John was feeling pretty damn pleased with life in general. He and Rodney were both busy with work, and Timmy did a staggering amount of homework for his classes, but they always made time to do things together, even if only settling down to watch a movie. Sometimes Rodney left for a few days on a work consultation, but whenever possible, John packed up Timmy and headed after him. That first time had set a good precedent. The long weekend seeing Colorado was fun, and most importantly, Rodney had come home with them, not stayed with the pretty blonde scientist-Air Force officer, who looked way too much like Marie.
Now was the time to start planning the next step in their lives. He glanced into Timmy's bedroom, waffling over sounding him out, and was surprised to see him frowning, hunched over some books. It was definitely an unhappy expression, not his normal intentness.
"I can't identify this plant. Uncle Radek said I wouldn't be able to but I was going to show him he was wrong."
Like Rodney, Timmy hated to be wrong, and privately John didn't think it hurt either of them to learn they had limits, but still... when it came to supporting one of them, there was no question where John's loyalties lay. "Can I help?" he asked, coming in and dropping on the floor by Timmy.
"I can't find it. It's not in any of my books, or on the Internet sites."
"This is it?" John asked, picking up the object, some sort of leaf encased in blue plastic, which shimmered and glowed in his hand.
"It didn't do that for me."
"I've got the magic touch." John gave Timmy a wink, getting a smile in return.
"It's even prettier now."
"Hey, look." John held out his hand so Timmy could see the oblong-thing well. Maybe it was a paperweight?
"It's changing." Symbols danced along the front of the oblong, over the leaf, but in black so they could still be read.
"It looks like words."
As they watched, the symbols and then the leaf faded, another leaf appearing in its stead, followed by a different set of symbols.
"Maybe it's like a dictionary of plants," John hazarded.
"A botanical reference," Timmy said. The display slowly circled to a third one. "I don't recognize that one either."
"It must have been a surprise from Radek. He's giving you a real challenge. Maybe it's in Czech?" Not that the symbols resembled any European language John had seen. Could Czech look that different? It was a slick little device for plant lovers, like one of those digital picture frames combined with a powerpoint presentation. He wondered how many pictures it could hold in its memory. His cell phone rang, and he handed the paperweight back to Timmy to answer, listening to Ronon's terse words, before giving a quick, "I'm coming," and shutting the cell phone. "Gotta go. I'm sorry. I didn't really help."
"This will be fun. I bet the symbols help identify the plants."
The thing cycled to a fourth leaf as John stood up. He ruffled Timmy's hair. "You'll have to surprise your dad when you get it all figured out."
"I will! Thank you, Uncle John."
John hovered in the doorway a moment, pleased to see Timmy smiling. McKays, they were so cute. Frustrated and impatient when stymied, but give them an even bigger challenge, and they plunged right in. He wondered again if he should talk to Timmy first about his plans. Would he make a distinction between a guy who lived in their house and slept with his dad, and a stepfather? But Ronon was waiting, so there wasn't time now. Besides, John really liked the idea of surprising both of them, as they had surprised him with Christmas.
John headed downstairs to find Rodney working on his laptop in his study, giving him a soft kiss, letting him know he had to go to work. As he left the house, he gave a casual last thought to wondering how surprised Radek would be after Timmy unraveled the secrets of his present.
A gentle touch on his shoulder jerked Rodney awake. He'd been reviewing reports, sitting on the couch. He didn't remember falling asleep, but the laptop was on the couch beside him, circling through a screensaver of family pictures, and John was standing beside him, smiling fondly.
"Hmmm? Uh," Rodney said brilliantly, yawning.
"You were going to get a crick in your neck." John placed his hands on each side of Rodney's neck, touching gently as Rodney straightened up.
"John? What time is it?"
Having a partner who worked later than him was weird. Marie had been dedicated to her job, but she had rarely worked extra hours. Rodney glanced at his watch. "It's almost morning!"
"Not quite, but I think I'll sleep in tomorrow."
"Good, good." Rodney stood, stretching his back. The couch was comfortable for sitting, but not for napping while slumping over.
"I asked about taking some time off maybe a week to go see your sister and some of Canada."
That suggestion brought Rodney abruptly awake, because it was perfect. And it was all John's idea, so he'd never suspect Rodney's plans. Rodney tried to keep the glee out of his voice. "That sounds excellent. She's been badgering me to meet you."
"You want me to check on your schedule with your secretary? I might need to ask about different weeks, depending on when other guys at the station are off."
Rodney smiled, touched at John's thoughtfulness. "Check with Marcia. She'll know first if there are any important events I have to attend for Ferris. Anything else can be cancelled." And he could talk to Jeannie tomorrow morning, and then prep Marcia to make sure she and John agreed on a time that would work for what Jeannie needed to do. He knew he could count on Marcia's discretion.
"Good," John said. "Bed now?"
"Definitely. I'm exhausted." Rodney led the way, mentally making plans in his head, John following him and switching off lights behind them. They'd need a marriage license and an appointment with a justice of peace. A nice restaurant afterwards for a dinner, some place that could make them a special dessert. They all had nice suits, so he'd only have to make sure they were packed. Timothy would want to take pictures, and Kaleb or Jeannie could be the second photographer. John wasn't much for formality, and he still evaded any time Rodney raised the subject of visiting his family, so instead of a big shindig, Rodney would plan a simple and relaxed wedding. Hopefully John would love it.
And they could have a big reception later on, to celebrate with friends and co-workers, and he'd talk John into inviting his family to that one.
"Wow," John said, and Rodney stopped walking, turning to look at John, who was several steps below him, enough that he was staring straight at Rodney's ass. John gave his ass a quick squeeze. "Are you really exhausted?"
Giving John a lopsided grin, Rodney grabbed one of his hands. "Not that exhausted," he said, leading him up the rest of the stairs and into their bedroom.
John had to work until past midnight again, so his brain was only semi-functioning at the ridiculously early hour when their alarm began beeping. While Rodney went to knock on Timmy's door to make sure he was awake, John stumbled into the shower, the hot water helping to clear the cobwebs out of his brain. He tried to not feel guilty about the speedy planning of this vacation, and all the unfinished cases he was leaving behind. If he only vacationed when his caseload was complete, he'd never have a day off until retirement, and that was way too long to wait for marriage.
At least Jeannie had sounded pleased, almost ecstatic, on the phone, and very competent when she reported back what she'd arranged. She'd be his sister-in-law soon, and he'd have more family to love.
Ronon promptly opened the door when John knocked on his old house. They threw their suitcases into his truck, piled into his cab, and headed off to the airport. John and Rodney sat in the back seat, letting Timmy hold the excited Princess in his arms. He certainly seemed to be awake, giggling as she yapped and licked at his face.
Traffic managed to not suck in the pre-dawn hours, and yay for electronic check-in, even if John did have to glare at Rodney when he started lecturing Timmy on how easy the system would be to hack. "Don't you dare talk about building a you-know-what in sixth grade," he hissed, as they got into the security line.
Shoeless, with his carry-on going through the x-ray machine, John walked through the metal detector, feeling a pang of sadness that he didn't have to take his dogtags off. Sometimes he still felt the phantom memory of the chain around his neck. Then the guard asked, "Is this your luggage?" and John agreed, following as he was waved over to the side for a thorough search.
"Oh you are kidding me! He's a decorated war veteran!" Rodney snapped, as he and Timmy waited to collect their laptops from the x-ray machine.
The security guard didn't appear impressed by the news. "Please open your carry-on, sir," she said tiredly, a woman at the end of her shift or having been through this routine too many times.
"Is this because we're traveling together? Are two men going to Canada on your suspect list?"
"Rodney!" John hissed, trying to simultaneously open his luggage, smile at the guard, and glare at Rodney. "Don't make an issue of this."
"You, of all people! You're a police officer!"
"Why don't you take Timmy and find the Starbuck's? We could both use some coffee. I'll meet you there." Because the rings were in his luggage, and he did not want Rodney watching the guard discover them.
"I'll expect to see you soon," Rodney muttered, giving the guard the evil eye. "Decorated war veteran! Police officer!" But he and Timmy continued to the chairs, putting their shoes back on, and disappeared toward the shops.
"I'm sorry about that, Chelle," John said, as charming as possible, using the name on her tag. That kind of connection hadn't mattered in the military, where people expected you to use their rank, but he found it useful as a police officer talking to civilians, especially stressed-out people at crime scenes. They were more responsive to the personal touch. "He hasn't had any coffee yet."
