"Say again," John said, trying not to panic just yet.
"I'm almost finished with my paper on—" Rodney began with flourish.
"The other part," John clarified, because he didn't need to hear about The Paper That Would Win Rodney McKay His Nobel Prize. That he'd heard enough about ever since their return from the Pegasus galaxy, when Rodney had decided to finally pursue this dream.
"Oh, uhm. We need to get married."
"See, that's what I thought I heard, and it still doesn't make any sense. Nobel Prize. Us getting married. I don't see the connection."
"Well, if you'd listened you would. I need some lab time to prove my findings."
"Don't you usually start in the lab?"
"Only if you don't know what the results will be!" Rodney snapped. Then he seemed to realize that shouting at the man you're asking to marry—and no, it still didn't make any sense at all—wasn't the best way to make him say yes. "Sorry. Look, I know that it's an...unusual request."
"Unusual? It may have escaped your notice, but I'm a man and so are you."
"No kidding. But that only makes a difference in your country." Of course Rodney would feel superior about that.
"And in my job, as you well know, mainly the difference between still having said job and not."
Rodney had enough decency to look at least a bit contrite. "Yes, I know, but can you honestly say that you still want that job? I mean, not the title, the one that they're allowing you to do now that you're no longer commanding officer of Atlantis."
John opened his mouth to say that of course he still wanted the job. Yes, it wasn't the same, but really, nothing could ever be the same as being on Atlantis. And he knew he wasn't the only one who held that opinion.
But he couldn't say it. Too often, he'd complained to Rodney about the incompetence of his team, how much he missed Teyla and Ronon—and possibly even Rodney—and that he felt useless.
"What exactly do you want me to do instead?"
"You don't have to do anything. I'll provide for you obviously. It's the least I can do."
"I don't need providing for," John said stiffly.
Rodney rolled his eyes. "I'm just saying I'll pay expenses. We can rent an apartment or a house for the time."
"Right, and that time would be?"
"Three months. Six tops."
"I can't exactly return to the Air Force after a couple of months, divorced from another man."
"I...I know. But do you really want to keep doing this? Compared to what we did in Atlantis, these are milk runs. And if you do find something, they'll send in SG-1. The only thing you're likely to get out of this is some horrible injury, and let's not even get started on potentially fatal accidents."
"Rodney, you know that's part of the job."
"It doesn't have to be. Look, if you do this for me, I'll help you find a job that you'll love. How about test piloting new jets?"
"You could do that?"
"Do you have any idea how many companies have asked me to work for them? I'm sure I could arrange a package deal."
"That... Okay, let's say that I am—hypothetically—willing to do this—"
"Hypothetically," John insisted. Rodney unsuccessfully tried to hide his grin. John continued, "What I don't get is why you have to be married. Can they even do that? And why can't you just go to a different lab?"
"This lab is not just one of the best equipped, it's also just an hour's drive away from Jeannie. And of course their official reason won't be that I'm not married. But I know someone who's on the committee that'll make the decision, and he's told me that while they recognize my brilliance, they aren't too sure my presence won't be 'disruptive' to the atmosphere."
"And you being married would change that how?"
"The fact that I was single was just one more indication that I don't have the interpersonal skills that they desire. Richard told me unofficially that if I'd been married, it would have tipped the vote. So...I'll just get married."
"And you don't think it would look a little suspicious that you just happen to get married when that's all they need to change their minds?"
"First of all, they don't know that Richard told me. Second of all, I have a good excuse. We couldn't get married as long as you were in the Air Force. And now that I've almost finished my paper, I've finally been able to persuade you to leave the Air Force so that we can be together."
"That...could actually work."
"See! Brilliant," he said, pointing at himself.
John could feel his mind getting used to the idea of marrying Rodney and that was just insane. "Why me?"
"You're the obvious choice."
John gave him a look.
"Well, you are. I don't have the time to go looking for a bride, and as you said, it would be highly suspicious."
"You could have asked someone else. Katie?" Rodney glared at him. "Right, maybe not after your failed proposal. But...Jennifer?"
John felt a certain amount of trepidation. Ever since holographic Rodney had told him about Rodney's future, he'd been waiting for something to happen between them. Even though it hadn't, it was always in the back of John's mind.
"I couldn't ask her to marry me. I mean fake ask. It would be weird. Plus, what if she meets someone? I can't ask her not to date because she has to pretend to be married to me."
"But you can ask me?" John was insulted by that. Not that he was seeing anyone or planning to. It was the principle of the matter.
"Well. Are you dating anyone? I mean seriously dating. I'm not asking you to give up sex obviously. I'd just prefer it if you could be discreet. I really don't want them to think that you're sleeping around behind my back and I'm too stupid to notice."
"I think I'll manage for half a year. And if I happen to fall head over heels in love—"
"We'll just have to deal with it."
John nodded. Apparently, he was going to marry Rodney McKay.
The days after their engagement, if you wanted to call it that, were a blur. John had to resign and was surprised to find that after the destruction of Atlantis, he didn't feel a huge loss at leaving the Air Force.
He gave up his tiny apartment in Colorado Springs, said good-bye to a couple of friends, and found himself in a hotel suite that he shared with Rodney. "It would look weird if we didn't share a room," Rodney had said, and John had only nodded.
Strangely enough, it was the sight of the large bed that finally made John think about what all this meant. Ever since Rodney brought it up, he'd steadfastly thought about it as a favor he was doing for a friend. It had nothing to do with this thing he had for Rodney. Mostly he tried to ignore it anyway, because there was no point in thinking about feelings he might or might not have for Rodney if there wasn't a chance in hell they'd ever be returned.
But the part of him that did a little skip when Rodney smiled at him enjoyed the idea of being married to Rodney in ways that had nothing to do with doing a friend a favor. He tried not to encourage that part of himself, but that was difficult, especially when it came out to play a day after his arrival when they were looking for the home they'd share for the next few months.
"It's a bit small," John said, looking around yet another apartment. "What if Jeannie and her family want to stay over for a night?"
"There is a very generous guest room," the realtor piped up.
Of course she didn't know that that would be John's room, and he couldn't exactly tell her. "I just think I'd like something bigger for our first home together." He stepped up to Rodney, right into his personal space.
Rodney didn't flinch away. In fact, by now he seemed to be okay with John in close proximity after the first touches on his arm and the arm around his waist had prompted a somewhat panicked look.
Rodney started playing along and put his hands on John's waist. "A house then?" he asked, with just a hint of exasperation, which John presumed wouldn't be out of place for a fiancé.
He grinned and turned to the realtor, who was checking out the white wall opposite of them. "You do rent houses?"
Maybe it was playing the husband-to-be in front of their realtor, but John found himself contemplating the merit of each house as a real home for them. Then he realized that fake marriage or not, it would be their home, even if only for a few months, and he wanted to make it as perfect as possible.
He'd only ever shared a room in college and of course on base, but that was hardly the same as living together with his best friend—husband.
The fifth house they looked at was bright and warm, homely in a way that the other places hadn't been. John knew all about large houses that felt empty and impersonal. Despite its size, this one felt intimate, almost small.
There were three guest rooms, which meant that even discounting the one he'd take, there'd be space for the Millers to stay and Madison could even have her own room. There was a big garage, inviting you to work on a car or motorcycle or possibly do some handiwork for the house. He wasn't sure if he was up to that, but it was good to know that he could.
"You do realize I'll be at the lab most of the time," Rodney interrupted his thoughts.
"But I won't be. Plus you'll have to come home at some point, and I'd like it to be a real home." He walked towards Rodney. "I think it would be great," he said, running one hand down Rodney's arm until he could clasp their hands together.
Rodney looked as if he wouldn't deny him anything but was trying to fight it. John was pretty sure it wasn't acting, if only because he didn't think Rodney was up to that much subtlety.
"Please," he said and watched the rest of Rodney's resolve crumble.
"Oh, all right."
John grinned and pulled Rodney into his arms. And when Rodney squeezed back, John quickly kissed him on the cheek. Acting the part, he tried to tell himself, while the lovelorn part of him contemplated evenings on the couch, cuddled up to Rodney.
Richard was, of course, surprised about the sudden wedding plans. But Rodney pressed on, explaining over the phone that it wasn't about getting the lab, that may have only influenced the timing of the matter. He told him that they'd get married the same weekend and silently hoped that Richard would buy it.
After a moment of hesitation, Richard told him there was going to be a little informal get-together that Thursday and that Rodney should come by and bring John if they had time despite having to organize a wedding.
"We're in, I can feel it," he told John after he'd hung up.
"He wasn't suspicious?"
"Of course he was. They're not stupid. But they've invited us to a party. So we just have to appear to be in a happy, healthy relationship and that will hopefully show them that I'm easy to work with if you just get to know me a little better."
"I thought they weren't stupid."
"Haha, very funny. What are you going to wear?"
John looked up from the golf magazine he was reading. "Tell me you're joking."
"You're my trophy wife! You have to look the part."
John got up from the couch and stood in front of him, pulling himself up to his full height. Rodney gulped. "If you ever call me that again, I'll cheat on you with the pool boy. Where's your credit card?"
Rodney sighed in relief and got out his wallet. "We don't have a pool."
John snatched up the card. "Lucky for you."
"I'm coming with you!" Rodney said to John's retreating back.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," John said, holding the door open. "After you, dear."
There was something strangely exciting about John dressing up for him. Actually, it wasn't just that. The whole idea of living with John had an appeal beyond facilitating Rodney's lab access.
John was buying things for their home. Rodney hadn't even started unpacking when John had hung one of Lorne's paintings of Atlantis in the living room. There was hot coffee waiting for him in the kitchen when he got up.
They had only been there for a couple of days, but already Rodney felt it was home.
He'd planned this as a necessary step to finally ensure he'd get his Nobel Prize. Being close to Jeannie and her family was a bonus. Marrying John however had just been the most practical workaround for his problems.
Now though, as he was shaving in their bathroom while John was getting dressed—putting on the clothes that he'd actually paid for himself, despite his jokes about being a kept man—Rodney couldn't deny that living with John was more than just a necessity.
He'd missed their daily contact after their forced return to Earth, even though they talked on the phone regularly, but he never would have thought that John suddenly standing in the door to the bathroom, holding up a tie and asking "Too formal?", would feel so right.
"The suit is enough," Rodney answered, and John smiled and walked away with an easy beat in his step.
Rodney didn't think he'd seen him this happy since Atlantis had been destroyed. And seeing him like that almost made Rodney feel guilty, because truthfully he hadn't given a lot of thought to what this would mean for John. Except that it got him out of the job that Rodney knew he was unhappy with. But even that was in part selfish. After everyone they'd lost and leaving Teyla and Ronon behind in Pegasus, he didn't want to face losing John.
"Well, are you coming?" John called from below. "I'm not sure how fashionable they'd consider coming late."
Rodney quickly finished and slipped into his shirt and jacket.
John was waiting at the foot of the stairs, looking up at him, and something twisted inside Rodney's chest. He suddenly knew exactly how he'd feel if they were actually going to be married, how he'd be tempted to let the party be party and stay at home, getting John out of that black jacket and white shirt and...
He shook his head and rushed down the stairs. He had to concentrate on being the kind of person you'd want as part of your facility for the next few months instead of having fantasies that made no sense.
John tried not to drive too fast for Rodney's sake. He still couldn't help needling him.
"You could buy me a real car."
"Why? You're soon-to-be too freshly married for a midlife crisis, and I'd never be with someone who'd need it to cover up certain...inadequacies." John didn't need to look at Rodney to know he was smirking—and possibly looking at John's crotch.
"Size doesn't matter." John smiled inwardly, waiting for Rodney's reaction.
"Don't you dare tell anyone that," Rodney said outraged. "They'll think you're talking about me, and believe me, you'd have nothing to worry about in that department." John couldn't help a sidelong glance towards Rodney. "If we really had sex," he added. "And for God's sake, keep you eyes on the road! They don't award the Nobel Prize posthumously, you know."
They arrived right on time, but still Rodney was fidgeting nervously once they got out of the car. John put one of his hands on Rodney's arm, the other on the small of his back. Then he leaned in and whispered, "We'll be fine."
Rodney turned towards him, took a deep breath, and nodded. Then he gave John a quick grateful smile. John squeezed his arm.
He moved aside a bit as someone approached them. In the last second he changed his mind and let the hand from Rodney's back slip into Rodney's, clasping them together.
"Rodney," the man said, holding out his hand.
