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Not A Fairy Tale

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When Rodney meets Jennifer, he sees a younger sexier female version of himself if he were a medical genius instead of physics one. She says the guys at university don't really do anything for her. And who's Rodney to turn down a young attractive woman who wants a smart not-as-young guy?

The sex is great, and when Jennifer graduates, Rodney realizes that he doesn't want to give this up. Jennifer feels the same, so what would have been a university thing turns into a marriage.

It's not a fairy tale thing where they love everything about each other and couldn't imagine life without the other. Jennifer's quite a bit younger than he is, and there are a few things that annoy him about Jennifer, but they love each other and they've learned to ignore the things they can't change.

One of it is what Jennifer terms Rodney's 'excessive negativity'. Once Rodney explains that he sometimes just needs to vent, she learns to simply not pay attention. He returns the favor when she talks about boring things at her work. It works very well for both of them, and they're a lot happier that way.

When Rodney tells her, "I don't understand why they need me to work with a pilot on this. I have all the data I need to accommodate the needs of the pilot. Why should I listen to a sample of one when I have studies about the range of the human needs and reactions?" she only says, "Uhuh," and keeps reading her medical journal.

Colonel Sheppard looks every bit like the flyboy that Rodney feared he would be. "Colonel," he says by way of greeting, not trying to hide that this collaboration is nothing he's looking forward to.

"John," the colonel says.

"No, it's Rodney," Rodney corrects, frowning. "Actually it's Dr. McKay."

"My name," the colonel says. "You can call me John."

"All right, Colonel," Rodney says. "John," he amends. And really, who has time to waste on formalities or informalities when his boss insists that they go through all scenarios of a pilot and simulate them. And that's just phase one.

~~

Sheppard is a lot smarter than his cool and casual persona made Rodney believe. He understands the engineer's perspective and doesn't just live in his pilot bubble. It takes Rodney a moment to realize that Sheppard's only teasing him when he mentions frivolous things like cupholders.

All in all that first meeting is surprisingly productive.

When Jennifer asks how it went, Rodney only says it was fine. He has nothing to vent, and he doesn't really know what to do when there's no need to express his frustration. If asked, he wouldn't even be able to name what he wants to express. Thankfully, Jennifer doesn't ask but tells him about her own day.

~~

Sheppard suggests they have lunch in a little place close to the lab. Rodney's never had a problem with the cafeteria food, but he doesn't care either way so he agrees.

It turns out that Sheppard is something of a geek in disguise. He has an appalling taste in movies, but their media-cultural history is very similar. Lunch flies by and it isn't until dinner at home with Jennifer that it occurs to him that he hasn't had someone to discuss Batman villains with since he was a kid.

He's not sure exactly that he missed that, but he still takes note of it.

~~

Rodney's the kind of guy that works a lot and in his free time has a few more projects that would seem like more work to people who didn't know better. He does go to concerts every now and then, and he loves playing video games, though he prefers the old school games that are more about substance than polished looks.

Rodney's not quite sure why he mentions the game to Sheppard during one of their lunches, but he's quite happy to have found a playdate for later that night.

Playing online with Sheppard is far more entertaining than playing with random people on the internet and in the next days, Rodney looks into installing a private server where they can mess around to their heart's content, trying to beat each other at cheating, and eventually modding the world to silly levels.

~~

It's Sheppard who mentions racing cars, and Rodney sees no reason not to accept the challenge.

Later that evening he calls Jennifer to tell her that he'll go out with Sheppard. She's a bit surprised but sounds happy that he's found something social to do. She's always thought he was a bit of a hermit. Rodney realizes only then that he never mentioned that he's been playing with Sheppard every night for weeks.

Sheppard grills something for them, then they race cars, insulting each other in increasingly creative ways. Eventually they move on to a game console. They sit next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, and Rodney can't remember when he last had so much fun.

Eventually Rodney has beaten Sheppard into submission. Sheppard admits defeat, a challenging grin on his face as he looks over to Rodney, leaning slightly forward. It really is only slightly, but still Sheppard is suddenly extremely close and weird things start happening in Rodney's stomach. He doesn't know what's going on though he hopes he's not coming down with anything.

To his own surprise, when he opens his mouth, what comes out is, "I should go home to my wife."