"Yes, sir," the guard replied, before removing and examining every single item in John's luggage. Not that there was a lot. Rodney had insisted on clean underwear and basic toiletries in case they got stuck somewhere, and since he and Timmy were carrying laptops, John ended up with the emergency supplies for all three of them. Plus there was the novel John was reading, and small gifts for Jeannie and Madison. Nothing for the English teacher, because Rodney professed to be unable to shop for a vegetarian. Lastly, the rings and a copy of Marie's death certificate. The website had indicated that a widower wouldn't need to prove his status in the province of Ontario, but Marcia had offered it, and John liked to be on the safe side. Not being able to get married because of messed-up paperwork would be crushing.
The guard snapped open one box and then the other. "Seriously?"
"He's a great guy when you get to know him."
"The two of you?" she asked, obviously trying to picture it, perhaps more than John liked.
"We've been living together since last Christmas."
Good luck with that," the guard said, and let John repack his luggage.
Rodney was sipping his coffee when John joined them at the Starbuck's, pulling the carry-on behind him. "So did they decide you weren't a national security risk?" he asked, some of the butterflies in his stomach relaxing while the majority fluttered even more frantically. The good, of course, was that John hadn't been held up, strip searched, and arrested in some absurd case of mistaken identity. The bad was that tonight Rodney would ask John to marry him, and what if he said no? Why had Rodney ever thought that waiting to reach Canada was a good idea?
"They have to check people randomly," John said patiently, sitting down. "Thank you," he added, tilting his cup at Rodney before taking a sip of his black coffee.
"You're a war veteran! And a police officer!" Rodney snapped, drumming the fingers of his free hand on the table, irritated at the ridiculousness of John being searched. John, of all people, who was soon to be his husband. Hopefully.
"They don't have a database of all those things. It would be kinda scary if they did."
"It wouldn't surprise me if they wanted it. And even without it, you hardly look dangerous."
John frowned, as offended as he ever looked. "I am ex-military. I don't look like a pussy cat."
"Well..." Rodney admired John's shoulders, his arms, his lean chest, his expression revealing how much he liked what he was seeing. He'd always thought of himself as straight, as liking blue-eyed, blonde women, but he found John's hazel-eyed, dark-haired maleness totally hot. His wild cowlicks made him look like he'd just rolled out of bed, and should be rolled back in at the first opportunity, which Rodney hoped to do thousands of more times over the next several decades. Really, would half a century of sex with John be too much to ask? As long as John said yes tonight. "I suppose you do look like you could be dangerous. You're obviously athletic. And strong."
"He does when he gets mad," Timothy said, his tongue flicking out to lick Danish crumbs off his lips.
"What do you mean?" Rodney asked his son, startled.
"He looks dangerous. Like when those kids were skateboarding too fast in the park and almost knocked down Mrs. Nagano and John grabbed two of them by their shirts and made them apologize and gave them a lecture on safety and consideration. He looked even madder than Grandma ever does. Those kids told everyone at school not to mess with me because my dad's boyfriend was scary."
"Do the kids mess with you at school?" Rodney demanded, remembering the incident. John had looked positively wrathful, and he'd been swift and decisive in his actions, both of which made him even hotter.
"Sometimes." Timothy shrugged and swallowed the rest of his milk. "Because I'm smart and some of other kids don't like smart people. It's always the stupid kids. I don't let them bother me."
"If they give you any trouble "
"I'll let John know, Dad. Don't worry."
"You'll let both of us know," Rodney corrected him, glancing at John, wondering how he felt about being designated first as the one responsible for dealing with Timothy's problems. John was beaming with pride, as if he enjoyed the thought.
"Okay, Dad," Timothy agreed amiably.
Rodney gave his son a suspicious look at the fast agreement. "Both of us," he repeated. "Maybe you should tell me the names now of who has already bothered you." And he'd talk to Timmy's teacher when they returned home from vacation, because he was absolutely not going to tolerate his son being bullied.
"Can I go look at our gate? I want to get a picture of the departure information on the sign. I'm going to put it in a slideshow."
Rodney gave a huff of displeasure, but let the issue of possible school bullying be tabled. Timothy had Marie's stubborn streak. Rodney would bring it up again after their vacation. They collected the two laptops, the carry-on, and their coffees, heading to the gate, watching Timothy roam ahead, taking pictures, seemingly of everything. Plastic chairs, gift shops, potted plants, and tired passengers were equal prey. "Don't get out of our sight!" Rodney called, transferring his coffee from one hand to the other, adjusting the strap of his laptop bag. "I'd be less surprised if they had stopped me."
John shrugged. "It's all random."
Rodney made another noise, this time a disgruntled one. Sometimes John could be too good-natured about things like bureaucratic stupidity.
John bumped shoulders with Rodney. "Are you nervous about this trip?"
"Nervous? No, of course not. Why should I be nervous?" He adjusted the strap again, trying to get it settled on his shoulder, as the nervousness he denied returned full force. What if John said no?
"You seem a little jumpy."
"Of course I'm not jumpy," Rodney insisted. "It's early and I'm tired and you of all people were searched and Timothy! Stay in our sight."
"Okay," John said, an easy agreement which was contradicted by the sideways glance he shot at Rodney, making him even more nervous.
"I'm not nervous. Why should I be nervous about introducing my sister to my male lover?" Rodney stopped walking, his free hand catching John's wrist. "No, don't respond, that didn't come out right," he said frantically, seeing the shadow of hurt in John's eyes. "You're not just my male lover. You're my partner, and Jeannie is going to love you. She loves you already for what you're done for us. She knows how happy you've made me and how great you are with Timmy. It's only " Rodney searched frantically for an excuse for his agitation. "I never brought a lot of people home. I was so ahead of my peers in school that I rarely dated, and I never introduced anyone to my family until Marie. So yes, I guess I am nervous." And he was completely blaming Jeannie if John said no. She'd questioned whether waiting was a wise choice, which had made him even more determined to surprise John, and give him the same excitement and thrill he'd experienced on Christmas morning.
"Do you think Kaleb or Madison won't like me?"
"Madison will adore you too, as long as you play blocks with her. Kaleb's an English teacher and a vegetarian," he added dismissively, relaxing a bit. Yes, that was it. If John said no, it was Jeannie's fault.
"So they'll all like me and everything will be fine," John half-asked, seeking confirmation.
"Yes, everything will be fine. They will love you and we'll have a great vacation. We should join Timmy at the gate. We don't want to miss the plane." Rodney stalked ahead, to where Timmy was photographing the flight information listed by the gate. John stayed behind for a moment, and Rodney took a deep breath of relief when he started following.
Despite the pleasure of spending time with Timothy and John, being cramped in an airplane had been tedious, and Rodney was feeling tired and stiff as they waited at the baggage carousel. He heard his sister's distinctive shriek of happiness, as she rushed forward, throwing her arms around John for a big hug. "Welcome to the family, John. You must be a brave person to take on my brother."
"Ha, ha," Rodney replied, but he gave her a big hug next. She looked like always, blue-eyed and blonde and dressed like a suburban mom, and he'd known that she would love John. Maybe it wouldn't be completely her fault if John said no.
"I'm Madison," his niece said, and John knelt to give her a solemn, "I'm very pleased to meet you," and a hug. Rodney smiled fondly at the two of them. John was always great with kids. It was too bad he didn't have any of his own, though at least he would have Timothy as a stepson. Hopefully.
"The English teacher?" Rodney asked.
"Is teaching English," Jeannie answered, hugging Timmy. "And his name is Kaleb, not the English teacher. I thought we'd drop luggage at the hotel first, and by then Kaleb will be home and we can have dinner. Are you sure you want to stay in a hotel? We have a guest bedroom."
"Yes, one," Rodney said pointedly.
"Timmy could sleep on the couch."
"And the bed squeaks." Rodney glared at his sister, and then all three of them looked at Madison and Timmy, who were both looking perplexed.
"Yes, okay, a hotel is fine," Jeannie agreed.
Even though they boarded at the same time, their luggage managed to drop out of the chute completely separately. Rodney left John watching for the suitcases and dragged Jeannie a few steps away. "Is everything arranged?" he hissed, desperate to make sure everything would be perfect.
