It’s a lovely morning to go running. A birds singing, world rejoicing, soft sunshine and sea breeze kind of a morning.
Or that’s what Lorne implies anyway when he, completely out of character, comes to drag John away from his (very important!) watching Rodney repair something to go on a run together.
John agrees easily, and they leave the central tower at a brisk pace turning south, towards the (slippery with salt, rarely visited because of the disturbing local fauna) south pier.
John’s glad Lorne asked, there’s the promised sunshine and sea breeze combo, and the sea lions living under the pier don’t sound nearly as disturbing as they used to when the scientists were still guessing what exactly they were. Lorne doesn’t keep up such a brutal pace as Ronon, and for once John’s actually the one who can take the lead and urge Lorne on (although he doesn’t know how much of that is just Lorne letting him).
But about an hour later when they slowly make their way back towards the city, the leisurely run slides into a somewhat strange one, because Lorne doesn’t want to stop running.
At first, John doesn’t mind much, he likes a good workout, but when thirty minutes later they are, at Lorne’s insistence, still going, he feels his patience (together with his left knee) slowly giving out. Also, it’s sort of ridiculous since by now they're both sweaty and tired, and going at a pace where some of the scientists smelling lunch are passing them by.
“So…” John breathes, when Lorne looks at his watch for the third time in under three minutes. “Maybe we should call it quits? Get some lunch?” He thinks he sees Rodney going up the stairs to the control room.
“No!” Lorne protests, obviously conflicted. “No Sir, I mean, are you sure you’re feeling tired enough? Maybe we could run some more?”
John is about to give in and just refuse to move any more when he hears the tinny sound of someone hailing Lorne, who immediately looks relieved. “Roger that!”
Lorne turns to John and explains, “We’re wanted in the conference room, sir.”
John nods, and catches a briefly guilty expression on Lorne’s face. He doesn’t have the breath to ask him about it, (seriously, his knee is killing him) but when they reach the conference room doors Lorne stops, looks at him and grins. “Good luck, Sir,” before waving his hand over the door controls and letting them in.
Elizabeth, Rodney, Teyla, Ronon and Carson are all inside, sitting down and waiting for him.
They look serious, and John immediately prepares himself for the worst. “What happened?”
“Did,” he feels his throat close up. “Did somebody die?”
“Or… “ John focuses on Rodney, who does not seem to be in ‘we-will-all-perish-within-ten-minutes’ mode. For one thing, he’s not attached to a computer. “Long-range sensors pick up anything?”
Elizabeth shakes her head. “Oh no John, nothing like that.” She holds out a basket. “Athosian bull-milk cookie? Rodney tells me they’re your favorites.”
John frowns. Elizabeth never let them eat in the conference room after the first-year incident with the exploding pancakes. “What’s going on?”
Heightmeyer speaks up, “We’re here together because we, your friends, want to have a conversation with you, John.” John hadn’t even noticed her, tucked away in a corner and half-hidden behind her notepad. She sounds cheerful, which never bodes well. He still has bad, bad memories of the two-day mourning seminar she insisted on for Ford.
Elizabeth looks a little less enthused, but she still smiles at him. “Why don’t you take a seat?”
He sits down, feeling a mix of curiosity and dread. Seriously, what is going on?
“John…” Elizabeth starts. “Lately, we’ve become concerned about certain… behaviors. We feel like you might not think you can be yourself here on Atlantis. And we’re here to tell you that you can. That we… support you.”
Carson reaches over to pat him on the shoulder, “John, lad, you can tell us. Anything.”
John frowns. “That’s… nice?”
He looks at Rodney again, who practically seems to be bouncing with excitement. He sends him a questioning look.
Rodney rolls his eyes, “We're telling you you're gay, you idiot!”
John blinks a couple times.
“Rodney!” Elizabeth sounds chiding. She’s also looking at John gently, as if she expects him to break another window.
Ronon gets himself a cookie and then offers one to Teyla, who refuses.
John knows he’s supposed to say something. Only words are failing him.
Teyla asks quietly, “Are you all right John?”
He says, “Oh yeah,” and then laughs a little. “Not that this isn’t hilarious,” (he makes sure to slouch some more in his chair. Wow.) “But why would you think I’m gay?”
Rodney waves a file around. “We knew you’d ask that, so we made a list.” It’s pink.
John groans. “Rodney…”
But Rodney points towards Lorne.
Lorne nods, and starts reading from the list. “Number one, it’s ah… you have a picture of a male underwear model in your locker, Sir.”
Lorne has the picture with him in a plastic map. He puts it on the table and they all look at it for a second. It’s a black and white image of a stubbly cowboy type, slouching.