"Richard." Rodney slid out of John's grasp to shake the man's hand, but much to John's surprise, once he had, he took John's hand again. "This is Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard." He was pressing John's hand as he said it, and John pressed back to calm him down.
"Retired," John said and shook Richard's hand. "It's good to meet you."
"It's good to meet you," Richard answered. "We were all quite curious to see what kind of man would be brave enough to face a lifetime with Rodney McKay."
Next to him, Rodney spluttered. "I think it took courage for both of us," John said quickly, trying to deflect an outburst.
"Ha," Rodney said. John squeezed his hand with a bit more force. "Hey!"
"How about we meet the others?" John asked Richard.
"Yes, of course. I suppose you will want to get back to your wedding preparations."
John nodded with a smile. Truthfully, the extent of their planning had been to obtain a license and find a Marriage Commissioner and the vague idea to have the ceremony take place in their garden. They did have a lot to do, but that wasn't the reason he wanted to go. If Rodney made a good impression on them, it would be best to leave as soon as possible, specifically, before Rodney could screw it up again.
Four introductions later, John could feel Rodney getting fidgety again. Rodney was terrible at small talk. Not that John enjoyed it himself, but you didn't grow up in the Sheppard household without learning a few things about presenting yourself, and as much as hated it, he figured he might as well put it to good use for Rodney now.
John tried to lead the conversations, because while Rodney's enthusiasm about his work was a wonderful thing, these people already knew that he was brilliant and unfortunately talking about his own genius went hand in hand with insulting the lesser minds and this was the sort of thing that was to be avoided at all cost.
Food was always a good distraction, so he set out to get something to eat for Rodney. As long as Rodney had something in his mouth, he couldn't talk.
When John joined Rodney again with a full plate, he seemed to have come just in time.
"Oh please, I know that his 'theory' seems to have a few interesting points superficially, but his reasoning is as sound as a wet tissue. The man is an—" That was when John more or less shoved one of the mini-sausages into his mouth.
Rodney glared at him, then the glare changed as he took in the taste and saw there was more.
The woman Rodney had been talking to seemed to try to hide her amusement.
"These are good," Rodney said, pointing at the plate.
"I know what you like," John said smiling indulgently.
The woman—Mary something or other—looked between them, and he could see in her eyes what he'd seen with the others. She was buying their act hook line and sinker.
It probably was a combination of things.
People tended to see what you told them to see. He'd been Patrick Sheppard's son to so many when he'd been young. Then later he'd been the hot-shot pilot with the black mark. But a few people, like Elizabeth, had always seen more than that. He felt a moment of sadness remembering her, accompanied by a bit of gratitude that she hadn't been alive to see Atlantis' destruction. These people in this room were told that they were seeing two people engaged to be married, and that's what they saw.
Another reason it worked, John suspected, was that he and Rodney really did know each other quite well. They could finish each other's sentences and communicate wordlessly. Over the years, a certain amount of intimacy had developed between them. Or maybe intimacy wasn't the right word. Familiarity.
At least that's what it had been until recently. John recalled watching Rodney shave earlier. Sharing a household was a step towards intimacy, even if they didn't share a bed. And that was probably the last reason these people seemed to buy into their act: for John, it wasn't exactly an act.
He was still a bit surprised at how easy he found it to be openly affectionate with Rodney. Maybe this was just part of a natural development for him. Like the move from calling him "McKay" to calling him "Rodney". And after all, it wasn't as if he'd never touched Rodney before. Still, putting a hand on the small of his back or holding his hand was something he did deliberately, but didn't have to force himself to do. Which was strange because public displays of affection had always felt awkward to John, even if he genuinely liked the people he shared them with.
John definitely liked Rodney. He more than liked him. He wasn't ready to put any other name on his feelings—that dreaded L-word—and he was trying not to let his feelings get out of hand, but the last couple of days had made it more and more challenging.
Sharing the large bed at the hotel had been easy. Maybe it was because they'd shared tents before and the bed was so large that they could leave a comfortable amount of space between them. The sight of a sleep-tousled Rodney in t-shirt and boxer shorts was somehow much more exciting, precisely because it was something that he wasn't used to. And the look of gratitude on Rodney's face when John greeted him with a hot cup of coffee did things to John's insides that were definitely new, at least on such a regular basis.
"I'm afraid we have to go soon," John told Mary.
Rodney looked as if he was about to protest, but instead he just shoved more of food on the plate into his mouth.
"Wedding preparations. I can imagine. I'm so glad you could make it."
John let Rodney finish the plate and then quickly dragged him back to the car.
"We could have stayed a bit longer," Rodney complained, once they were on their way back. "It was going great."
"Exactly. From that point on things could have only gotten worse."
"Hmm, I suppose you're right." He looked over to John as if surprised about that. Then his frown faded. "Thank you."
John was tempted to make a joke that he was just making sure he'd be provided for, but in the end he simply said, "You're welcome."
When Rodney smiled at him, John reached over and squeezed his hand.
At home, Rodney immediately checked their answering machine.
"Damn, no calls," he said, getting out of his jacket.
"Whose call are you expecting?" John asked. He wasn't even sure how many people knew their new number.
"I thought maybe after seeing us together, all socially ept, they'd go ahead and confirm that I got the lab."
John laughed. "Rodney. They said, you'd have their decision next week. You can be glad if this works at all."
"What? We were perfect! They loved you. I didn't know you could schmooze like that. Except of course with pretty chieftain's daughters or half-ascended women."
"It's a hidden talent," John said, quickly continuing with, "What do you want to order for dinner?" He didn't really want to have a conversation about either where John had learned to work a crowd or half-ascended women.
"I don't care as long as it's edible. Though I'm not quite hungry yet. Maybe this would be a good time to talk about some of the wedding preparations that everyone mentioned."
John smiled. "For most people a wedding is quite a big thing."
Rodney sat down on the couch, kicked off his shoes, and put his feet on the table. Then he looked at John hesitantly. "How was your first wedding?"
"A very big thing," John said, hoping Rodney would hear the finality in his statement.
Rodney watched him, then leaned his head back on the couch. "Jeannie is going to have my head for this."
John sat down next to Rodney. "For faking a marriage to get some lab time?"
Rodney straightened abruptly. "God no! She must never know. Do you hear me?"
John was a bit surprised to hear that. He'd assumed Rodney would tell her the truth before the ceremony. After all it was, in part at least, to be close to her. "You want to lie to her?"
"I don't want to lie to her. But believe me, the alternative is worse. Do you have any idea how she was about Katie?"
Actually John didn't. "You told her about the proposal?"
"It was her idea."
John's eyebrows rose. He knew that Jeannie could be as headstrong as Rodney, but making Rodney propose to someone? Then again, looking back at his own recent history, maybe it just didn't take that much. "You should consider marrying out of love at some point."
Rodney glared at him. "Thanks for the advice. That is the plan."
John tried not to make a face at that. The idea of watching Rodney marry some day... He didn't want to think about it. Especially since there was a good chance he'd be Best Man. Of course, first he'd watch himself marry Rodney. Which brought him back to the whole not telling Jeannie the truth thing.
"If you don't want to tell Jeannie the truth, we'll have to tell her that we're in a relationship."
Rodney's eyes shifted to him, then away again. "Yes, I'm aware of that."
"You think she'll believe it?" John didn't add that you're marrying a guy, because that would be tantamount to asking if Rodney wasn't straight, and he couldn't quite bring himself to do that. Truth was, he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.
Rodney sighed. "I hope so. She'll be surprised because I never told her about us."
John fidgeted and then just couldn't help himself. "Is that the only reason she'll be surprised?"
Rodney looked at him, frowning. Then realization seemed to hit him. "Oh, you mean the guy thing."
"Yes, the 'guy' thing."
"I'll just tell her that the 'phase' I went through in college was more than that. She was the one who told me it was okay to be bisexual."
John's heart began to beat faster. Phase. Bisexual. He tried to tell himself that Rodney obviously considered himself straight, but still he couldn't fight the images of a young Rodney having sex with some guy. And then he couldn't fight the images of a not-young Rodney having sex with him.
"She'll probably feel smug about it too," Rodney ended in a huff.
John nodded and smiled weakly.
"So, uhm, do you want to invite anyone? Your brother maybe? Although he might think this idea is a bit weird."
"No, he'd think it was insane. Because it is insane."
"You're not backing out, are you?" Rodney asked, slightly alarmed.
"No, I'm not. I like this house," John said with a look around the large area that served as living and dining room and also included the kitchen separated by an isle.
Rodney looked around too. "I never had a house like this. It never seemed necessary."
John leaned a bit towards Rodney until their shoulders were touching. It was the same for him. He'd lived in tiny apartments, his parents' huge house, and Nancy's house, none of which had ever felt like his home. But this house... Suddenly he felt that he wanted Dave to see this.
It didn't matter that the marriage was fake and that they'd get an annulment or a divorce. He wanted to be able to say, "This is what I want. This is what makes me happy," and show his brother who he really was. Because fake marriage or not, that part would be true.
"You know. I think I will invite Dave."
Rodney turned to him. He hesitated before speaking. "You'll have to tell him not to tell Jeannie the truth."
"No, I think I'll just tell him that I'm getting married. If that's okay with you."
Rodney watched him for a moment. "Of course."
John tensed, waiting for Rodney to ask the obvious question. Wouldn't Dave wonder about John marrying a guy? But Rodney didn't. "Now that we have guests, I think we should look into organizing some food."
When John called his brother, Rodney tried not to be too obvious about listening. But he only heard him ask if Dave had time this weekend, tell him that he was invited to John's wedding and that he was near Vancouver. Finally, John gave him their address, and that was that, no mention of Rodney's name or gender.
Rodney tried not to read too much into this. Maybe John wanted to shock Dave. Rodney knew that there was some kind of history between them, and they'd only began talking again after their father's death. He had to admit that a part of him was looking forward to see Jeannie sputter when she found out.
He loved her dearly, but the way she always thought she knew everything better including how Rodney should lead his life annoyed him more than he was usually willing to admit. Part of it might have been how the whole Katie thing had gone down. Of course he couldn't blame Jeannie for it. It had been his own decision, but Jeannie had made her opinion clear and had pushed him in that direction.
He couldn't wait to see how she reacted to the news that he was going to marry John.
The countdown to their wedding increasingly seemed to Rodney like a countdown to the obliteration of his straightness.
They spent Friday with various preparations. Dave and his family were supposed to arrive Saturday morning and would stay until Sunday. Jeannie and her family would come Saturday afternoon and leave after dinner. The wedding would take place Saturday afternoon, and so far, they still only had the Marriage Commissioner and a vague idea that a cake would be nice, and that it would be helpful if their guests had something to sit on.
When he came downstairs Friday morning to their large open kitchen/dining/living area, John wordlessly handed him a hot cup of coffee. A smile was playing around his face, and Rodney wondered how one could get used to something in such a short period of time. He found himself already regretting that one day he wouldn't be greeted in the morning like that anymore.
During breakfast, he couldn't help eyeing the phone every now and then. He still thought after their very successful display as a happy, healthy couple, the committee would practically beg Rodney to join them in their facility. However, they seemed to be insistent on sticking with their schedule. After a moment, John put his hand on Rodney's.
"Patience, young padawan. They'll call next week."
Rodney wanted to glare at him, but John's smirk was completely disarming, and when he removed his hand, Rodney missed it.
Next up was a visit to their bakery. John had gotten them fresh bread a few times on his morning run. So it was he who asked the woman at the counter if they also did wedding cakes.
"You're getting married," she asked dolefully, and Rodney could feel his blood pressure rising. He was standing right here, and she was making nice with his fiancé.
"Yes, to me," he said, putting an arm around John's waist.
John looked a bit surprised by this display of possessiveness, but this was public so they were doing their act. He dutifully put his arm around Rodney's shoulder. "Yes, we're getting married tomorrow."
Her demeanor suddenly switched from mournful to the excitement of impending doom. "Tomorrow?! And you haven't arranged for a cake yet?"
Rodney was glad her interest in their cake took clear precedence over her interest in John. His relief lasted for all of a second, when they were unceremoniously dragged into a back room, where they spent almost an hour trying to explain that they really just wanted a simple cake for nine people. It wasn't unlike trying to tell the natives that they hadn't meant to despoil their sacred temple, initiate an old ritual, propose to anyone. Luckily, this time it didn't end in running for their lives, even though they hurried out once they'd ordered their cake for pickup the next day at 2 pm.
