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Her Brother

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Jeannie takes the next flight when Mer calls to tell her that he's on Earth for his annual review. It's a bit stressful, but her brother usually is literally a galaxy away, so she's happy to do it.

Mer is in a meeting when she arrives. She talks to Radek Zelenka for a while. They had worked together on the interdimensional bridge, and he's smart and nice and is as annoyed by Mer as much as he admires him, which she can relate to.

Her brother eventually comes out, and his face brightens when he sees her.

"Jeannie," he says happily and they hug and maybe she squeezes him a bit more tightly than necessary because she remembers the last time she saw him and hasn't quite forgotten it.

When she pulls away, she sees John Sheppard standing behind Mer. It's no surprise, because she's almost come to expect this to be the case.

"John. It's good to see you," she says, and they shake hands.

"Jeannie. How's Madison? And Kaleb?" he asks.

She tells them about finding a last minute babysitter, but out of the corner of her eye she sees Mer fidgeting.

"Jeannie," he interrupts after waiting long enough. "I'll just get someone. Can you wait here for a moment?"

He runs off before she can say yes or ask who it is. She looks at John for a hint, but he's looking after Mer and then at the ground.

"So, they let you step through the gate instead of taking the long trip?" she asks to break the silence.

"Yes, they do that for the reviews. Sure beats being stuck on a ship for two and a half weeks."

"Mer would drive you crazy," she says teasingly. She's seen their interaction, their friendship, and she knows that John can take Mer's bad sides. Possibly better than she herself.

John smiles fondly, but there's a certain wistfulness in it. She wonders for a moment if they had a fight. She feels more struck by the thought than she would have imagined. It has always given her a certain amount of comfort to know that Mer had someone who looked out for him and put up with him and who did so unconditionally.

She's still watching John when she hears Mer returning. John is looking aside, and when she turns towards her brother, she sees that he's brought along Jennifer.

They greet each other, and Mer is beaming at both of them.

She doesn't know why, but she feels her gaze drawn back to John, who's stepped aside, looking at the ground. He looks forlorn, something that's out of place for him.

"I thought we could all have lunch together," Mer says, oblivious to John.

She nods, and when Mer takes Jennifer's hand and walks off, it suddenly clicks. She remembers how Jennifer had mentioned that she'd been taken with Mer when he'd been nicer. She turns to John—she can't help it—and suddenly it all falls into place.

She's a bit shocked because she didn't see that coming both because Mer had made it sound as if John was some kind of Kirk and because she had a hard time believing that someone like John would fall for her brother and hold onto it even if his feelings weren't returned.

"Jeannie?" Mer asks behind her.

"I'm coming," she says automatically.

John's face turns up to her, and for one long moment they look at each other and she knows how he feels and that he knows that she knows.

~~

They have lunch together, and that afternoon she gets to talk to Jennifer. They've only been together for a few weeks. Jennifer is a bit self-conscious about her relationship with Mer, but she does talk about it and about him and the more Jeannie hears the more she wonders if it's really her brother Jennifer is talking about.

For dinner she asks John to join them. She isn't sure why. She likes him and this must be hard for him but she has to see it for herself.

It's like watching masterpiece theater. And the more she watches the more she has to revise what she thought. She thought that nobody except John knew how he felt, but as the evening goes on, it becomes increasingly clearer that it's not the case. Jennifer knows too, but what is worse, so does Mer.

Maybe not exactly, because she'd bet any amount of money that John never told Mer how he felt, but her brother knows that his best friend feels something. He knows enough to look guilty when he pets Jennifer's hand and to be careful when he talks to John.

And it's wrong. She doesn't see her brother often, maybe doesn't even know him all that well, but she knows him well enough to see that this isn't the way it's supposed to be.

All through dinner, she wonders how she can tell him that and actually make him listen. The conclusion she comes up with is that she can't and that it would be best to make John take that step.

Mer is hailing a taxi for them after dinner, and she turns to John and simply says, "You should tell him," because there is no right way to say this.

His eyes widen and dart to Jennifer, who's standing right next to them, looking away politely.

"I can't," he says emphatically and adds, "Obviously," looking at Jennifer again.

Mer returns to them with a smile on his face. "Got us a ride." His smile fades as he recognizes the tension between them. "What's up?"

Jennifer and John stand next to her, stone-faced and silent, and in that moment she knows that she can either play along like the two of them or stop this farce. She knows that her brother might hate her for it, but in the end he'll thank her.

She drags him to the side and waves off the taxi. "I just got that," he complains.

"You don't get anything," she answers.

He frowns and his chin lifts defiantly. But she won't allow him to interrupt her.

"I don't know how to say this, so I'll just come out and say it. You do know that John is in love with you?"

The frown deepens. "Don't be absurd," he says, but there's no real fire behind it. He looks over her shoulder, where she's sure John and Jennifer still stand, probably not even watching them.

"Mer," she says pleadingly, because this is important. This is nothing she can just let go of to spare his feelings. "He loves you, and I just want to know if you love him."

He looks angry now. "How can you even ask that? I'm with Jennifer."

"I wasn't asking who you were with. I was asking who you were in love with. Or don't you get the difference?"

He stares at her, then stalks off with a, "This is ridiculous," thrown over his shoulder as he walks back to his best friend and his girlfriend.

"Mer!" she calls after him.

"And you're wrong," he adds, looking back to her.

"No, she's not," Jennifer and John say at the same time. They look at each other in surprise.

Mer looks from one to the other.

"Just tell him," Jennifer says, barely loud enough for Jeannie to hear.

"John?" Mer asks.

"What do you want me to say?" John asks no one in particular.

"How about the truth?" Mer answers.

Jennifer steps forward and away to hail another taxi.

Jeannie is torn. John and her brother are just standing opposite each other silently. A taxi stops. She watches Jennifer get in—and decides to join her.

Neither Mer nor John have said another word by the time she's closed the door. As they drive away, she turns around to watch them taking a step towards each other.

She is relieved. Then she turns to Jennifer. She's silent, her expression unreadable.

"I'm sorry," Jeannie says, because she didn't want to hurt Jennifer. She likes her, but she loves her brother and wants him to be happy.

"No need to be sorry. I knew it would end this way eventually. I just didn't want to see it," Jennifer says calmly, and Jeannie feels slightly better.

The rest of the ride is silent. Jeannie doesn't sleep well that night.

~~

When Mer picks her up for breakfast the next morning, she feels apprehensive. She'd been sure she'd done the right thing yesterday, but over night she'd begun to wonder if she hadn't gone too far. She only wants the best for him, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions as they say, and maybe what she did wouldn't help her brother but hurt him. Maybe she'd put being right above doing what was right.

He looks at her, and there is a bit of accusation in his eyes. She steels herself.

But then it melts away into a smile.

"Thank you," he says, and when he folds her into a hug, she hugs him back fiercely.

"You're welcome," she says. And after a moment of hesitation, she adds, "Rodney."