“So I like Calvin Klein…” John says. It’s not like he’s the only one. He knows for a fact that Parrish has a similar picture…
“Two,” Rodney says, motioning towards Ronon.
“You name Wraith after your ex-boyfriends.” Ronon says, looking like he doesn’t care one way or another.
John mumbles, “Roommates. Those were all my roommates.”
“Uh-uh,” Rodney says, “That’s twenty-three roommates in how many years of college exactly?”
John opens his mouth, but Elizabeth cuts in, “There’s the… crème brûlée thing. And you spend an awful lot of time on your hair every day.”
“Hey!” John says, feeling offended. “One, that’s a family recipe, and two, it does that naturally.”
Elizabeth smiles mildly at him, “We all saw you cry that time with the surprise contamination shower and the superglue, John.”
He looks away. There are some things he does not want to talk about.
“And ah, you always smell nice. Sir.” Lorne is blushing.
John frowns, “That’s…” He doesn’t know what to say to that, really.
Lorne reads on, “Six, your personal item from earth was mango-scented shower gel. Seven, you use clear toenail-polish. Eight, you’ve offered to do most of the Marines’ nails and seem offended when they say no. Nine…”
“Okay, okay,” John says, holding up his hand. “That’s…” ‘Silly.’ ‘Stupid.’ “Hardly meaningful. Everybody does things like that.”
Teyla nods understandingly. “I believe there are many on Atlantis who, like you, do not desire women, John.”
John sits up straighter, “Teyla, I do desire… I mean, I’m… I was married!” He knows it’s in his file. He told her himself. “To a woman,” he adds, just to be sure.
“You have sparkly curtains, son.” Carson says.
‘Because I like them!’ John doesn’t let himself say that. Instead he says, “Those are stereotypes. This hardly adds up to me being… gay. You all know that, right?” He looks around. Both Lorne and Elizabeth look distinctly disappointed.
Heightmeyer cuts in, “Denial is a very logical response. You have been living in a military-oriented culture for most of your adult life. We know this must be difficult for you John, but we want you to be happy.”
Everyone around the room nods eagerly, even Rodney, from whom John would have expected just a little more backup.
John shakes his head, and suppresses the urge to laugh. They’re all looking so genuine. “This is… bizarre.”
There’s another pause, in which Carson seems to have a telepathic conversation with Teyla, because they look at each other and get up. “I think our goal of informing Colonel Sheppard has been reached,” Teyla says.
Elizabeth nods and gets up as well.
John, sitting closest to the door, gets up on wobbly legs and is down the stairs and gone by the time anyone else makes it through the door.
Step One: Admitting You’re A Homosexual
He’s actually too tired from all the running around with Lorne (and what was that anyway, a stalling technique? Did they think he would be more inclined to gayness when exhausted?) to do much more, so he goes straight to his quarters. He undresses, takes a shower, and then dresses again.
John’s not surprised to find he’s actually pretty much okay with all he just heard. Sure, it was a little strange, but then again, he’s been accused of much worse. And this wasn’t even an accusation; they had honestly been trying to be nice. So hey, at the end of the day he has a good group of friends. Who think he is as gay as a picnic basket.
John sits down on his bed, still laughing a little to himself, and then he waits. Because in Atlantis, nobody ever leaves anybody alone and people know where he lives.
In all it’s another ten minutes before Rodney gives a courtesy thump on his door and then waves it open, already talking before he’s inside.
“…sorry. Obviously, I didn’t know about the wife thing, and wow, a wife? You? So yes, regardless, I realize the whole meeting might have been tasteless but your insistence in playing this galaxy’s Casanova is starting to endanger Atlantis, and you had to be told. I mean, just how many brides did you have to refuse this month alone? Yes, three, I counted. And it would be ok if you had any actual intentions with them but I’m not convinced you do and, well, anyway, here.” Rodney hands John the folder.
John takes it, pulls out the list and rifles through it quickly. “There are three hundred and forty-five items on here?”
“Yes, and that’s just the senior staff, of course. I’m sure if we’d had more than a week to come up with…” Rodney sits down on the bed next to him. “Are you angry?”
John shrugs. “Nah.” He grins. “I can take a joke.”
“But…” Rodney rises to the bait, “You think that was a joke? We were serious! How can you not be gay? You redecorate your room every first Friday night of the month - I’ve seen you. You were depressed for a week after seeing Brokeback Mountain. You know all the words to Evita, you wear bracelets at night so we can’t see them, you, you own leather pants!”
“So?” John shrugs. “I like them.” Getting those pants custom made on MPG-952 had been worth it just to see the expression on Rodney’s face.
