"So Katie," Jeannie said.
If Rodney hadn't still been feeling guilty he would've turned around and left, because they'd had this conversation already. But Jeannie had nearly died, and it had been his fault, and they still hadn't gone car shopping, so he took the plate Jeannie handed him and dried it. "What about her?"
"Are you going to propose?"
"Why are you so intent on marrying me off?" Rodney stacked the plate with the other three.
"I don't want you to be alone."
For some reason Rodney found that vaguely insulting. "I'm not alone. I have you and Sheppard and my team."
"But if you married you'd have someone to talk to, to confide in," Jeannie said handing him a pot.
"I confide in John," Rodney answered, wiping out the inside of the pot.
"What about when you make a breakthrough or a discovery? Wouldn't you like someone to share your excitement with?"
"Sheppard gets pretty excited. He grins and sometimes he does the eyebrow thing."
Rodney tried to move his eyebrows the way John did, but like always he only managed to frown. "You never noticed his eyebrows?"
"Trust me, they're expressive."
"If you say so," Jeannie said and handed him another pot. Turning away, she pulled two mugs from the cupboard on her right. Setting them face up on the counter, she reached for the coffee pot. "Let's sit."
Rodney happily put the last pot on the counter next to the stove. Kaleb's coffee was almost good enough to make up for the tofurkey. Abandoning his dish towel on the counter, Rodney followed Jeannie to the table in front of the window. Jeannie called it a breakfast nook, but as far as Rodney had been able to tell they ate every meal there.
Jeannie let him get the sugar in his coffee and actually take a sip before she asked, "Who would you rather spend time with John or Katie?"
"What kind of question is that?"
"Your last night before a dangerous mission, one you don't know if you'll come back from, who do you spend it with?"
It was a stupid question, but he knew Jeannie wouldn't let it go unless he answered. "Sheppard. He gets keyed up before missions like that, although he won't admit it."
"Okay, now just any old night, who would you rather be with?"
"Why does it matter?"
Jeannie took a sip of her coffee before putting her cup down on the table. "Because you have been essentially saying you don't need to marry Katie because you have John."
Now she was just being ridiculous. "I don't have Sheppard. He's good company, that's all. I don't have to worry about upsetting him."
"You worry about upsetting Katie?"
"She's so..." Rodney paused and looked for the right word, "Nice. I'm always afraid I'm going to say or do something that will hurt her feelings."
"And you don't have to worry about that with John?"
"Of course not."
Jeannie nodded, her expression thoughtful. Then she said slowly, "Mer, are you in love with John?"
"What? Don't be ridiculous."
"I'm not being ridiculous. He's the person you most like spending time with. He's the person you share your discoveries with. He's even the one you confide in."
"So are you in love with him?"
What was it with women? In love with John. Of course he wasn't in love with John. The whole idea was absurd. "Just because I've risked my life for him that doesn't mean I'm in love with him. He does the same thing for me. It's a friend thing."
"Yes, friend thing." Rodney was beginning to wonder if Jeannie had friends, but maybe friendship was different when you weren't risking your lives together.
"Or a denial thing."
"I am not in denial about Sheppard." Jeannie looked less than convinced, and Rodney added, "Or anything else."
"If you say so."
John grinned, and Rodney had to admit that Jeannie was right. John was good looking, but not completely out of Rodney's league.
"Eyes," Rodney said.
John rolled his.
Rodney let go of his sandwich with one hand and pointed at his eyes. "These babies are hot."
Tilting his head slightly, John narrowed his gaze. "Wouldn't they have to be red to be hot? Blue's generally considered a cool color."
"Oh, very funny."
"And wet," John said with a grin.
Rodney returned the grin, because that's what you did with Sheppard—grinned back.
"Got it," Rodney said.
"Good for you," Radek replied without looking up from his computer.
Ignoring him, Rodney hit the button on his radio. "Sheppard."
"What's up?" John answered.
"I just improved the ZPM's efficiency by 3.7%."
"Are you mocking me?"
"Only a little," John said. Rodney could hear the smile in his voice. "So what does an extra 3.7% get us?"
"About an extra week, assuming we're never attacked again."
"I'm not taking that bet."
"Yeah," Rodney said. Pushing the thought of the next attack aside, he said, "Wanna get lunch later?"
Lunch was ham sandwiches, which made John frown every time he took a bite, as though there was something unnatural about ham and the only valid sandwich was a turkey sandwich.
He did the same thing every time they had ham. It was kind of cute.
Rodney was back in his lab, hard at work on his next project when it hit him.
He thought John was cute.
Blinking at the power schematics filling his screen, Rodney thought about that. He thought John was cute.
But only when he was doing the frown at his sandwich thing.
And whenever they got to take a jumper out for a "test run." Rodney tried to arrange things so they could test at least once a month, because when John got to fly the jumper for the sheer joy of it he looked about ten years younger in spite of the gray at his temples.
That was it, though. Rodney didn't think John was cute any other times. Well, not really. Okay, maybe sometimes when they were playing chess, and he'd scrunch his face up in concentration.
But that was it, the limit of John's cuteness.
And anyway it didn't matter if Rodney thought John was cute because it wasn't as if Rodney was in love with him or anything. The only person who thought that was Jeannie, and what did she know about love?