Their next stop was to a jeweler. At least here, they got a more sophisticated version of the "you're getting married tomorrow and haven't taken care of this yet?" panic. Once he got over the shock, the salesman was very nice, though. He gave them a lot of indulgent smiles, and Rodney really felt a difference from the time he'd bought an engagement ring for Katie.
He'd thought more about Jeannie that day than about Katie. He'd thought about what it would feel like to relate to her in that way too, to know what it meant to have a family to come home to or even to stay home for every now and then. In retrospect, the fact that his proposal had been more about being closer to Jeannie than about Katie should have clued him in that it wasn't a good idea to propose to Katie, but then hindsight is 20/20.
With John, though, Rodney didn't think about Jeannie. He didn't even think about himself. He just liked the way John looked at each ring. He took it and ran the tip of his finger over the surface as if he needed to feel it. Rodney suddenly thought back to when he'd shown John his engagement ring. He couldn't remember Katie with it at all, even though he knew that she'd found it, but he still remembered how John had held it and made fun of it.
He definitely wanted John to have a ring that he liked, even if they pretty much looked all the same to him.
After looking at a few of the rings, John eventually tried one on. Rodney couldn't help the irrational pride at seeing the golden band on John's finger.
It wasn't even as if he would wear it more than once. Then again, maybe they would wear them as part of their "act". Even then, it would be just for show but still it made Rodney feel good to see John with this symbol that marked him as taken, promised to Rodney.
"What do you think?" John asked, and Rodney just nodded.
The salesman magically produced another ring and presented it to Rodney. Rodney looked from him to John, who watched him with an expression that Rodney couldn't read at all.
He put on the ring. The salesman smiled. John quickly looked at Rodney's face then back to his hand. Rodney hardly saw the ring. But he felt it, felt a sudden sense of belonging.
"It's good," he said, feeling completely stupid, but then John put his arm around Rodney and pulled him close until their foreheads touched.
Rodney found that he had to remind himself they were just acting the part. He wanted to run his hand up John's side and wrap it around him. He wanted to move his head to the side against John's temple, his lips along his cheek. He wanted to kiss John.
Rodney could hardly breathe. They were acting, but they'd never kissed, not on the lips and it would probably take things too far. So he decided not to go there.
Eventually it was John who pulled back and kissed him on the cheek, as he'd done when they'd found their house. Rodney ever so slightly leaned into the kiss.
"We'll take them," they both said at the same time. John laughed and Rodney relaxed.
The salesman smiled at them. "What would you like to have engraved?"
"Is there time for that?" Rodney asked.
"Of course. You can either pick them up later this afternoon or tomorrow or we can send them to you. You're getting married here?"
They confirmed that they were and started discussing what to engrave into the rings, if anything.
Rodney just had to look at John to know that they didn't want anything that related to time. This wasn't about "forever". "Love" was pretty much out too.
"To the end of the world and back," John half-joked, but to Rodney this invoked images of John flying a bomb that he'd built into a Hive ship.
"I don't think there are any right words to express what we are to each other," Rodney eventually said.
"We could simply add the date and your names," the salesman suggested.
"John and Rodney," John agreed.
It felt right to Rodney too. No last names. This wasn't about their professional relationship. This was about something that he wasn't even sure existed, except that in the last few days, he'd felt it loud and clear. Although truthfully, he'd felt it before at times. Mostly in a situation of life and death. It was the feeling that if he lost John, he'd lose a part of himself.
That it was "John and Rodney" and not "Rodney and John" didn't disturb Rodney for some reason. Maybe because he could still hear Elizabeth's exasperated "John, Rodney". Maybe because with John he'd learned not to put himself first. If all else failed, he could say it was the alphabetical order.
"Yes," he said.
When they stepped out of the jewelers, Rodney's stomach rumbled, and a look at his watch confirmed that it was past lunch time. They had spent over an hour to get the rings, or more precisely to select them, because they'd still have to go back and fetch them later that afternoon. That as well as buying furniture for the garden, some flowers to make the table a bit more festive and ornamental ones for the suits that they'd bought when they'd shopped for the party. They'd still have to organize dinner, although as a back-up plan, they planned to just order something on the day. But Rodney would really prefer not to have his wedding dinner come out of boxes.
He had to eat first, though. Now. They walked along the street, looking for the next restaurant, and despite his hunger, Rodney kept thinking about them being a couple going out for lunch. He couldn't have explained the difference to just getting a bite with a friend. They weren't even holding hands or anything, although Rodney thought about it. He felt ridiculously pleased every time John took his hand. But Rodney didn't quite dare to try it. They'd never really negotiated what was fair game in their act, and he didn't want to push it.
When they came across a small restaurant, Rodney put his hand on John's arm, stopping him. He left it there while he scanned what they offered. He was acutely aware that just a bit over a week ago, if they'd gone for lunch, he simple would have said, "How about this one, Sheppard?" Now, after just a moment of hesitation, he slid his hand down John's arm where it slipped easily into John's hand.
They held hands until they were seated. The restaurant wasn't fancy, but that suited Rodney just fine. A perky waitress in her thirties came over to their table. Rodney watched her checking John out as she took his order, and unlike in the bakery, he didn't feel the need to stake his claim publicly. Maybe it was that he'd just held hands with John after buying rings and a cake for their wedding. It was hard to feel threatened after that.
There would always be women flirting with John. Rodney knew that. And at that moment, he didn't feel too bad about it. John couldn't help who he was after all. And he didn't flirt back, Rodney noted. In fact, when he had given his order, he smiled politely at the waitress and then turned to Rodney, really smiling and reaching over to casually put his hand over Rodney's for no apparent reason.
The waitress saw it and, after a moment of surprise, smirked at John. He raised his eyebrows as if to say, "Sorry, no chance." Rodney felt his stomach doing strange things. He really had to eat soon.
The waitress took Rodney's order and left them with a smile that was friendly, not flirty, and was directed at both of them. John slowly took his hand away and leaned back into his chair.
Rodney wasn't sure why John had done it. The flirt would have gone nowhere anyway, and they didn't have to appear to be a couple in this little restaurant. There was no one around who they had to fool, and they probably wouldn't come back here.
Then again, Rodney had started it by taking his hand. Maybe John had taken that as a cue to do their act here too. Rodney felt slightly disheartened by that. Then he chastised himself because it really shouldn't matter either way.
It was just an act, and the how and why of it didn't change that fact.
John kept telling himself that he wasn't taking advantage of Rodney. After all Rodney had initiated at least some of the public displays of affection that they'd shared that day. John had only acted in kind. And Rodney hadn't complained.
John wasn't quite sure what to think of that. He knew why he acted the way he did: this was his chance to live the life he'd always wanted to live, even if he hadn't really known it before now.
Since his first crush on Dave Kasinzky, he'd been very aware of what was expected of him, by his family, his friends, and later the military. He'd always had to make compromises, and for the most part, he'd been okay with that. You couldn't always have what you wanted. He had responsibilities. He'd made decisions that had consequences. Not being allowed to openly be with a man had been one of the consequences. He'd lived quite well with it over the years, and he'd always told himself that there wasn't much that he was missing.
He'd been wrong, though. Being able to walk into a restaurant, holding hands with Rodney was liberating. John knew that Rodney's acts of possessiveness were some strange sort of jealousy and his own pride. For John, it was showing the world who he was and not having to hide a part of him.
That he wasn't really with Rodney didn't seem important. And if he thought about it, what were they really lying about? They were going to get married. They did live together. They had known each other for years, getting closer and closer. The fact that they didn't have sex seemed almost insignificant.
They were carrying out the new garden chairs for the ceremony, and as Rodney tried to navigate his chair around the long table, John could see a bit of skin where Rodney's shirt had ridden up.
Maybe not completely insignificant.
They arranged the chairs in two rows of four with a bit of place between them. They chose a spot in the garden where there was a nice trellis on the wall and a bit of ivy wended its way towards the roof.
John looked at Rodney, who seemed almost sad.
"It's not much of an aisle," John said with a shrug.
Rodney turned to him. "What? Oh. No, it's not that. After all there'll be no bride to walk down the aisle."
"Good point." John looked at Rodney who was staring in the general direction of the chairs again. "What then?"
"I wish Teyla and Ronon could be here."
John hadn't expected that. They sometimes talked about them, about Atlantis, but Rodney was the kind of person who tried not to dwell on the past when there was nothing to be done about it. Which wasn't a bad way to live really.
He stepped up to Rodney and put an arm around his shoulder.
"I know this isn't even a real marriage, but I still wish they could see us."
John got the distinct impression that Rodney felt stupid for admitting it. And he really shouldn't.
John put his hands on Rodney's shoulders and spun him around to face him. "I miss them too. And we are getting married."
"We're getting married because I want to be close to my sister while trying to win a Nobel Prize."
John smiled. "So? People get married for all kinds of reasons." He thought of Nancy, but dismissed the thought because it was nothing he wanted to dwell on the day before his wedding to Rodney.
"I guess they do," Rodney said, getting a far away look for a moment. "It could be worse. We actually like each other."
John was a bit curious about what brought on this particular observation, but he was quick to agree. "Yes, we do." He still had his hands on Rodney's shoulders, and now he pulled him closer into an embrace.
After only a moment's hesitation, Rodney's arms folded around him as well.
John quietly sighed against Rodney's temple. This whole experience was wonderful for him, but in moments like these, he kept thinking about what else he wanted. He wanted to kiss Rodney—all the time. He wanted to touch him more than he did. He wanted to say more than he did.
But this was about helping Rodney, so he settled for brushing his lips against Rodney's cheek, hoping it wouldn't be too much.
Rodney did a quick intake of breath. John pulled back enough to look at him. Rodney seemed flushed, but not with anger.
"We'll have to kiss each other tomorrow," he blurted out.
John had thought about that, once or twice or a couple of dozen times. "I know."
"Maybe we should..." Rodney trailed off, flushing again.
"Practice?" John asked with a smirk. His heart began to beat faster at the idea, and they were still standing close with their arms around each other, so close that Rodney might notice. But he couldn't help teasing Rodney.
Rodney spluttered, indignant now. "Well, yes! It can't look like we've never kissed before. I mean each other. And excuse me if I feel a bit nervous about doing it in front of my sister and my little niece."
"Okay, okay. Just imagine we've done it a million times before."
"A million? You do realize that even if we kissed a hundred times a day that would still only be 36,500 kisses a year. We would have had to start almost thirty years ago."
"Twenty-seven years and five months. Minus a few days," John said with a grin. His math skills always threw Rodney off.
Rodney pressed his eyes closed. "I'll just imagine we've kissed before."
John would have loved to know what he imagined. He himself had imagined kisses everywhere from soft and hesitant to almost violent with passion. Not that he would have admitted that even to himself just a week ago. Stray thoughts were all those had been.
Rodney opened his eyes again. "Okay."
"Okay?" John asked.
"That's what I just said, weren't you—"
John kissed him.
Rodney's lips stopped moving. John closed his eyes and waited for them to start again. When they did, he opened his mouth a bit, and Rodney's hands inched up along John's back.
John tried to hold back. He wanted nothing more than to coax Rodney's mouth open, to taste him before covering his whole body in kisses. But they were just practicing—for their wedding kiss which would take place in front of a stranger, their siblings with spouses and nieces aged four to nine.
Rodney's mouth did open, and the hint of tongue John felt along his lips shot straight to his groin. Then Rodney's lips and tongue were gone.
"O-kay," he said breathlessly.
John didn't say anything, but dropped his arms and moved his body away a bit to make sure Rodney wouldn't notice how much he'd enjoyed it.
"I think, I think we're good," Rodney stuttered, unable to look at John.
"Yes," John simply said, trying to look away as well because Rodney's lips were wet and red and so damn kissable and he wanted to be back there now.
"We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow," Rodney said, finally looking at John again.
"Okay. See you tomorrow." Rodney hesitated, then awkwardly patted John on the arm, before leaving.
John gave him a quick smile and watched him go. Rodney really had a nice ass. John covered his eyes with his hands. He must have been crazy when he said yes.
John took off for a run on his wedding day, as he had all the other days. He avoided the bakery, too afraid they'd want to discuss the cake some more. Dave was going to arrive soon, and they still had to move John's clothes to the Master bedroom.
He just hoped things wouldn't be awkward with Rodney.
Back at home, he took a shower and made coffee. Then he tidied up the room a bit, moving the few unpacked boxes into the storeroom and carried the empty ones out to the trash.
When he was done, Rodney was still nowhere to be seen, so John took a cup of coffee and made his way up to his groom.
"Rodney," John said, knocking on the door.
"Wha?" came Rodney's mumbled voice.