"Yes, of course. I have done this kind of thing before, Meredith," she hissed back.
"I thought you were happy to do it." Because she'd said she was, but she seemed grumpy about it.
Her face softened. "I'm thrilled that you're getting married again, Meredith," she said, patting his shoulder. "You've needed someone else in your life and John looks like a great guy."
They both glanced over at him, standing in between Timmy and Madison, one suitcase at his feet, leaning forward to grab another one. "He is."
"You're the one who's driving me mad. You keep questioning and calling and fussing. I know what I'm doing."
"It's really important to me that all goes well," Rodney excused, trying to decide if daily calls and emails had been a bit badgering. He'd been the soul of restraint when compared to Marie's mother.
She sighed at him. "I told you that you should have asked him before you left and then you wouldn't be worrying."
"He'll say yes," Rodney insisted. "He will. He's just so... good-looking. And charming. Funny, and caring. He even loves my boss. They talk about flying every time they see each other."
"Yes, he is perhaps more than you deserve, but he's crazy about you."
"Are you sure? How do you know?" Rodney asked.
She patted him on the shoulder again. "Trust me, I know. You'll ask, he'll say yes, and the wedding will be perfect."
"Hey." John called from the baggage carousel, snagging the third suitcase. "Got 'em all."
Rodney smiled and gave a quick wave, speaking quickly but quietly to Jeannie. "Did you find an excuse to get us alone tonight?"
"A friend of Madison's is bringing her older brother over tonight. He's Timmy's age. We're going to order pizza and watch Disney movies. It seemed a good excuse to send you two out to dinner."
"Thank you, Jeannie," Rodney said sincerely, as they joined John and the kids. They hadn't been close as kids, but Marie's illness had brought them together, and despite her unfortunate insistence on using his first name, on vegetarianism, on not returning to academia... well, she'd been a pretty good sister.
And in two days, she should be John's sister-in-law.
The restaurant was exactly what John had hoped: small, not too busy, with efficient and discreet service. Thankfully, escaping from the house had been easy. It had felt weird to arrive for a visit and promptly desert Rodney's family on the first evening, but no one had seemed to mind. Bless Jeannie for arranging a play date for Timmy and Madison. She was going to be a great sister-in-law.
He mentally debated his plan, wondering if he should pop the question with the first course instead of waiting for dessert. Not because he wanted it over with, but because he needed to hear Rodney say, "Yes."
Rodney seemed nervous, as he had been most of the day, rambling even more than normal, forking in his salad with too much gusto. Weirdly, Rodney's mood had calmed John down, like he needed to relax to balance his partner.
"Hey," John said, stroking Rodney's hand where it lay on the table. "I think Jeannie liked me okay."
"Are you kidding? She loves you. She's not insane, even if most of her life choices would seem to indicate otherwise."
"You still seem nervous."
"Look, I can't wait. I'm sorry, this isn't the romantic way to do it, not with salad plates still on the table, but I blew it with Marie too." Rodney's eyes were wide, the contrast between the restaurant's dim light and the candle in the middle of the table making them even more intensely blue than normal. He pulled a box out of his jacket pocket, snapping it open to reveal a solid titanium band, as John stared in stunned disbelief. "I wasn't sure if you would want an engagement ring since you don't wear any jewelry and guys don't wear engagement rings generally. So this is the wedding ring. If you'll marry me? We could get married here before we go home. I had Jeannie arrange an appointment with a registrar."
John stared at the ring, stunned that Rodney's plans had been identical to his own. Or should he be? Rodney had been the one to suggest them moving in together.
"John?" Rodney asked anxiously. "I hope it doesn't seem too soon and of course, it doesn't mean anything in your country. We'd have to register as a 'domestic partnership' there," he said, making quotes in the air with his fingers. "But I want to spend my life with you and I want everyone to know it."
"Hold that thought," John grated out, springing up, racing off. The waiter with the ring was in the kitchen. He appeared bewildered when John demanded its return, but handed it over.
"Not on the dessert tray?"
"He pre-empted me," John said, grinning, grabbing the ring and racing back to the table.
Rodney was standing, hovering uncomfortably. "John?"
He snapped the box open. "I wasn't sure either. I thought you could wear my Air Force ring like an engagement ring."
"Oh my god." Rodney's hand was shaking as he reached out, and they fumbled together, getting the ring out of the box and onto Rodney's finger. John admired the shiny silver band and blue stone against Rodney's creamy skin.
"Hey, I asked first! Why am I putting on the ring like the bride?"
The mock indignance made John grin again, and he gave a little laugh of sheer relief. "You should have brought an engagement ring."
"So you're saying yes?"
"Yes, of course." John cupped Rodney's face, their lips meeting in their first kiss as an engaged couple, and how incredibly cool was that? Not that they were going to enjoy that state for long, which was fine with John.
"John " Rodney was talking against John's lips, breathing heavily.
"Keep that thought until the hotel," John said, because they still had dinner to eat. Or maybe they should have the restaurant pack up their dinners. They could nuke them after celebrating their mutual plans.
"No, John, I "
And fuck, Rodney wasn't excited; he was struggling to breathe, his face turning red. "Rodney, what's wrong?"
"My pen " Rodney was groping in his pocket.
John reached in, grabbed out the epi-pen. "Sit down," he ordered, guiding Rodney into his chair, uncapping the pen, grateful that he knew how to use it, jabbing it securely into Rodney's thigh.
"Sir?" The waiter said helplessly.
"Call an ambulance." John rubbed on Rodney's thigh, encouraging the epinephrine to begin working. "Hold on, Rodney, hold on." He wasn't going to lose him now.
"I hate this," Rodney lamented. He'd been through this experience before, but not for many years. He knew he must look like hell, unhealthily pale, with a canula in his nose, an IV attached to his arm, and dressed in a hospital gown with little purple flowers on it. He was supposed to be sweating nervously from the thought of being a groom, not because his body was too atrociously sensitive and some idiot cook had been careless and cross-contaminated the salad or the dressing. He didn't know what had happened, but someone was going to be sued, royally, and then he was going to take John on a long, lovely honeymoon with the settlement. Or buy him a plane.
"That sucked," John agreed.
"This is what you're taking on," Rodney felt compelled to note. It would break him if John changed his mind, but it was hard to avoid full disclosure after he'd been gasping and flopping like a beached whale in the restaurant.
"I got hit by a car." John shrugged his shoulders. "I'm a police officer. I could be hurt any day."
"You won't be." Rodney groped for John's hand, grabbing and squeezing it. "You can't be. I won't allow it."
John squeezed back. "If it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. I still want us to be together every day."
"Timothy." Rodney struggled to sit up as Timothy rushed into the room. John hit the button on the bed, making it rise into a seated position, and fluffed the pillow behind him. Rodney patted the side of the bed, and Timothy took the invitation to climb onto the bed and hug him tight. His body shook as Rodney held him, hating that the fragility of his body put his son through this scare.
Jeannie followed, smiling overly brightly, but with a hint of tears in her eyes. "Rodney, are you worrying us again for no reason?" She perched on the end of the bed. "You're got to stop doing this."
"I 'm trying, believe me, I'm trying."
"I left Madison with Kaleb but Timmy wanted to see you before bed."
"Thank you. I'm fine. It was a mild attack."
John made a face, but didn't dispute Rodney's assertion. It had been mild, even if John didn't realize it.
"Timothy should go back to the hotel with John to sleep. His clothes are there."
"I'm staying here tonight," John said quickly.
"Believe me, the last place you want to try to sleep is in a hospital. And one of us should be rested tomorrow for anything that needs to be done for " He stopped, suddenly aware that Jeannie and Timothy didn't know they'd agreed to marry. "For the wedding."
Jeannie gave a little squeal of excitement. "You asked him? He asked you?"
"You knew!" Rodney pointed his finger at Jeannie, realization dawning. "You knew both of us intended to ask the other to get married!"
Jeannie grinned, completely unrepentant. "Yes, and may I say I like John's style of wedding arrangements better? He didn't need to call and email me every single day for the last two weeks."
"You made me worry for no reason!"
"You were making yourself worry, Rodney. I only suggested you should get it over with."
Timothy slipped out of Rodney's hold and sat up. "You two asked each other?"
Rodney stared at his son. "You knew?"
