John liked Daniel Jackson. He was smart, funny in that sarcastic way John found so attractive, easy on the eyes, and a genuinely nice guy. So he almost felt bad about the fact that he was going to have to destroy him.
Or toss him through a space gate minus a spacesuit.
Destroying him was probably less likely to land John in the brig - or worse - back on Earth, so he wanted to try that first. Well, he didn't want to per se, but Dr. Daniel 'I have three doctorates but I'm too modest to drop that into every conversation I have unlike some other doctors I know' Jackson was going to have to go.
Out of John's city for sure, but more importantly, away from Rodney.
John had been looking forward to the visit from SG-1. It'd be nice to see Sam again and he'd gotten on great with Mitchell the last time they'd been in Pegasus, and Teal'c seemed nice enough - perfect for keeping Teyla happy in the meditation department while he and Cam got up to no good.
And while John was a little protective of his role as the one who could keep Rodney's ego in check, it was sometimes fun to watch someone else do it. Especially - in fact only -when the other person wasn't doing it maliciously, or even intentionally. Just the idea that someone as brilliant and intuitive as Daniel Jackson would use their abilities on something as useless as the soft sciences (and never mind that it was soft science that opened the gate in the first place) offended Rodney.
Which John always found hilarious. But being accidentally annoying in your brilliance and kindness was one thing, being annoying and kind in order to make Rodney laugh, to make Rodney light up, to make Rodney smile in that special way John had begun to think of as his own was quite another. John may have been taking his own sweet time in telling him, but Rodney belonged to him. John'd survived one marriage proposal and Keller. Now that John had convinced himself that he wasn't imagining the signals Rodney was sending his way, he was not losing out to an archaeologist of all things.
It had all started to go downhill about five minutes after SG-1 stepped through the gate.
"Incoming wormhole," Chuck announced to the gateroom at large, "Colonel Mitchell's IDC confirmed."
"Lower the shield," John ordered, shooting an apologetic grin toward Woolsey for beating him to the punch. Woolsey just smiled back, acknowledging John's enthusiasm with an indulgent nod of his head.
Four figures emerged through the shimmering blue puddle seconds behind each other - Colonels Carter and Mitchell, Dr. Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c. SG-1 had arrived on Atlantis.
"Welcome to Atlantis, SG-1," Woolsey said. "Or should I say welcome back."
"Thanks, Doc," Mitchell answered, "Good to be back. Heard you could use a hand."
"Indeed," Woolsey agreed. "A few extra hands - and minds - would be most welcome."
"Yes, yes," Rodney said, hurrying down the steps to stand next to John, "if all the diplomatic brown nosing is over, I'd appreciate if the two of you who are not complete morons could join me in my lab, and let's hurry before Zelenka accidentally makes a breakthrough and claims all the credit for himself."
"Jeez, McKay, give 'em two seconds to settle in," John scolded without heat. He loved an excited Rodney, in fact he loved pretty much any Rodney. But that was neither here nor there.
Rodney shot him a disapproving look, "Right, because the harrowing journey of a single step through the stargate has probably left them exhausted." John narrowed his eyes warningly and Rodney conceded with only a small eyeroll. "Fine, unpack, eat, take a long refreshing nap, and when you're ready to do something that could impact all life as we know it, feel free to pop in on the real scientists." Rodney spun on his heels, but his dramatic exit was ruined when Jackson's arm shot out and he clamped one hand on Rodney's shoulder. "Rodney, wait."
John stiffed instinctively. He didn't like it when people grabbed Rodney; Rodney didn't like it either. Usually he shrugged off any touch as quickly as possible. Except team of course. But Rodney didn't step away from Jackson's touch. He was distracted by the plain white bag Daniel was holding out to him. "What's this?" Rodney asked suspiciously.
Jackson's smiled. "I brought you a gift."
"Oh?" Rodney opened the top of the bag and peered into it cautiously as if he didn't believe any gift could come without the possibility of an explosion at the very least. And, given their track record, John didn't blame him.
To John's surprise, Rodney sniffed the bag. "Kona? You brought me Kona? How? Why?" Rodney asked, clutching the bag to his chest as though afraid Jackson might take it back.
"Rodney," John groaned, "I believe thank you is the more appropriate response."
But Daniel just laughed, "That's okay. I'd have been worried if Dr. McKay had responded with a polite thank you."
"See, he understands" Rodney said to John; and then, rounding back on Jackson, protested, "Hey, I have manners. I just choose not to waste my very valuable time with them."
"Of course," Daniel's smile was small but genuine and Rodney's answering one was as well. John frowned from one man to the other. They weren't supposed to be bonding over coffee; they weren't supposed to be bonding over anything. "Consider it a peace offering," Daniel said. "I know Jack was a little…" he paused "…harsh with you about my injuries last time," he settled on diplomatically.
Rodney paled. "Yes. He was quite…um, vocal in his disapproval." Daniel grimaced in apparent sympathy and patted Rodney's shoulder awkwardly.
More touching. John had to do something before things got out of hand. "Hey, Rodney," he said with as much casualness as he could muster, "we still on for chess tonight? You know how much I love to kick your butt."
Rodney scoffed and shook off Jackson to turn toward John. "You've just been unusually lucky lately."
"You mean since we arrived on Atlantis," John teased, basking in having the full weight of Rodney's attention back on him, where it belonged. It was a short lived triumph.
"Dr. Jackson - Daniel - don't you play chess? We're playing tonight after dinner if you want to join us," Rodney told the archaeologist.
Daniel studied John's face with a scrutiny that made John nervous. He was the king of masking his emotions of course, which was possibly why Rodney hadn't picked up on John's 'you are sleeping alone tonight' vibe. That and Rodney's complete obliviousness to John's desire that neither of them sleep alone ever again.