“Well, I’m not saying we all don’t like them too…” Rodney looks wistful for a second.
Especially since Rodney literally walked into a tree. That was prime teasing material for weeks right there.
“But John, it’s… we all assumed…” Rodney looks serious and maybe just a little scared. “You’re really not gay?”
John feels a strange tension flip and twist in his stomach. He knows he should say no, but maybe two years of hanging around Rodney have primed him to tell the truth and nothing but because what comes out is, “I guess I’ve never really thought about it.”
Rodney sputters, “You’ve never… you’ve never thought about it?”
“Well yeah,” John says defensively. It’s not like he’s ever had to.
“You mean… you mean you could be gay, but in the, oh, thirty-eight or so years of your existence you have never made the effort to think about it?” Rodney seems fully in his element now, because oh, the injustice.
“Rodney…” John says, wanting for him to understand that sometimes, thinking can be dangerous, “I’ve been in the military for the past twenty years.”
Rodney opens his mouth to answer, and then shuts it, visibly deflating. “I know.”
“It’s okay,” John says. It really is. He’s been called gay before, sure. Teased, but never harassed. Never called so by his entire circle of friends before either, but hey, he’s not offended.
Rodney’s eyes suddenly light up, and he starts digging around in his pocket, “Here, it’s, ah, I brought you a cookie. You know, for you.” Rodney hands him a slightly battered cookie, probably stolen from the meeting.
John rolls his eyes because that’s probably the worst apology in the history of bribing ever, but at the same time he feels a little thrill when he accepts and sees Rodney smile.
It’s been a strange, strange morning.
Rodney leaves his copy of The List on John’s bed when he leaves. From where John is sitting he can just make out the first page, “Code name: Pink Puddle Jumper?” He smiles and picks it up.
Five minutes later -John’s still munching on the cookie- Heightmeyer knocks on his door. Recognizing her soft, double knock but feeling slightly more civil than usual; John lets her in after only three tries. She knows he's in there, after all.
“Colonel!” She is, again, acting like the ray of sunshine he much prefers her not to be. However, she is carrying two trays with sandwiches and water which she dumps on his bed before he has time to object.
“I thought we might have lunch together?”
John shrugs, puts the piece of the cookie he has left to the side, and unwraps a turkey sandwich. “I’ve already had the ‘so you’re really not gay’ talk with Rodney. You’re a little late.”
“It can be highly traumatic for some people, coming out later in life.”
She phrases it as an open-ended statement, and he’s reminded again why he doesn’t like therapists. They’re creepy.
“Especially for someone in your position, who’s been forced to hide his sexuality for years.”
John takes another bite. The sandwich is quite good. And if he doesn’t say much, there’s not much she can get from him.
In fact, she seems to take to his strategy, because she lets the silence drag. And drag.
It’s only when they’re all done and she’s getting up, collecting all the plastic wrappers and the empty water bottles that she says, “Can I just ask you one thing, John?”
He nods. “Okay.”
“All the girls off world, Chaya, the chieftain’s daughters, the blushing virgins, the ones Rodney keeps on talking about… Do you actually sleep with all of them?”
John rolls his eyes. “Whatever Rodney might claim, I’m not Casanova. Or an idiot.” Which means no and they both know it. He’s not really into getting space STDs, thank you very much.
She stares at him long and hard. “It’s really easy to be responsible when you’re not attracted to any of them, is it?”
He has exactly thirteen minutes of quiet after that (and he gets to read up to number ninety-seven in The List) before Lorne comes by, carrying a six-pack and an apologetic expression.
John puts the list down and says, “I’m fine. Really.”
Lorne nods but comes in anyway. “I’m sorry, Sir. For dragging you out to the pier, and then…”
John shrugs. “It’s okay.” He is curious though. “So why the running?”
“We just thought that, in case we were wrong… if you were tired there was less chance of you shooting us, Sir.” Lorne looks shifty.
John raises his eyebrows, “I see…”
Lorne smiles, “And it’s also possible that Ronon and Teyla wanted me to run against you.”
John puts an extra pillow behind his back and puts his feet up. “Yeah, that could be it. Ronon give you a huge pat on the back afterwards?”
Lorne nods, “My vertebrae still haven’t recovered, Sir.” And then, “You seem to be taking it well?”
John looks at the beer. “Give me one of those, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
They uncap the beers, and after a few healthy swigs John asks, “So how do you know you’re gay Lorne? They didn’t give you a list, did they?”
“No…” Lorne grins, and thinks on it for a second. “I think the idea is that you just fall in love with men.”