"Aunt Jeannie told me tonight that John had intended to ask you too, so I didn't need to worry that he might say no. She said you're going to be my stepdad now, and we talked about blended families. Aunt Jeannie promised to help me get books about it, if I needed to read more."
Timothy's tone made Rodney smile, because he didn't think Jeannie or John had caught the subtle exasperation. As much as Timothy appreciated Jeannie's good intentions, he didn't need assistance accepting John.
John cleared his throat. "So you're good with that? With me being your stepdad?"
"I think it's great. Now you and Einstein will be our family forever. Grandma's going to be mad though. I don't think she likes you yet."
"Your grandmother "
"I'll work on winning her over," John cut in quickly, clasping Rodney's hand. "I'm sure she'll get used to me."
Rodney squeezed back. If anyone could manage that magical feat, John could.
John hadn't expected the 'in sickness' part to start before the marriage, but taking care of Rodney was satisfying. He and Timmy had huddled over the laptop, finding a restaurant with good online recommendations, before picking Rodney up from the hospital in the morning. The nurses seemed relieved to have their patient depart, speeding through the paperwork, and Rodney appeared to be in good shape, his color healthier, and his laments about the hospital bed vigorous.
The restaurant turned out to be as good as recommended, and they shared several side orders of bacon, fulfilling their meat portion for the day, before heading to Jeannie's. John insisted on settling Rodney on the couch, though Rodney protested that he was fine, fine, just fine, thank you. Rodney finally surrendered when John offered to cuddle with him, which was how they ended up staying most of the day in the living room, John sitting on one end of the couch, Rodney stretched out, with John's arms wrapped around him, and a blanket covering both of them.
Jeannie wandered in and out during the day, first running a few errands, and taking care of chores like laundry, feeding them healthy, vegetarian snacks and lunch, which made John grateful for the morning's bacon. Timmy and Madison also appeared and disappeared regularly, taking breaks from playing games so Timmy could see that his father was doing well.
John and Rodney talked and read and flicked channels on the television and dozed together, and John stroked Rodney's side frequently, or brushed his lips on Rodney's forehead, feeling so grateful that he could.
Their positions were reversed when John woke early on his wedding day, his head cradled on Rodney's chest, his body warmed by being curled around Rodney's bulk. He glanced at the clock. If they were home, it would be time to leap up and go for his morning run, but he didn't want to disturb Rodney, instead drifting back to sleep with the sound of Rodney breathing in his ear. Nice, deep, even sleeping. It was going to take John a long time to get over the sight of Rodney struggling for breath.
He woke next to the feel of Rodney gently stroking him. "Hey," John said lazily, appreciating the sensual touching.
"Hey, Mr. Soon-to-be McKay-Sheppard," Rodney said, grinning, rolling John on his back and covering him. Their boxers were pushed aside as Rodney's touching became more urgent, John responding slowly at first, then with more force as they rocked together. Rodney gripped their cocks, holding them in his big hand, stroking with firm, determined pressure, until they both came, moaning into each other's mouths.
"Now that is the way to wake up on a wedding day," Rodney said eventually, rolling off John, both of them satiated from their orgasms. "Much "
"How did you wake up last time?" John asked, curious and not concerned about comparisons. He liked to know about Rodney's life, including his experiences with Marie.
"Sick to my stomach," Rodney admitted. "Our parents had met the day before and hated each other. They sniped throughout the rehearsal dinner. Marie's mother was still trying to rearrange the wedding plans. I was convinced the day was going to be a disaster."
"You two looked happy in the pictures." John turned onto his side, stroking Rodney's chest under the blanket.
"Once it started, it was fine. I loved Marie and wanted to marry her. There was " Rodney put his arms in the air, hands illustrating a dome shape, "A shield around us. I've always been good at focusing.
"Besides, both our fathers drank all night, and then our mothers complained to each other about them. Jeannie ran interference keeping them away from us."
"She's a good sister."
"The best, really." Rodney yawned. "And hopefully she'll return to academia soon and I can throw some work her way. She could be helpful with several well, that's classified, but she could be a lot of help if she wanted to use her mind again."
"Come on," John said, sitting up and grabbing Rodney's hand. "Let's see what she's lined up today."
They showered and got dressed, John in a black suit, Rodney and Timmy in gray, eating breakfast from room service as they took turns fussing with each other's cufflinks and ties. They stood in front of the mirror, checking their reflections, grinning. Timmy whipped out his camera and took numerous pictures, and then took turns using their self-timers to take pictures of all three of them. Timmy and Rodney earnestly discussed the best light and setting, moving anything out of the background that wasn't appealing. John drank another cup of coffee and listened to their chatter, conceding that this next period of his life was likely to be the best documented.
"We should have arranged for a photographer, but Timmy takes excellent pictures, and Jeannie and Kaleb both do decently."
"I'm sure they'll all do well."
They piled into the rental car, John insisting on driving. Rodney rolled his eyes and fretted that he was fine now, and fully capable of driving, but from his beaming smile, John didn't think he minded the fussing.
Flipping the visor down, John caught Timmy's eye, smiling at him, relieved that Timmy had accepted him so easily. He vowed he was going to be a great stepdad. Maybe on their next vacation they could go to one of the states that allowed gay marriage and get married in America. He'd have to check on residence requirements. Being married in his own country would be satisfying, and a useful delay to avoid Rodney's desire to visit John's parents in Florida.
Jeannie and her family were waiting for them at the courthouse. She and Madison looked gorgeous in blue dresses, Jeannie's a slightly deeper shade, and Kaleb wore a dark blue suit. Madison was holding a small basket of red roses and smaller white flowers, looking thrilled. Standing with them was Ronon, wearing a black vest and slacks with a white shirt. "Ronon!" John gave him a hug. "Rodney told you?"
Rodney's hand touched John's back. "I thought you should have your partner, since I have my sister and her family."
John cupped Rodney's face, kissing him intently. "Thank you." Then to Ronon, he said, "So you knew too, all the time that I was talking about making arrangements with Jeannie?"
"Not all the time. Just most of it."
"What about Einstein and Ginger?" John asked, even as Jeannie was pinning a boutonnière of a single red rose and two small white flowers to his lapel. She'd already done Rodney's, and Rodney was pinning one on Timmy's suit. Ronon and Kaleb were wearing them too, John noted, smiling his appreciation at Jeannie for the fancy touch. He hadn't even thought about flowers.
"I left Princess at your house and dropped the keys off with Marcia. She's going to stay there."
John just shook his head, feeling bemused and happy, trying not to wonder if Marcia and their furniture would survive Ronon's yappy little dog and Rodney's fat cat chasing each other, his muttly dog chasing them both. They'd find out when they got home. He caught Rodney's hand. "Let's go get married."
If Rodney believed in God, he would have gotten down on his knees and thanked Him as he and John stood side by side, waiting to go in front of the justice of the peace.
His first marriage at least, the planning of it had been hellish. He'd heard women made a big deal of the day, and he'd had his own vision of perfection, Marie looking so incredibly gorgeous, her blond hair piled on her head, her slender figure in a longer white gown, him in a tuxedo, family and friends watching them, a good meal, some music, a cake, how difficult could that be to achieve?
Obscenely difficult had been the answer. Marie's mother had tried to control every single detail, and Marie's normal sweetness and unwillingness to cause a scene had been a hindrance. Instead, he'd fought for what she wanted, or what he'd thought she'd wanted, the start of a long and unpleasant relationship with Marie's mother, a relationship that was doomed to last until her death, since he'd promised Marie that Timothy would know his grandparents.
Maybe he should surrender to John's avoidance of his parents. Maybe they wouldn't appreciate him either, and did he really need two sets of irritating in-laws?
But the wedding itself had been beautiful, and he'd floated on a daze of happiness, knowing that he was going to make this gorgeous woman his wife. He studied John's profile, the lips he loved to kiss, the slight tilt to his nose, his beautiful eyes that so often shone with amusement. How was he so lucky to marry two such amazing people? They were what he deserved, a genius of his caliber, but more than he'd ever expected to have.
Then they were called forward. Timothy walked to the judge, and then stepped off to the side, serving as their best man. Holding hands, they stepped in front of the judge. The words were formal, official, but short, blessing their union, recognizing its validity under the laws of Canada, and leading them through the 'do you, Meredith Rodney McKay, take this man, John Stephen Sheppard, to be your lawful husband' vows. Timmy handed each one the appropriate ring at the right time, not fumbling at all.
