‘Rodney, we need to talk about this whole wedding thing.’
Rodney knew the minute subtleties of John’s minimal expressions well enough to know this was going to be bad. What others might interpret as a completely blank expression read to Rodney as thoroughly knotted.
‘What, John?’ He tried to remember to breath. He’d had John here for too little time to be able to take anything for granted.
They were in their shared quarters on Atlantis, where they had lived since John came to convalesce after his accident a little over two months previously. John was now cast-free, and his hair was growing back in, although it grew oddly over the enormous scar on the right side of its head, making it even more unkempt-looking than previously. John still didn’t move quite as fluidly as he once had, and Rodney knew he still battled with more pain than he ever let on, but he was doing well. Back to his old, gorgeous, self.
But right now he was back to that old slightly constipated-looking self that clearly didn’t know how to talk about something to do with feelings. His pale hazel eyes were not quite meeting Rodney’s gaze.
‘What?’ Rodney prompted him again.
John sagged, leaning against the desk and showing a sudden interest in the backs of his hands, even though there were no scabs left there to pick at.
‘Don’t get mad, but . . .’ he sighed heavily, ‘I just don’t think I can do this.’
Rodney went from breathing and steady to completely dysregulated in less time than it takes to go through a stargate and emerge the other side.
‘Don’t get mad? Don’t get mad?’ Rodney was almost shrieking. ‘YOU asked ME, and now you “can’t do this”?’ He almost stabbed John with his air quotes.
‘Rodney . . .’ John pleaded, holding his hands up to pacify, which only made Rodney madder.
‘No, John, I can’t hear this!’ He turned and fled, unwilling to sit and listen to why John had changed his mind barely weeks after proposing, trying to figure how they had gone from blissfully happy and cuddly that morning to . . . what? Was John breaking up with him? And even if he wasn’t, how could he go back on getting married and expect their relationship to survive? Rodney’s face felt hot and his eyes stung. He didn’t know whether he wanted to smash something up or dissolve into a puddle.
Rodney defaulted to familiar patterns and went to the lab and yelled at people for a bit. It didn’t make him feel better and he had evolved enough to know this was not the way to deal with problems. And yet he couldn’t pull himself out of it. When John turned up an hour later, he ducked into a side room, telling Radek to ask him to leave. Twenty minutes after that, Teyla appeared.
‘Rodney, I think you need to talk to John.’
‘I don’t think so. He said he didn’t want to get married. There’s nothing much I can say to that.’
‘Are you sure that’s what he said?’ Teyla sighed.
‘I am not sure that is quite what he meant.’
‘You weren’t there, Teyla,’ Rodney said sceptically.
‘Rodney, let us not have a relapse into the old ways where you and John managed to not communicate for years at a time.’
‘Go and talk to him, Rodney, and stop terrorising your staff.’
What with Teyla being his boss as well as his friend, he had to listen.
Rodney used the sensors to locate John, who was out on the pier. Where he had proposed to Rodney, in his own John Sheppard way. Of all the insensitive . . .
When he got to the pier, a warm, hard wind was blowing in from the ocean, and John was stood up high on the railing, leaning into it. His hair ruffled and he looked . . . gorgeous, conflicted, complicated. Rodney leaned against the rail beside him.
‘I’m listening,’ he said through gritted teeth, having to raise his voice above the wind.
John climbed down off the rail and, carefully and purposefully grabbed Rodney’s unyielding shoulders and pulled him close. Rodney resisted him all the way, holding himself stiff against John’s body.
‘The wedding thing, Rodney – not the marriage thing. I can do the marriage thing with you just fine.’
Rodney tried but failed to parse what he was saying.
‘It’s a million things, Rodney. The “do we do it on Earth or Atlantis”, the “who do we invite?”, the buying and wearing a suit, the being in a room full of so many people looking at us, the do I or do I not invite my brother, the having to sit still for hours, the saying all the right words, the fucking planning and admin of it all . . . it’s making me crawl out of my skin and I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t feel that way about something so special. I’m sorry, Rodney, but I just want to be married already and skip the wedding bit, and I know that makes me a complete asshole and I’m truly, truly sorry.’ He looked utterly miserable, and Rodney’s heart melted.
‘Really?’ Rodney felt relieved, and to be honest partly because John’s words resonated for him. ‘But you still want us to be married?’
‘Of course! Rodney, I want it more than anything.’ John pulled Rodney close and nuzzled his neck.
‘I thought you were calling it off.’ Rodney sagged against John, feeling unexpectedly tearful. The last few months had been a rollercoaster and if he was honest with himself, it was all a bit too much. Perhaps the idea of using John’s convalescence and still-reduced work hours to kick off the wedding planning had, on reflection, been a recipe for freak-outs.
‘Damn, McKay, even I’m not capable of being that stupid.’
‘But you want to cancel the wedding?’ Rodney still felt very confused.
‘No, I really don’t, but is there a “no fuss” option that won’t leave you horribly disappointed and make us regretful when we’re older that we didn’t make more of an effort?’ John’s look was pleading. ‘I mean, I’ve faced the wraith, so it’s not like I’d chicken out of this, I just think I’m supposed to not hate it.’
‘You know what,’ said Rodney thoughtfully, kissing his fiancé gently, ‘You’re right. We don’t think like other people, no reason we should get married like other people. I bet you there’s a way to do this so it’s right for both of us. You’re not the only one who was overwhelmed by it all, you know.’
John’s eyes flickered from lost to hopeful. ‘Really?’
