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I'll See Your Heart and Raise You Mine

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John wasn’t used to such a crowd so early in the morning, when he had barely had time to take a sip of his coffee, bought at that small cafe down the street that was so much better than any other coffee shop in the area. Security for the Sheppard Industries building surrounded him, muscling their way between John and the aggressive reporters. Though it was a bit too late for such measures, John made sure to check that his mark was covered by his soft, black wristband.

John slipped through the glass doorway as soon as it had opened enough for him to fit and sighed with relief at the immediate reduction in noise. He smoothed out the wrinkles in his suit with one hand and fought the urge to loosen his tie. Behind him, two of his security guards - Dex and Bates - stood in the doorway, staring impassively out at the crowd.

"If you do not have any actual business at Sheppard Industries, we ask that you stay outside the building,” Bates said, raising his voice to be heard over the clamor of questions. When the reporters surged forward, Dex straightened. He smiled. The crowd backed away, the nosy questions halting. It was easy to close the door on them after that.

“We’ll stay down here and make sure they don’t try anything,” Bates said quietly.

“If you need to, bring a couple more people down to help visitors to and from the building,” John suggested. It wouldn’t do for a client or partner to be stepped on while trying to get inside; bad for business, bad for their image.

“Of course, sir.” Bates nodded, and lifted his hand to activate his ear piece and request additional help. Dex sauntered closer, looking amused. He cocked an eyebrow at John.

“This isn’t funny,” John grumbled. Dex’s smile begged to differ. John upped his cranky pout to an outright glare. Dex wasn’t cowed at all of course - his smile only widened. John had known Ronon Dex since they were very young and dreamed of joining the military. Ronon had taken that step, while John had submitted to the demands of his father to join the family business. He’d been more than happy to offer Ronon a job after his honorable discharge, and they’d fallen right back into that solid friendship.

Most days, John was grateful he had someone in his life who wouldn’t take his bullshit. Today, however, John wished Ronon was worried, even if just a little, John would fire him for such insubordination if it meant less teasing.

A glance at John’s watch showed he was about to be late for an early meeting. John hesitated before heading to the elevators, gaze flickering from Ronon to the crowd behind him.

“We still on for the game tonight?”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Ronon grunted. John nodded, relieved. He’d need some fun after this terrible day. With a nod goodbye, John departed. Despite the early hour and the lack of caffeine, John made sure to greet the receptionist by name. As soon as he was in the elevator, John took a big, messy gulp of his coffee.

With a ding, the elevator doors opened and Evan Lorne greeted him, looking wide awake and pristine as ever. He held in one hand a giant stack of papers. He was smirking, and not even trying to hide it.

“It’s not funny,” John moaned. “Make them leave me alone.”

Lorne raised an eyebrow. “How do you propose I do that, sir?”

“I don’t know,” John whined. “You manage to do everything else asked of you.” He was a miracle worker, picking up the slack John left. John made sure he was well compensated for any headaches, with plenty of vacation time (which he never seemed to use) and overtime pay. Lorne had been a buddy of Ronon’s, and on his word, John had hired him. He hadn’t regretted it for a moment - until now.

“I’m afraid I have no sway over the media,” Lorne said solemnly. His eyes twinkled. John hoped he tripped over his shiny shoes.

“Hmph,” John said.

“It is difficult to be attractive, successful, rich, and single,” Lorne said, musingly. He slid a sideways, mischievous glance at John. “Judging by the number of posts on social media, you have a good many soulmates.”

“Hate you,” John groused.

"Of course,” Lorne said. “I feel it’s vital to inform you that the situation is trending on twitter. #sheppardssoulmate’. Congratulations, sir.”

“I’m going to kill you. I have connections; they’ll never find your body.” John surreptitiously glanced around. Some people were walking by, in conversation or staring intently at paperwork, while others sat at their office desks. Nobody seemed to be paying them any attention. John’s shoulders relaxed.

“Yes, sir.” Lorne dimpled. John scowled at him, but he couldn’t stay angry for long - his frown melted into an exasperated smile. John shook his head.

“I made sure to push your morning meeting back a half hour, and I’ve gathered all the documents you’ll need for the meeting with your father this afternoon,” Lorne reported smoothly, handing over said documents.

John groaned loudly, startling one of the company’s lawyers into a hiccuping fit. John smiled apologetically at her. She waved him off with a weak smile, still hiccuping, and went back to flipping through the file in her hand.

“I tried to push him off,” Lorne said seriously. “But you know how he gets.”