The judge gave them permission to kiss. Before leaning forward, John said, "I love you, Rodney, and I promise to be a good husband to you and a father to Timothy."
The lump in his throat almost choked Rodney's words. They hadn't discussed making their own vows. "I love you, John, and I promise to be the best husband to you." He wanted to say more, but John had wrapped his arms around Rodney's waist, pulling their bodies close, kissing him, and Rodney relaxed into his embrace, returning the kiss.
They were married.
Jeannie disappeared into the kitchen as soon as they arrived at the restaurant, emerging with a victorious but grim, "There will be no problems at *this* restaurant." John gave her a thank you kiss on her cheek as they were escorted to their table, betting that the cooks were now too afraid to be remotely careless. The meal was the best he'd ever had, not only because the food was excellent, but everyone was in a fabulous mood. Timmy and Madison were a tagteam, Madison giggling as she tapped on her glass, Timmy snapping pictures as he and Rodney leaned toward each other, sharing gentle kisses.
After their dinner plates were cleared, the waiter pushed out a cart with a cake on it, a small cake, but the white frosting was decorated with elaborate curlicues, and two figures of men in tuxedos stood on top.
Madison clapped her hands in delight. "It's so pretty!"
"Hey, a cake," John said, smiling at Rodney, and Rodney gave him a swift kiss before warning, "You do not smash cake in my face."
With a husky laugh, John leaned closer, his lips close to Rodney's ear. "I'd rather lick the frosting off you." And wow, maybe he should learn not to make such statements in public, because the heated answer in Rodney's eyes made John's cock give a wholly inappropriate twitch, considering the company.
The waiter handed over a cake cutter, and the two made a little production of standing side by side, cutting the cake together, as Kaleb and Timothy took more pictures. Jeannie insisted on a close-up of their hands, showing the titanium ring on John's, the white gold on Rodney's. John was aware of others in the restaurant watching them. He'd never been much for being the center of attention, but today he relished it. He was married to a man he loved, a state that he'd never thought he would achieve.
Ronon handed John an envelope as they were lingering over coffee. "You guys don't need anything, so I thought you'd like this."
"Hey, you didn't have to," John said, as he pulled out a single sheet, his and Rodney's heads touching as they read the receipt for a paid weekend at a bed and breakfast.
"I could look after Timmy," Ronon said, putting his hand on Timmy's head. "How about it? You want to stay with me and let these two have a weekend together?"
Timmy grinned. "That would be cool."
"Oh, that reminds me." Rodney pulled out an envelope from his jacket. Giving it to John, he said, "From my boss."
"You told him you were getting married?" John wished he could bottle this feeling of absolute happiness. Not to sell it, but so he could always revisit this perfect day.
"Of course. He applauded my taste and intelligence in marrying a pilot."
"Former pilot," John corrected absently, opening the envelope and reading the single piece of paper inside. "Oh my god!"
"What? What?" Rodney craned his head to read.
"It's a tee time at St. George's Golf & Country Club. Tomorrow for four people."
"It's golf? Our present is golf?"
"Seriously?" Kaleb asked. "That's one of the best courses in Canada. It's members only."
Rodney gaped at his brother-in-law, amazed at the envy in his voice. "You golf? You're a vegetarian English teacher!"
"Golf is a great game." Kaleb accepted the paper as John handed it over. "Though putting golf courses in the desert is an unconscionable waste of the environment," he added quickly. "And shouldn't be allowed."
"You want to go?" John asked.
"I'd love to."
"You're a vegetarian English teacher!" Rodney exclaimed again.
"Rodney!" Jeannie hit him on the shoulder.
"Well, he is!"
"That doesn't mean my new brother-in-law can't have the good taste to like golf." John was grinning again, especially as he enunciated 'new brother-in-law.' Rodney always harped on Kaleb, but John liked him, perhaps even more than Jeannie, who had a tendency to bicker with her brother.
Rodney whimpered. "We're all golfing on the first day of our honeymoon, aren't we?"
And then there he was, married with a wedding ring on his finger, a state John had never thought to attain. In the eyes of his country, he was still single, but here, in a foreign country, he was married to another man with all the rights and privileges accorded to that condition.
His husband John savored the thought, the word, husband looked as nervous as he felt, both of them hovering in the middle of the hotel room, having left Timmy with Kaleb and Jeannie for the night. Rodney's hands were fluttering, his eyes overly bright, smile decidedly tilted. "So," John said. "Um?"
"I feel like I should be preparing myself in the bathroom and coming out in striped pajamas," Rodney confessed.
"As long as I don't have to be lying in bed in a silken nightgown," John cracked, and they both laughed a bit, the tension relaxing.
"It would be a good look on you. Everything is." Then he said, "John," his voice low and intent, his hands on John's waist urging him close as Rodney's lips claimed John's. Closing his eyes and sliding his arms around Rodney's waist, John fell into the kiss, his lips and tongue welcoming the taste and touch of Rodney's.
"Husband," Rodney murmured against John's lips, which made John smile.
Rodney began undressing him, and John let him, reveling in the sensuality of Rodney's big hands stripping his clothes from his body, letting them fall to the floor.
"It's like our first time, isn't it?" he asked as John stood nude in front of him, shivering a bit, not from cold, but from the focused intensity of Rodney's gaze. "Even though we had sex this morning, tonight is special. I always thought it was ridiculous when people said marriage made a difference, but it does." He stroked his hands over John's skin, lingering on his nipples and cock. "We belong to each other now."
"Yes, we do." John began unbuttoning Rodney's shirt. "But you're overdressed."
Together they got Rodney out of his clothes, and then drifted to the bed, exchanging kisses and caresses the whole time, unable to stop appreciating the wonder of each other.
John grabbed the lube from the night stand, handing it to Rodney. "Please," he said, drawing his legs up and apart.
Rodney's smile was blinding, his hands capable and sure as he stretched John, until John was writhing on the bed, ready to beg. But Rodney knew his limits, because he pressed in before John could plead. John curled his arms and legs around Rodney, holding him tightly, rocking with his thrusts.
"Husband," he said again, as he fell over the precipice.
Rodney had a feeling that perhaps he was whining, but he was on the first day of his honeymoon, and he was hustled out of bed and made to get dressed and eat breakfast at a ridiculously early hour of the morning, when he should be sleeping in and then having really good sex. A little whining was completely justified.
John's enthusiasm was the only element that made meeting up with Kaleb, Timothy and Ronon and driving out to the golf course tolerable, because John was even more handsome than normal when he glowed with happiness.
The staff was incredibly helpful when they saw the receipt from Ferris, outfitting them with shoes and clubs. John gave Rodney and Timothy a quick lecture on how to tee off. He bowed his head, focused on the ball, swinging the club back and forth gently, before pulling it back to shoulder height, and whacking the ball soundly, sending it sailing down the fairway, his hips canting just so as his body twisted.
Rodney may have moaned, because John's hips were a work of art, and that sinful twist generated decadent memories of gripping those hips with his hands as he fucked John slowly or vigorously, either way was heavenly a sound he turned into a strangled cough as Kaleb glanced at him in concern. "Grass allergies. I'll probably break out in hives before we're on the second hole."
"You have grass allergies?" John asked quickly. "We can stop this. I don't want you to be uncomfortable."
The fact that John immediately offered to stop doing something he was so excited to be doing... Rodney's heart gave a little fillip of emotion. "It's not as bad as my citrus allergy. I have to roll in grass to have a problem."
"No problems today," John said, running one gloved hand down Rodney's arm. "Only fun from now on."
They played their way around the golf course. Ronon claimed to have never golfed before, and didn't seem much interested in it, but his strength made his drives spectacular. John and Kaleb were both decent golfers, though admitted they were out of practice. As total novices, Rodney and Timothy took turns being the fourth. Rodney thought they did tolerably well, once they had several good conversations dissecting golf as it related to the laws of speed and motion. Timothy mostly seemed to enjoy taking pictures of everyone, trying to get action shots.
Rodney made a mental note to explore a golf membership for John when they got home. Clearly, it would be an appreciated present, and Rodney loved to buy things for John. Ferris should be able to point him toward the best local course.
The day was pleasant, not too hot, but the sun was bright enough that Rodney applied his homemade sunscreen to himself, Timothy, and John. Ronon and Kaleb foolishly declined, despite his warnings about the possibility of melanoma.