The grin slowly slips from Sheppard's face and he straightens. "Your wife?" he eventually asks tonelessly.

"Yeah, I'm married. Didn't I mention that?" Rodney asks. He tries to recall if he has, but he honestly can't remember.

"No, you didn't," Sheppard says. He seems suddenly withdrawn.

"Well, I am. Her name is Jennifer." Rodney feels a bit stupid, but he doesn't know what else to say. "And it's getting late. I should go."

"Yes, of course," Sheppard says, his gaze suddenly elsewhere. Then he gets up and leads Rodney to the door. For the first time that evening Rodney feels awkward.

"Thanks for the great evening," he says.

Sheppard only nods, the light mood of the evening gone.

When Jennifer asks him how it was, Rodney only says great. Because it was, even if he doesn't quite understand what happened in the end.

~~

Sheppard is different the next day. Rodney can't quite put his finger on what it is. To an outside observer he'd seem like the same easy-going guy that comes in every morning.

At lunch he seems distracted, and that evening it's the first time since they started that he doesn't show up online to play with Rodney.

There are any number of reasons why he wouldn't make it, but still Rodney finds himself disappointed—and worrying.

~~

"Were you busy last night?" Rodney asks the next day, trying for casual.

"Rodney," Sheppard only says. It sounds kind of painful, and Rodney doesn't know what exactly Sheppard's trying to say with the words he's not using.

"It's fine if you were," Rodney says.

"I don't think we should...do that anymore," Sheppard says.

Rodney's eyes widen. A part of him has feared something like this, but he knows that he tends to be a pessimist and takes to worst-case-scenarios like a duck to water, so he dismissed his fears. "But why?" he asks.

"You're...married," Sheppard says, as if that had anything to do with anything.

"So?" Rodney says.

Sheppard gives him a long look. "I don't think I should spend that much time with a married guy that I'm attracted to," he eventually says.

Rodney blinks. Suddenly that weird feeling in his stomach is back. He opens his mouth which feels dry. "You're attracted to me," he says.

Sheppard drops his gaze. "We can keep working together. It's not a problem, doc."

"Rodney," Rodney says without thinking. Sheppard hasn't called him 'doc' since that first day. It sounds weird.

"McKay, can we do this?" John asks, and suddenly he's not as laid-back anymore. This is the colonel voice.

"Yes," Rodney responds, because that voice commands an answer.

~~

Back when they started dating, Rodney told Jennifer to just be honest with him when she met someone else. Jennifer had promised she would and then smiled and kissed him. It had never happened.

Rodney has never thought about whether the same applies to him because he's never considered it could happen.

The whole thing with John kind of blindsides him.

Rodney's never been very good with gauging people's interest in him. Before he met Jennifer, he basically hit on people if he was attracted to them without any thought to whether or not they were likely to respond favorably. He was shot down more often than not, but sometimes that approach worked.

John's admission comes so out of left-field for Rodney that he wonders if he's somehow overlooked something. John certainly acts as if this should have been obvious to Rodney. Have they been flirting without Rodney noticing? It wouldn't be the first time that he's not aware of the implications of his behavior, though usually he involuntarily insults people.

Rodney can't remember any signs, even in hindsight. Actually that's not quite true. He recalls the moment that John leaned close the night before. Rodney wasn't aware of what was happening—that John had probably meant to initiate a kiss—but some part of him must have realized what was going on because Rodney cannot remember ever saying to anyone that he needs to go home to his wife. He could have said it was late. But to bring up Jennifer in that particular way was clearly hitting the breaks on what was going on even if it was done on a subconscious level.

It certainly hit its mark with John.

Rodney can't forget the look on John's face when he first mentioned his wife.

There is a tension between them when they work that morning. Rodney doesn't want to lose the easy friendship that has developed between them. On some level he gets why John doesn't want to be with him when he wants more than just that friendship. But Rodney still doesn't want to give it up. And a part of him can't stop thinking about John's assumption that something was going on between them.

And when has he become John anyway instead of Sheppard? It's all confusing to Rodney, and it gets worse over lunch.

Rodney is glad when John agrees to go to that little place close by with him, as has become their custom. This time, though, John isn't distracted. Instead he starts asking Rodney questions. "Did you tell your wife about our game sessions?"