John sighed. “Yeah. Thanks for trying, anyway.”

Lorne nodded. John took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and squared his shoulders. He would not let the revelation of his soulmark, and the resulting uproar, ruin his day. He had far too much to do as head of R&D, without the added pressure of facing off against his father. The ridiculous interest everyone had in him would pass, he was sure of it.

By the end of the day, John was even less amused. The number of calls Lorne had to field from John’s so-called soulmates had even him looking wilted and irritated. John had stepped out of his office to ask Lorne a question and caught him working in Microsoft PowerPoint when he normally took his lunch, a program Lorne didn’t use often. Whatever he was doing, it was relaxing him, and by the time his lunch hour was over Lorne was in good spirits once again. It was exasperating that Lorne wouldn’t share what he was doing, but John was too busy to snoop.

On top of John’s regular job, he’d also made public his intentions to revise and add to the regulations of SI. Sheppard Industries paid its people very well and that brought in a good number of applicants each year, but they could be better. They had no guidelines for maternity leave, their anti-discrimination regulations were vaguely worded, and their benefits package was hardly competitive. Patrick Sheppard could not stop the proceedings without it becoming public knowledge, tarnishing the business' reputation. That it caused his father no end of headaches was just icing on the cake for John.

Unfortunately, his call for reforms had caught the media’s attention, which had inadvertently led to the current situation John was in: namely, that a great many people have declared themselves his soulmate. John had been caught flat footed after a run one early morning and someone had gotten a decent shot of his soulmark. It was irritating that people were more interested in his love life than the effort he was putting in to better the lives of his workers.

Later, after a week of endless calls, John hired someone whose only job was to answer the phone. He’d been afraid for a moment that Lorne would hug him out of gratitude, something neither man was all that prone to doing, but he had instead settled for a grateful smile and a coffee from John’s favorite shop, all the way across town.

He should have known that easing Lorne’s workload, even a little, would mean trouble.

Two months after pictures of his soulmark had hit the public, when the number of reporters following him had dwindled, John walked into his office to find his laptop running, a program already open. It was PowerPoint, and John could tell immediately that whatever this was, it had nothing to do with his job. He flicked his gaze toward the closed door to his office, Lorne at his desk on the other side. He had looked kind of funny when John had walked by. With trepidation, John hit the button to play the slideshow.

A song started to play, one John vaguely recognized, and pictures started to cycle through, of people of various ages, sexes, and ethnicities, proudly holding out an arm or a leg, a t-shirt pulled down, exposing a mark that looked just like John’s. Some of them were very obviously fake - drawn on with eyeliner or permanent marker - others convincing enough that John had to wonder how much effort it had taken to replicate his mark. The pouty faces and come hither expressions made him uncomfortable and he could feel the tips of his ears turning red, which he assured himself was due to rage and not embarrassment. Through it all that damn song played - near, far, wherever you are, my heart will go on - and Lorne was so, so fired.


 

Rodney ignored the ringing phone, too intent on the details of his big project. If this worked, if Rodney and Radek could pull it off, it would bring their company to the next level. They had a solid reputation and steady business, but this project could bring in new clients. This project, while interesting, would be nothing compared to what was coming next. Rodney had ideas that could revolutionize clean energy, but would require more funding than they currently could spare.

The phone finally stopped ringing. Rodney took a sip of coffee long gone cold and didn’t notice when Kepler knocked a pile of journals off the table and onto the floor. He would take a break soon to feed himself and his cat, maybe take that shower he’d planned on this morning - or was it yesterday morning? Not important.

Behind him, the news station reported on yet another celebrity soulmark reveal and the pointless speculation it inspired. Rodney groped through the detritus that covered his desk for the remote and shut the television off.


 

It wasn’t that John didn’t want to find his soulmate. He did, but he was also pragmatic about it. He had heard of websites focused solely on finding people’s soulmate, where they uploaded pictures of their marks in the hope that they’d be found. He knew that most people didn’t cover up their marks - how could you expect to find your soulmate if you didn’t even know what you were looking for? But matching marks did not mean a happy relationship, made apparent by his parents fractious marriage. Being wealthy and considered conventionally attractive also came with its own set of problems, such as the ones he now faced.

“Another seventy-four people have called to claim you as their soulmate,” Lorne reported, setting down John’s schedule for the day. “I was asked to pass along one anomalous message, however.”

“Oh?” John asked warily. He’d gotten a few threatening messages that he’d passed along to security. The last thing he wanted was to start his day with a death threat. He watched as Lorne flipped through his notes to find what he needed, nodding in satisfaction once he’d found the correct information.