‘Of course, really.’ Rodney held John’s biceps and met his gaze steadily. ‘Besides, I’d do anything for you and you know it. Just don’t scare me like that again.’
John pulled him close. He pressed his lips to Rodney’s and licked his way in until all Rodney’s resistance had melted. Their bodies softened into one another, shifting from solid to almost-liquid.
God, how did Sheppard have this effect on him? His body was stirring with arousal, and he could feel John’s response mirroring his, pressed into his hip.
‘I’ll make it up to you.’ John breathed into his mouth between licks of his tongue.
Rodney surveyed the deserted pier and surrounding area. It was the oddest thing – Atlantis now had a population more appropriate to that of a big city, having been declared safe enough to open its borders to citizens and refugees, but their pier remained as isolated as it ever had been, only he and John ever came down here, as if the whole city knew it was theirs without anything being said.
‘So what’s stopping you?’ Rodney said, with a gleam in his eye.
John’s face flushed with heat and want, and then he was on his knees, pushing Rodney against the railing between one breath and the next. That wasn’t quite what Rodney had in mind.
‘John, you’ll hurt yourself –‘ he was still recovering from his accident and knees on hard ground was a recipe for pain for anyone over forty.
‘Shut up, McKay, m’fine.’
Christ. He hadn’t had time to get used to John again since so much time apart and then John being an invalid, but he wondered if he would ever get used to this. John nuzzled him through his pants and then freed his fully hard cock and swallowed him down without any preamble.
He’s still favouring his left hand, the carer in Rodney thought, before the lover in Rodney allowed all thoughts to evaporate – John’s mouth on him was the kind of bliss that didn’t diminish over time, and even better now, he was able to recognise the love that had always been there in the focussed, powerful attention John gave him. He raked his fingers through John’s hair, and John moaned, vibrating around his cock. God, he was perfect.
This wasn’t going to take long. John was alternating between working the head of his cock with his tongue and teeth and taking him all the way down his throat and swallowing around him. Rodney was getting off as much on the visual as he was on the mind-blowing sensations that were sparking from the tip of his dick and earthing all the way up his spine.
John Sheppard blowing him on their pier. Stone cold sober, in broad daylight. Eyes blown with lust, cheeks hollow with sucking, throat thick with Rodney’s cock. Holy fuck.
John’s fingers were caressing his balls, rubbing his perineum, pressing at his hole, and the other hand was firmly gripping his hip and pulling him deep as John swallowed hard and moaned around his cock and that was it, Rodney was coming, and John was swallowing every drop and loving it.
John slithered up Rodney’s body, putting him straight as he went, and kissed him, hard, sharing the taste of him and rubbing against his hip for just a few seconds until he jerked and went limp.
‘Jesus.’ John said with a vaguely embarrassed smirk, ‘haven’t come in my shorts since high school.’
‘I’m choosing to take it as a compliment,’ Rodney said, feeling strangely awed by the whole thing. He really didn’t expect life to be like this in his forties, but he certainly wasn’t complaining.
One day later, John was in his office when he received an email from Rodney with a link to a document named “minimalist wedding rescue plan”. The link opened on a series of questions, with tickable options such as “I would feel bad if we didn’t do something fancy as long as it’s something I can cope with/ honestly, just you and me alone in jeans at the registry office like Pam and Bobby Ewing the first time round is fine”. Later, there were options like “I don’t mind there being admin as long as Declan takes care of it (yes/no)”, “Let’s take our time and not rush/let’s get it done quickly so we don’t sit on the stress”, “I want to wear a suit just hate the buying and fitting malarkey/can I just wear a nice shirt and pants/jeans and a black T/BDUs and a TAC vest/other” and “I actually would want Dave at my wedding if someone else were to arrange that (yes/no)”. The final options were “this has to be one event, on one day, in one place/breaking this down into more than one day/place/event could make it more manageable as long as it stays small” and “Now I’ve given my preferences, I’m okay for Rodney and Declan to arrange everything (yes/no)”.
There had been a lot of questions and John had taken his time to consider his answers. Rodney had cleverly made sure he could only see a couple of questions at a time though, so that his ADHD brain didn’t get overwhelmed and switch off. John was impressed and incredibly grateful, it was a relief that somebody got him, even if he didn’t always get himself.
John’s PA, Declan Healey, popped his head round after the form was completed, an uncertain smile on his feminine face, fiddling nervously with his long, reddish blonde hair.
‘Permission to meddle, boss,’ there was just a hint of an Irish accent.
John hated it when Declan treated him like the ingrained military man he wished he wasn’t, but this time he just snorted. ‘Declan, you and Rodney can plot and scheme together all you like if it stops my head from spinning.’
‘I kinda needed to hear that direct from you,’ the man smiled. Really, this guy was already becoming such a lifesaver John wondered how he had ever managed without him.
A day after he had completed the questionnaire, Rodney sent him another link, labelled “final wedding plan for John’s approval”, again it was a series of bite sized snapshots of what John needed to know, what was going to happen, when and where.
John emailed back: Perfect. God, I love you.
Of course, he realized that Rodney had his own autism-related issues about the whole wedding thing, and that being in control of the plan would help him through it.
They returned to Earth on December 19 and arrived at Dave’s the morning of Saturday, December 21st. John had rationalized that if he didn’t do this with his brother now, they would drift apart even further, and he really didn’t want that even if it was the easier option.
This was the one thing he had thought and thought about ever since they decided to get married. He could still feel the urge to chuck a U-turn in their comfy hire car and take off at high speed in the other direction. He was surprised Rodney even let him drive.