At John’s frown, he says “Or that you want to have sex with them, or that you feel they are beautiful, or… that you prefer to be around them.”
John nods, and then remembers. “You know, Parrish has a picture of you in his locker.”
“Yeah.” Lorne winks. “I gave it to him.”
Step Two: Rediscovering Your Gender Identity.
For the rest of the day, John does what he always does. He talks to people, does some paperwork, trains with his Marines, has dinner in the mess. And besides a few whispered giggles behind his back and one wink (Cadman), nothing happens. Nothing at all. Which is the good thing about people having assumed he was gay for years already, he supposes. They probably all think he’s happy because he’s out of the closet now. They all seem to be happy he’s out of the closet now, he can tell by Elizabeth and Heightmeyer’s satisfied smiles.
Surprisingly enough, it's only the scientists who ask him about his follow-up to the whole thing.
When John goes down to the labs to turn something on for Rodney, Zelenka asks him, “Ah, colonel, you know you are homosexual now, yes?”
He responds dryly, “I’ve been told, yeah.”
Zelenka smiles. “Good, good,” and leans in secretively, getting ready to divulge, “then you must know that…” when Rodney throws an Ancient gadget at his head.
Rodney himself doesn’t approach the topic again until the next morning’s breakfast.
“So, theoretically, you agree that you could be gay?”
“I guess so, Rodney.” John says it easily, secretly a little amused by the amazed and happy expression on Rodney’s face. If only he would have thought of coming out when he was still living under his father’s roof, he could have driven the man crazy.
Rodney beams. “That’s great!”
“Hmmm,” he replies.
“I’ll set up a date.”
“What?” Suddenly, John remembers the fact that he has no idea he really wants to do this. “With who?”
“Oh,” Rodney waves “I don't know yet, but there’s bound to be an available man out there somewhere, right? I mean, you're hot, this shouldn't be hard.”
John swallows. “I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet.” He tries to look convincingly freaked out.
“Oh,” Rodney says. “Oh yes, I see, you’ve only wasted thirty-so years, now you’re going to waste some more?” He gets up. “I’ll find you someone, whether you like it or not!”
John watches him leave. Really, he should be glad Rodney is his friend, he knows that, but some days his determination is just a little too much. He looks at his watch. Especially at 7.25 in the morning.
Ironically, it’s that small conversation that gets John to do what the whole four hundred and so many items on the list couldn’t, gets him to think about what it would be like. With a guy.
First in theory- penis equals attractive yes/no? He tries to think of all the models he’s ever seen. Zelenka, Carson and Ronon are uncut. Lorne and Rodney are. He’s never really had the urge to touch any of them, but the thought doesn’t turn him off either. After all, he has one himself, he’d know what to do, he thinks.
Besides penises there are other things involved, John knows. Like chest hair. Muscles. Smelly feet and beard burn. But he has no deep objections to any of those either, so he decides he needs a more practical visual.
When he goes to the jumper bay to meet up with one of the Marines for a flying lesson, he gets his wish. George, one of the very hot Brazilian scientists, is lying under a puddle jumper with just his spread legs sticking out, humming something while fixing the wiring. John stares very hard, and tries to imagine what it would be like to crawl under there with him and make out a little.
The experiment is successful.
John tells himself it doesn’t have to mean anything, though. Sure, they can all think he's gay. He can maybe be sort of gay. That’s ok; it still doesn't mean he can't meet a nice girl some day and be with her, although he has to admit to himself that didn't sound plausible even before his whole “intervention,” as they have started calling it.
Step Three: Family Therapy
The first mission out after the big revelation is that afternoon.
M78-HN4 is not uncharted territory, sadly. SG5 has been there just the week before, but they suggested Rodney go and look at the local ancient ruins. And since John can never let Rodney go anywhere on his own (he learned that one the hard way) the whole team would go.
It was bound to be a short mission (Rodney going in, scanning the place, either saying “yes, yes, yes!” which meant he would come back with a team of scientists next time, or Rodney going in, and saying a lot of things about idiots which meant they would just walk back to the gate. Easy.) but the place was cold, so they were all fully packed, standing in front of the gate, waiting for Rodney.
Rodney who shows up ten minutes late. There’s nothing unusual there, of course, John had even once gone so far as to try to steal Rodney’s watch while he was in the shower and reset it so he would always be on time. The plan had been good, the execution not so much since John hadn’t been able to find the watch under Rodney’s mountain of clothes, and the incident had made it onto the list under number twenty-eight, ‘likes to sniff men’s dirty clothes’. In hindsight, it was sort of funny.
What is unusual is that Rodney has a young male archeologist with him. Who will apparently be accompanying them on the mission. Oh joy.