“A Mrs. Miller,” Lorne said, “She’s called repeatedly. She’s made no threats but is pretty determined to talk to you.”

“What makes her stand out?”

“She isn’t calling for herself,” Lorne responded. His gaze flicked down to his notes. “Nor for a daughter or son. She’s calling for her brother.”

John raised an eyebrow. “That’s a new one.”

“Certainly is,” Lorne agreed. “She’s offered to mail proof - old family photos of her brother at a young age.”

That was a bit odd. There had been a few convincing fakes that John had sent in to be analyzed by professionals, but they had all been emailed or tweeted. As far as John was aware, nobody had tried to send a physical copy of proof. John had received plenty of underwear in the mail, though, and had been more than happy to pass them off to Lorne to deal with.

“What do we know about Mrs. Miller and her brother?” John asked, opening his email client to work as Lorne finished his morning report. He was going to have to talk to Weir Communications; he’d been hoping that his lack of response would make interest die down, but the interest in his personal life hadn’t waned at all. He needed a PR representative to get ahead of this. John’s work to get his workers fair benefits was coming to a head, and he wanted that to be in the news, not this bullshit.

“Not much,” Lorne admitted. “We have people on it, but it seems Mrs. Miller and her brother are Canadian. It’s taking a little longer to get their information.”

John nodded absently. “Keep me apprised.”

“Of course,” Lorne replied, and left John to his work.


 

“The pictures have arrived,” Lorne said the next day, entering John’s office without bothering to knock. Ronon lounged in a chair on the other side of John’s desk, long legs sprawled out, eyes half-lidded with sleepiness. Lorne took the seat next to him and opened the styrofoam container that held his lunch.

“What pictures?” John asked. He slid his own packed lunch a couple inches to the left, to better hide the current report from his R&D department. It was giving him a headache, and he preferred to pretend it didn’t exist while he was taking a break. Ronon chuckled at him and John scrunched his face up, disgruntled. John had been more than willing to promote Lorne and Ronon to department heads - Lorne for administration, Ronon for security - but neither had wanted to deal with the headache that came with the job. John was pleased they were happy where they were, and that he would be able to continue working with them as they were now, but they had earned better positions than what they currently held. Their refusal to move up the corporate ladder also meant they could laugh at John when he whined about paperwork.

“The ones Miller said she was going to send,” Lorne reminded him. He ate his sandwich in large, efficient bites - a habit leftover from the military.

“That the lady who wants you to meet her brother?” Ronon asked, sucking on his fingers to clean off the burger juices. John was momentarily distracted by the sight and it took a moment for him to remember.

“Oh yeah. Have they -”

“Already sent to be analyzed,” Lorne confirmed. He hesitated a moment. “The last time she called, I spoke with her.”

John looked up, interested. Lorne was a good judge of character. He had a way of figuring people out, of just knowing things. John trusted him to know what was happening in the company - what the employees were upset about, what they liked. He kept careful track of birthdays and made sure to bring in a cake from a bakery he refused to name.

“What’d you think? Total crackpot?”

Lorne shook his head. “She seemed pretty sincere. She wasn’t loud or demanding, and the pictures she sent are definitely from the 70’s.”

“And the mark?” John asked, quietly. Lorne’s eyes didn’t flick to John’s right wrist, where his sleeve covered his mark.

“Looked to be the same,” Lorne admitted. John slumped over his desk, a bit stunned. Lorne had seen John in short sleeves, had seen him wearing nothing but swim trunks. This sounded like it could be real. John didn’t want to get his hopes up - he already knew the statistical likelihood that this would pan out in his favor. But having someone to come home to, someone he trusted, sounded like heaven. John was tired of being alone.

He rubbed his face and straightened up. “Right. Okay.”

“Could go either way,” Ronon offered.

“Do you want this to be it?” Lorne asked carefully. He knew about the mess his parent’s marriage had been, that John had always had mixed feelings regarding soulmates. John took a slow, deep breath and let it whoosh out.

“I do,” he admitted. “If only to get the media jackals off my back. But…”

John was afraid to hope. After Nancy, he was afraid to open up. The whole world was enamored with the idea of soulmates. It had been a relief to find someone like him, who took a more practical outlook to life: find someone you could picture yourself spending the rest of your life with, soulmate or not, and settle down. Still, a part of John had always wondered about his soulmate, even more so now that Nancy had found hers. That this could be the person, his person, was both exciting and terrifying. They’d just have to see.

