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"Hey! Watch where you are going!" Rodney yelled.

"Shouldn't be so clumsy, McKay!" Cadman laughed as she carried on jogging with her fellow grunts.

Rodney fumed as he bent over to gather up the datapads that had been knocked out of his arms, thankful that they were pretty robust, but he froze when someone crouched down beside him and started to help. A glance sideways revealed a lean yet muscular man wearing sweat-dampened t-shirt and shorts. Sweaty dark hair fell across his forehead, shadowing his eyes until he looked up, straight into Rodney's eyes.

"I'm sorry about those guys. They can be real jerks."

"Sheppard?"

"Hey, Rodney."

"What are you doing here?"

Sheppard smirked. "Running."

"No. I mean on Atlantis."

Sheppard raised both eyebrows. "Fighting aliens, flying spaceships. What about you?"

"What? What about me? I'm Chief of Science...and nobody told me you were coming to Atlantis."

"Surprise?"

Rodney blinked and stood up, with Sheppard following. He watched as Sheppard rubbed the back of his sweaty neck.

"After they put me back together, they offered me a job. Sounded more interesting than the one I'd already planned to leave so...here I am." he shrugged nonchalantly.

"And you're running with the marines?"

"Not exactly."

"Oh. Well." Rodney gave a tight smile as Sheppard started to hand over the datapads. "I could chat all day but some of us have very important work to do."

"Do you miss him?"

"Huh?" Following Sheppard's pointed stare, Rodney glanced down and caught the glint of light reflecting off his wedding band. "I...sometimes. Arranged partnership so..." Rodney cleared his throat.

"I read the mission reports."

"Huh. Well, then you know he...died." Rodney took the remaining datapads off of Sheppard. "Best be going now." He started to walk away but Sheppard called after him.

"That was over a year ago...and you're still wearing his band."

Turning, Rodney smiled wryly. "Marshall was...different."

"I..." The hand was back on Sheppard's neck and Rodney recognized it as a nervous habit. "I registered an interest."

"In me?"

"I like you."

"Huh." Rodney stared at the gorgeous man. Sheppard could have his pick of the unattached science contingent--both male and female--and Rodney felt strangely awed that Sheppard had registered an interest in him. "Okay."

"You're okay with that?"

Sheppard took on a wary look but Rodney had accepted long ago that choosing to go to Atlantis as a scientist meant he would have little choice in a partner even though he would be an equal in all other ways. It was simply accepted that the military had the right to choose a science partner for the stability of the expedition, and Marshall Sumner had chosen him over Carson. Of course, if Sheppard had registered an interest that had not been dismissed immediately then it meant the former detective had been granted a position of equal standing to Rodney's. In which case, Rodney was a little perturbed that no one had bothered to mention it before now. Still, Sheppard could have chosen from a number of newly appointed, unattached scientists, and Rodney had been dreading certain other interested parties.

He realized that Sheppard was still waiting on a response.

"Strangely, yes."

"Then I'll ask Woolsey to push it through. He's mentioned my lack of a science partner more than once since I got here. Said it wasn't good for the balance to have unattached military."

"What about Dr. Keller?"

"She's accepted Major Teldy as her new partner." Sheppard gave a wry smile, "Plus...I prefer men."

Rodney nodded. His own preference was immaterial so it was fortunate that Marshall had shown him that it was the person and not the gender that was important. For all his faults, Marshall had been an attentive lover, and since his death Rodney had missed having regular sex. From the heated look that had appeared in Sheppard's eyes now he knew Rodney was not abhorred by his interest, Rodney had a feeling that Sheppard would be happy to remedy that situation.

As he watched Sheppard jog away, Rodney allowed himself to study the lean, athletic form with greater interest. After Sheppard turned the corner, Rodney sighed and turned straight into the path of the same runners on their second loop. A couple of the datapads slipped from his fingers and clattered to the floor for the second time.

"Hey! Watch where you are going!" Rodney yelled.

"Shouldn't be so clumsy, McKay!" Cadman laughed again over her shoulder but this time, instead of fuming, Rodney smiled back at Carson's partner.

END