Finally they were pulling up on the drive of Dave’s mansion in time for the brunch invitation. John had somehow managed to stay on target. Rodney looked as nervous as John felt, his broad face tense, his blue eyes wide and unblinking. Rodney was all stiff in new clothes because he said he didn’t own anything appropriate for brunch with a billionaire. John was just wearing blue jeans and an old, black shirt.
‘And looking damn sexy in them,’ Rodney had said.
They rang the bell and of course it was answered by a maid. The formality of this quadrupled John’s nerves, but then Dave was running down the stairs saying, ‘damn, John, I meant to get it myself, you’re early,’ and they managed the hybrid handshake/one-armed hug of stoic cis-het men across the English-speaking world.
‘You remember Rodney?’ They’d met at a dinner in San Francisco when Atlantis was floating in the bay.
‘Sure I do,’ Dave shook Rodney’s hand with an appraising look from him to John then back again. John swallowed and reached to clutch Rodney’s arm.
Dave noted this but didn’t react. Damn, this was why his brother was a boardroom success, he gave nothing away he didn’t want to.
John was expecting some formal room for brunch, but Dave led them to the big oak kitchen, where a table was piled with fruit and bread and eggs benedict and Parma ham and seven different cheeses, among other things. Dave was now divorced, John didn’t even know that, so it was just the three of them, although he said the kids would be over later and John was looking forward to seeing them. Dave had offered to put them up overnight, but John had been non-committal. He wanted to see how long he’d last under a Sheppard roof. History suggested an overnight might be pushing it.
Small talk was hard for neurodivergent people at the best of times, but when the entirety of their lives was still classified, small-talk was near impossible. Dave talked about the kids and a little about business, but the conversation was painfully one-sided and stilted.
John was suddenly aware that Dave was staring at the right side of his head, which he had unconsciously been keeping turned away from him. Dave reached across the table and touched the scar, which still showed angrily beneath his hair and protruded onto his temple.
‘John!’ Dave’s voice was . . . dismayed, concerned. His fingers traced down to the scar on his cheek. ‘Rib fractures and a broken arm, you said!’
‘Funnily enough, exactly what I said when I saw him in the hospital.’ Rodney said with sympathy. ‘He nearly died, you know.’ That bite of fear and reproach still bubbled up every now and then, but it was hardly surprising.
‘Rod-ney!’ John really didn’t need his partner and his brother ganging up on him right now.
‘I would’ve come.’ Dave said simply. ‘I thought it was just . . . oh god, I thought it was pretty mild for the military. I’m sorry, John.’
‘No, Dave, it’s on me. There’s a lot I haven’t told you. Like, I haven’t been in the military for a year. This little souvenir,’ he brushed his hand over the scar, which still hurt like hell, ‘came from a volunteering job for Médecins Sans Frontières in Somalia. But now I’m back in my old job, only as a civilian contractor like Rodney.’
Dave just looked at him, as if he was expecting something more, and damn, John wanted to say what Dave already knew, but the words were sticking in his throat. He helped himself to more food.
‘This is great food, bro, thanks.’ Dammit, Sheppard stop being a coward.
‘Well, it’s the first time you’ve been home this close to Christmas, it feels . . . significant.’
‘Yes, yes it is – ’ Rodney began, but John put his hand on Rodney’s arm.
‘We’re getting married,’ John said finally, and as if that left room for any doubt, he added, ‘and by the way, I’m gay.’ He held his breath. How was he over forty and still scared of how his family would feel about his sexuality?
Dave didn’t react. He finished eating his mouthful and put his knife and fork carefully on the plate. Then he stood up and walked around the table.
‘John,’ he said, pulling John to his feet and then reaching out to give his brother an actual two-armed hug, ‘you have no idea how long I’ve waited for you to actually tell me that.’ Then he moved over to Rodney and embraced him too.
The pair of them just sat back down, open-mouthed.
‘I’m not dad, John.’
There it was. Dave was speaking the thing that was never spoken, that despite John’s almost complete lack of an actual sex life with men, Patrick Sheppard had still pegged him as queer and rejected him for it. Suddenly there was a lump in John’s throat, and he remembered why it was he tried hard to avoid the man in front of him, the man who looked so much like his father, and nothing like John. Lighter hair, squarer jaw, more classically masculine, more effortlessly heteronormative.
‘I’m not dad,’ Dave said again, ‘and he was wrong, and I never thought otherwise. I’ve known about you since we were teenagers. Since Glen.’
John had told Rodney about Glen, his first crush, his first sexual experience, and how badly it had ended, getting beaten up by him the next day. He didn’t trust himself to say anything.
‘John, are you happy?’ Dave asked with a searching look.
‘Yes. Not right this second, but yes. God, yes.’ Dammit, his eyes were moist and Sheppard men didn’t do that. He glanced at Dave, looking for the condemnation, but wow, Dave’s eyes were moist too.
‘There were things I didn’t feel able to say or do while he was alive, and I’m sorry for it,’ Dave said sincerely. ‘I’d like things to be different between us. I’m glad you came.’
John couldn’t speak but he knew his gratitude must show in his eyes. He had no idea until this moment how much he had needed this. So much for the solitary man.
‘Now, when’s this wedding?’ He turned to Rodney, allowing John to catch his breath.
‘Three days – Christmas Eve, in Canada.’