John gets ready to protest, (they are a team, work well together, not a training center for young scientists) but Rodney is overly energetic, all “chop-cop” and “the gate won't dial itself, you know.” And Elizabeth gives them a thumbs-up from the gate room, so John figures resistance is futile.
Instead he nods calmly and waits until they’re on the other side. He sends the strapping young man ahead with Teyla and Ronon to go look at the site, and then lets himself get angry.
“Rodney…” John makes sure his voice goes to the commanding tone he associates with Lieutenant Colonels. “What on earth made you think it would be good idea to bring me a… a boy toy? On a mission?”
Rodney hand waves, “He was Elizabeth's idea, not mine, I promise. Apparently he's kind of a hunk, don’t you think so? I mean, I don’t know your taste but he’s decent, right? And he’s here to keep you out of trouble, of course. Do you know how many of our missions go wrong because one of the villagers takes a fancy to you?”
John stares at him. “...No?”
“Twenty-three percent. Twenty-three! So he’s simply here as distraction. You can project your ultimate manliness onto him, and voila, a safer mission.”
“..You’re insane,” John has to say it.
“The numbers back me up, you know!” Rodney shouts as John starts running to catch up with the rest.
Near the ruins, they meet up with a very nice, very primitive group of people.
(“Leather skins!” Rodney whispers, “Wooden sticks- you think they’ve invented the wheel yet?”)
Rodney and the new guy, Hans, leave to look at the Ancient ruins, Teyla and Ronon go talk to the people and John stays where he is, keeping watch. Although in reality, what he does is sneak careful glances at the ruins. Rodney keeps on bending over to grab some of his tools from his backpack, and the fabric of his pants is outlining his ass very nicely. And, well, John needs to do research.
Evening falls a lot faster than expected, and around two in the afternoon they are forced to set up the tents near the edge of village and wait the short but cold night out. John wonders whether this was planned by Elizabeth as well. And whether the night will be long enough to slowly kill him.
In the end, John doesn’t have to share a tent with Hans, for which he is eternally grateful. Teyla, maybe sensing trouble, offers to share hers. Ronon is too big to have anyone with him, so it's John and Rodney together, again.
When they’re down for what’s more or less an afternoon nap, bundled up in all the gear they own, John has to ask, “Rodney...”
Rodney lets out a long snore. Figures he would actually go to sleep.
“Roooodneeey…” John makes sure to whine. The annoyance alone is sure to wake him. “Are you only setting me up with a blonde because he sort of looks like Sam Carter?” It’s bound to be, he just knows it.
But Rodney doesn’t reply.
When dawn breaks a couple hours later they come out of the tents, and John makes an effort to smile at Hans. When the guy offers him coffee and makes some vague noises about getting together and discussing Ancient ruins some time John even says yes. But it doesn't make Rodney look as happy as he'd hoped.
When they finally go home it's Teyla who requests that he visits her in her room. She makes him sit down on an embroidered throw-pillow and shoves a cup of hot tea into his hands before he's even said hello. She means business.
“John, I asked for Hans to share the tent with me because I do not believe you feel affection for him.” She sounds a little puzzled.
“True,” John admits easily. “I hardly know the guy.”
“Then why did you agree to go out with him?”
“I don't! It’s Rodney... he's being weird. He wants to live vicariously through me or something, I don't know.”
Her left eye twitches a little. “John, you must understand that Rodney cares for you very much.”
He can tell she's trying to say something. The careful wording is her way of going nudge nudge wink wink.
“Yes?” he asks. Of course he knows Rodney likes him, they’re friends.
After Teyla it’s Ronon’s turn, who takes him on an evening run. Really John’s muscles are still protesting from the little adventure with Lorne, but he goes anyway, figuring that if he does that, he’s going to fall right asleep after. Which would be better than thinking about penises again.
Running is a relief. He doesn’t have to say anything. The silence combined with the cadence of their footsteps and the routine of it all is enough to lull him into a false sense of security, and that makes it even more surprising when Ronon suddenly advances on him and wraps him into a bone-crushing hug. “Good that you’re happy, Sheppard!”
John says, “Oef!” which mostly has to do with the air returning to his lungs, but Ronon doesn’t seem to care.
He’s grinning broadly, and when John smiles back he drops the bombshell.
“Teyla tell you she thinks McKay is gay for you?”
John blinks, “No…” Or wait, ‘Cares for you very much’ “Maybe?”
Ronon nods, “I think so too- it would explain a lot. Hey, maybe you should kiss him; get him to stop complaining about everyone that looks at you.”
John nods, a little stunned, and with that, they’re running again.