Before he left, Ronon gave his last cookie to John. Lorne promised to bring him a turkey sandwich tomorrow, one from that mom and pop sub shop John loved on the other side of town. He appreciated their attempts to comfort him. John felt on the edge of a precipice, and wasn’t sure which way he wanted to fall.


 

The final stages of John’s reforms hit not long after their conversation about the Miller pictures, and he became buried in work. Lorne gave him no additional updates on the search for his soulmate, which John was grateful for. His hand hurt from signing official papers, and his eyes burned from going far too long without blinking. His head felt stuffed full of information, and he was sure if Lorne tried to share anymore news, John would start to scream.

He went two weeks without seeing Ronon, either at work or outside of it. John was much too tired at the end of the day to consider hanging out with anybody. John left the office late and returned early in the morning, when the sun was just peeking over the horizon. It had been days since he’d had time to do his morning run, and he had forgotten to stop by his coffee shop on the way in. So it was with a fuzzy mind and bleary eyes, tie askew, that John took in the determined looking woman before him in the large, windowed entrance lobby.

Her curly blond hair was pinned back, her blouse a light pink. The skirt she wore was simple in design, blue in color, and fell to her ankles. She looked annoyingly chipper for so early an hour and completely non-threatening. Still, Ronon hovered behind her, looking - if anything - rather exasperated.

“Hello,” John mumbled. He did his best to smile through his yawn. Luckily, she didn’t look offended.

“Mr. Sheppard,” she greeted. Her smile was warm. “My name is Jeannie Miller. I’m here on behalf of my brother.”

John blinked slowly at her, his mind taking a moment to whirr to life. Surprised, he glanced at Ronon, who shrugged his shoulders. He looked supremely unconcerned, which was a relief. Ronon had sharp instincts and treated every unknown person as a threat until proven otherwise. John didn’t get a dangerous vibe from this woman, anyway. She looked like an elementary school teacher, not a crazed woman here to trick John into...whatever it was the crazy people wanted from him.

“I brought more photos,” Jeannie said, as though it would be enough to tempt John into allowing her up to his office. He had to admit that he was a bit curious about these photos - he still hadn’t seen any pictures at all of his so-called soulmate.

John tilted his head toward the elevators. “Please, come up to my office.”

Jeannie followed him gamely enough. He was relieved when she took up the burden of conversation, and was even more relieved when she revealed that her husband was also her soulmate, that they had a daughter, and her happiness at teaching at a community college. She was looking more sane by the minute. It also made her claims seem more rational - she didn’t appear to be making things up for fame or money.

Ronon disappeared to wherever he spent the majority of his time while at work while John lead the way to his office. He held his door open for Mrs. Miller and settled into his chair. He watched as she took a seat in front of his desk and smoothed her skirt down. She hefted her large bag into her lap and dug through it, frowning. Finally, she pulled out a stuffed envelope, her face lighting up with triumph.

“I won’t take up too much of your time,” she assured him, “I just want to personally hand over some old family photos and leave my contact information with you. In case you want to meet my brother, that is.”

“I appreciate it,” John said, smiling awkwardly.

“I know your people probably already have my contact info,” Jeannie continued, returning his smile with far more warmth, “but I wanted to make sure you actually see the photos in person. I could answer any questions you have about my brother. I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t certain.”

She handed him the envelope. John took it carefully, mindful that it contained photos that held sentimental value to the woman before him. The first picture had yellowed with age.The picture was of a towheaded blonde, no more than six, with a screwdriver in one hand and a mess of wires and plastic on the table in front of him. He was grinning brightly. The hand with the screwdriver was turned just enough so his mark was visible. John swallowed. It was a mark he was incredibly familiar with, having seen it on his own wrist all his life.

The other pictures were much the same - a child of maybe three, mouth pursed as he read a book; a scowling teen on a beach, his hand pressed against his forehead to keep the sun out of his eyes, his soulmark dark against his pale skin;  and a graduation photo. Eventually John ran into the photos of an adult, full of awkward poses and half-hearted glares, a vulnerability in those blue eyes. John felt a stir of interest at the crooked mouth and the broad shoulders.

When he looked up at Mrs. Miller, she was smiling softly. “His name is Rodney.”

“Rodney,” John repeated, and looked back down at the photo on top of the pile. Rodney was smiling at something off camera, and the light had angled just right to highlight how long his eyelashes were. John brushed his thumb over the incredibly ugly shirt Rodney was wearing and felt the corner of his mouth curl up.