Dave’s face fell. ‘I can’t – I genuinely can’t. I have a high-level meeting that’s unavoidable. I’ve been trying to change it for weeks, but it’s been impossible. I mean, who has a meeting on Christmas Eve?’
John snickered, all the tension flooding out of him. He loved McKay and his perfect plans.
‘That would be us,’ said Rodney. ‘Your PA is very cooperative and helpful, and I hope she gets a good bonus. She’s booked your flights too.’
‘We wanted to tell you in person, and this is the earliest we could get back,’ John said, ‘she understood that.’
Dave thought about this. ‘Yeah, Aliyah is gold dust.’ He smiled, looking entirely relaxed. ‘Okay, I’ll double her bonus. And I believe you about not being able to get home, it must be a very long way from outer space.’
John and Rodney had on their best poker faces, but Dave just smirked.
‘Oh, be like that, I’ll know officially soon enough now declassification is happening.’
They relaxed a bit, but still didn’t say anything.
‘I’m looking forward to us actually being able to talk about your life, John, but I can wait. For now, why don’t you tell me how long you two have been seeing each other? That can’t be classified surely?’
‘One year,’ said Rodney.
‘Eight years,’ said John at the same time.
‘It’s complicated,’ they both said together.
Dave raised an eyebrow. ‘Sounds it. So, what about that other guy you were seeing . . . what’s his name, something Dex?’
John nearly spit out his coffee. ‘Ronon?’ Rodney was smirking. ‘No, Ronon and I aren’t, weren’t, didn’t . . .’
‘Oh, because you said, “civilian contractor” and I heard “lover”.’
‘Perfectly understandable,’ Rodney said, ‘as the John Sheppard and Ronon Dex bromance is the stuff of legends. But I can assure you the man is as straight as John is gay. Which is very.’
‘And more to the point, I’ve only had eyes for this man right here for the last nine years,’ John said, grabbing Rodney’s hand.
The minimalist wedding plan was actually working, and John had not yet zoned out or threatened to go for a long, long, drive on his own. It had helped that Rodney had the means to hire a light plane and get John to fly them up to Canada after spending the night with Dave. Better than watching a stressed-out John wriggle around and fret at being flown commercial. He had also pre-booked a hire car, and they’d arrived at the Millers on the evening of the 22nd, leaving the 23rd for final preparations.
The next morning Jeannie and Rodney left John to alternate between PlayStation with Mads and Lego with Bradley, while they went to the venue for a last-minute check. Later, John and Rodney went to pick up their marriage licence. That had been a lot of admin, what with John being a divorced foreign national, but Declan had done a great job of helping make sure John turned up with everything he needed and knew the intrusive questions that would be awaiting him. It helped that he qualified without Rodney’s help under Canada’s tight immigration points system by being highly skilled and wealthy. Not that either of them had any immediate plans to settle in this galaxy, let alone this country, but they could not very well explain that to the local bureaucrats. But they did provide ample evidence that they were both resident overseas under a highly classified UN project, and Declan had wrangled his way through any obstacles this presented in rubber stamping their licence.
Jeannie had already bought a selection of outfits for them both to try, so they wouldn’t have to brave Christmas shoppers or the sensory nightmare of trying on unfamiliar clothes in harshly lit, noisy stores. Jeannie had been given explicit instructions about how the clothes would feel over how they’d look, and she had enjoyed the challenge. From the selection, they both found clothes they were comfortable with.
Christmas Eve dawned, one year to the day since they had finally got back together (and kissed, at last). Not that dates on the Earth Calendar meant so much to them living off-world, but it seemed like a helpful date to have as an anniversary, whilst meaning they could have the first part of their marriage celebration on Earth, with family. Even if Jeannie had been to Atlantis, there was no way of getting clearance for Dave, Kaleb or the kids to go.
True to the minimalist plan, the caught a plain old cab, along with the Millers, to the wedding venue, an out-of-town hotel with a pretty view over a little lake. John looked even sexier than usual in a dark grey jacket over an even darker charcoal shirt, and black pants. Rodney wore a lighter grey jacket and pants and a so-soft blue shirt that John said matched his eyes. No neck-ties because ties equalled sensory hell, in both their opinions.
The ceremony took place in a tranquil, glass-sided room that overlooked the lake. It was bright and decorated simply, with a maple floor, furnished with cream cloth-covered chairs in a small circle – just enough for the Millers and Dave Sheppard with his two daughters. But first, the family waited outside while John and Rodney met the celebrant and the registrar.
The celebrant, Peter, was a man whose obvious gayness worked like a superpower. This brought a little spark of joy to Rodney. There was something quite delicious about not having to go through this same-sex marriage thing in front of a celebrant who was rampantly heterosexual (although the humourless registrar was the most straightlaced, cishet-appearing woman he’d ever seen). Rodney had assumed given they had taken potluck that odds were the celebrant was going to be straight. Peter was a pleasant surprise.
John, on the other hand, was so terrified Rodney was not sure he had even noticed that Peter was queer.
‘Gorgeous location isn't it?’ The man asked, clearly trying to draw John in. ‘I married my husband here.’ He beamed. Finally, John paid attention.
‘Oh look, John is back from wherever he's been,’ Peter said with a laugh.
‘He does that,’ said Rodney.
‘I really do,’ said John with a self-deprecating smile.
‘Well, you're here now,’ said Peter, ‘how about we have a wedding?’
John looked across at Rodney and, oh god, that look was everything. Sure, there was fear, and who wouldn't be afraid getting married for a second time? But the love in John’s face shone through his anxiety, lighting his face up in a way that stole Rodney’s breath.