"No," Rodney says. It's been a hobby of his, and she's not very interested in it, so he didn't see the point of it.

John however gives him a long look as if he was trying to read Rodney's mind. "How did your meet your wife?" he asks. Then "How long have you been married?"

Rodney answers the questions truthfully, though he suddenly feels like he has to defend himself.

John keeps at it. "Does she play video games? Is she into science fiction?"

Rodney isn't certain what he is doing and just keeps answering. Jennifer occasionally plays video games but she isn't an avid science fiction fan. She doesn't mind that Rodney likes it, though. John seems frustrated by something and it's not just that Rodney is married. Rodney honestly doesn't know what John is trying to achieve.

"Do you love her?" John eventually asks quietly.

For a moment, Rodney doesn't even know what to say to that. Is that why John is interrogating him? Because he can't believe Rodney's marriage is real? "Yes," Rodney says, because he does love Jennifer.

John finally relents.

~~

That evening Rodney thinks about John's behavior at lunch. He feels like he passed a test, but at the same time the thought that John's probing him for weaknesses leaves him uncomfortable.

The problem is that it really shouldn't. He's been married for five years. That someone questions that marriage should feel like an insult and not like a threat. But Rodney can't help feeling that he got off easy that day, that if John had asked the right questions, Rodney wouldn't have been able to answer.

The real problem, though, is that that even matters. His marriage could be in shambles and it still wouldn't change anything if Rodney wasn't interested in John. The answer to every question about his marriage should be, "Why do you care? You can't have me anyway."

Rodney has tried not to think about what it is that John really wants. After his admission it's easy to see that he would have kissed Rodney. But beyond that?

Rodney identifies as straight. He's experimented a bit in university, but he's never had a relationship with a guy. He's never wanted to. The thought of being with John should evoke some abstract curiosity at best. Certainly not this kind of turmoil. He shouldn't have to force himself not to think about what would have come after they kissed.

Actually, he was already a step too far. He shouldn't be able to imagine himself responding to the kiss. Only it's too late for that. He has.

It's not that Rodney has never seen an attractive woman and thought about sex. He's human after all. But that's different from the thoughts about John. Because these women hadn't invited him to their home. They hadn't spent evenings together playing games. They hadn't asked if he loved his wife.

Rodney has never considered cheating on Jennifer because these women were just blips on his radar. John isn't like that. He's in his life. Or at least that's where Rodney wants him to be, and it's hard for him to wrap his head around this whole thing because having a friend to play video games with or race cars is perfectly normal, but wanting such a friend when the two of you are attracted to each other is probably not.

Rodney tries to just put it all out of his mind. He's told John that he's married. That should be the end of it.

~~

Of course, it has to be exactly that evening that Jennifer tries to do something for him. She sometimes invites friends of hers over to dinner. Rodney doesn't particularly care about them, so those dinners tend to be boring for him. Now Jennifer suggests that he invite John over too.

Rodney can't explain to her that it isn't a good idea. He can hardly tell her that he's not sure he's friends with John any longer because John's attracted to him. So he only mumbles that he's not sure John will have time.

Rodney almost doesn't mention it to John the next day, but he promised Jennifer to ask, so he does, certain that John will only give him an incredulous look, which will be enough for Rodney to say John can't make it.

But instead John smiles. "Sure thing. I'd love to meet her."

It sounds light and perfectly friendly, but suddenly the idea of John meeting Jennifer sends a shiver down Rodney's spine. For a second he considers lying and saying that he's already declined on John's behalf. But that seems cowardly. If Rodney really is so worried—and he knows full well that he shouldn't be at all—he should be able to come clean about that and tell John that he doesn't want him there.

But for some reason he can't do that.

~~

John is incredibly charming to Jennifer and her friends. Rodney's not seen John like that before, and he doesn't know what game he's playing. It leaves Rodney on edge.

Dinner is very pleasant on the outside, but Rodney feels high-strung, waiting for the other shoe to drop. When he suddenly feels John's foot at his calf, he nearly jumps out of his chair. John smiles at him and keeps talking casually as if nothing was going on except a nice dinner with friends.

Rodney doesn't know what to do. It's become clear to him that John doesn't give a fuck that he's married. He's not sure why, because at first he'd wanted to stop whatever was happening between them. The only explanation Rodney can think of is that John has somehow come to the conclusion that Rodney is still willing, which is disconcerting.