Perhaps he'd get a joint membership at a golf course, Rodney decided around the seventh hole. John was a hands-on teacher, frequently standing behind him, bodies aligned to show him the correct position for swinging his club when teeing off or putting. Even when not instructing him, John touched him frequently, on his arms, resting his hand on the small of his back, kissing him, as if constantly reassuring himself that Rodney was fine. Their closeness tempted Rodney to drag John into the wood and have his wicked way with him.
He'd always looked at bad clothes and figured golf was stupid, but after all, the game had been invented in Scotland. No wonder it was sexy and stimulating. Or maybe that was his husband.
As they watched Ronon tee off, Rodney bumped his shoulder against John, and received a gentle kiss in response. He'd never had such fun at an athletic activity.
This honeymoon-family vacation thing was really pretty good. John almost wished he'd done it earlier in his life, except then it probably wouldn't have been with Rodney and Timmy, and so couldn't have been as perfect. They'd done the botanical gardens today, which hadn't been quite as fun as golfing, but Timmy had a fabulous time, playing tour guide for his cousin and aunt, while John and Rodney had taken every chance to neck behind bushes. Ronon had flown home that morning, Maddy had been sent off to take a nap, and Kaleb wasn't home yet from teaching.
"Thank you," John told Jeannie, as she walked into the living room and sat a tray with glasses of water and cookies on the coffee table in front of him.
"Are you sure you don't want soda? Beer? Coffee?"
"No, water's great."
Timmy was sitting on the floor by the other end of the coffee table, writing postcards. Jeannie had been horrified when he hadn't seemed to know what they were, and had promptly bought him a book of twenty at the gift store, all scenes of the gardens.
"I'd take coffee," Rodney said, entering the living room, his face freshly scrubbed from having rinsed off his sunscreen.
"You should drink less caffeine. It isn't good for your blood pressure."
"You offered it to John!"
"John exercises regularly."
"I've walked for most of the last two days!"
Jeannie gave a small sigh. "Yes, Meredith. I'll make you some coffee. Decaf!" she yelled back, walking out of the room.
Rodney stepped over John's legs, dropping onto the couch between him and Timmy. "Have you two thought about what you want to do tomorrow?"
John shook his head no, sipping his water. "Timmy?"
"Uncle Kaleb was talking about some historical sites we should see."
"What about the science museum?" Rodney suggested. "The exhibits will probably be below Timmy's level, but Madison should enjoy it." He leaned forward, picking up one of the postcards that Timmy had finished and set aside. "Timothy? What is this?"
Timmy gave his father an odd look, since he'd been in the gift store when Jeannie had bought them. "They're postcards. Aunt Jeannie said they were a dying art."
"This isn't English."
"No, Dad. It's "
"I told you to never use my work laptop. Never!"
"I didn't, Dad."
"Don't lie to me, Timothy Alastair McKay. You are never to use my work laptop. You know this."
"I didn't. I swear I didn't."
"You could only have seen this on my work laptop. It's encrypted. You shouldn't have been able to log on. How did you see this?"
"Rodney." John laid a hand on Rodney's thigh, because even for Rodney, he was sounding incredibly tense. "Calm down."
"You don't understand," Rodney snapped at John, waving the postcard at him. "This is classified. This is top secret. And he's writing it on a postcard."
"I'm sure there's an explanation "
"Don't patronize me, John. This is between my son and I."
John jerked back, feeling slapped by the coldness in Rodney's voice.
"I didn't get onto your laptop, Dad. I didn't." Timmy's lower lip trembled, the expression on his face shocked and dismayed.
"Guys? What's going on?" Jeannie asked from the entryway.
"Stay out of this, Jeannie."
"Meredith McKay "
"It was on the paperweight that Radek gave me," Timmy burst out. "I got it from Uncle Radek. John knows."
"The paperweight? What paperweight? Radek would never have given you anything with this writing on it."
Rodney's confidence in Radek grated on John. "Yes, he did. He gave Timmy a paperweight with a lot of this writing on it. Names of plants with different pictures."
"Wait a minute, you know about this?" Rodney waved the postcard at John. "How do you know about this? Radek would never - "
"Well, he did," John cut off Rodney. "Timmy, did you bring it with you?"
"Yes, I brought it to show Maddy." He rummaged in his backpack, handing the paperweight to his father. "Here it is, Dad. Uncle Radek gave it to me."
Rodney cupped it in hands. "But this is only a pressed leaf. It doesn't have any writing on it."
"It breaks sometimes. John makes it work."
"You... make it work?"
"Yeah." John plucked the paperweight out of Rodney's hands, shaking it a bit. "I've got the knack with it." As always, it obediently glowed blue, and writing rolled across the surface. "See?"
"Oh my god." Rodney stared at its surface, watching it. "You shook it. You touched it and worked. It didn't work before, which meant Radek would have had someone else check it, someone with which means that yours is stronger " He transferred his stare to John, who had never felt so dissected, pinned by Rodney's blue gaze. "You touched it and worked."
"We thought it was there for Timmy to find. It's a mini-database of botanical items. Timmy's been trying to crack the code. It was supposed to be a surprise for Radek."
"But you and you " Rodney looked back and forth between John and Timmy. "I have to call the SGC." He leaped up, stepping over the coffee table, almost knocking down the glasses of water.
Rodney was brought up short by Jeannie blocking the entryway. "What?"
"You need to apologize to Timmy first."
"Are you kidding? John " Rodney pointed toward John. "John "
"Yes, John what?" Jeannie asked impatiently.
"I have to call the SGC." Rodney slipped around his sister, and the three left in the living room stared at each other as they heard the bathroom door slam.
"Is Dad still mad at me?"
"No." John reached over, ruffling Timmy's hair. "I'm not sure what's going on, but he's not mad at you. You've done nothing to be mad about. I'll go talk to him."
It was an Ancient artifact. A functional Ancient artifact. Radek wouldn't have given it to Timothy if he'd realized it worked, which meant John not only had the gene, but he had a powerful expression of it. Radek must have given it to a gene carrier to check it out before bringing it to Earth. Mustn't he? Could he possibly have been careless that he hadn't had it checked? Who would know? Rodney flipped through the contacts on his cell phone, finally hitting 'Sam Carter,' leaning against the bathroom sink as he waited for an answer.
In a small way, Rodney was relieved that Timothy didn't have the gene, because even though transmission seemed to be weirdly random, somehow it must be hereditary, which would have meant that Marie was a carrier. The thought that one of her horrendous parents might have more in connection with Atlantis than Rodney was unbearable.
But with John having the gene he could help with Rodney's work! Finally, more of the Ancient artifacts could be shipped to him for study, not just the ones that worked for those without the gene. John had the gene and John was his.
"Rodney?" John knocked on the bathroom door as Rodney swore at Sam's voicemail.
"Just a moment!" He hit 'Bill Lee.'
"Rodney, we need to talk."
"Yes, John." Rodney jerked open the door. "I have so much to tell you. But first Bill, yes, hang on." He shut the door again. "Bill, Radek gave my son a paperweight from... the city. Do you know for certain if he had a you-know-what carrier touch it first?"
"Rodney? What are you talking about?"
John knocked on the door again, louder this time. "Rodney!"
"Bill, focus! Radek gave my son paperweight from the city. Do you know for certain if he had a you-know-what carrier touch it first?"
"The city? San Francisco?"
"Of course not San Francisco. I'm on an unsecured line, you moron. The city where Radek's been living. He gave my son a paperweight. Was everything that was removed from the city touched by a carrier? Because if so, I have someone who needs to sit in the chair. As soon as it can be arranged."
Rodney jerked open the door. "John, I swear, it looks like I'll be able to tell you all about the writing. I only have to verify something first."
John looked irritated. "This isn't about the writing, Rodney."
"No? What is it about?" Bill was babbling something in his ear, but it wasn't a 'yes' or a 'no,' which were all Rodney needed. "Yes, Bill, now, right now. Don't you realize how important this is? I need to know now," Rodney hissed. "This can't wait."
"This is about 'this is between my son and I,' that's what this is about."
"No, this is between you and I now. Well, you and the future of science, John."
"Hang on, Rodney. I've got it arranged," Bill said.
"Got it arranged? What arranged? I only need you to tell me " but he wasn't standing in Jeannie's bathroom any more, and neither was John. Both of them were standing on the bridge of the Daedelus, and his cell phone wouldn't work from space, but Rodney snarled, "Bill Lee, you are an idiot," into it anyway.