Just when I think I’m used to how I feel about this man, he goes and looks like that.
The ceremony went quickly, which of course was what they had planned. It was so informal and relaxed that it didn’t really catch up with Rodney until he found himself saying;
‘I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, Meredith Rodney McKay do take you, Jonathan Patrick Sheppard, to be my lawful wedded spouse.’
And then Peter said, ‘place the ring on John’s finger, hold it there and say these words to him: This ring I give you in token of the covenant made this day between us.’
Rodney slipped one of the two very plain platinum bands onto John’s finger, spoke the words through the unexpected lump in his throat, and then received John’s ring and heard the gravel in John’s voice. Their eyes locked on each other and John’s looked as moist as his felt.
This is really happening. After all this time, John Sheppard was his for keeps.
And then the celebrant was talking about the powers vested in him, and so on, and finished ‘I do hereby pronounce you, John and Rodney, to be married. I wish you long life, happiness, prosperity, and may the vows you made to each other today sustain you forever. You may celebrate your marriage with a kiss.’
John kissed him almost shyly, but then came back with more certainty, his mouth soft, open and lingering. Rodney’s heart was probably going to burst any second. Or he was going to cry. Possibly both.
‘Oh, Mer!’ Jeannie rushed from her seat, her eyes full of tears, and flung her arms round him, and that was that, tears bubbled up and there was nothing he could do about it. He looked up to see John in the arms of his brother, and that set him off even more.
Overwhelm. But the good kind.
After signing the register, they moved to a nearby room for a meal, but not before the two of them went for a walk, alone, around the lake. The first post-ceremony picture of the newlyweds was taken with Dave’s long lens as they smooched on the bridge over the little stream that fed the lake. They were gone long enough to kick off John’s ADHD jitters, but nothing in the world would compel either of them to stand for photos.
Toasts were brief, and there were no speeches. The meal was relaxed, informal and chatty, and John left his seat frequently to play with Bradley, who had been set up in the corner with his current favourite toys – face paints and a pink fairy outfit, complete with wand and tutu. Mads was a bit beyond all that, although she did enjoy making her brother pretty. Dave’s girls, who were seven and nine, were quite taken with Bradley, and when John wasn’t using his nephew-in-law as an excuse not to sit still, Molly and Shannon were showering Bradley with adoration and teaching him the correct ways to be a fairy.
Over the course of the meal, the girls also competitively developed their face painting skills, and Mads was drawn in again. By the time the adults were on the coffee, all the kids had quite sophisticated wreaths of flowers painted over their faces and up their arms, but John’s were by far the prettiest. He managed to endure the sensory ick of it for a half hour (not that different from camouflage paint but he was none too fond of that either), but then ducked into a washroom and scrubbed his skin clean. After Mads and Molly had taken photos for posterity, of course, and posted them all over social media.
It was only half four when they retired to their room, but this was midwinter at high latitudes, so it was already after sunset.
When they got inside the luxurious suite, there was a huge box on the floor, wrapped up with a bow.
‘We said no gifts,’ John was a little taken aback. Shit, he hadn’t got anything for Rodney.
‘It’s not a gift, exactly, it’s more me making a point.’ Rodney said somewhat cryptically.
John untied the bow and opened the box. Inside, were games and DVDs. A PlayStation with all the games they liked to play with Mads, a selection of new film releases, a chess set and two remote control drone toys.
‘The point is you don’t wanna have sex with me?’ John shot him a puzzled half-smile.
So why am I feeling relieved?
Rodney came over and slid his arms around John. ‘I always want to have sex with you . . . but one thing I noticed really getting to you about all this was the weight of expectations. You get all snarled up when you think you’re supposed to do something. And frankly, so do I. So, this is to say, we’ve done everything else differently, and if we want to play games on our wedding night and not have sex, I’m down with that.’
Wow. ‘Rodney, you are so cool.’ John kissed him, just a little kiss that was meant to be a prelude to test flying those drones, but a little kiss got deeper, and Rodney looked so damn hot in that shirt and jacket and now the pressure was off (because Rodney was absolutely right about that), John wondered if . . .
‘I mean, maybe we could fool around just a little?’
‘Yes, yes I’m quite amenable to that idea,’ Rodney sat back against the huge, high bed and pulled John over to stand between his legs. He untucked John’s shirt and ran his hands up his back. ‘you look damn hot in this get-up, John.’
‘Funny. I was thinking the same . . .’ John caught a look in Rodney’s eye and smiled back.
‘We should totally keep our clothes on,’ they both said at once, and then burst out laughing.
Rodney’s face always looked younger when he laughed, and his blue eyes sparkled. For years, John had been sure that he was nothing but trouble for Rodney, and now suddenly it hit him, stupidly late, that he made this man happy. Twice he had stepped aside to let someone else give Rodney the happiness he thought he never could, and yet here they were, and it was plain that Rodney was happier than he’d ever been.
This thing with Rodney was so damn good.
‘Oh my god, we just got married!’ Rodney said in an excitable let’s get ice-cream kind of voice that was entirely adorable.
‘You noticed, huh?’ John was bending down to nibble Rodney’s neck and ear, which elicited the usual sighs. John pressed himself forward, and they were both pretty hard. But then he had to straighten with a wince, because his usually overly-flexible body wasn’t as easily manoeuvred as it used to be, since the accident. In fact, John’s hypermobility, yet another quirk that was more common in queer and neurodivergent people, had complicated both his injuries and his recovery considerably.