John is all smiles when he says goodbye to Jennifer's friends and Jennifer. To Rodney he leans close when they're out of sight of the others, whispering "Good night" seductively. It sends a shiver down Rodney's spine, and he doesn't know why he can't just do the right thing and tell John in no uncertain terms that nothing is going to happen between them.

When Jennifer cuddles into him that evening and starts to kiss him, he says, "Uhm." She runs her hand down his chest. It should be the most natural thing in the world to have sex with his lovely wife after a pleasant evening with good wine and friends. But he fears that if he sleeps with her now he'll think about a shock of dark hair beneath his fingers instead of her strawberry blonde tresses, and the idea of coming while he thinks about John... He absolutely can't risk it. "I'm not feeling so good."

She looks worried, runs her hand to his forehead. "Too much wine? You think you're going to be sick?"

"No," he says. "I think sleeping it off will be fine."

She nods and kisses him goodnight.

~~

Rodney is twitchy all morning the next day. John keeps giving him smiles as if he's completely figured Rodney out, which is aggravating because Rodney's brain seems to be in complete disarray over this whole thing with John.

Rodney's almost afraid to go to lunch with John that noon, but declining would be an admission that he can't deal with John and he still wants John's friendship at the very least.

As soon as they've ordered, John leans forward over the table and smiles. "Do you desire her?" he asks, looking as if he's finally, finally found the right question to ask.

Rodney doesn't know why John's visit the day before makes John think he's found Rodney's weak spot. "Yes," he says truthfully.

John doesn't seem deterred. "More than me?" he asks.

Rodney can see himself answering. He can see in his mind how his mouth opens and the word "yes" comes out but it doesn't happen. He doesn't think about John in terms of desire. He hasn't. He hasn't allowed himself to do so. He should be able to say yes, but instead what comes out is a weak, "I'm not gay."

John doesn't stop smiling. "You're not straight either," he says.

Rodney has absolutely nothing to say to that. Thankfully, John doesn't press it. They talk about other things for the rest of lunch, but Rodney feels hollow and defeated, and he knows this isn't the end of it.

Back in the privacy of Rodney's office, John comes up to him, standing far too close to be appropriate. "You want me, Rodney," he says without any hesitation or doubt. "You want to kiss me and touch me and bend me over a flat surface and fuck me."

Rodney's not sure he's still breathing. Trying not to imagine anything beyond a kiss with John has been hard, but hearing those words makes it impossible not to see it come alive in his mind.

"And I want you to," John continues. "I want you to fuck me. And afterwards in the shower, I'll go down on my knees for you and blow you. I'll rub you dry and kiss you all over. I'll—"

"Stop," Rodney says weakly. He feels himself getting hard and he can't...he can't deal with this. He can't hear this. He needs to step away from John. He puts some physical space between them, sitting down behind his desk instead of the little table that they usually share.

Work. They need to talk about work. If there's anything that can make him concentrate after this, it's the pureness of science and engineering.

~~

Rodney manages to hold out until the next morning when he breaks down and jerks off in the shower thinking about John. He refuses to think about what this means.

~~

"You could come over again tonight," John suggests. It sounds friendly and casual.

Rodney might have been blind but he's not stupid. He knows that this invitation has nothing to do with race cars and everything to do with the things John promised and that he can't get out of his head.

If he takes that invitation it would be to fuck John. It's as simple as that.

Except it's not simple at all. He's married. He doesn't want to cheat on his wife. So he should turn down John's offer. But turning him down won't make John go away, even if Rodney wanted that which he doesn't. He'll still be here at work during phase 1 of the usability project, and he's in Rodney's head every night.

Rodney hasn't slept with Jennifer since John has laid out what he wants Rodney to do with him. He hasn't had to refuse her again so far, but soon she'll ask, and he can't tell her he has a headache forever. He'll either have to sleep with her again or do something about this.

And the fact alone that it sounds almost like a burden is wrong on so many levels. Having regular sex is one of the reasons he had the relationship with Jennifer. It's not the only thing he likes about being with her, but if the sex had been bad, he never would have bothered to get serious with her.