He almost trips three times.
That night, John does fall asleep right away. But he has a dream. He blames Ronon, of course, and Teyla. It's faint but sweet, and all Rodney. Rodney lying next to him. Rodney softly, very softly, kissing his cheek.
It's not even erotic. But it lingers regardless.
The next morning John’s making his way towards the armory when he hears a whisper coming from one of the closets. Then a giggle. He goes to investigate, of course, military Commander of Atlantis and all that, he can't ignore it.
He opens the door, and it's hardly the first time he has stumbled onto a couple having sex- especially Zelenka who’s known for devoutly believing it’s also an outdoor activity - but this is the first time he runs into two men.
Parrish grins at him sheepishly while Lorne blushes again, and unsuccessfully tries to hide the condom.
John rolls his eyes and wants to say something along the lines of, ‘Really? Does everyone have gay sex on the brain now?’ or ‘Oh great that I caught you- do you guys think Rodney is gay? Could he be?’ but he just forces himself to wish them both a good day and walk on. It’s none of his business, none of his business, none of his business.
Step Four: Demystifying The Same Sex
That evening is their weekly movie night (ok, more like bi-weekly, because there tends to be an emergency or invasion every other Tuesday). While John is sitting in his office, having a quick lunch by himself and thinking, he decides that he’s going to find out. He’s never been one for waiting, and the more he’ll think about it the more confused he’ll get, so he figures he should just find out whether Rodney really is gay.
Only the question is how. When he runs through The List he can find only a handful of things that could also apply to Rodney, and those are mostly the ones about being awkward around women. Rodney doesn’t know how to cook, to iron or to match colors. He never does anything to his hair, never works out, never listens to musicals. John gets frustrated until he reminds himself that stereotypes mean nothing. After all, they’re all convinced he’s the gay one and he isn’t really, right?
Plan mostly formed, John walks into the labs up to Rodney’s form hunched over something that looks like a sonic screwdriver (if only!) and, sure that everyone will hear, John asks, “So, movie night tonight?”
Rodney doesn’t even look up, which puts a mark in the ‘does not want to date me’ category, John thinks. “Yes yes, I'm going, just not sure I'll get there before...”
John knows. Rodney has disturbed almost every movie night either by coming in late, by being called away in the middle of it, or by falling asleep and snoring so loudly no one can hear the soundtrack.
“I just thought I'd save you a seat.”
Rodney is obviously focused on the little thingy in his hands and answers distractedly, “Good, sure.”
John however, isn’t here for a simple ‘sure’. He sits down on the table next to Rodney's laptop. “I mean, if you want me to.”
That gets Rodney to look up. “Why wouldn't I want you to? Is this about Hans? Because I said I had nothing to do with that and I'll find you someone better, I intend to, just...”
“It's not about Hans.”
“Ok… then what...”
“I just thought that if you come to movie night, and come sit next to me...” John lets the sentence trail off.
“You're asking me whether I’ll sit next to you?” Rodney looks puzzled. “I always sit next to you.”
John nods, “Exactly. So, you know, with the recent... People might think you're my date.”
“Oh.” Rodney has stopped fiddling completely and is now looking at him openly.
“So I thought, you know, I'll go early and save you a seat. So you can sit next to me. What do you think?” John leans back on the table until it starts creaking dangerously, congratulating himself on being subtle. Really, he has this seduction thing down pat.
Rodney looks confused. “That’s... Ok, that's good.”
“All right, see you then!” John waves jauntily as he leaves, catching a glimpse of Zelenka cracking up behind his laptop and Rodney still frowning, seemingly lost in thought.
That evening, John wears his special cologne. The one Rodney claims smells like hot summer nights. Ok, Rodney had been very drunk when he has made that statement, but John had never forgotten. Mostly because at the time he hadn’t thought Rodney was familiar with hot summer nights.
He goes to the little movie room early (its Cadman’s turn to pick and they’re playing something about a cheerleader. It’d better be good.) and saves a seat for Rodney. Of course, no one bats an eye and like expected Rodney arrives about twenty minutes into the movie, lighting his way with his laptop screen. John gives him a wave and a happy “Rodney!” and when Rodney sits down heavily John makes sure to lean in a little. He's not sure whether Rodney notices, but it feels warm and cozy to lean on his side.
After the movie they all go to Ronon's and hang out a little, mainly because there they can have popcorn. Teyla had banned them from eating it ever again in her room after she’d found crumbs in her bed. John makes sure to act normal, but he doesn’t leave Rodney’s side either. After an hour or so Rodney claims to be tired and leaves, but John catches him throwing a confused look before he’s out the door.
