. John liked that he didn't have to spell it out more than icing on a cake. Rodney knew.

"I meant it, you know. The yes. Even if it has to wait." John did know, but it was reassuring to hear it again.

 

"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want it." He'd tossed around how to ask for weeks, only getting up the nerve once they were back on Earth. It was possibly the most seriously meant joke he'd ever pulled.

"So Jeannie and Kaleb and Madison are gone for a few hours."

"Umm, hmm. Got some ideas, huh, Rodney?"

"I think we should relieve Jeannie of the rest of that frosting, and find an especially inappropriate way to eat it. In bed."

 

"I like the way you think." John popped one last bit of cake into Rodney's crooked, laughing mouth, then kissed the sweetness off of Rodney's lips. Plans, real plans, could wait.