‘Oh god, you’re in pain,’ Rodney had switched from lover to carer in a heartbeat, something John was used to by now. He loved both these sides of Rodney, but right now he wanted the lover, and they seemed unable to coexist.
I’m always in pain, he thought, but said, ‘it’s not bad, really.’
Rodney switched places on him, pushing him back up the bed to rest against the pillows, then fished around in his shaving bag for painkillers.
‘Rod-ney.’ John tried to pull his attention back, taking the pills and the offered water bottle but wanting something else, wanting his lover – his husband, fuck. What was it he was supposed to do? Oh yeah, communicate. Shit. That probably meant not lying.
He grabbed Rodney’s arms and pulled him down against him. Then he looked into Rodney’s worried eyes. ‘I love the way you take care of me, Rodney, but there’s something I need you to know.’ He took a deep breath.
‘What, John?’ Rodney looked suddenly worried.
‘I’m in pain all the time, and probably will be for a while,’ he could see Rodney’s blue eyes becoming wide at this.
‘Why didn’t you say?’
‘Because I want to be normal. Because when you turn into the carer, the lover goes away, and I need the lover more, even though being cared for has been good for me in ways I can’t put into words. Because being in pain is my normal right now and I have to do everything while in pain. And because sex is the best pain relief on the market.’ He realised he was babbling and not making much sense. Damn this communication malarkey, he sucked at it. He tried again, anchoring himself in Rodney’s worried gaze.
‘What I’m trying to say, Rodney, is that I’m in pain but I’m always in pain and right now I don’t want to focus on that, I want to focus on how hot you look in those clothes. And maybe we’re a bit exhausted and maybe it won’t be the best night of our lives but that doesn’t matter. I just really want to get off with you, quick and dirty, and then maybe nap like a grandpa. If that’s ok with you?’
‘Oh god, John,’ Rodney kissed him, long and hard, and slid his body over John’s. Their cocks had only slightly softened, and with a few slow presses down they hardened against each other.
‘Okay look.’ Rodney said suddenly, ‘I don’t want to kill the mood here, but I need to say sorry. I’m trying really hard not to be that person, the person who treats you like a patient not a lover. It’s good you called me on it. Keep doing that.’
‘Okay,’ John smiled up at him and squirmed into him a little. ‘Now, about us getting off?’
‘God, yes, John, whatever you want,’ Rodney’s voice was gravelly with want.
‘I’ll show you. Wanna mess these clothes up real good.’ He reached down and undid Rodney’s pants, sliding them and his boxers down over his ass, caressing the oh so soft pink cheeks as he went. Then he repeated the manoeuvre on himself, pushing his own pants down far enough to spread his legs a little. He slid Rodney against his body, so their cocks were lined up against each other.
‘Fuck, yes,’ Rodney sighed, and the pleasure in his voice got John hotter than even the feel of Rodney’s hard cock pressing the length of his own. Rodney pushed up onto his arms and looked down at John. John knew what he saw – his jacket and shirt askew, his pants half down, cock hard and leaking and pressed against Rodney’s. John’s view of Rodney was similar, the formality of his wedding jacket, the intensity of that gorgeous, soft blue shirt and then those smart pants pushed down over his sexy ass that right now was rutting against him quite obscenely.
‘God, Rodney, you are the sexiest thing alive in that shirt with that . . . oh fuck . . . that sexy naked ass . . .’ He pressed his splayed hands into the round cheeks and ground up into him ‘. . . I love the way it feels, love the way it moves.’
‘Fuck yeah, John, talk to me!’ Rodney was squirming like John had hit some button he’d never pressed before.
Shit, this was kinda terrifying but a total turn on, Rodney wanting him to talk.
‘Damn! Getting that reaction is too fucking hot Rodney, looking at you is too fucking hot . . . gonna remember what you look like right now for the rest of my life. . . the sexy man I just married.’
Wow. Talking was oddly liberating, even if it made him self-conscious as all hell and he knew he wasn’t really doing it right. Rodney seemed to really like it, though, he looked kind of gone, his blue eyes wide and a little glazed. They were both getting a bit sweaty, but that just added slick exactly where it was needed and their bodies slid against each other beautifully, with just the right amount of friction.
In a surprising bit of role reversal, Rodney was becoming non-verbal.
‘Ohhh, mmmm,’ he managed, and this just spurred John on.
‘Fuck, yeah, Rodney . . . I love the way you’re . . . oh fuck . . . pressing me down so hard. I can feel the pulse in your cock right against mine. . . not just sexy, so damn intimate. . .’ God, it really was. The heat and the pulse against his own dick was incredible. He reached up and stroked Rodney’s face, brushed his lips with his thumb. ‘It’s the best feeling ever, knowing you’re as hot for me as I’m hot for you . . . knowing you’re mine as much as I’m yours.’
‘Yours. God, John, totally yours,’ Rodney sighed breathlessly, sliding against him with a blissed out look on his face.
Fuck, this was a long way outside his skillset, but he persevered, high on the effect his talking was having on Rodney.
‘God I love you like this . . . think you can come this way? I think I might come soon . . . just from watching you be so into it . . . just from that look on your gorgeous face . . . never mind what you’re doing to my dick right now . . .’ he sped up his thrusts upwards, beginning to lose any sense of control. He felt ecstatic. ‘. . . oh, jesus . . . you gonna come for me Rodney? You gonna mess up that sexy blue shirt that matches your beautiful eyes? I’d . . . fuck . . . really love to see that.’