"Doctor McKay. I understand that you had someone who needed immediate access to the chair," Commander Ellis said.
John was pivoting slowly, looking at the people in uniforms. He probably recognized most of the Air Force insignia, except for the patches associated with the Daedelus and Stargate Command, so he would know he was on an Air Force vessel. And then he stopped, staring out the viewscreen. "We're in space."
"Yes, John, we're in space." Rodney glanced helplessly at John and back at Ellis, desperately trying to figure out how to avoid this backfiring on Ferris and its contracts with the Stargate. "Commander Ellis, this is John Sheppard. He was an Air Force major. And he's my husband," he added, raising his hand and waving his ring finger at Ellis.
"And he needed to see the chair immediately? I wasn't aware that was a privilege accorded to civilian spouses."
Rodney winced. Ellis was cold, but he wasn't incorrect. "I was only trying to confirm that John was a gene carrier. Bill Lee misunderstood. This is his fault."
"Yes, he did. I was only trying to confirm that Radek gave my son a paperweight. At least, it looks like a paperweight but it's an Ancient botanical database. John turned it on."
"So from one glowing paperweight, you think he should sit in the chair?"
Ellis's condescension stiffened Rodney's spine. "I am the foremost expert on the Ancients on Earth. The Ancient botanical database turned on when John touched it, which is a sign of a gene carrier. And if Radek followed proper procedure, then at least one gene carrier touched it before he removed it from Atlantis. Which means John's expression of the gene is powerful."
"Or at least more powerful than whomever Radek had touch it. Which could be not very, right?"
"The Ancients? Atlantis? Rodney, how the hell did the Air Force build a spaceship?"
"Well, as long as he knows too much already, you might as well have him sit in the chair and find out if he's really as powerful as you hope." Ellis didn't sound like he gave much credence to Rodney's hope. "I'll contact General O'Neill and let him know what's happened."
"No, you don't have to " and then they were in the Ancient facility in Antarctica, and Ellis was probably delighting in contacting O'Neill and letting him know of Bill and Rodney's fuck up. "It's cold." Rodney wrapped his arms around his chest, and hoped that Ellis didn't give O'Neill an overly distorted version of recent events.
"Rodney." John had his own arms wrapped himself, slightly shivering. "Where are we now?"
"We're in Antarctica, at a facility built by a group of people called the Ancients. Come on, let's find some coats." They were in the main entry room, where the elevator shaft was located. A couple of scientists were working at one end, and glanced over at the sound of John and Rodney's voices.
"Doctor McKay?" A man approached them. "We didn't know you were coming."
"Do you have any coats? We weren't prepared for this visit."
"Sure, hang on." Sweaters and jackets were quickly found for them, and Rodney zipped up the orange fleece gratefully, wishing he was wearing long johns too.
"Come on," he said, leading the way to the chair room.
John trailed after him. "Rodney, we need to talk."
"I know there's a lot to explain, but I don't know how long we have until General O'Neill gets Ellis's report, or what he'll do when he does. If we can confirm that you're a powerful gene carrier, things will go a lot easier, believe me." Rodney patted the blue and silver chair. "Sit."
"I'm not a dog, and I don't care about Ancients or Antarctica or how the Air Force built a spaceship without telling the American people."
"You don't? Then "
"This is about 'this is between my son and I,' Rodney," John grated out, making Rodney realize that though John had been momentarily bewildered by the abrupt location change, he was still angry about... whatever he was angry about.
It dawned on Rodney that it was one of those times, when he'd done something that had upset the person he loved, and he was supposed to figure out what and fix it. Marie would usually tear up, but John just looked... incredibly irritated. "Um... yes?" he hazarded, knowing it was the wrong answer, the stupid answer, but that kind of response normally generated a further response that let him figure out his mistake.
"What do you think I am to Timmy?" John asked, talking like it was a difficult task he was still mastering.
"What you are to Timmy?"
"You said it was between you and him. Where does that leave me?"
Oh! John had felt... excluded? Rodney was Timothy's father, of course, everyone only had one biological father, but didn't John realize he was so much more?
"Do you still think of me as just some guy who lives with you?" John asked while Rodney floundered on what to say. "I'm your husband. I'm his stepdad."
"Oh good god no! You're not just some guy. You're... you! You're John! You're the guy who teaches him sports and bad music and ruffles his hair and takes him to church! You care about him and he loves you. You've made our lives so much better. I couldn't imagine ever being without you."
John body was visibly relaxing, tension bleeding away, anger dissipating. "Yeah?" he prompted.
"John " Rodney grabbed John's face, and kissed him, slowly and sweetly, trying to say more than words ever could, no matter how many he blurted out. They rested their foreheads against each other, breathing deeply.
"You're Timothy's other father," Rodney swore, finally understanding. "If we could make it legal, I would. I'd want you to adopt him. If you wanted to."
"I would. So next time you're mad at him, don't cut me out."
"I won't. I promise. He's our son now."
"We're a family."
"So hey," General O'Neill said jovially, appearing suddenly in the room's entryway. "I hear we've got two new grooms. And a gene carrier?"
"John, please." Rodney touched the chair's arm. "Sit in the chair."
He'd always known that Rodney had secrets, big ones, but John had never tried to find out, not seriously anyway. He was ex-military, and he respected the need for secrecy and confidentiality. But the sheer scope of Rodney's secrets of the Air Force's secrets had blown him away. Beaming technology that whisked them silently out of Jeannie's house in Canada to a spaceship in orbit over Earth and then back down to another continent, where aliens had built a facility that did... something that involved a chair. It was like assuming Rodney was creating TNT and finding out instead he was developing the hydrogen bomb.
John wasn't sure he wanted to understand how he fit into all these secrets, but Rodney's beseeching blue eyes were irresistible. And if sitting in the chair proved something that could help Rodney stay out of trouble, he was willing to give it a try. He conceded defeat, doing as he was told, with Rodney watching like something world-shaking would happen. And something weird did. Like the paperweight, the chair lit up, glowing blue, and it rose from the base while the back lowered, similar to a dentist's chair. John felt almost as happy as he did when facing the dental drill or the prospect of a root canal. At least those chairs were padded, while this was cool metal. "Rodney?"
"Wow. You were right, Rodney. He very definitely has the strongest expression of the Ancient gene that we've ever seen." Sam Carter walked into the room behind the General, who had moved to stand closer to the chair.
"John, think about where we are in the solar system."
John wasn't concentrating, still confused, but over his head, in mid-air, a diagram of the planets appeared. "Did I do that?"
"You did, you really did." Rodney was grinning madly.
"I'd rather think about where I'd like to be." John focused on his safe haven, the lines that formed the planets shimmering and reforming, creating an image of their two-story house, complete with Rodney's car parked in the driveway and John's on the street.
He wished he was there.
"Nice place," the General said.
The chair was too sharp-edged to be comfortable, but the metal seemed to be warming, and there was something... some presence, warm, female, touching John's mind... John sat up abruptly, swinging his legs out of the chair and jumping out of it, as the color died and the chair returned to its original position. "It's our home."
"John, can you sit back? I can run " Rodney's phone started ringing, and he grimaced as he pulled it out of his pocket. "It's Jeannie." He turned away a little as he answered, but Rodney didn't have a quiet voice. "Jeannie, hello. Where are we?" He gave John a helpless look, and John used two fingers to pantomime walking. "Yes, walking, we went for a walk. How did we get out of the house? We walked out, that's usually how one leaves a house No, Jeannie, I'm "
The fact that Jeannie's call reached Rodney's cell surprised John, but considering the Air Force had spaceships, they probably also had some sort of super-amazing cell phone tower for people who worked in their secret alien-built outpost.
"So let's talk. You want some coffee? Come on." The General walked out of the room, and giving Rodney a helpless shrug, John followed him. The man was still a general, even if John wasn't Air Force any longer.
"So I have alien DNA," John concluded a while later. He'd declined coffee but accepted hot chocolate, and was nibbling some sort of crisp biscuit. They were sitting in another room in the Ancient facility, one that had been outfitted as a cafeteria, with tables, chairs, and a selection of snacks. As best as John could tell from the accents of people wandering in and out, the facility was staffed with a large contingent of foreign scientists, which perhaps was why the snacks were a bit more eclectic than the normal Air Force selection.