More than that it's absolutely insane that he's afraid to sleep with his wife because he can't get another guy out of his head. His life can't go on like this. He needs to fix this and the only way he can think of is to get this strange attraction out of his system.

Not thinking about it is useless, so the only way forward that he sees is going ahead and fucking John.

The thing is, he wants it. He wants it so badly that he thinks about it several times a day. He can't remember when he last felt so passionately about another person. He just knows it wasn't Jennifer. Not even when they started this.

His marriage was never about the big passion. He remembers telling his sister that he was going to marry Jennifer and how Jeannie had given him a look as he'd talked. He'd almost expected her to say, "That's not what marriage should be about," but she hadn't. Maybe it was because he'd said he loved Jennifer.

In any case and whatever one might think of Rodney's decision to marry Jennifer, he'd been right. He'd seen other relationships with larger than life emotions and big passions crash and burn. He'd seen other people elated and so very much in love only for it to fizzle out after a few months or a year. He'd been married to Jennifer for five years and been with her for three more before that. When other relationships of their friends and colleagues had come and gone, they'd stuck together.

And they could keep doing so once Rodney had gotten John out of his head. He didn't even consider telling Jennifer the truth. What he felt for John was the worst kind of passion. It hit him so deep and so hard, that it almost left Rodney breathless. This wasn't normal. And it certainly wasn't something that could last. No, if he told Jennifer about this and left her, he'd enjoy a week or a month of mad passion with John and then it would be over and he'd be left with nothing but memories and the shambles of his life. Well, not his life, his marriage.

Rodney would survive without Jennifer. But to give that up for something that could never last would be stupid. He knew that there was a risk. Jennifer was smart. She could find out. Or John could be reckless and tell her. But that was a risk he was willing to take because he didn't see an alternative.

He needed to do something. He needed to confront his feelings head-on. And maybe they'd fizzle out as soon as he was faced with reality. Maybe one fuck with John would be enough to see that he couldn't deliver on the enticing promises. Or maybe Rodney wouldn't enjoy the reality of being with a guy. He'd only had two short experiences with guys before.

There were good reasons to believe that he could put a swift stop to this, and then he'd go back to the life before that had been unexciting but safe and dependable.

And yes, Rodney knows that all his rationalization doesn't change the fact that he's cheating. He can paint it however he wants. He can say that he's doing this for Jennifer. He's trying to be able to have sex with her without thinking about John and to spare her the hurt of knowing that he can't get over it without doing it.

It's still cheating and it's wrong and he wishes he could hate John for this, but he can't blame this on him. Rodney's a grown man and more than that, he still remembers John's first reaction when Rodney told him he was married.

John didn't want this. John thought he'd met a guy, hit it off with him, and wanted to start dating him. He wasn't out to screw over marriages for the fun of it. If he were, it would be easier for Rodney to just cut all ties and keep this entirely professional.

But some part of him still wants the games and geeky discussions and just being with John.

They need to deal with the fucking first, though, because it's driving Rodney crazy, and if that makes him, makes both of them bad people, neither of them cares enough about it not to do it.

~~

Sex with John is everything that Rodney wanted and everything that he hoped it wouldn't be.

It's raw passion. John takes him apart touch by touch, lick by lick. From the first hard kiss to the final push as Rodney climaxes, it turns Rodney inside out. Afterwards they cuddle and kiss and touch until they have regained enough strength to have a shower together, which ends in another toe-curling orgasm.

John helps him dry up, kissing his skin as he does and Rodney only thinks that this wasn't the end he'd been hoping for. He doesn't know what he'll feel when he faces Jennifer. But this is definitely not the end of wanting John. It would have been so simple.

Rodney checks if his hair is dry and sniffs himself. "I'm too clean. I hope she doesn't notice I showered."

"I can make you sweat again," John says seductively, kissing his neck.

Rodney pushes him away, gently but firmly. "I'm not joking. She can't know." He still doesn't know what John really wants. If it was just a challenge for him, or revenge for not mentioning that he was married, or something foolish like believing that Rodney will leave Jennifer for him.

Rodney recalls John's question. "Do you desire her more than me?" He only hopes John doesn't confuse desire with relationship. Because the two are worlds apart, and while Rodney couldn't resist John's sexual advances, he's not even close to throwing away his marriage over this.