"It's already 8:30. Dave will be here in a little over an hour. We still have to move my stuff from the guest room," John told him through the door.
There was a noise, some cursing, then the door opened to reveal a hellish looking Rodney. John held up the cup of coffee.
Rodney looked at him, bleary eyes full of gratitude. "This is why I married you," he said and took the coffee.
"We're not married yet," John pointed out. "But speaking of which, what should we tell them? About how we got together."
Rodney inhaled half a cup of coffee and made a dreamy noise. John wasn't sure he'd heard him, but then Rodney said, "Why would we need to tell them anything? We met through work. We fell in love. Put in a few saving-each-other's-life moments and we're there. Unless you want something else to explain how you fell for a guy."
Rodney looked at him speculatively. This was as close to asking John if he was into guys as he'd ever come, but it still wasn't an outright question. "No, we can just go with a typical work romance, with missions and hiding. We can't really tell my brother anything anyway."
John wasn't sure how Dave would react. They hadn't really talked much about it after their father's funeral. It had been more about feeling each other out, getting to know each other again after all the lost time. And they'd really needed that.
"Okay, then I guess I should make some room in my closet."
"One more thing. How long have we been together?" John asked.
Rodney seemed to consider it. "Well, the last thing my sister knows of my love life was Katie, so after that I suppose. A year and a half?"
John nodded. "I'll go get my stuff."
Rodney was nervous. He'd never met Dave, and the bits of info he'd gotten out of Ronon could be counted on one hand. He wanted to look good for John's family. He already knew that Jeannie liked John and thought he was more of a catch than Rodney, for whatever reason.
He didn't want Dave to think he wasn't good enough for John, even though it should be obvious that John should count himself lucky.
Additionally, Rodney was dying to finally find out if John had ever been with a guy in the past. He figured Dave's level of surprise would give him the answer.
Their kiss the night before had been...pretty damn spectacular. He couldn't remember it being like that with the guys he'd had sex with in college. Of course, those had been casual encounters, where kisses had been scarce anyway, just the first step to the main event.
And maybe John just really liked to kiss. Thinking bitterly about some of John's conquests on missions, Rodney knew that it didn't necessarily have to mean anything to John. Even if they did like each other.
He ran his hand through his hair once again when John came up behind him, pulled it down and put his arms around him. "Stop that. You look fine." A thrill shot through Rodney, and he instinctively leaned back into John.
God, he'd go crazy this weekend. Holding hands in public was one thing, but with their families there, they'd probably be even more openly affectionate to convince them that this was real, and last evening's kiss alone had been enough to make Rodney restless all night.
He'd replayed the kiss in his head over and over again, and it hadn't stopped there. He couldn't remember when he'd last fantasized about having sex with a guy, but it couldn't have been as intense as imagining sex with John. He'd come so hard he'd nearly passed out, but after cleaning himself up, he couldn't sleep. He couldn't stop thinking about what that meant, whether maybe his sister had been right all along and he was bisexual or if pretending to be in love was just messing with his mind in strange ways.
Then there was the question if John would ever be interested in him in that way and above all the fear of losing John's friendship. That was something he wouldn't risk no matter what.
He stroked John's arm, and then the bell rang and he could feel John's posture become rigid. Rodney wondered if he should answer the door himself when John finally moved away from him to greet his brother.
Dave looked nothing at all like John.
They didn't hug, and John just opened the door to let them all in. Dave's wife smiled apologetically. "Where's the bathroom?" she asked, looking down to the little girl clinging to her leg.
"Right around the corner," John said, pointing at the little arc that led towards the downstairs bathroom, the study and the garage.
"Thank you." She took the little girl's hand and walked past Rodney, giving him a quick smile.
Rodney smiled back, then turned back to John, his brother, and the other girl. She was looking at Rodney curiously.
"Come in," John said. He took their suitcases and carried them inside, closing the door behind him. "I guess I'll show you your rooms."
Dave looked to Rodney, then to John.
"Right, right." John set the bags down and walked to Rodney. "Rodney McKay. Dave Sheppard."
The girl cleared her throat loudly. "And Susan Sheppard, of course," John added. She beamed.
They stood like that, and Rodney thought he was going to burst any moment now, because he wasn't quite sure if this cleared up who John was going to marry or if they just thought Rodney was a friend.
"So, is Uncle John marrying you?" Susan asked.
"Susan!" Dave admonished her.
"What? You said it could be a man."
Oh God. Ohgodohgodohgod. John wasn't straight. John was...looking like all color had left his face. Rodney moved his hand to his back, but John blindly grabbed for it and took it in his own. "Yes, this is the man I'm going to marry," he said, looking at Dave.
Rodney could tell that they were communicating something that he couldn't understand. He squeezed John's hand in support in case he needed it. John looked at him, the color returning to his face. Then he leaned forward, and without thinking, Rodney did the same, and their lips met in a kiss.
Rodney's eyes closed, and he opened his mouth just enough to feel John breathing into him, and then they pulled away again, because act or not, making out in front of your brother and niece was just a no go.
When they pulled apart, he saw big eyes staring up at them.
"Susan," Dave said again.
"That is so weird," she said giggling.
"Susan, I explained to you—"
"That sometimes men fall in love with other men, I remember. I've just never seen it up close. It's not nearly as gross as Aunt Lydia kissing her boyfriends."
"What's with Aunt Lydia?" Dave's wife came back in with their other daughter.
Dave covered his eyes. Rodney looked over to John to see if this was bad, but John was only smiling, bordering on grinning actually. Dave recovered quickly. "Rodney, this is Charlie, my wife, and Claire, our youngest. Charlie, that's Rodney McKay."
"Uncle John's fiancé," Susan added before Dave could say anything more.
She looked at Rodney, then John, then back to Rodney. "It's nice to meet you," she said with a wide smile and stretched out her hand. Rodney took it, smiling back.
John came back down the stairs alone and joined Rodney in the kitchen. Rodney didn't quite know what to say, but he felt he had to say something.
"I guess I shouldn't have worried about how this would look."
"He suspected, I think."
Rodney straightened at that, because if Dave only suspected he could be wrong.
But John continued. "At the funeral he thought Ronon was my boyfriend."
The funeral. Rodney could feel jealousy rising in him. He'd wanted to go. He'd wanted to be with John then. Ronon had never mentioned this. Rodney was suddenly gripped by the irrational fear that it was true.
"After the whole replicator thing, I went back to him and explained that he was really just a friend. And I mentioned you."
This slightly mollified Rodney. "You did? What did you tell him?"
"Nothing. Just that we were friends." John wasn't quite meeting his eyes.
Rodney could stand it no longer. "How did he even come up with the idea that Ronon was your boyfriend? Assuming that you didn't do anything to make him think that." And okay, maybe he was pouting, but it couldn't be helped.
John gave him a look. "We didn't do anything. For Dave it was enough that he was there."
"Because you couldn't have just brought a friend," Rodney pressed on.
John's gaze fell. "Because wanting to be able to bring a boyfriend was why I left. At least one of the reasons."
"You're gay," Rodney had to say because he'd waited to know since he began doubting his own straightness.
John looked up at him. "Yes." And there was something in his expression as if he was daring Rodney to say something about it.
The rest of the morning flew by quickly. They showed Dave's family the house, talked about the Sheppard family business, and then discussed what they should get for lunch.
Rodney kept mostly quiet, unable to stop thinking about John's revelation.
He'd known that something had happened between John and his family. If you looked for it, you could still see the tension between them, the somewhat forced politeness, although Susan in particular was always willing and able to say something to ease the tension.
But Rodney could see John's alertness, as if he was waiting for an attack. Dave was trying, that much was clear. He'd been friendly to Rodney and asked about his job. But he was tense too, as if he was trying not to make a mistake.
Rodney wondered how a family could let it come to this point. Then he thought of his own relationship with his parents when they were still alive and with Jeannie. So, yes, maybe he could relate.
He stayed at John's side, trying to be there for him, and John sometimes put his arm around him or held his hand, and Rodney hoped it was giving him some amount of comfort and confidence. Even if his family failed him again, Rodney would always be there.
After lunch, Dave offered to get the cake for them. Charlie and the kids played outside while Rodney tried to prepare for his own face-the-sibling moment.
John was cleaning up after lunch when the bell rang. It was really too soon for Dave to be back, so Rodney nervously opened the door to greet the Millers.
"Mer," his sister said, enfolding him in a hug.
"Jeannie. Come on in, all of you."
"Rodney, it's good to see you again. You've got yourself a really nice big house." Kaleb looked over to Jeannie.
Jeannie gave him a look, and Rodney frowned, but then he was distracted by Madison. "Uncle Mer, I've brought the microscope. We can check out bugs together."
"That's...really nice of you to think of me. Why bugs?"
"Right. I'm not sure we'll have time for bug checking though. I actually have plans."
"Colonel," Kaleb said, looking over Rodney's shoulder. Rodney turned and saw John coming up behind him.
"Kaleb. Jeannie. Madison." The last he accompanied with something that looked vaguely like a bow.
Madison grinned at him. Kaleb looked at Jeannie, raising his eyebrows, and she just shook her head. Rodney tried to remember to ask her later what that was all about, but first he'd have to get the important thing out of the way.
"What is it?" his sister burst out before he could say a word. "It's the lab, right? You got it!"
"Uhm, actually, I'll get word on Monday. But probably, yes."
"I'm sure they'll give it to you. So what are we celebrating then? Because I got the impression this would be more than just a family dinner." She looked over to John, then back to Rodney.
John took a step towards Rodney, but didn't say anything.
Rodney almost wished he would, because he somehow seemed to have forgotten how to form words. Jeannie still looked expectantly at him, and Kaleb looked strangely self-satisfied.
"I'm..." Rodney began. Jeannie was so excited. Suddenly shocking her didn't seem as fun as he thought it would be. But there was no way out now. The Marriage Commissioner would arrive in an hour. "I'm getting married."
Jeannie stared at him, then her face fell. It hurt Rodney to see it. Then she turned to glare at Kaleb, who was grinning widely.
"Mom bet Dad that we'd celebrate that you got the lab. Dad said it could be something else. He even guessed you could be getting married," Madison explained.
Rodney's appreciation for little girls who couldn't keep their mouths shut had grown a thousand times within the day. He looked at Jeannie, who looked a bit embarrassed, but was smiling now. Rodney sighed in relief.
"Wow," Jeannie said. Then she grinned. "Congratulations!" She hugged him fiercely, and Rodney could only hug back. She pulled away and kissed him on the cheek.
Then she turned to John, smiled at him and said, "Congratulations," before pulling him into her arms as well. John's eyes widened a bit, but then he hugged her back.
Rodney couldn't believe that she simply assumed it was John he was marrying. But then Kaleb and Madison wanted to hug him too, and he managed to hide his surprise.
"You didn't tell Kaleb anything, did you?" Jeannie asked John, suspicious.
"I told you it was just a guess," Kaleb told his wife.
"You guessed that I was going to marry John?" Rodney asked, because he still couldn't see how.
"I just told Jeannie it didn't have to be the lab because I figured if it was, we'd know within minutes, whereas marriage might be something you'd want to surprise us with."
"Speaking of which, why didn't you tell me? I told you years and years ago that it was okay to be bisexual. You didn't have to make up some girlfriend to cover for your relationship with John."
"Make up?" John asked, looking as disconcerted as Rodney felt.
"'Katie Brown'?" Jeannie asked, making air quotes. "The one that you wanted to marry and who conveniently disappeared once you were going to get married at which point I would have met her. Come to think of it, this explains your reaction when I compared you to John back when we were," she looked down at Madison, who was listening intently, "gone for a while. I should have compared her to John."
"Rodney?" John asked, amused now.
"We need to get dressed," Rodney said sourly. He didn't think John needed anymore ego-stroking. He still had no idea why Kaleb had assumed he'd get married to John. He wanted to ask, but he was almost afraid what the answer would be.
Rodney was perfectly willing to admit that he was attracted to John now. Being told that this could have been inferred from his behavior before the last two weeks raised some questions that Rodney wasn't willing to face at this point.
"Let's give them a quick tour of the house and gardens and show them their guest room," John suggested.
Rodney nodded and led the way.
By the time they'd shown the Millers around the house and introduced them to the Sheppards, Dave arrived with the cake, which managed to look like a wedding cake despite their instructions of wanting something simple. It even had two little grooms on top.
At that point the women started to panic because they had to get dressed, which in turn set off Rodney's own panic, because he didn't want to be late for his own wedding, and someone would have to greet and pay the Marriage Commissioner when she arrived.