Daniel seemed to have no such problems. His smile was a little too knowing for comfort when he looked back at Rodney and answered, "Thanks, but I don't want to intrude. It's not really a three player game."
Rodney waved that off. "You can play the winner. Whom will be me, by the way," he said with a glare toward John.
"We'll see, McKay, we'll see," John promised. Daniel smiled apologetically at John, but accepted the invitation. John hoped his pout was only on the inside.
John's natural inclination was to follow everyone to Rodney's lab where he could keep an eye on Rodney. But after the third time Jackson had offered some insight that made Rodney light up and dance around in joy, John had to get out of there.
Unfortunately, Daniel Jackson seemed to be everywhere he went. He was, to John's ears, the main feature of conversation all over the city. In the gym, some first wave Marines were full of tips they had given or received from the man on building muscle mass. In the command center, Mitchell was passing on some ideas Jackson had put together for Woolsey on translating the Ancient database. Hell, even in the sanctity of his office, Lorne kept trying to tell him the story of having his ass handed to him for the mishandling of artifacts by one Doctor Daniel Jackson.
John did the only thing he could when his frustration got to be too much and the walls of his city started to close in - he went for a run.
He considered calling Ronon, but he harbored a fear of discovering that Ronon had developed an unreasonable love of Jackson as well, so he went alone.
It took him all the way out to the East pier before he finally felt the tension leave him. He was being ridiculous. Jackson had no designs on Rodney - probably. And Rodney had certainly never shown any interest in Daniel. Or any man in fact - until John. Which made John special. Or a fluke. Or this thing between them was all in John's head.
But no, John had been over this a million times in his head. He wasn't imagining it. There was something there, and he was going to find out what it was.
After a quick shower and a change of clothes, John headed to the mess, but the sight that greeted him there put him off his supper and negated all the looseness and peace of mind the run had granted him.
Jackson was sitting at the team table. The empty chair they'd left for John meant that the doctors were not only sitting together but squashed close and cozy, heads bent together as they looked over something on Rodney's tablet.
John considered turning around and eating in his quarters alone, but stalled when Rodney looked up and saw him. "Sheppard!" he called, "Grab an extra Jell-O." John smiled. He'd already grabbed one for Rodney and all was right with his world again. Until Rodney continued. "Daniel forgot to get one."
And that was that. John didn't care if it made him the worst kind of coward: he dropped his tray on the nearest table, turned heel, and walked out of the dining hall as fast as he could without running.
Stupid, of course, because once he got back to his room he still couldn't escape his brain. It kept running through every second he'd ever seen Rodney and Jackson together and reminding him of all the wonderful things he'd heard about Jackson and how he and Rodney would probably be very happy together.
Stupid brain. John sighed and flopped down on his bed. At least he didn't have to worry about Rodney leaving Atlantis this time. Everyone knew Daniel would leap at the chance to stay on Atlantis. With Rodney.
John groaned. This was his own fault. He should have made his move when he had the chance. He should have kissed Rodney weeks ago, months ago. Hell, he should have jumped him in Antarctica and saved himself years of pining and heartache.
John's door chimed and slid open before John could tell whoever was on the other side to go screw themselves.
Rodney was already ranting when he walked into the room. "Just what the hell is your problem?"
John crossed his arms across his chest. "Don't know what you're talking about," he muttered.
Rodney scowled at him, a look that clearly said John wasn't fooling him. "You've been moping around the city all day like someone kicked your puppy. And just now you've gone and flounced out of the dining hall like a spoiled princess to hide in your room without dinner."
"How would you know how I've been all day? You've been locked in your lab with the perfect Dr. Jackson. Probably mooning and fawning all over each other," John heard himself say without any input from his brain.
"I know because, for some reason, all of Atlantis seems to think I need to be made aware of your every…" Rodney trailed off, his brow furrowing. "Mooning and fawning?" he repeated. "You think Daniel and I… Why would you think that?"
The honest confusion in Rodney's expression gave John hope, and he was determined to seize the opportunity. He stood up and scratched the back of his neck nervously. "Well, you know. He brought you coffee and made you laugh and he wants to play chess tonight. And he's not exactly hard to look at."
Rodney's eyes were lighting with realization and his expression turned considering. "He would be quite the catch, but…"
John interrupted quickly, not wanting to hear what Rodney might say, "But Rodney, you can't lead him on like that."
Rodney's eyebrows raised toward his receding hairline. "Who says I'm leading him on?"
John's heart stopped beating for a moment and when it resumed it was doing double time. He crossed the room in two long strides to stand in front of Rodney. "You can't mean that."
Rodney's chin lifted defiantly, bracing for a fight. "And why shouldn't I enjoy the company of a reasonably attractive man who brings me things and plays games with me and can almost keep up with me when I'm talking?"
"I'm not saying you shouldn't," John said. "I'm saying you already do." He took a breath and forced himself to keep going. "Me, you have me."
All the fight seemed to leave Rodney at that. His shoulders drooped and his mouth dropped open. "I do?" Rodney asked carefully, voice small and wary.
It wasn't the reaction John had been hoping for. He'd been hoping for a little enthusiasm and reciprocation, but he soldiered on. No point in doing things halfway. "Yeah. I mean if you want me."
"If I… Of course, I want. Who the hell wouldn't want?" Rodney stepped in closer and pulled John into his arms. "I just didn't know." Rodney's voice was muffled against John's shoulder but unmistakably awed. "I didn't know you felt the same way. I thought... well, I was an idiot."
John shuddered and wrapped his arms around Rodney in return. "But you're my idiot?" he asked, hopeful but still uncertain.
Rodney snorted and kissed the side of John's neck. "Yeah, I always was."