"Yep," O'Neill said succinctly. He'd gone through an amazing amount of history very quickly, all about the Ancients, the Asgard and other races, the Stargate Project, some bad guys that sounded kinda like 'gold' with stretched vowels, and Atlantis. Rodney had tried to insert greater details, but the occasional steady look from O'Neill had silenced him. At least John could ask him for more explanation when they got home.
"What does it matter? So I can sit in a big chair and draw diagrams."
"You also can fire weapons," Sam said. "This facility is outfitted with projectile missiles we call drones that are controlled by the chair. We've already had to use them against the Goa'uld."
"The oh, the snake guys? But you've got someone who can use them."
"Yeah, me." O'Neill jerked a finger at himself. "And that's it. Most of the people who have the gene are on Atlantis, and none of the others on Earth can control the chair well enough to fire drones. But you could."
"But there's more than the chair. The Atlantis expedition has sent back dozens of artifacts. They can come to Ferris now," Rodney directed to Sam. "You don't have to limit us to artifacts that don't need initializing."
"This," O'Neill said, waving his PDA at John, "says that you've trained and flown on almost a dozen helicopters and planes. You've been in combat and you understand battle tactics."
John was used to thinking fast under fire, but signing up to be a main participant in a possible future battle against alien invaders... that was a commitment that needed some considering. "I have a job, as a police officer. And I like it."
The General persevered. "Have you thought about the Air Force reserves?"
John waved his ring finger at O'Neill. "I'm a little in violation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"Independent contractor? Rodney is."
"John!" Rodney hissed at him.
"What?" John hissed back. He wasn't saying no. He just wasn't saying yes. The Air Force hadn't wanted him as a gay man. He wasn't going to make it easy for them to get him back as a happily married gay man.
"You could save the planet."
"I'm not talking about a full-time position," O'Neill said, soothingly. "Just someone we could call on in case of emergency. Maybe a day here or there for research. The travel time is fast if the Daedelus is in orbit. And if we had your paperwork all in order, and a confidentiality agreement signed, then yeah, McKay's right." He glanced at Carter for confirmation, as he continued speaking. "It'd be easier to send artifacts to Ferris for research."
"John!" Rodney was practically salivating in his intensity.
"Look, I gotta think about this, okay?" John stood up. "We should get home before Timmy worries too much." He had a feeling it was going to be impossible to say no to helping save the world, particularly since Rodney was a bulldog on anything that would advance his research. But what had happened with the chair? Was that how it normally felt, like it might touch his mind? Was there anyone he could ask other than O'Neill?
O'Neill nodded, accepting the delay. "This isn't even about our country, Sheppard. This is about the safety of the world. McKay knows my number when you've made the right decision." He pointed a finger at Rodney. "And you. Don't hassle him."
"Me? I don't hassle John "
With a flash of light, they were back on the Daedelus, in front of Commander Ellis. Rodney glared, realizing Jack had signaled for their beam-up before he could finish his sentence. Ellis gave them a nod, and the light flashed again, beaming them instantaneously down to Jeannie's bathroom. "Jeannie thinks we're in the park," Rodney hissed at John. Jeannie tended to interrogate him at the best of times, and magically disappearing from and reappearing in her house would trigger all of her inquisitive little sister instincts.
"Let's grab Timmy and escape to dinner."
Rodney beamed with pleasure at John. Avoidance was a perfect tactic in this case. "Excellent idea, Mr. Sheppard-McKay." Taking the concept to heart, Rodney rushed down the hallway to the living room, John on his heels. "We're back and look, it's almost dinner time. We thought we'd head to the hotel and have room service. It's been a busy day and you must be tired of having us. Timothy, let's go."
"Dad." Timothy flung himself into Rodney's arms. "You guys disappeared. We couldn't find you."
"We just had to talk some." Rodney smoothed one hand over his son's head, suddenly guilty for having worried him. He was going to fry Bill Lee for being an idiot. Though if Bill hadn't misunderstood, the SGC would have taken weeks to approve testing John, fretting about his civilian status, and probably months before allowing him access to the chair. Idiocy could be useful.
"Meredith, where have you been? How did you get into the house?"
"The same way we left," John said easily, stepping forward and giving Jeannie a kiss on her cheek. "You've been a great hostess, but the three of us need to spend some time together."
"Meredith needs to apologize to Timmy first," Jeannie said stubbornly, and Rodney didn't care what their mother had always said, they did not look just alike when they were being insistent.
"Jeannie... we really need to discuss this as a family. Our family." John dropped an arm on Rodney's shoulders. "Timmy, get your backpack."
And there was the military man that they didn't often see, because Jeannie bit her lip but nodded reluctantly, and Timmy immediately stuffed his laptop into his backpack. Goodbyes were quickly exchanged, and they got into the rental car, with John driving.
"Timothy." Rodney twisted in the seat. "I need the paperweight that Radek gave you, and you need to never use that language again, okay? We need to shred any postcards you've written with it. I'm going to have to ask you to trust me on this."
Timothy didn't demur, rummaging through his bag, handing over the paperweight and one postcard. "Only Brandon and I used the language. It's our secret code. Was Uncle Radek wrong to give it to me, Dad?"
"Yes, Timothy. Uncle Radek shouldn't have given it to you." Rodney held it in his hand, watching the slow scrolling of the leaves and words. He'd have to figure out how to take it apart and see why it responded to John when it hadn't to whatever gene carrier had touched it for Radek. Was there a physical break in the crystal inside? A glitch in the programming? Loyalty to Radek compelled him to add, "It was an easy mistake for him to make. He wasn't in possession of all the facts."
"Is there something special about Uncle John? That he could make it work and I couldn't?"
Rodney stared at John's profile, his elfish ears, the pointed tip of his nose. "Yes, Timothy, there is something very special about Uncle John. And now you have to forget about all this, remember?"
"But he is special, Dad. He's my stepfather. We're family."
"Yes," Rodney agreed, as John flashed him a sweet smile. "We're family."
John hefted the suitcases out of the back of Ronon's trunk, handing one off to Rodney and Timmy, shaking hands with Ronon and thanking him again for the ride. He was feeling pleased to be home, though Canada had been a great experience. He loved Rodney's sister and her family, and felt welcomed and loved by them. He'd become Rodney's husband and Timmy's stepdad. They'd even played a great game of golf and had fun at tourist sites.
He was less certain about the whole 'having-Ancient-DNA' thing, though he and Rodney had spent hours talking about it, some of them curled up in the hotel bed, a few while following Jeannie and the kids around, hissing code words and lots of 'you-know-what's, which mostly confused John. The secret history of the Air Force's defense of Earth against aliens still boggled John, but he'd started reconciling himself to it, and his possible involvement. The idea didn't thrill him, but he knew he couldn't say no, not considering that the safety of the entire planet was at risk.
The possibility of going to Atlantis bothered him a lot, but that was Rodney's newest idea, and John was positive that Colonel Ellis didn't desire his presence as a passenger. Hopefully that idea would be shot down fast.
Einstein almost knocked John down as he followed Rodney and Timmy into the house. He dropped his suitcase, kneeling to ruffle his fur. "Hey, boy, did you miss us?" A hearty lick of Einstein's tongue on John's face signaled his agreement.
"Marcia and Ronon probably spoiled them both rotten," Rodney said, flipping through the mail piled on the coffee table. "Ads, ads, and ads."
"No bills?" John joked.
"The bills are all electronic." Rodney sighed, placing his hands on the small of his back, stretching. "I hate airplanes. They're horrible for my back."
"Ginger missed us too," Timmy said, petting the purring cat, who flopped around on the couch, encouraging more stroking.
With a last ruffle of the dog's fur, John stood. "You know what I want for our first night home?"
"No, what?" Rodney asked, his eyes fond.
Timmy giggled and Rodney grinned as he headed to the kitchen. "Steak it is."
John grabbed both their suitcases, heading toward the stairs. "Hey, Timmy, let's unpack suitcases and get laundry started."
"Sure, Uncle John." Timmy abandoned Ginger, following John's direction.
They'd start laundry, put toiletries back into bathrooms and the suitcases away in the garage, hang out in the kitchen and watch Rodney cook, maybe watch a little television... just a family night at home, recovering from a vacation and returning to the normal daily routine.
This was the life.
~ the end ~