He was still fighting with his cummerbund when John came out of the bathroom, where he'd gotten dressed.
John looked as hot as he'd imagined. Rodney sighed in frustration.
John came up behind him and looked over his shoulder in the mirror. "Can I help you?"
John somehow got the damn thing fixed and ready in under a minute. "Done," he said with a faint smile.
Rodney missed his arms around him. John had relaxed since the Millers' arrival, but he wasn't as physically close to Rodney as he'd been before his brother's arrival.
Or maybe it hadn't been since his brother's arrival, but since Rodney had found out that he was gay. Maybe John worried that his touches would be less welcome now or be misunderstood.
Rodney reached back to pull John's arms around him, clasping their hands together. John looked a bit surprised then leaned his head against Rodney's and hugged him closer for a moment.
Whatever this was—and he'd have a few months to find out—Rodney didn't think he ever wanted to give it up. He just hoped he'd figure it all out by the time he was finished with his experiments.
They were pronounced husband and husband at about half past three on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Rodney's heart was beating fast and steady in his chest. He'd done it. And looking at John, he knew that the happiness that he felt at this moment had nothing to do with whether or not he'd get the lab.
I do—from this day forward—comfort of your companionship—patience of your understanding, at which John's mouth had quirked a little. The words were running through his mind. He could feel the weight of the ring on his finger. John was still holding his hand. And then, he was allowed to kiss his husband.
John smiled at him, his wide, happy smile that Rodney had loved long before he'd even considered him a friend. Rodney wasn't sure if he was smiling back. He was close to an out of body experience at this point, so he just opened his mouth and closed his eyes, and then John's arms were around him, and they were kissing again.
It was even better than the evening before. His hand wandered up to run through John's unruly hair. God, John felt so good. Rodney opened up further to get a better taste of him. When he felt the tip of John's tongue carefully touching his, he simply pushed forward with his tongue and body, everything he had. He heard John make a noise and only prayed it wasn't in protest, and then John tightened his arms around Rodney and pushed back until Rodney could only groan.
He didn't ever want this to end.
I am not going to pull back first. The thought ran through John's head over and over. That and Yes!.
He hadn't kissed like this since college. There was never time in the encounters that he'd had and most of all, those people hadn't been Rodney. His husband.
That thought made John pull Rodney even closer, if that was possible. They were married and kissing, and it was as real as he ever could have wished for.
Rodney panted harshly and gripped his hair almost painfully. John slowed down a bit, kissing Rodney more softly, and he could feel Rodney easing into it as well, stroking John's head gently. Their tongues just caressed each other now, and it was still so good.
He became vaguely aware of a noise and eventually words.
"Mer, it's not like this is the last kiss you'll ever share."
Rodney stiffened in his arms. Then John felt him shift, and after a few more kisses, he pulled away. He looked at John, completely dazed and hot, and John wanted nothing more than to kiss him again.
The cake was a hit with everyone. Susan took the cake toppers and made them re-enact John and Rodney's kiss. Rodney glared at her, but John found it cute.
He was sitting next to Rodney, feeding him cake, simply because he could. Every now and then, he kissed the crumbs from around his mouth and every time, Rodney turned to him and made it a real kiss.
Every time a glass clinked, they obediently kissed. Susan seemed especially fond of doing it, again and again and again.
But even when she'd run off to play with Madison, Rodney would put his hand on John's thigh and lean in, and they were kissing again.
"Oh wow," Jeannie commented. "One would think you'd been together for a week not years."
Rodney gave his sister a self-satisfied smirk. John caught Dave's gaze. His brother was smiling at them.
John leaned into Rodney. He'd never felt so happy in his life. And in this moment, it didn't matter that when they went to bed that night they wouldn't have sex. This moment was about feeling entirely content and at peace with the world. It was about being in love and being loved and accepted. This was real and wonderful, and John would never forget it and would always be grateful to Rodney for giving it to him.
Between all the kisses it took quite a while to eat the two pieces of cake each of them had. They were hardly finished when cake eating suddenly turned into dinner.
John simply enjoyed being with their families. Everyone was talking at once, and it was so unlike what he remembered family dinners to be like.
After they'd had some more cake as dessert, John and Rodney once again found themselves kissing.
"I think we should leave you now. We still have to drive home, and I can see that you'd like some alone time," Jeannie said.
Before either of them could protest, Dave piped up. "Yes, we wanted to take the kids out for a while."
"You really don't have to—" John began, but they would have none of it.
"You'll lose control any moment now anyway," Jeannie said, "so I think it would be better if you don't have any witnesses. Think you can hold out until we've changed?"
"I think we'll manage," John said, putting a hand over Rodney's.
Fifteen minutes later, they were saying good-bye to the Millers. Outside Jeannie pulled him aside. She gave him a serious look, and for a moment John thought that she knew everything and would warn him not to mess with Rodney.
But she just said, "Make him happy."
It sounded so much like an order that John answered, "Yes, ma'am."
Jeannie nodded, apparently satisfied. Then she kissed John on the cheek, and they were off. He came up to Rodney and put his arm around his shoulder as they waved good-bye.
When they turned back to the house, Dave and his family were ready to leave too.
"We won't be back before nine," he said meaningfully, and John wanted to say that it wasn't necessary, but he could see that it would be of no use.
"Thank you," he said.
His brother's family started to walk off. Susan waved at them, then made a kissy-face.
"Your niece is extremely disturbing," Rodney said as they walked back in.
John laughed. "I think she likes you."
Inside, John felt an awkward tension between them, now that they were alone again. He wanted to go up to Rodney and say How about we take it upstairs? but he didn't dare to.
'Make him happy,' Jeannie had said, and he really wanted to do that. He just wasn't sure what would make Rodney happy. He'd enjoyed the kissing. But maybe that was just because Rodney enjoyed kissing.
John liked it very much himself. Kissing was one of his favorite things in the world, something he liked to do even with women. It wasn't like it was with men. It certainly wasn't like it was with Rodney, but it still felt good. Maybe it was the same for Rodney. After all he wasn't seeing anyone at the moment and hadn't since Katie.
John didn't want to go too far. He didn't want to make things awkward between them for the next months. He didn't want to want more than Rodney.
"Uhm, your brother thinks we're...."
"Yes," John said, sighing just a bit.
"Do you think he'll really stay away 'til nine?"
"Oh yes," John said.
"Claire is never going to stay awake that long," Rodney pointed out.
"It doesn't matter. He's trying to do this for me, for us. He'll take a hotel room if necessary, but he won't be back before nine," John tried to explain.
"He wants to make it up to you," Rodney said understandingly.
"Yes," John agreed.
"So, uhm, maybe we should take a shower before they get back."
John couldn't help his mind drifting off to an image of him and Rodney in the shower together.
"For authenticity," Rodney added. John could feel nervousness radiating off him. He just wanted to take him in his arms. Then he thought that maybe he could.
He walked up to Rodney, put his arm on his shoulder and, seeing nothing to discourage him, pulled him into his arms.
Rodney relaxed immediately and wrapped his arms around John as well. "We're married," he whispered into John's shoulder.
"Yes, we are," John said, softly kissing Rodney's head.
Rodney pulled back enough to look at him and just watched John for a long moment. John wasn't sure what he was looking for. Eventually Rodney said, "Wanna watch some Star Trek?"
They showered at half past eight just to be sure. Afterwards, they went downstairs to read until the Sheppards came back, which turned out to be at ten.
When John got the door, Dave still looked as if he felt sorry for intruding. "Come in. Don't worry, we're decent. The kids must be tired."
"I'm not!" Susan protested.
Claire however seemed to be standing asleep. "Well, I am," Charlie said to Susan. "Good-night, John."
She gave John a quick kiss on the cheek and picked up Claire. They made their way upstairs. Charlie had to prod a grumbling Susan, who took the opportunity to win a few seconds more time by kissing a surprised Rodney on the cheek.
Rodney watched her run off, then turned to John and just looked at him as if to say freak.
"She's..." Dave began. "I don't really know. She's very excited about you two. She's going to tell everyone that her uncle has married another man." He looked over to John at that, as if to ask as if it was okay.
"Let her," John said. Rodney just shook his head on the couch. "Do you want a beer?" John asked, turning to his brother.
"Why not? Although I'm pretty tired as well."
John walked to the fridge and got out two beers. "Rodney, you want one too?" Rodney just waved him off, not looking up from his magazine.
Dave seemed amused by that. John opened the bottles and handed him one. They clinked bottles and took a swig. "We could go sit outside," John suggested.
Dave nodded and they went into the garden. It was a mild night. They didn't say anything and drank in companionable silence. When John was done with his, he set down the bottle on the table. They'd have to clean up tomorrow.
Dave set down his empty bottle too.
"I just want you to be happy," he said, not looking at John.
John studied his brother's profile. Dave had never pushed John away. He'd never taken John's side either, but it wasn't his fault that he'd been the perfect son, that he'd been everything that Patrick Sheppard had expected a Sheppard to be, everything that John wasn't. But that was in their past now. "I am," John said.
"That's good," Dave said, finally turning to John with a smile.
They got up and entered the house. Rodney wasn't on the couch anymore.
"I'll go to bed now, check on the kids."
"And I'll be joining my husband," John said, trying not to expect anything.
John knocked on the door as quietly as he could. He wasn't sure if Rodney was sleeping. Or he could be doing...other things.
"Yes?" came the careful answer.
John quickly entered.
"Oh, it's you."
John raised an eyebrow. "Who did you expect?"
"Well, I wouldn't put it past Susan. Although she probably wouldn't have knocked. Why did you knock? We're supposed to be sharing this room, remember?"
"Yes, I just...didn't want to interrupt you," John said, sitting down at the desk and getting out of his shoes and socks.
"Doing what?" Rodney asked perplexed.
John gave him a look. Rodney seemed to get it.
"I was expecting you," he pointed out. And yes, of course Rodney wouldn't be masturbating when he expected John.
"I'll just get into..." John grabbed a shirt and boxer shorts and went into the bathroom.
He brushed his teeth and dressed for bed. He tried to tell himself that there was nothing to worry about. They'd shared a bed before. Granted, not after making out for half a day, but it would be okay. He'd actually masturbated in the shower earlier, so he'd be fine.
He took a deep breath and went into the bedroom. Rodney was lying on his side, facing the wall. John switched off the light and slid into bed on his side.
Rodney didn't stir. John wasn't sure if he was already asleep, but he doubted it. "Good-night," John said, and quickly leaned over to kiss Rodney on the cheek. Then he turned to lie sideways facing the other direction.
There was only silence for a long moment, then he heard Rodney turn around and whisper, "Good-night." A moment later, he felt Rodney leaning over and brushing his lips against John's temple.
Rodney leaned back after kissing John good-night. He lay on his back and stared into the darkness of the room. When they'd shared their bed in the hotel room, it hadn't been a problem for Rodney.
Of course, things had been different then. He hadn't known what John's lips would feel like against his. Putting a hand on his arm or having John casually kiss his cheek hadn't become second nature. He hadn't wanted to do anything other than sleep next to him.
Strangely enough, what he wanted now wasn't even necessarily sex. He was too keyed up for that. Not to mention with Dave and his family in the house, including Susan, who seemed entirely too fascinated with his relationship with John, he'd always worry about being heard. And also, it had been a long while since he'd last had sex with a guy.
So he didn't want to have sex with John right now, but he wanted to be closer to him.
All day long they'd kissed and hugged and been in each other's personal place. It felt wrong to have John in the same room, in the same bed, but to not touch him. But Rodney couldn't bring himself to move closer to John. Returning the good-night kiss had been okay, but anything more could be interpreted as something that it wasn't intended to be.
John turned around next to him, facing Rodney now. Rodney glanced over, and in the pale moonlight he could see that John was watching him.
"Can't sleep?" John asked.
Rodney didn't know what to say, so he settled on something close to the truth. "This is weird."
John snorted quietly. He pulled Rodney's arm over him.
Rodney was surprised, but then settled down, snuggling close to John. "This is better," he whispered into John's shoulder.
John kissed him on the head. Soon after that, Rodney fell asleep.
When Rodney woke up, he was alone. John had probably gone on his run.
Rodney got himself as ready as he could be before coffee and went downstairs. All the Sheppards in the house were sitting at the dining table, among them his husband, who immediately got up, handed him a cup of coffee and kissed him on the cheek.
"Morning," Rodney mumbled.
He was cheerfully greeted by the others, none louder than Susan. Rodney quickly downed half the cup. God help him, he'd married into a family of early risers.