As he said this he pushed hard up against Rodney, punctuating every word with a thrust, and he could feel his orgasm unravelling.
‘Oh god, Rodney I’m coming . . . fuck so hot for you!’ and he went off like a rocket, shooting up the front of his very expensive charcoal shirt. Rodney’s eyes lit up like they’d hit the jackpot and he cried out ‘John, fuck, John,’ and somehow managed to shoot everything over John’s shirt and not a drop on his own.
He collapsed down beside John, breathing heavily and murmuring ‘love you so much. God, so so much.’
After many long minutes of heavy breathing and idly tangling his fingers in John’s chest hair through the open neck of his shirt, Rodney finally managed to talk again.
‘Look, I didn’t want to put any pressure on you, but what you said earlier – I need you to know, that it’s the best night of my life every. single. time. no exceptions. And that was . . .’ he just blew air out of his mouth loudly in lieu of an adequate adjective.
But by now, John had run out of words. Probably for a day or so. He just squeezed Rodney, hoping the me too was a given.
They kissed, slow and sloppy and then Rodney helped John out of his jacket and come-splattered shirt. He slid down the bed, pulled off the pants and boxers tangled round John’s legs and then took the tail of that still pristine, oh so soft blue shirt of his and used it to clean John up – unnecessarily slowly and sensuously.
‘Damn . . . feels good,’ John said, after an initial chuckle at what Rodney was doing. He was almost talking John into round two, but John hadn’t been kidding about needing a grandpa nap. Getting married was exhausting, even in the spectacularly ADHD-friendly way Rodney had arranged.
Rodney eventually threw off his own outfit, sliding under the covers with John.
‘Nap time,’ he said, kissing John softly. ‘And then can we play with those drones?’
‘You betcha,’ John kissed Rodney back with more than a little lethargy, and then went out like a light.
They returned to the Millers Christmas morning, because being on Earth and in Canada was too rare a thing not to spend it with the family. And they finally got to play with the drones with Bradley and Mads (and Jeannie and Kaleb).
On Boxing Day, they returned home to Atlantis.
December 28th on Earth just happened this year to coincide with one of the summer solstices, the longest day, on Lantea 3. On a world of 19.3-hour days and 514-day years, where “there aren’t enough hours in the day” was by now a tired joke, fourteen and a half hours of light was worth a celebration in itself. Of course, now they had a full compliment of ZPMs, they were able to switch hemispheres at the equinox, celebrate two summer solstices each year and avoid the bitter midwinter on Lantea 3 entirely. But the longest day was still an important event in the calendar, marked by a festival on the mailnland.
Today, though, there was double the reason to celebrate. This was the day of John and Rodney’s marriage blessing. While much of the city save a skeleton crew were puddlejumper-ferried to the mainland for the Solstice Festival, a select guest list of under 20 people gathered in the gate room.
They had invited just two people from Earth, from the military: Evan Lorne and Sam Carter.
And wait. Cameron Mitchell? What the hell??
‘John, you invited Cameron Mitchell?’
‘I didn’t invite him, I was wondering why you had!’
So, what’s he doing here? They curiously watched Mitchell, smiling in a casual grey civilian suit. They had specifically asked for no uniforms, both because Atlantis was now free of Earth uniforms and also because the US military was still not exactly welcoming to queer folk.
As they watched with continuing puzzlement, all became clear. Evan Lorne approached Cam, looking pretty damn hot in a deep blue suit. The two men smiled at each other and linked arms.
‘Oh my god, he’s Lorne’s plus one!’ John said, trying not to gape.
‘And to think he was who you were holding up as a paragon of heteronormativity,’ Rodney chuckled.
‘They’re coming over, act natural!’
The couple sauntered over, Cam’s arm looped over the shorter man’s shoulders, two sets of blue eyes twinkling at them. The two men kissed the grooms on the cheek as if that was something military men did all the time.
‘I’m so happy for you. It’s about time,’ Evan’s smile was totally sincere. Of course he would have known, because Evan Lorne knows all and says little.
‘Evan, you never cease to amaze me,’ was all John managed to say, but Rodney couldn’t contain his curiosity.
‘How long has this been going on?’
John looked at him and rolled his eyes, but neither Cam nor Evan took the question amiss.
‘Since we trained together, so . . . what, nineteen?’ Cam looked at Evan for confirmation.
‘We just hit twenty, babe,’ Evan corrected.
‘Twenty years,’ Cam grinned. ‘Many of which were, to be fair, ridiculously long distance.’
‘Wow.’ Said Rodney.
‘I had no idea,’ said John.
‘Well, to be fair, we predate even DADT, so we had to be good at hiding.’
‘Wow.’ Said Rodney again, uncharacteristically lost for words.
‘So,’ Cam said, giving them both an appraising look. ‘What’s with the attire?’ John and Rodney were both dressed in white tees and blue jeans, with bare feet.
‘Honestly, I have no clue. Teyla’s orders.’
Lorne just nodded knowingly at this.
Sam Carter joined them, having arrived without a plus one, wearing a tailored cream suit. Her greying blonde hair was once again cut short and being the last General of Stargate Command had clearly generated a fair few worry lines. She greeted John and Rodney with warm hugs. Rodney still winced at how he’d sexually harassed Sam, and marvelled that she had forgiven him so easily. Hopefully she realised it was ineptitude rather than malice, but it didn’t excuse him.
He and John had a tense debate about whether to invite her, but it was John who had insisted – she had been their mission leader for a year and seen them through some of their hardest times.