More than him, actually.
Rodney stood straight up, nearly toppling his stool. There wasn't any reason to panic. He just needed to get a second opinion.
"Hey," John said, smiling when Rodney entered. He was leaning against the wall behind his bed, reading.
"Hi," Rodney replied, walking over to John's window and then turning around and heading back to the door, where he turned around again. Maybe John was the wrong person to ask for a second opinion, but who else was he going to ask? No one else would know the answer.
"Something wrong?" John asked, setting aside his book and sitting on the edge of the bed.
"No, why would anything be wrong?" Rodney asked from where he'd come to a halt in front of John's window. "You need bigger quarters."
John stood. "Next time I go apartment hunting I'll keep your need to pace in mind."
"That would be good," Rodney said, stopping when he realized that John had stood and was now between him and the door. Rodney was pretty sure the rushing sound in his ears was a bad sign.
"You going to talk to me or do you need to burn a certain number of calories first?" John asked and there was no mistaking the look on his face.
John was curious. That was bad. Once John got curious about something he tended to poke at it and prod it until his curiosity had been satisfied.
Although John's eyes looked kind of nice when he was curious.
This was all Jeannie's fault. Rodney was never buying her a car again. "Do you think I'm in love with you?"
John's eyebrows went up. Way up.
"It's Jeannie. She thinks I am, which is ridiculous and absurd. But after she said it I started thinking about it, and she made some good points and..." Rodney pulled in a breath.
"What points did Jeannie make?"
"Well, um, she pointed out that I pretty much prefer spending time with you to anyone else, and that I talk to you about stuff, and you're the person I tell when I make a discovery. Like I said, she was being ridiculous."
John was tilting his head slightly and looking at Rodney with an expression Rodney had never seen before. "Do you want to kiss me?"
"What?" Rodney said. Kiss him? Why would Rodney want to kiss him?
"As a way of figuring out the whole in love thing," John explained.
"Oh." There were lots of reasons why kissing John was unnecessary. Rodney knew there were. But suddenly all he could do was look at John's lips. "Well, um... I suppose..."
John just stood there, the bastard, close enough that Rodney could lean in, press his lips to John's, and discover that John had soft lips.
And kissed rather sweetly.
"So?" John asked, gazing at him expectantly. "Are you in love with me?"
"I don't know. One kiss, even a nice kiss—"
"Nice?" John's tone was a little sharp.
"Okay, very nice," Rodney said and John's expression softened slightly. "But even a very nice kiss isn't going to tell me if I'm in love with you. I mean, you can have nice kisses with people you aren't in love with. Right?"
"Yeah," John agreed with a sigh.
"Risking my life for you, that's probably a better indicator than a kiss."
"And wanting you to be happy?" Rodney was on a roll now. "Worrying about you? Thinking about you at odd moments during the day? All of those things are probably better indicators than a single kiss."
"So do you do all of those things?" John asked, his voice low and soft.
"Yes," Rodney answered with a wave of his hand. "Of course."
Taking a step back, Rodney sat on the end of John's bed with a thud.
Looking up at him, Rodney said, "Oh my god, I'm in love with you."
A slow smile spread across John's face. "Cool."
"I have to go," Rodney said, rising to his feet and starting toward the door.
John took a step after him. "I thought you were in love with me."
Waving him off, Rodney said, "Yes, yes, madly in love, have to go now." The door slid open and Rodney stepped through it.
Forty-five minutes later he was back in front of John's door. It slid open. Rodney took a deep breath and stepped inside.
"You're back," John said without looking up. He'd resumed reading although it didn't look as though he'd gotten very far. "Forget something?"
"No, I didn't forget something."
John turned the page.
"You're mad," Rodney said, because he wasn't an idiot, even he could read people sometimes.
"Why would I be mad?"
"Just so you know, you sound like my mother."
John closed the book and dropped it on the bed. "Why are you here, Rodney?"
"I thought maybe we could finish the conversation we were having before I--" Rodney turned just enough to point his thumb at the door behind him.
"Ran off," John supplied, helpful as always.
"I didn't run off. I went to break up with Katie."
Perching on the side of John's bed, Rodney looked down at his hands. "Look, I know this probably can't go anywhere, but I didn't think it was fair to be with her when I'm in love with someone else. Huh. That's getting really easy to say. How weird is that?"
"Rodney," John said, voice low and commanding.
Rodney turned to look at him.
"I'd give my life for yours," John said, looking directly at him.
"I know." John would give his life for any of theirs. It was part of who he was. Part of why Rodney loved him.
"You're my favorite person to spend time with, too." John reached out, resting his hand on Rodney's forearm. "When you smile, not the smug smile, the slightly lopsided, happy one, I feel... lighter."
"Really?" Rodney asked, trying to swallow against the burst of lightness in his own chest.
"The kiss was better than nice."
John stroked the inside of Rodney's arm with his thumb, which felt far better than it should have. "I thought you said it was very nice." The suggestion in John's tone was almost enough to make Rodney shudder.
Before Rodney could answer, John was leaning forward. Rodney moved to meet him.
One week later Jeannie Miller opened Thunderbird to find a nine-word message:
You were right. I was wrong.
Leaning back in her chair, Jeannie took a sip of coffee and smiled.