Only, Rodney apparently takes the whole evening as a sign that he needs to step up his Cupid efforts. The next morning at breakfast there's a dangerous glitter in his eye, and a planet address he got from Ronon in his hand.
“Hey Colonel!” Rodney waves him over from the food line, “I found a gay bar for you!” he’s smiling, and looking accomplished. When John gets closer, Rodney says “I got us both the night off, I'll go with as your escort of course, don't want you marrying the first pretty boy that catches your eye.”
John sits down heavily and starts eating his omelet. Sometimes, it's just easier if he pretends not to hear Rodney.
“See, I figured it's hard for you to date anyone here, because you have this strange kind of responsibility going on, so what you need is a one-night stand.”
“Rodney...” John groans. This was not the plan. “Why do you think I want a one-night stand?”
“Oh be serious,” Rodney says, “Everyone wants a one-night stand. Plus, how hard can it be for you to hit on a guy in a bar?”
As it turns out, quite hard.
John still isn't sure why the combined population of Atlantis felt the need to step up to the cause, but step they did. It started around noon with Elizabeth’s thinly-veiled threat that if he didn’t go and ‘have fun’ she would inform Heightmeyer. Then it was Carson who called him into the infirmary under a false pretense and ended up giving him lube, condoms and a safe sex speech.
Then, Hans, Lorne, Parrish and Cadman invaded his room to ‘help him get dressed’, which actually involved homemade wine and a disturbing amount of giggling. The result wasn’t even that different from usual (black t-shirt, black pants) but he suspected they just enjoyed the chance to gossip.
And now they're at some world's local gay bar. Thumping music, barely clad men, the works. And John is sitting to the side, feeling nothing.
Well, not nothing. Rodney had been amusing as he points out all the good qualities in the men on the dance floor. Things like “Looks at the abs on that one!” or “Oh, his hair kind of rivals yours in gravity defying qualities” or, after their fourth pitcher of something blue and bubbly, “look at his ass. I mean, really, look at it- it's perfect. Don't you want to grab it?”
And John realizes Rodney is again, apparently selflessly and for the good of Atlantis, humoring him. But now he doesn’t believe it for a second. Rodney has to have an ulterior motive, he just has to. Which is why when a Ronon-type, tall and all muscle, comes over to introduce himself (“Chris. I’m a poet.”) John goes off with him to dance.
They’re stumbling over the dance floor, halfway through some complicated cross between slow dancing and Tae Bo, when John sees something that makes his stomach clench. Rodney, sitting alone now, is being chatted up as well. And, surprisingly, he doesn't say no. He gets swept up by a kid who looks about twenty and even worse, Rodney seems to be enthusiastic, talking over the music into the kid’s ear.
John suddenly feels nauseous. “Need some air,” he mumbles and he heads for the exit.
There are a couple thoughtfully placed hay bales outside, and he sits down on one gingerly. The outside air is cold. His fingers are twitching, and he feels sort of... jittery. This is the kind of moment where he wishes he had picked up smoking. And of course, it’s stupid of him to even care, since he’s only been sort-of gay for three days and it’s been Rodney’s doing in the first place, but still.
He can hear the door opening again, the music spilling out, and when he looks up he's not surprised to see Rodney.
“I thought it was going well?” Rodney asks. “He say something wrong to you? Just say you don’t put out on the first date, claim it’s your planet’s religion and such, he’ll understand.”
John says. “No, it wasn’t that.”
Rodney looks at him. “John, we're here so you can do what you want. What makes you happy.”
“What I want?” John looks up at Rodney, and the stomach twist is back, warm and nervous and glorious. I think I kind of want you.
“What I want…” He takes a breath. “Kiss me.”
Rodney is dumbfounded. “Me?”
“Yes!” John says, out of patience.
Rodney blinks a couple of times, and then smiles brightly. “Ok!”
John grabs him by the front of his shirt and drags him half down, half on top of him before their lips even meet. Rodney's knee hits him somewhere around the stomach but he doesn't care, they're kissing, Rodney's mouth warm, his body close and yes, yes, this is what he wants, this is...
Rodney breaks their kiss with a groan, his hands pushing at John's chest, pushing him away and keeping him from getting too far at the same time.
“You're not kidding right? You're not turned on by those bimbos inside and grabbing onto the first best thing because that's not what...”
John kisses him again. It rocks.
When they go back to Atlantis somewhere around dawn, Rodney walks John to his door. He's pretending not to, John knows, but he doesn’t care, his lips are still tingling, his hand feeling comfortably warm where it’s touching Rodney’s back.