Half an hour later, he was more awake and knew more about horses than he'd ever wanted to know. Then again, he was glad to see that Susan wasn't just obsessed with her uncle's marriage.
The Sheppards wanted to go to the zoo, and it was obvious that Dave wanted to give them some time alone again, but John tried to convince him that they wanted to come along, since they were leaving later the same day "and I'm pretty much stuck with Rodney now".
Rodney glared at him and John quickly kissed him and then they'd been off. Their car wasn't large enough, so they decided to take public transport. Susan insisted that she sit between Rodney and John.
Thankfully, John took care of her most of the time, asking about school and their horses and what she wanted to be when she grew up (an actress!).
In general, John spent time with his family more than with Rodney, but Rodney didn't mind. He knew that they had only seen each other a few times since John's father died.
But John, by no means, forgot about Rodney. He materialized next to Rodney every now and then, making an observation about whatever animal they were watching at the moment. And when he did it, he usually put an arm around Rodney or kissed him as well.
When they bought ice-cream, John explained that they shouldn't have lemon ice-cream and Rodney was very touched, even if it prompted Susan to ask about how exactly Rodney's throat would swell up and kill him.
Rodney also enjoyed just watching John interact with his family. He shared a few memories with his brother, and Rodney was glad that apparently John's youth hadn't been all bad. At one point, Claire lost her shyness and attached herself to John's hand permanently. She didn't talk very much, but she was there and John explained various things to her and lifted her up when she was too small to see something.
The day went by quite quickly, and Rodney had to admit to himself that he liked John's family, even Susan, who kissed him noisily on the cheek when she said good-bye.
Rodney could see that John was sad to see them go, and he put his arm around him after they'd left and told John that they could visit them. John smiled and leaned against him, before pulling away.
"I better get my clothes back into my room."
"Uhm," Rodney said, because he didn't really want that.
"What?" John asked.
"It's just. Well, they'll visit again, and Jeannie will too. It seems silly to carry your things back and forth every time."
John watched him, and Rodney only hoped he wasn't flushing, because what he was really saying was I don't want you to sleep anywhere else.
"You won't mind when I get my clothes out of your room?"
Rodney hesitated. This was his chance to say what he wanted to say, but what came out of his mouth was, "No."
John went on his run as always the next morning. He'd slept relatively well, even though he'd considered going to Rodney once or twice. He didn't even think Rodney would have minded. It could have become part of their relationship. Sharing a bed, even if they weren't sleeping together.
In the end, John felt it might be better to keep things simple. The touching and the casual kisses were okay. They were more than okay. John enjoyed each and every instance of them. He still harbored the hope that over time, their marriage would stop being an act, but until then he thought it would be easier not to wake up next to Rodney every morning.
It had been a wonderful feeling the day before, but there'd also been the temptation to kiss him awake, to push up his shirt even further, to rub his morning erection against Rodney until he came.
John shook his head. This was exactly what he shouldn't be thinking about. At least until he got into the shower to jerk off.
When he came home, he was surprised to find Rodney in the kitchen.
Rodney looked blearily at him, then over to the phone.
Right, it was Monday. He was waiting for The Call. John debated kissing Rodney on the cheek since he was sweaty from the run. He made it a quick peck and rushed upstairs to shower.
Since Rodney was downstairs, he didn't bother to knock, but to his surprise Rodney was back in bed. "Uh, sorry, I thought you were still downstairs. I would have knocked."
Rodney looked up from the magazine he'd been reading at John's face and then down John's body. John felt completely naked suddenly, even though he had a long towel tied around his hips.
Rodney's eyes snapped back up, as if he'd realized that he'd been checking John out, at which point John realized that too. He didn't mind—at all.
Then Rodney frowned. "What is it with you and knocking anyway? I can't remember you ever being this courteous when you stormed into my labs."
"That's because I didn't expect you to do things in your lab that I wouldn't want to interrupt."
Rodney blinked. "Oh, it's the masturbation thing again."
"Yes, that," John said, wondering why they had to talk about it when he was wearing nothing but a towel.
"Tell you what. How about I'll lock the door when I masturbate?"
John tried to imagine it. Which was a bad idea. On several levels. "But then when I'd try the door and it's locked I'd know that you're... I just wanted to get some clothes," he quickly finished, grabbing the first things he came across and held them in front of his groin as he rushed out.
Breakfast was tense because Rodney kept looking at the phone. John wished they'd hurry up and call because Rodney would have a nervous breakdown if he had to wait until the evening.
They'd almost finished when the phone rang and Rodney practically dropped his cup rushing to pick up.
"Rodney McKay. Hey, Richard. Yes, yes, the wedding was fine, what about the lab?" John tried not to roll his eyes at that. Rodney was silent for a long moment. "Yes, I'm here. I'll be there in a few minutes."
He hung up and things went very fast from then on. "I got it," he said, kissing John on the mouth. Then he rushed up the stairs and came back down a minute later, carrying his briefcase and laptop bag. "I'll be back...at some point this evening. Bye."
He kissed John again, on the cheek, and John found himself alone, wondering if this was what married life would be like.
Married life with Rodney was wonderful.
He'd expected Rodney to work late and even bring work home when he did come. He'd seen Rodney under pressure before, and for some reason he'd thought the home stretch to his Nobel Prize winning work would certainly rate as high as an approaching Hive ship.
But he'd been wrong.
Rodney came home for dinner almost every night. He called on the few occasions when he couldn't make it. And after dinner he didn't work, but spent time with John.
John loved it.
He remembered life with Nancy. Every time he'd been home he'd felt pressured to spent it with her. When he wanted to go out with friends without her, he felt guilty, which in turn made him avoid her, which in turn made him work even more.
It had been a spiral that just got worse and worse and the fact that he couldn't tell her what he did and more than that, that he couldn't love her the way he felt he should, made them grow further apart, though they'd never been very close in the first place.
He didn't feel pressured about spending so much time with Rodney. Part of it was of course that he had more than enough time to do what he wanted while Rodney was working.
John spent the first month decorating and furnishing the house the way he liked it. He could practice his golf swing into a net in their garden now as well as play basketball. He moved the desk from the study, which they never used, into the living room since they spent most of their evenings together there.
For their DVD sessions, he installed a home theater system. They often ended up lying together on the couch, sometimes arguing, sometimes cuddling.
He kissed Rodney on the cheek before they went to bed, in the morning when he gave him his coffee, when he left for work and when he came back. And sometimes he kissed him for no particular reason at all, because it was part of their relationship now.
After the first month, he started flying again at a small airport nearby. Rodney had looked skeptical when he'd first taken him out, but he trusted John.
John knew that flying didn't mean as much to Rodney as it did to him, but Rodney still gladly joined him, and back on solid ground, with John grinning, quite possibly like a maniac, Rodney smiled at him and hugged him as if he only needed John to be happy to be happy himself.
John had kissed him then. Right there on the field, right there on Rodney's mouth.
They sometimes did that in public. John wasn't sure why. It wasn't as if most of these people even knew they were married. And even those that did wouldn't necessarily think it odd if they didn't kiss all the time. But somehow, kissing in public was part of their relationship too.
They went to a concert together once after Jeannie had suggested it.
When John saw the look on Rodney's face as he listened intently, he knew he wanted to see that look again. He couldn't wait to start shopping for a piano. It required some re-organization of their living/dining area, but the look on Rodney's face was worth every bit of it.
Rodney had been self-conscious at first, but after John's encouragement, he played regularly after dinner, and sometimes John would sit next to him and lean against him. Rodney smiled even as he complained that he couldn't play like that.
John masturbated thinking about Rodney. He didn't think he'd masturbated this much since high school. He sometimes spent hours imagining that the hands running over his nipples and stroking his dick were Rodney's. Then, as he prepared himself, he fantasized about Rodney's fingers inside of him, imagined Rodney's dick filling him instead of the dildo he pushed into his ass.
He didn't try to seduce Rodney. Showing up in the morning when he got his clothes and just dropping his towel was as much fantasy as waiting for Rodney in his bed, naked. Those were things that he imagined but didn't do.
There were moments when he felt Rodney might want it, might wait for it, but he was never sure, and he didn't want to break what they had, this easy, good, comfortable life.
Five months into their marriage, there came a point where John felt slightly melancholic because he knew that any day now Rodney would come home and announce that he was done. It was during this time that Jeannie was there for a visit.
She regularly visited, alone or with Kaleb and Maddy, just as they often visited them when they were in Vancouver.
Jeannie asked what they planned to do once Rodney was finished with his lab work. John balked, because obviously he couldn't tell her that they'd get separated and look for new jobs.
"I know that you could move all over the world, and I'm sure it's tempting, but I think Rodney really likes it here," she said.
John actually agreed. Of course Rodney complained about his assistants, but his insults were relatively mild, which made John suspect they were really quite competent. He said as much to Jeannie.
She laughed. "I know! But actually, I didn't mean that. I meant this," she said, gesturing around them.
John looked around. "You mean this house?" Rodney had never complained about it after his initial thought that it was too large, but truthfully, John didn't think living space was the kind of thing that Rodney paid much attention to.
"I mean your home," she said. "John, I've never seen him so happy in my life."
John shook his head, smiling. "He's already working on his acceptance speech," he said with a smirk. It was true. John kept telling him that he'd better be in there after what he'd given up for Rodney. Rodney always got a strange look, but didn't answer.
"No," Jeannie said seriously. "It's you."
John didn't know how to tell her that she was wrong, how Rodney's relationship with John wasn't what had changed him, because they weren't in a real relationship. "He's got a good life at the moment. No Wraith, no IOA. They adore him at the lab. He's close to you," he tried, but Jeannie wasn't buying it.
In fact, at this point, she looked almost suspicious. "John, you have to know how differently he's behaving. How often does he come home for dinner?"
John frowned at that turn of the discussion. "Why do you—"
"Just answer the question."
"Five times a week," he said truthfully.
"See, so he only stays at work for two days."
"No, he eats here every night. He doesn't work weekends," John corrected her.
"There you go," she said, hitting his arm and grinning as if this completely proved her point.
John must have looked as confused as he felt. He knew that Rodney could pull long workdays if necessary for weeks, but this wasn't a life and death situation.
"John, I've known Mer a bit longer than you. And I've met some of his girlfriends, hell even just his normal friends. They've all told me the same thing. He neglects everything over his work, and if it's not work, it's one side project or another. One of his girlfriends complained to me that she saw me and his roommate more than she saw him."
John didn't know what to say.
"I don't know much about how he was on Atlantis, but I do know that he hasn't always been like this." She looked at him and smiled. "He's just never been in love like this before."
This was... He wanted it to be true. And part of him believed her, but another part insisted that Jeannie didn't know her brother as well as she thought she did. And it was that bit of doubt that had kept him from risking it all with Rodney in the past months.
"And from what Dave has told me, it's the same for you."
John could only stare at her stunned. Not only that Dave knew how he felt about Rodney. That he'd talked about it—with Jeannie. And Jeannie didn't seem to have any doubts. Was it so obvious that he was in love with Rodney? With an inner sigh, he had to admit that it probably was—to everyone but Rodney.
"Your brother is a hard man to resist," he said, with a self-deprecating smile.
"Well, I'm not sure about that. But I don't blame you for falling for him. I'm just glad it happened," she said, squeezing his hand.
He wasn't quite sure what to do after their conversation. He didn't think he could act out one of his numerous fantasies. Not yet, not when they were still living together. Rodney's work at the lab hadn't ended yet. But maybe there was a way he could show Rodney that he was open to it.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Rodney had seen that they still had tickets for the concert, so he'd taken the day off and gone with Jeannie.
The concert was great. But then they sat down in a café.
"Okay, spill," Jeannie said.
"What? I don't know what you're talking about," Rodney said, not meeting her eyes. Which was almost true, because there were quite a few things she could be referring to and he didn't know which one of them she was talking about.
"It's nothing," he insisted.
"You're taking a day off to go to a concert with me—without John."
"We don't have to spend every single second of our lives together," he said, irritated. "And you don't have to tell John," he added more quietly, because he didn't really want him to know.
Jeannie stared at him.
"What? It's not as if I'm cheating on him!" No he was just lying.
"First of all, I know that you don't have to spend all your time with him. But the fact is that you do. More than I even thought. John told me you don't work weekends."
"That's what weekends are for," he said defensively.
"Okay, how many hours a week do you work?"
He didn't say anything, stubbornly not looking at her.
"Forty-eight," he finally said.