He reached over and hit a button on his office phone. “Lorne, cancel my first meeting of the day. I’ll be speaking with Mrs. Miller for a while longer.”


 

John hesitated over taking a vacation. He was right in the middle of shaking things up at Sheppard Industries, and John couldn’t dismiss the feeling that his dad would take his absence as an opportunity to set back the progress he had made. But Jeannie Miller was persuasive, and John had to admit that Rodney McKay seemed...intriguing. So despite his misgivings, he found himself flying his private plane to Canada, with Ronon and Jeannie along for the ride.

Ronon hip-checked him toward the backdoor of the vehicle they’d rented. Disgruntled, John tossed his luggage in and settled in with a sigh. He watched the scenery go by idly, doing his best not to speculate on the potentially life changing meeting ahead of him. It took him a bit to notice that  the tall buildings of the city never seemed to get closer; the car was sticking to the outskirts, the suburbs.

John sat up straight. “Where are we going?”

Jeannie and Ronon shared a glance.

“To see my brother,” Jeannie said, slowly.

“But - a hotel,” John protested. “I’m tired. I want a shower and to eat something.”

Ronon looked at him through the mirror. “Are you really going to eat something anytime soon?”

John stomach twisted at the mere thought of food. Perhaps it’d be better to get the first meeting over with, let the nerves that were making him jittery settle a bit. A shower still sounded nice, but John wouldn't be eating until after he saw Rodney. John conceded Ronon’s point with a sigh and sat back.

They parked at the curb of a small house set back slightly from the rest. The lawn was mowed and the bushes trimmed, but there were no decorations outside. The driveway was empty and there was no visible movement. Even so, John’s heart began to pound and his hands began to sweat. This was it.

He followed Jeannie up the path to the front door, Ronon a welcome presence at his back. Jeannie knocked and they waited. She knocked again, this time with more force, a touch of impatience and annoyance in the furrow of her brow and the curve of her frown. She sighed when there was no immediate answer and began digging through her oversized purse.

“He’s probably too focused on his work to notice the knocking,” she muttered.

“There’s a doorbell right there.” John pointed. He reached out to push it, but hesitated when Jeannie shook her head.

“He disabled that. Said he didn’t want any distractions while at home.” she snorted. She let out a small noise of triumph as she found a keyring. She picked through it, looking for a specific key, and had just selected one when the door swung open.

What?” Rodney McKay snapped. John stared.

His hair was messy in a way that spoke of several days without a shower. Stubble lined his jaw, and his blue eyes were red rimmed. His mouth turned down intriguingly. He was wearing a ratty blue robe, one that had clearly seen better days, and his arms were crossed over his chest. He didn’t seem to notice John and Ronon, his gaze focused entirely on Jeannie.

“Oh,” he said finally, “it’s you.”

“Hello to you too,” Jeannie said. She gave him a once over and sighed. “Mer, I told you I’d be stopping by today. With guests.”

“So?” Rodney rolled his eyes.

“You’re not making a very good first impression,” she replied, rubbing her forehead with one hand.

Rodney twisted his hand in a circle as if to say, “And so?”

John had meant to give Rodney his best charming smile, but seeing Jeannie’s exasperation and Rodney’s impatience, it had mellowed into something more genuine and amused. This guy was something else, soulmate or not. He stepped forward, offering his hand to shake.

“I’m John Sheppard,” he greeted. Rodney hesitated a moment, glancing inquiringly at Jeannie, before he reached out and took John’s hand. A wave of tingles travelled through John’s fingers and hand, flowing up and into his chest, where it settled. John took a deep, surprised breath, and his fingers clenched instinctively on Rodney’s.

Rodney looked floored. He stared at John with wide eyes, lips moving as though he were trying to speak. He kept hold of John’s hand as John stepped closer, cheeks flushing an attractive pink. John tilted his head in a flirty way and murmured, “Can I come in?”

Rodney nodded wordlessly and stepped back, leaving the doorway open. John regretfully dropped Rodney’s hand as he swept past and into the dim entrance hall. With Jeannie and Ronon waiting to come inside, John had no choice but to continue forward. The doorway on the left led to the kitchen, which was clean, with just enough wooden chairs for all four of them. Jeannie immediately flung open the curtains to let in some sunlight.

John settled into a chair, enjoying the sight of a clearly flustered Rodney haltingly offer them coffee. The process of setting up his complex looking coffee maker seemed to settle him, and by the time he took the chair across from John, he was no longer wide eyed and flushed. Despite this, an awkward silence fell over the room.