John's expression changes from relaxed and seductive to tense and challenging. He doesn't say anything, though. Then he gives Rodney a quick deep kiss before letting him go.

Outside Rodney waits for the guilt to settle in, but it doesn't except for the continued acknowledgement that he's cheated on his wife.

He doesn't know why he doesn't feel as bad as he should.

When he comes home to Jennifer, he still doesn't feel guilty. But thankfully, his desire for John isn't as acute. He spends the weekend with her, and he sleeps with her, and he doesn't think about John when he does.

He even manages to convince himself that this is what he wants. The soft, easy satisfaction, instead of the hard, overwhelming passion that he experienced with John.

~~

He doesn't stop.

John is right there waiting to invite him over again or to whisper dirty things in his ear when they play online. Rodney knows it won't last. It can't last. The end of phase 1 of John's consulting job with the company is coming up. If this won't fizzle out by itself, that has to be the end of it, so Rodney doesn't have to worry.

This won't go on forever.

John invites him over after his last day. They fuck. Even slow and gentle feels somehow raw with John. It's like his presence alone lights a match inside Rodney. This will be the last time, and Rodney is partly relieved and partly desolate that it will finally be over.

"Goodbye," he says eventually, swallowing around a lump in his throat.

John doesn't seem nearly as affected. "It's just two weeks of consulting in Florida. I'll be back." At Rodney's wide eyes, he adds. "I'm not going anywhere."

Rodney doesn't know what to say. He'd pushed every thought about what the hell he was doing aside under the assumption that it would soon be over.

"You'll leave her eventually," John says calmly.

Rodney balks. He can't believe that John doesn't just hope that, but seems to be certain of it. Rodney has never contemplated leaving Jennifer.

"I know it's not easy," John continues. "I can give you the time that you need, but the sooner you realize it, the better for all of us. My ex-wife is a lot happier now too."

Rodney doesn't say anything.

~~

It's not fizzling out. When John is away doing consulting jobs, they have phone sex. They still play together if the timezones fit. They talk on the phone just to chat. And they still have wild, passionate sex when John is at home.

Rodney doesn't want to think about it.

If he tells Jennifer and leaves her as John assumes he will, there's a chance that a few months from now, John will finally have enough or have met someone else on one of his consulting jobs. Would that be worth giving up his life with Jennifer for?

On the other hand he cannot end things with John. It's not just the sex. Rodney desperately wants him. As John's consulting jobs go on, Rodney finds himself craving his touch and his taste. But he also wants John's mind. They have become friends, and Rodney doesn't have many friends, and he has none that make him feel that he can be his arrogant, asshole self with them and not drive them away.

It's John who brings it up one day. "I'm not going to put any pressure on you, but this is not going to just go away. I'm not going to go away," he says. "When do you think you'll stop wanting this?" he asks.

Rodney can't answer it.

"What's keeping you with her?" John asks.

And this Rodney can answer. "Eight years is a long time," he says. "It's easy to...meet up to hang out and fuck. It's not as easy to wake up together every day, and pay the bills, and go grocery shopping, and live together." He's done it with Jennifer. They've seen each other sick and grumpy and first thing in the morning before brushing hair or teeth. They had to fight over the little things that come up when you share a home and a life. They've done it and made it through.

"I know," John says. "But you don't know that it wouldn't be as good or even better with me until you try."

Rodney can't argue with that.

~~

When John is on another consulting job to Washington, DC, he asks Rodney to visit him when he goes. "I want to fall asleep with you and wake up next to you," he says. "I want to show you what it's like."

Rodney knows what he means. He wants the chance to prove that they can stand the test of being around each other for a few days rather than hours. And Rodney wants that too. His "relationship" with John has still shown no signs of fizzling out, and if he's actually considering leaving Jennifer it would be good to know what he's getting into. But vacationing with his boyfriend is a whole other level of cheating, and Rodney isn't sure how comfortable he is with that.

He still doesn't feel nearly as guilty as he thinks he should. His relationship with Jennifer hasn't changed. He doesn't think he neglects her and he doesn't think she suspects anything.

But he knows it can't go on like this forever. It's not fair to Jennifer or John.

~~

Rodney tells Jennifer that John is bored and asked him to come along for a short trip. She's surprised, but thinks it's sweet of Rodney to do this for John.