He wanted to tell her that it was a reasonable time, that forty-eight hours of his time were more than twice the time of anyone else. Except that in those forty-eight hours he didn't do nearly enough.
For the last months, the closer he'd gotten to finishing, the more he'd taken his time. He'd done unnecessary triple checks and recalculations. He'd failed to point out mistakes of his assistants under the guise of teaching them self-reliance.
He'd done everything to hold on to John just a bit longer.
"Meredith, what is going on here? This is not you. I can understand that you want to spend time with John. I've always told you that work isn't everything, that family is what matters, but it's not just that, is it? I mean you and I both know that you could have been done in three months, and even with forty-eight hour weeks, you should have been finished weeks ago."
She was right and she knew it and she knew that Rodney knew that she knew it. She also wouldn't stop until she had the whole story. "Don't tell John," he said, resigned to his fate.
"Don't tell him what?"
"That I'm stalling."
"But why are you stalling?"
"Because I don't want to lose him!"
"John?" she asked, confused.
"Who else? When I'm done at the lab, he's free to leave. That was the deal." He carefully looked at her out of the corner of his eyes, waiting for her reaction.
"Meredith," she said sternly. "What did you do?"
Let the blaming begin. Well, it was too late for denial now. "The lab recognized my brilliance, but they weren't...quite as convinced of my other qualities. I found out that being married would change their mind. John wasn't happy with his job. I needed someone to play my loving spouse. It seemed like a good solution."
"So you faked your own wedding and lied to your family?"
"No, we are married. We're just not together," Rodney said unhappily.
Jeannie watched him, the frown between her eyes deepening. Then she slapped him on the back of his head.
"That's for lying to me for months. Don't worry. I forgive you."
Rodney glared at her and rubbed his head.
"But only because you're such an idiot," she continued.
"What? What are you—"
"You and John. I don't care what you think, but I've watched you. You're still like newlyweds. You can't keep your hands off each other. And Madison has actually asked me why Kaleb and I don't kiss as often as you two do."
"What was your answer?"
"Nice try. We're talking about you now. You and John are together, don't you see that?"
"No, we're not."
"Yes, you are."
"No, we're not."
"Are not! Believe me, I would remember if I had sex with him. There's nothing going on between us."
"You mean apart from breakfast, dinner, sometimes lunch, weekend trips, evenings cuddled up on the couch."
"How do you know—" Rodney began automatically. Then he added a defeated "Yes."
"You're in love with him, Mer." It wasn't a question.
"God, yes," Rodney said, some weight lifting of his chest.
It felt good to finally say it. He wasn't sure just when he'd admitted it to himself. Maybe as early as their wedding day. What he did know for sure was that over the last half year John had grown to mean more to him than any other person in his life, past and present.
He just wanted to be with John all the time. He sometimes missed him as early as the first coffee he got at the lab. He sometimes just watched John reading, noticing the little frowns and smiles, sadness or anger. He reveled in John's touches, although they were driving him crazy.
Lately it had gotten worse—or better depending on your view. At some point in the last month, John had stopped getting his clothes before his run, when Rodney was still mostly asleep, and begun doing it after his shower. Which meant that every morning Rodney was faced with a dripping wet John Sheppard, clad in nothing but a towel that hung precariously on his hips.
That wasn't the worst though. Since at this time of day Rodney was already half-awake, John apparently felt it would be appropriate to give him his morning kiss then and there, leaning over Rodney in a way that had Rodney's hand resting on John's hairy chest. God, how he wanted to reach down and give the towel just a tiny pull, but he never did.
Whenever he thought he couldn't take it any longer and was willing to go for it, he had a crystal clear image of John telling him that he was sorry, and that Rodney must have misunderstood. He just couldn't risk it. Not even when they lay on the couch in the evenings and he could feel John's hot breath over his neck or his mouth at his temple. Or when John lay in front of him, squirming back against him.
"Then I don't know what the problem is," Jeannie said, interrupting his torturous thoughts.
"I don't know if he feels the same way," Rodney said. Because it really was as simple as that.
"He does," Jeannie said without hesitation.
"How do you know?"
"I do. He practically admitted it."
"When I asked about what you'd do after you were done at the lab, which reminds me, his reaction makes a lot more sense now. I told him how different you were, now that you were married and he didn't seem to believe it. He told me it was your job."
"Exactly," she said with a smile. "Mer, trust me on this, he loves you too."
"I just don't know how to tell him. Every time I want to, I get this feeling of..."
"Try mind-numbing fear. I've wanted to. I've even considered inviting Dave's family again."
"What good would that do?"
"John sleeps in my bed when they're over at our place."
"Oh," Jeannie said, understanding. "That's actually... We could work with that."
"We?" Rodney asked, suspicion dawning.
"Well, it's obvious you can't handle this yourself. We'll visit you this weekend and stay over night."
"Why would you do that?"
"I'll think of something. You just prepare to seduce your husband."
When Rodney slipped into bed next to John the next night, he could only think that his sister gave the most horrible pep talks.
Every time the Sheppards had visited, Rodney had felt nervous about sharing his bed with John, but that was nothing compared to now.
John switched off the light on his nightstand, leaned over and kissed Rodney on the cheek.
Rodney did the same and settled down on John's chest. John's arm slid around him, holding him securely.
Rodney's heart was beating like crazy. He was sure John could hear it. He should do something now. He should let his hand wander, or his mouth, but he could only think about what if Jeannie was wrong.
He let his head fall where John's neck met his shoulder and sighed. He felt John kiss his head.
God, he always did those wonderful little things for Rodney. Rodney moved his head into John's neck, nuzzling him.
John turned his head. When Rodney opened his eyes, he could faintly see the questioning look on John's face.
Time to act. Rodney closed his eyes and kissed John.
For a moment, nothing happened, then John kissed back, gently, slowly.
Rodney pulled his hand away and fisted it in frustration. This was like their public kissing. Which was wonderful and he loved it, but this wasn't supposed to be that. This was supposed to be passion and heat, and suddenly he remembered that Jeannie and Kaleb and Madison were on the same floor, and what had he been thinking when he'd agreed to Jeannie's plan?
He pulled away, slowly, and settled his head back on John's chest. His heart was still beating loudly, and he waited for John to say something, to ask for an explanation, but instead he just felt John's lips at the top of his head once more.
Rodney wanted to scream.
He lay like that for as long as he could stand, and when he thought John had fallen asleep, he slid out of bed and went downstairs.
In the kitchen, he put some water on his face, trying to cool his head.
He'd go back to his original plan. Well, not the original plan where they'd pretend to be married for three months and then go their separate ways again. Also not the one where he thought he'd somehow find out how John felt.
No, he'd go back to the plan where he'd try to hold onto John for as long as he could. He'd try to find them a job in the same company, and then he'd suggest that they might as well keep living together. And then he'd somehow hope that John wouldn't notice that they were still married. Oh God.
Rodney banged his head against the fridge in frustration.
"Now, now, we don't want to hurt the most valuable brain in the world," John's voice came suddenly from behind him.
Rodney turned around abruptly. There was the shadow of a smile on John's lips, but it didn't reach his eyes.
"What's wrong?" John asked.
Nothing? Everything? Rodney didn't really know the difference anymore, so he simply said the first thing that came to his mind.
"I'm finished at the lab."
Rodney could see the frown on John's face disappear as he smiled his supportive smile. "That's great."
"No, it's not."
"The results aren't what you expected?" John asked, concerned, and it was killing Rodney that he cared.
"No, no. They're exactly what I expected."
"Then what's wrong?"
Rodney looked away, feeling the weight of what he could lose on his shoulders.
Then John was there, pulling him into his arms, and Rodney let him for one second, inhaling the scent of John's warm skin.
After that second, he pulled free and took a step aside. "I..." he began. "I don't want to lose you."
He didn't dare look up at John. But John didn't leave him a chance, putting his hand beneath Rodney's chin and turning his face towards John. "You don't have to."
"I don't want you to go," Rodney said.
"I'll stay," John said.
Rodney got agitated again, because he still didn't think John got it. He didn't just want this to go on. To keep living with John as friends pretending to be married.
"No, you don't understand."
"Rodney, I do."
"I don't want us to get a divorce."
"We can stay married."
"I don't just want us to stay married. I want us to be married!" he finally shouted.
John didn't say anything to that. Instead, he cupped Rodney's face with his hands and pulled him into a deep kiss.
Rodney's first instinct was to push John away, but then his body simply wrapped itself around John and opened up for him. John's tongue carefully pushed into his mouth, and Rodney pushed back with his own.
He moved back until he was leaning against the kitchen sink and simply kissed and touched and moved, feeling John everywhere against him.
Eventually they had to come up for air, but they didn't move very far apart, foreheads still touching.
"I love you," Rodney whispered.
"Yeah, I got that. I love you too."
Rodney lifted his head at that, so that he could really look at John. He pulled up his hand to touch John's cheek. "We're married."
"Yes, we are," John said with a smile.
Suddenly Rodney frowned. "We didn't have a wedding night."
"No, we didn't—yet," John said with feeling, leaning forward to kiss Rodney again. Then he took Rodney's hand and dragged him up to their bedroom.
Once inside he kissed Rodney again.
"We can't," Rodney protested, even as he sighed when John nibbled on his neck. "Jeannie and Kaleb and—oh yes—Madison."
John pushed him backwards onto the bed and covered Rodney with his body. "We could be quiet," he said, licking Rodney's ear.
"Oh God. I don't want to be quiet," Rodney whispered harshly. And it was the truth. He didn't want to worry about Maddy waking up or Kaleb listening to them. "Please."
"Tomorrow?" John asked, pulling his mouth away from Rodney's skin.
"Definitely tomorrow," Rodney agreed. "I'll throw them out and barricade the doors."
"We could still kiss though?" John asked and he looked so hopeful and happy that Rodney couldn't have denied him, even if he had wanted to. And he had no plans to ever deny John—or himself—again.
"Kissing is good," he said and did just that, moving his lips against John's as he'd done it before on occasion—and yet, everything had been different then.
They'd never kissed like this in bed, John on top of him, one leg between Rodney's, hands running along his shirt. And God, he could touch John.
He could fist John's shirt and slip his hand onto his naked back. He could run his foot along John's calf and press his hardening dick against John's thigh.
John pulled his mouth away and pulled his shirt off. Rodney was about to protest that they'd agreed not to do anything but make out, but John's mouth was back on his in an instant.
When John pushed up Rodney's shirt, their stomachs touched. Rodney moved his hand up John's side to his chest, letting his fingers run through his chest hair.
John began tearing at Rodney's shirt, until Rodney relented and got out of it with John's help.
"Just no—oh God." Rodney was interrupted when John sucked on his right nipple "Kissing," he panted. "You said kissing."
"I am...kissing," John said, belying his own words by running the flat of his tongue over the nipple.
Rodney gripped John's head, fingers roughly holding onto John's hair. John's tongue circled his nipple, and Rodney groaned, trying to keep still. It was too much. He was painfully hard, and his cock thrust up into the spot where John's thigh met his groin.
John started moving his thigh against him. "No, I... Oh God," Rodney said, trying to hold on.
Then John's hand slid into his boxers, and Rodney let out a whimper.
"I'll help you stay quiet," John said. He covered Rodney's mouth with his, then began to stroke Rodney's dick.
Rodney's mouth opened up in a moan, and John pushed his tongue inside, tightening his hand on Rodney's cock, jerking him off in quick, short motions.
Rodney's whole body tensed when he came, pulsing into John's fist, shooting all over his stomach.
John stroked him through it until Rodney couldn't take it anymore and made a noise of complaint and John stopped. He pulled away, looking down at Rodney. His hand ran little circles over Rodney's side as he let Rodney come down.
When Rodney had half-way caught his breath, he said, "That wasn't just kissing."
"I don't think they woke up," John said, smirking.
Rodney just looked up at him. John was flushed, a bit sweaty, and incredibly hot. Rodney let his gaze wander until it came across the head of John's dick peeking out of his boxer shorts.
"Let's hope they won't wake up through this either," Rodney said, rolling over John on his back.
Before John could ask what he was doing, Rodney pulled down his boxers enough to have full access to John's cock. He licked along the shaft and took the head into his mouth.
John lifted his hips involuntarily, making a sound that Rodney wanted to hear as often as he possibly could. He suckled on the head, before moving down, taking more of John's dick into his mouth.
It had been a while since he'd done this, but John certainly didn't complain. He kept making breathy noises, and Rodney wondered if he was holding back or if he was naturally quiet during sex.
