Rodney had stopped chewing his fingernails at a young age, with the help of a nasty coat of something bitter that his mother insisted on putting on his nails. It had stopped the nail biting admittedly, but he'd simply replaced one nervous trait for another, biting on the edge of his thumb instead, or sometimes on the side of his index finger.
Silently, he watched on the main screen as Woolsey finished reviewing the five-page document, head bowing over it for a moment before passing it along the table. General Landry flipped through two sheets, barely stopping to read but then this paper was the official summary for a document far larger that had everything in it down to the last detail. His expression was unreadable but others at the table were less enthusiastic and some were downright hostile but that was to be expected.
"This is preposterous!"
"Is it?" Landry stated sourly.
By now, everyone around that table had seen the document and Rodney felt the tension in the air as the whole of Atlantis waited for a response. Not that it truly mattered as the chances of anyone on Earth doing anything about it was pretty remote, and even if they tried, Atlantis had a full ZPM now, and a full complement of drones courtesy of the Tower.
The document passed back to Woolsey as representative of the IOA, and he set it down in front of him. The columns of names and signatures could be seen clearly. Rodney's name was first on the list and, always a risk taker, Jack O'Neill's was second; an act that had placed him at odds with his chosen profession and could be considered an act of treason. Behind Rodney, Jack stood straighter as Landry glanced in his direction. On Rodney's other side, Daniel straightened too. His signature was third on the list.
"And this is what you want?" Woolsey asked.
Rodney straightened, raising his chin. "Yes."
He sighed. "Then I see no option but to accept the secession of Atlantis from Earth." Woolsey looked directly at Rodney. "And we are in agreement about the exchange of personnel who wish to return to Earth?"
"And those who want to join us," Rodney demanded.
Woolsey glanced to the side at Landry, catching his nod of agreement. "Of course."
The communication was cut and Rodney closed his eyes in partly in relief and partly in sorrow as cheers erupted around him.
For the past two years he had fought off a replacement for Woolsey while simultaneously fighting the US Military who had threatened to extend martial law over to include Atlantis after an alien attack on Earth made plausible denial of the Stargate program an impossibility. As far as Rodney was concerned, Atlantis was still an international expedition and even though US citizens made up over fifty percent of the military and thirty percent of the scientists stationed here, that did not give them a right to take over Atlantis completely. Fortunately, Jack had agreed with him and stuck his neck out by adding his name to the list of those wishing to secede from Earth, and many of the US military followed his lead. Those that did not wish to secede could return to Earth through the Stargate in three days time, as detailed in the secession papers.
Rodney knew he had timed the secession perfectly, while Earth was caught up in too much turmoil across the Milky Way, its forces spread too thin. He wondered if they now regretted letting them take Atlantis back to Pegasus after the Wraith attack three years ago.
"Okay, back to work! this city doesn't run itself," Rodney shouted but he couldn't wipe the tremulous smile off his face that took the sting out of his orders.
"You know what this means," Daniel stated, catching both Jack and Rodney's arms.
Rodney frowned. "That we've seceded from Earth?"
Daniel sighed. "It means DADT no longer applies."
Rodney's frown deepened. "And?"
Jack's hand cupped Daniel's chin and turned Daniel to face him. "And this," he replied, leaning in to kiss Daniel full on the mouth.
Frozen in place, Rodney was still mind-blank when Jack pulled back from kissing Daniel. Strangely, Rodney's lips were tingling as if they had been the ones kissed, and the tingling began to grow like a warmth spreading through his body until every never ending was begging for the same touch.
Jack looked at him with concern. "Rodney?"
"Yes," he whispered.
Realization hit him like a lightning bolt, hotter and brighter than any of his previous eureka moments, suddenly aware of why he felt so depressed despite the fantastic news.
Before Jack could finish asking his question, Rodney had rushed away.
Three days later, the three co-conspirators of the secession of Atlantis stood side-by-side once more as the Stargate opened for those who wished to return to Earth. Rodney kept his emotions in check as he discussed formalities with Landry, having become quite adept at diplomacy since taking the leadership role of Atlantis two years earlier. When the last person had stepped through, Rodney turned to order Chuck to shut down the gate but hesitated when Woolsey called out.
"Dr. McKay! Rodney!"
"The Daedalus will be with you in three weeks and I believe you may be both disheartened and elated with its passenger manifest."
The Stargate disconnected but Rodney was already scanning the names, silently whimpering at the thought of having Kavanagh back, but pleased for Jack's sake that Lorne was also on the list as Jack wanted to retire from active duty. He saw Jeannie's name, along with Kaleb and Madison and his heart stopped racing even though he was glad they would be joining him here. Quickly, he scanned the rest of the list and paused when he spotted a name right at the bottom.
Sheppard, John P (formerly Lieutenant Colonel).
Looking up, he saw the grin lifting Daniel's lips. Rodney felt true happiness for the first time in three long years, since the day they allowed Atlantis to head back to the Pegasus galaxy, only to insist it would be without her current military commander. Rodney had tried everything to make them change their minds and John had eventually ordered him to go, promising Rodney that he would find a way home.
Three weeks, Rodney thought. Three weeks until the Daedalus arrived on Atlantis and brought John home. Rodney was uncertain how he was going to cope with the anticipation of having John returned to him, and the fear that he might not want Rodney in the same way that Rodney wanted him.
Three weeks later, John stepped off the Daedalus.
"I'm home!" He called out, and though it was reminiscent of that first siege of Atlantis when Rodney was almost convinced John had sacrificed himself to save the city, Rodney thought only of that promise made three years earlier.
He stepped up and grabbed John's face with both hands, kissing him hard and deep, not wanting to waste another precious moment. John tensed for only a second before kissing him back, his arms wrapping around Rodney so tight as if afraid to ever let him go again. As the kiss deepened, the hammering in Rodney's heart easily drowned out the thunderous applause in his ears as the New Atlanteans celebrated the arrival of her new citizens.
Rodney pulled back and stared deep into John's eyes before whispering, "We're both home."