When they reach his door, John says, “Rodney… I would have. Some day. Even without the intervention.”
Rodney nods, “I know. I just wanted to make sure you knew. Tell you you were...”
“...missing out.” John says, and grins, “Yeah, I got that.”
Rodney smiles at him and takes a step back, ready to leave. John isn’t sure whether to be disappointed or not, but right as he turns around too Rodney steps close again and gives him a quick peck on the lips. “Its, ah, one for the road.”
John laughs. “Thank you.” And Rodney leaves. John falls asleep with a smile.
Step Five: Sexual Life Style
Several hours later John wakes up and his first thought is, ‘I’m hung over.’
The second one is ‘I kissed Rodney,’ and the third and fourth all include variations of ‘wow,’ and ‘cool,’ and ‘yay,’ so he figures he’s good. After all, gay does mean happy. And he’s feeling kind of happy. Or, a lot. So…
He has already slept past lunch, but he goes to the mess hall anyway, sure he’ll find Rodney there or in the labs. He isn’t wrong. Rodney’s sitting with Teyla and Ronon, and he beams at John from across the room.
John smiles back shyly, and sits next to them.
Rodney is oblivious to the fact that he’s radiating happiness, because when Teyla smiles at the both of them and Ronon gives him a smack on the back saying “Well, well!” Rodney says, “What? What? You’re all staring at me!”
“So John,” Teyla says, smiling into her coffee. “Do you feel as if you are gay now?”
John thinks on it for a moment. “Hmmm… not sure yet.”
“What?” Rodney yelps. “You were sure yesterday!”
Ronon laughs, and John says, “Not sure yet, because I haven’t had gay sex yet.”
“Oh,” Rodney says, suddenly coloring.
“And do you feel you shall be sure soon?” Teyla asks, her eyes glittering with mirth.
“Well…” John says, “I don’t know, what do you think, Rodney?”
Rodney’s eyes widen comically. “Now? It's the middle of the day.” John looks at him. “I mean, if you want to now that would be fine, I’ll just tell Zelenka I’ll be late and…”
John grins, “Let me have some food first.”
He goes to grab something from the lunch line, and when he returns Teyla and Ronon are gone. Probably to give them some privacy, he knows, but suddenly he’s feeling a lot more nervous.
Rodney seems to be even worse off, though, because he looks at him and then quickly looks away, shifting in his seat.
“They left?” John asks just to say anything.
“Yeah, they, well, Ronon wanted to stay because, you know him, he thought this was hilarious, but then Teyla dragged him out and she wished me good luck, or well, to us both probably, but the way she said it was…” Rodney motions anxiously.
“Are you nervous?” John asks, again thinking they probably should have done this last night, when they were sufficiently drunk.
“Well yes, of course I am, you’re so…” Rodney motions, “You, and what if I don’t know how to, you know…”
Suddenly a thought occurs to John, “Rodney… have you ever had sex with a man?”
Rodney sticks out his chin. “Well, no, but you were obviously gay from the start so I adjusted.”
“Wait- let me get this right. You,” John points, “were never gay, and I was never gay, so you convinced all of Atlantis that I was secretly gay, got them to make me gay so you could grow gay for me?”
“Yes,” Rodney nods, “it's sort of romantic, isn't it?”
John shakes his head. “Only you, Rodney. Seriously.”
They bicker on the way to John's room. John is sure it's nerves from both of them, this is the kind of thing one should have experimented with years earlier after all, not when they're both too old to know better.
Anyway, once they're in the room it’s back to kissing, which feels brand new and exciting all on its own. For one, Rodney has stubble John can drag his tongue over (”Eeeeuw!” Rodney says, “Sheppard, you're not a cat!”) Or a neck he can nibble on (“...or a vampire,” Rodney says, although his voice sounds sort of weak and John can feel the heat of his erection near his knee).
And that’s when Rodney seems to decide it's his turn to go at it and simultaneously also the last thing John remembers clearly.
There's a lot of kissing, a kiss for “wow” and a kiss for “oh god” and a lot of them for “you're an idiot,” and “you’re sort of strange but I like you anyway.” Then John can touch Rodney’s dick, really touch, and it's warm in his hand and smooth in his mouth and it's great but not as great as Rodney's eyes that keep on smiling and his mouth that keeps on bitching or moaning and it's great, it's amazing, it's the single best lifestyle decision he has ever made.
They’re lying on the bed afterwards, both sweaty, still breathing hard, when John says, “Rodney...”
“Yeah?” Rodney rolls over to look at him. He’s looking flushed and happy and just a little shy…
John smiles, “I think I might be gay.”
And Rodney rolls his eyes and hits him over the head.