Finally, Jeannie spoke up. “Haven’t you been watching the news?”

Rodney blinked and tore his gaze away from John’s face to shoot his sister an incredulous look. “Are you kidding? Do you know what I’m on the cusp of completing?”

Jeannie ignored this and cheerfully mused, “Of course, it’ll make a good story to tell at family gatherings - how I went out and found my brother’s soulmate for him.”

John and Rodney both jolted at the word. They shot each other a nervous glance. Rodney licked his lips and John’s gaze dropped to watch. He wanted to touch Rodney again, but reaching out had never been his strong suit. So he sat, watching Rodney watching him, and hoped that something would break the gathering tension between them.

With a heavy, longsuffering sigh, Ronon spoke up. “Sheppard’s been in the news. Soulmark was captured on film.”

Jeannie nodded brightly. “That’s how I knew who he was! Though it wasn’t easy getting in to see him, let me tell you.”

Rodney stared at John blankly. “Why would anyone care about your soulmark? Not that you’re not incredibly hot - definitely one of the hottest people I’ve ever seen, with the hair and the lean body - but attractiveness alone isn’t enough to garner media attention.”

“I’m -”

“Now that I think about it,” Rodney mused, squinting at him,” You do look kind of familiar. Are you an actor?”

“No,” John replied, amused. He hated being in front of cameras.

“Do you play hockey?” Rodney continued. “Though you have all your teeth, so perhaps not…”

“I don’t play hockey,” John confirmed.

Rodney paled suddenly. He took in a sharp breath and leaned forward intently. With the ratty robe and uncombed hair, his expression made him look slightly unhinged.  “Please tell me you’re not a politician.”

John’s loud, honking laugh filled the room. Even Ronon was laughing, one hand pressed to his stomach. Rodney crossed his arms and lifted his chin. His mouth was an unhappy, downward slash across his face. John wanted to rub his bottom lip with his thumb, press kisses to that mouth until it curved up. Attraction will definitely not be a problem, John thought.

“I work at my father’s company, Sheppard Industries,” John explained. He shrugged. “I’ve been getting some attention due to these reforms I’m pushing through -”

"His reforms are finally joining the 21st century,” Jeannie enthused. John figured he should get used to being talked over; it was definitely a family trait. “Benefits, health insurance, maternity leave…”

“Made the news ‘cause of it,” Ronon broke in. He grinned at John, clearly amused at his misfortune. “People liked the way he looked, he got fans.”

John scowled. “Annoying ones. They don’t even know me.”

Rodney looked skeptical as he met John’s gaze once more. He set his coffee cup carefully on the kitchen table. “And you think I’m your soulmate?”

I do,” Jeannie said firmly. This time it was Rodney’s turn to ignore her.

John shrugged again. “Enough to have travelled all the way out here to find out for sure.”

Rodney rested one hand against his right wrist, where his soulmark lay hidden by his robe sleeve. John’s heart, which had finally settled during the conversation, picked up speed once again. With a jerk of his head, he indicated to Ronon he wanted to be alone. Ronon hesitated for a long moment, before gently taking Jeannie by the arm and guiding her out of the room despite her protests.

Finally alone, John scooted his chair closer to Rodney, wincing at the loud noise in the quiet kitchen. Rodney watched him with wide eyes. His pulse pounded in his throat. John slid out of his suit jacket, and neatly set it on the table. He began to unbutton his right cuff. Rodney’s exhale was a little shaky as he shrugged out of his robe. His t-shirt was clearly well loved, thin and a little tight across the shoulders. It stretched across his chest in a really nice way, and John paused a moment to admire.

With John’s cuff unbuttoned and the shirt rolled up to elbow, Rodney’s robe cast aside, they hesitated. This was a big moment. Life changing. John felt thrilled and afraid, all at once.

“That moment on the porch…” Rodney murmured.

“Yeah,” John rasped. The tingles. It seemed like a promising sign.

Rodney straightened his back. He clenched his jaw and thrust his arm out. John extended his arm until it was next to Rodney’s, their soulmarks lined up beside each other.

“Oh,” Rodney breathed. Red spread over his cheekbones, back to his ears and down over his cheeks. John moved his knee until it was pressed against Rodney’s. Rodney reached out with one hand and traced John’s mark with his finger. Goosebumps broke out over John’s skin, and he bit his lip to hold back an involuntary noise.

John had found his soulmate.