The trip is great. They do sight-seeing type things and have sex in their hotel room. Rodney hasn't realized until now how much he's wanted to fall asleep next to John.

Waking up next to him is even better. They are together all day that weekend. They argue about where to go and what to eat, but it's a good arguing. It's the teasing that's been part of their relationship since the beginning.

Rodney feels wonderful but at the back of his mind is the awareness that this is a test run of sorts at the end of which stands a decision. However, that decision is not yet made.

All weekend when they've walked around town, they would have easily passed as friends, but on Sunday night John takes him out to a romantic little restaurant and the guilt that has never really surfaced makes itself known. Rodney's not entirely certain why this is worse than having John's cock down his throat, but he feels that he needs to draw a line. "I can't do this," he says, getting up before a server takes their order.

John follows him out. Rodney waits for him to demand an explanation or tell Rodney that it's time to face the facts, but John is silent on their way back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel room, John finally speaks. "This won't stop. You won't just stop thinking about me some day. You won't stop wanting me. This is too strong."

Rodney doesn't deny it, but he doesn't confirm it either.

"You've never cheated before, have you?" John asks. He continues without waiting for Rodney's answer. "Then ask yourself why me? Why suddenly after eight years?" Then he answers his own question. "Because you had to do it. You had to do it and it was worth the risk for you. You knew there was a chance she'd find out and you've already accepted that. And you've accepted that this won't go away. Why don't you just admit that you want this more than your marriage?"

"I do," Rodney says. He's known for a while that if he were to choose between a life with John and a life with Jennifer he'd choose John. But he still can't make it that simple.

"Then what are you waiting for? What does staying with her give you that being with me wouldn't?" John asks.

"Certainty? I've been with her for almost a decade. Before Jennifer nobody ever stuck with me for more than two years. How do I know that you won't get tired of me a year from now? You travel around and meet new people all the time. How long will it be until you'll find the next guy you'll want to date?"

John looks at him for a long moment. "Before you, I was never the one to pursue a relationship. It was always the other person who took it to the next level. But this," he gestures between them, "is worth stepping out of my comfort zone. Do you think I wanted to be 'the other man'?"

Rodney shakes his head.

"This just happened between us," John says. "And the fact that you're married hasn't stopped it, because this is the best thing that happened to either of us. Can I guarantee that nothing will ever come between us? No, I can't. But Jennifer can't either. It's been eight years, but who's to say that she doesn't meet that someone two years from now? And who's to say that you won't meet someone else? There is no certainty in life, and you need to deal with that, Rodney. If you think your chances to last are better with Jennifer and if you think that it's worth giving up a better life with me, then tell me and we can end this. I can wait as long as you need, but don't string me along because you don't want to make a decision."

Rodney knows that he's right. This moment has been a long time coming. He tries to picture himself years from now with Jennifer, always wondering what could have been if he'd chosen John. He knows he'd regret that decision all his life. If he stays with John, even if it only lasts six months, he'll have that time, and he'll know what it's like to have passion in his life every day and every night. Even if he's alone after that, he thinks it will be worth it. And if it lasts, he'll have the happiest life he can imagine.

"Yes," Rodney says. "I'll tell her."

John seems surprised as if he hadn't actually believed Rodney would finally make that decision. Rodney smiles and cups his face. He's finally done it.

Actually, that's not true. He'll still have to talk to Jennifer. That won't be easy. Not just because he's betrayed her, but because despite the compromises in their relationship he was content with her. It was a good life. And part of him will miss what they've built for themselves.

John pulls him into his arms. "Do you want me to come with you?" he offers.

"No," Rodney says. He needs to do this alone.

~~

On the way home, Rodney thinks about his future. He's imagined his life with John, going to bed with him and waking up with him. But he realizes he can't just replace Jennifer with John and go on. His new life will be different and he's not sure he's ready for that.

He's only been with John a few months. He doesn't know if they'd be thinking about moving in together if they'd been single when they met. John has given him the keys to his place so that he has somewhere to go after his talk with Jennifer, but Rodney doesn't think he can just start living there tomorrow and call it his new home.