He began stroking John's shaft while he concentrated on the head, licking and sucking, up and down.
The noises John made became louder until John put his hand on Rodney's head. "Rodney!"
Rodney pulled away to say, "Shhh."
John groaned in frustration, which turned into pleasure when Rodney went back to suck him into his mouth.
He could feel John squirming beneath him and then saying, "Rodney, I'm—" Rodney's mouth filled with the taste of John, which he greedily swallowed and licked away until John pulled him forward by his neck and into a kiss.
Rodney's mouth opened up immediately, and he let John's tongue take possession of him, sharing his taste, sharing everything with him.
From this day forward, 'til death do us part.
John woke up, wrapped around Rodney. Right, the Millers were here. Then he suddenly remembered last night and that from now on there'd be no more sleeping in the guest room.
He smiled and leaned forward to nuzzle Rodney's neck. Then he kissed his way to Rodney's ear.
"Hmmm." Rodney pushed back against John, turning his head to kiss him.
John didn't even mind the morning breath. This was Rodney. And he was his now.
John let his hand wander down Rodney's naked body until it reached its goal. He cupped Rodney's half-hard dick—and immediately took his hand away again when Rodney slapped it.
"Oh, nononono. Not again. Not until they're gone," Rodney said decisively and threw back the covers, getting out of bed.
John wanted him back, but then he thought about what they would do when Jeannie, Kaleb, and Maddy had left. He couldn't wait to have Rodney inside of him. Still, he pushed himself up and said, "Rodney," lifting his hand.
Rodney trotted back, and John pulled him into a quick kiss. Rodney forcefully drew back and exhaled, looking flushed. Then he grabbed boxers and a shirt from a drawer and disappeared into the bathroom, only to re-appear a moment later.
He shot John a "don't move!" look and left.
John could hear him violently knocking on the door. "Jeannie, are you still here?" Then he heard small steps running across the hall past their door.
"Are you coming with us to the lake?" Madison asked excitedly.
"No. Way," he heard Rodney say. "Oh, come on, don't be sad. I'll come along another time. I want to spend today with Uncle John." He said something more, but it was so quiet that John couldn't understand it.
"But you see Uncle John every day," came the accusatory voice.
John waited for Rodney's answer, which didn't come for a long time. Then there was a shout of "Jeeeeeeanie?!"
John pulled the pillow over his head and then got out of bed, figuring he could get coffee while they waited for the Millers to leave.
When John came downstairs, Rodney was standing behind the kitchen isle, arms crossed, glaring at the stairs.
John joined him and kissed him on the cheek, lingering because he could.
Rodney barely reacted. He leaned ever so slightly into John, but kept his gaze fixed on the stairs. John nuzzled his temple and kissed his ear. Rodney huffed.
Okay, he hadn't gotten his coffee yet.
John turned and gratefully saw that Rodney had switched the machine on. He got out two cups, then heard steps on the stairs.
Jeannie was putting her hair up as she descended. She looked at Rodney in a way that John couldn't quite place. He frowned.
Jeannie's gaze drifted from Rodney, who was glaring at her, to John, then back. "Oh Mer," she said, looking for all the world as if she wanted to hug Rodney.
Suddenly it clicked. She knew.
Before she could walk around the isle, Rodney stopped her. "It's okay, it worked. Well, not as you thought, but it did. Just please go."
The coffee machine switched itself off. John stared at it for a moment, then poured Rodney a cup and handed it to him, kissing him on the cheek, because it had become second nature.
"Really?" Jeannie asked, beaming in typical McKay fashion.
John decided to step in before Rodney could throw his cup at her. He turned Rodney's face towards him and kissed him wetly on the mouth.
"So?" Kaleb asked from the stairs.
When John pulled away to look up, Kaleb turned to his wife. "I take it, it worked. I can't really tell the difference with them."
"Did what work?" Maddy asked.
"Uncle Mer and Uncle John had to work something out," Jeannie said, stroking her daughter's hair.
"Did you have a fight?" Maddy asked horrified.
John was touched. "Just a misunderstanding," he said, putting an arm around Rodney.
"Yes, and I promise we'll come along to the lake the next time," Rodney added. John could see that he was feeling bad about disappointing her. "I just really, really need to be alone with Uncle John today."
Maddy looked at them, as if she was considering it. Finally, she nodded and said, "Okay."
"Please," Rodney begged in Jeannie's direction.
"All right," she said. "We can have breakfast on the way." Then she ushered Kaleb and Maddy out of the house, and they were finally alone.
It was a movie-worthy way to their bed, complete with stumbling up the stairs as they kissed and pulled at each other's clothes.
Upstairs John wanted to go to his room—one of their guest rooms—to get supplies, but Rodney just pulled him into their bedroom. "I went shopping yesterday."
Then he pulled tubes and bottles and packets from a drawer and John lay down on the bed, watching the growing pile.
"Okay, that should be enough," Rodney eventually said, turning to John.
"You think?" John deadpanned.
Then Rodney was on him, and they were kissing again.
Like the night before, they were soon undressing, and John tried to find all the spots of Rodney he'd missed the night before.
Their dicks were aligned, and John pressed up into Rodney, squeezing his ass cheeks.
Rodney groaned into his neck, thrusting against John, and John turned his head and whispered, "I want you inside me."
Rodney froze, and for a second John feared that he'd come, but then he lifted his head and looked at John. "Yes. Yes, we can do that."
Feeling Rodney inside him was a revelation. So often John had watched Rodney's expressive fingers, and now they were pushing into him, stretching him.
John lifted his hips, pushing down when Rodney hit his prostate. "Now," he said harshly, because he was ready, more than ready for Rodney.
Rodney pulled out his fingers and quickly put on a condom, slicking it up with some more lube.
Then he pushed John's legs back and positioned himself.
"Rodney," John said, and Rodney pushed in, not stopping until he was fully embedded in John.
John wrapped his legs around Rodney and just looked up at him for a moment. He'd waited so long for this. Now he was finally feeling Rodney inside of him, filling him, completing him.
Rodney slowly leaned down until their mouths met in a barely there kiss, just a quick brush of lips, then again and again. And then he started moving inside of John.
John held him close, deepening their kiss with every thrust.
It was hard to believe that they were finally here—together. He put a hand on Rodney's face, gently pushing him back so that he could look at him.
Rodney's lips were wet and red and his gaze was completely open and full of love.
John couldn't believe his luck. He looked at the hand that cupped Rodney's face and he could see his wedding ring. This wasn't just finally being with Rodney in the way he'd wanted for so long.
This was nothing short of a miracle. Kissing, having sex...these were usually the first steps in building a relationship, something that John had been notoriously bad at.
But with Rodney, it wouldn't be like that. Not just because it was Rodney, but because all the steps that made it difficult, the decision to move in together, to make a commitment, to get married, had all already been taken.
He was making love to his husband, and it meant more to him than anything else ever had.
"I love you," he said.
Rodney stopped moving and ran his hand down John's arm. He clasped their fingers together and brought John's hand up to kiss it. "I love you."
Then he started pushing into John again.
John closed his eyes and moved with Rodney. A moment later, he felt Rodney kissing him again and suddenly things weren't slow anymore.
Rodney thrust into him more urgently, and John moved up and against him, heels pressing into Rodney's lower back. "John," Rodney panted between kisses.
John wanted to say Yes, I'm here, but he didn't want to let go of Rodney's mouth for longer than absolutely necessary.
When Rodney hit his prostate dead-on, John let out a long groan.
Rodney stilled, then started to push against it again and again.
John's whole body tensed as pleasure spread in all directions.
"Say something," Rodney panted. "I want to hear you."
"Yes," John said, thrusting up against Rodney. "Yes, yes, yes. Rodney."
Rodney sneaked a hand between their bodies and started to jerk John off.
"Oh. Oh, yes. Rodney!"
Rodney kept thrusting faster and faster.
"Oh fuck, yes! Harder!"
Rodney pulled back and really started fucking him, hammering against John's prostate and jerking his cock hard until John couldn't stand it anymore and came and came and came.
He hardly noticed when Rodney collapsed on top of him.
Their panting breaths rang through the room for a long while.
"I'll never get up again," Rodney eventually said.
"We're probably stuck together anyway," John said, thinking about his sticky chest.
Rodney moved experimentally and slipped out of John. Then he rolled over, fortunately without any mishaps. "Not yet sticky enough," John mumbled.
"You're still stuck with me though," Rodney said, and John rolled onto his side to look at him.
"Yeah, I am," he said, grinning widely.
John felt a bit disoriented when he woke up. He was in the living room on the couch. Right, he must have dozed off while they were waiting.
He scanned the room for Rodney. He was pacing back and forth at the foot of the stairs. "Rodney?"
Rodney turned to him. John lifted his hand and made a come here motion. Rodney obediently walked over to the couch. He looked tired, but also excited, with a touch of fear.
John wondered if this was what expecting fathers looked like in the waiting room. He hadn't been there when his nieces had been born. Maybe he'd get a chance to find out early next year when Susan was due to give birth to her first child.
Rodney was expected to finally win what he'd worked towards his whole life.
John rubbed his arm, but he didn't think this was a kind of tension that he could massage away. They'd just have to wait it out. He leaned his head against Rodney's shoulder.
Rodney was nervously tapping his fingers together. John knew that he was convinced he would win, but they couldn't know for sure.
He really hoped Rodney would win this year. He had a backup plan for cheering him up, but no amount of sex or other pleasures could distract him forever from the "injustice" of not winning. John was used to it by now, the annual, early October "the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences consists of a bunch of idiots" week.
But he would love to see Rodney win, to see that exuberant joy on his face when he took on a challenge and mastered it. And this would be the greatest challenge yet, forty years in the making.
The phone rang.
Rodney froze and John looked at him. It wouldn't do for Rodney to die from a heart attack on the day of his biggest triumph.
Rodney jumped up from the couch, pushing John roughly aside. Then he rushed to pick up the phone.
"Yes. Yes. Thank you."
That was all he said before he hung up, looking completely stunned. John got up and joined him.
Rodney's gaze focused on him, and an impossibly wide grin began to spread across his face.
"Congratulations," John said and kissed him on the cheek, not wanting that grin to go away.
"This is..." Rodney looked at him, as if searching for the right word.
"The best day of your life?" John ventured. He was grinning himself because when Rodney was happy he was happy.
Rodney looked at him, apparently thinking it over. "About time!" he said eventually.
Rodney pulled John into a kiss. "And no, it's not the best day of my life," he said, after pulling back.
Their gazes met. After twenty-five years, he could read Rodney's mind pretty well. John was floored.
It wasn't that he didn't know that Rodney loved him. After they'd finally made their marriage real, he'd soon accepted the truth that he was making Rodney so happy. And Rodney continued to let him know, in small ways and sometimes in big ways.
But the Nobel Prize had been Rodney's Holy Grail—the thing everything revolved around—the reason they were together in the first place. To hear Rodney say that as much as winning it meant to him, John meant more, was more amazing than finding out that humans could travel through wormholes or first stepping into the city of Atlantis.
"I love you," John said, because there wasn't really much more you could say to something like that.
"I love you too, and I say that as the—"
"Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2029," John finished for him.
"I won," Rodney whispered.
"Finally," John said, and he meant it in more ways than one. He was looking forward to peaceful Octobers. And to Rodney in a Tuxedo. His hair was gray now, but it was still there, and Rodney didn't look any less attractive to John than when they'd first met.
The phone rang, again.
"Maybe they got the wrong number," John joked.
Rodney glared at him and picked up.
"Thank you, Radek. I don't know. Actually, no. I think I'll celebrate with my husband. Everything else can wait. I will." He hung up and switched the phone off. "Radek says hi."
"You don't want to listen to the entire world congratulating you?" John said, looking at the phone.
"Not now," Rodney said, taking John's hand in his.
John followed him into their bedroom, where Rodney lay down and pulled John on top of him. "And now do what you always do on this day."
Rodney looked up at him expectantly. John smiled and stroked the little ticklish spot at his side. "You do realize I've done that to cheer you up?"
"No, really?" Rodney said in mock-surprise. "And all these years, I just thought the announcement of the Nobel Prizes got you very hot."
John leaned down to kiss Rodney's neck. "You get me very hot."
"I hope so. And I'd hate to miss out on the cheering up, just because I actually won this year. Wanna make love to a Nobel Prize winner?" Rodney asked, giving him a heated look.
"Oh, yeah," John said, mouth descending on Rodney's, while he began to undress him.
Nobody would ever accuse John of neglecting his duties as a husband.