And maybe he shouldn't. One of the reasons he wasn't able to make a decision sooner was the possibility that things wouldn't last with John. That possibility is still there, and it will be better when Rodney learns to live alone again for a while. There's no need to rush things with John. Once he's separated they can be together as often as they like. He'll be free to stay over night, but Rodney feels that it's important that he still has his own place for now.

They can simply date for a while, the way it would have been if he hadn't been married.

~~

Rodney never considers withholding the full truth from Jennifer. He could tell her that he's fallen in love but hasn't given in yet. But there's no reason to lie other than making him look noble, which he isn't.

Jennifer's surprised to see him back early. When he tells her they need to talk, she frowns, but sits down with him, her face open.

"Remember when I asked you to just tell me if you found someone else," he begins.

Her expression changes as she realizes what's happening. "Who is she?" she asks.

"John," Rodney says.

Jennifer's mouth opens in surprise. Then a bitter smile appears on her face as she drops her gaze. "And I was so happy that you've found a friend." She laughs weakly.

"I'm sorry," he says. He really is. They made a commitment and he broke it.

"Have you...?" she asks, frowning.

Rodney assumes she means if he's slept with John. "Yes."

Jennifer drops her gaze again, nodding to herself.

"I..." Rodney begins, feeling that he needs to explain. "He's just..." He can't put into words why he couldn't say no to John.

"I don't really want to hear it," Jennifer says. "You'll want to move in with him, I suppose."

"No," Rodney says. "I'll get my own place."

She frowns at that, but nods.

"I'd like us to be friends," Rodney says. It's a cliché, but Jennifer's been a big part of his life, and he doesn't want that to end if it won't hurt her any further.

"I'll need to process this. I didn't expect this. Obviously," she says.

"Of course," Rodney says. "I didn't...I didn't want to hurt you."

Jennifer only looks at him.

~~

John's place is dark and cold. Rodney turns on the heat, but it doesn't change anything.

He's glad John isn't here. John would try to comfort him or distract him, but right now Rodney needs to feel this...pain. He can't call it anything else. Jennifer wasn't the love of his life, but she was a big part of his life and he loves her and giving this up suddenly hurts so much that it brings tears to his eyes.

This is mourning. He's crying for a great loss, no matter how necessary it was and how much better his life will be for it. Right now he sees only what he's given up and it's only fair. It's the end of a marriage and the end of an era.

And he deserves to be able to grieve for it.

~~

Being with John, openly and without cheating on his wife, isn't as freeing as he thought it would be. He doesn't feel relief that he can finally be honest. Maybe he can't feel relief, because he's never really felt guilt. Or maybe it's because part of him blames John for the break-up of his marriage.

It still feels like a loss. John is trying to be comforting but the past hangs over their head. They can't just start anew and date like two singles who are falling in love.

But they do love each other. And being with John has always and still does feel good and right and wonderful.

It takes time for Rodney to get used to his new life alone, dating John. But one day they step out of a restaurant, and John smiles at him because the food was as good as the company and the night is lovely, and Rodney looks at him and sees only his boyfriend, the man he loves, and there are no shadows lurking in the back of his mind.

Months go by. Rodney spends a lot of time at John's place. He often stays over night. And he brings John to company functions as his partner.

It's not always sunshine and roses. They have their moments where they're angry at each other or annoyed, but that's what living together is and Rodney can't deny that it's better than what he had with Jennifer. It's fun and passionate, inside the bedroom and out. He's still overwhelmed by how well they work together and by the feelings that John evokes in him.

When John goes on a consulting trip to Europe, Rodney misses him every day. He decides then and there, that there's no point in waiting any longer.

When John returns, they go out to dinner, and Rodney looks at him and takes his hand and asks, "Will you marry me?"

John looks shocked. After what feels like an eternity, he says, "Yes," but he still doesn't look as happy as Rodney had expected—and hoped.

"We don't have to if you don't want," Rodney says. They've never talked about this. Maybe John doesn't want to get married. He's been divorced too and maybe he's simply sworn off of marriage completely.

"No, I want to," John says. Then he gets up and pulls Rodney into his arms and kisses him, finally smiling as if he can only now believe it.

~~

Their life is not a fairy tale. Princes don't go and cheat on their wives with their future kings. But Rodney's okay with that. He never wanted a fairy tale. Instead he has the best life he can have in the real world. And there's no end in sight.