Woolsey could not be compelled to set a foot in Pegasus ever again but had been sent an invitation and had replied with hearty congratulations and well wishes.
Teyla came up, wearing a stunning indigo dress, her hair long around her shoulders. Kanaan, Halling and Jinto were entertaining Torren and Charyn by the stargate while Teyla led the ceremony. She greeted Sam, Evan and Cam in the Athosian way, forehead to forehead, and then turned to the grooms.
‘John, Rodney, it’s time,’ she took them each by the hand.
She led them to the space behind the stargate, where the exquisite stained-glass window had now been fully restored after the previous damage. Priya and Teyla had suggested it as the ideal spot for their blessing.
The guests were urged to come around them, and the ceremony began.
‘As citizens of Pegasus, John and Rodney wished to be bound according to the traditions here,’ Teyla began. ‘We have chosen just some of the customs from the people here in Atlantis, or else it would have been a very long ceremony,’ she smiled. ‘First, Sateda. Ronon?’
When Atlantis opened its borders to citizens and refugees, the Satedans had flocked here, seeking out a civilisation that more closely matched the one they had lost. There were so many Satedans here now that some informally called Atlantis New Sateda, so it seemed appropriate that Satedan custom was honoured first.
Ronon came forward carrying a bundle, which he gently shook out to reveal a thick and heavy patchwork cloak of soft cloth, highly intricate in design, in various shades of gold.
‘In Sateda, the betrothed couple wear these mantles until the binding ceremony is over, to show their commitment to be alongside one another in all things. This mantle is an heirloom and has been over the shoulders of many couples, alive or long dead.’
He draped it over John and Rodney’s shoulders, pushing them close together as he did so.
‘May you live long and grow together, may you be protected by each other’s strength, may you learn from each other’s wisdom, be sustained by each other’s love, be made safe by each other’s shelter, be comforted by each other’s arms.’ He said this loudly and formally, and then leaned in close and whispered, ‘I made sure it wasn’t scratchy.’
John and Rodney smiled at this. Actually, it felt good. A comforting weight across their shoulders, pulling them close together, snug and secure. John’s hand was holding Rodney’s tight beneath the cloak.
Teyla spoke again. ‘Athosians traditionally become bonded in bare feet, so that they know what they are walking into,’ she said cocking her head to glance at the couple’s bare feet. ‘Our binding ceremonies are simple,’ she pulled a long loop of indigo fabric, the same colour as her dress, from out of her sleeve. She indicated for John and Rodney to lift the hands that were still holding onto each other.
‘I bind you together with this cloth to symbolise your binding together with love. May nothing sever this bond.’ She wrapped their hands together slowly and carefully until they were securely bound.
‘This needs to hold fast until after the wedding feast. Then you must remove it together when you are alone, without cutting or tearing the fabric.’
Then Teyla went on, ‘The Belarians also have a hand-binding ceremony, and for them, it is vital that the binding is sealed with a four-point kiss.’
Teyla talked them through the kiss; on the forehead, over each closed eye, and then on the lips. The final kiss may have lingered a little longer than was traditional, but nobody minded.
Then Teyla said, ‘On Manaria, they learn about the couple and their love for each other from their friends.’
Teyla pulled a piece of paper from her sleeve. ‘I asked Rodney what he loves about John, and he told me John Sheppard is the bravest man he has ever known, who has fought every kind of demon and won. John has been a warrior but it hasn’t made him hard-hearted, John has been a leader and a hero but he is very humble. Rodney said a great deal about how beautiful John is, but it became apparent that what mattered to him most isn’t that. It’s John’s surprising softness, his intelligence, his easy humour, his kindness, his loyalty, his generosity. Rodney also said this, that John Sheppard is a complicated man who hides much of what he is under an easy-going surface, but he is worth getting to know more deeply because his depths are where things get really interesting, in fact in Rodney’s words, amazing.’
John looked shyly at Rodney and squeezed the hand that was bound in his.
Ronon then stepped forward and read, ‘I asked John what he loves about Rodney and he said “well, you know, lots of stuff.”’
There was a ripple of laughter at this and John ducked his head. Rodney just smiled fondly.
‘So I asked him again,’ Ronon went on, ‘and then he said a surprising number of words, for John. He told me about the fact that Rodney is brave in a way that matters way more than warrior bravery. Rodney isn’t immune to fear, but still has put his life on the line for all of us countless times, overcoming his fear and being spectacular. And John also wanted to stress that Rodney is brilliant. He said he thinks we take that for granted and we shouldn’t. Says Rodney has made untold sacrifices throughout his life and worked harder than most people understand to become as brilliant as he is, that his brilliance is amazing and wondrous, and we should treat it with awe. In fact, once I got talking, John had a surprising amount to say about Rodney Mckay, more than I’m able to share, but the one thing that seemed important to add is that John is sad Rodney doesn’t know how beautiful he is, and he wishes Rodney could see himself through John’s eyes, and then he’d know.’
Rodney tipped his head against John’s. Oh wow, when John Sheppard found words it was really something.
‘We are going to end with an ancient wedding song from Levanna,’ Teyla continued, and she sung a strangely haunting chant invoking blessings on the bonded couple and their village.
Rodney hadn’t heard Teyla sing for a long time, had forgotten how beautiful her voice was.
Ronon came up and removed the mantle from their shoulders, folding it with care and placing it in a padded box. Only now did Rodney see how old and fragile it was, the fabric only held together by the quantity of intricate patterned stitching that ran over it. There were newer pieces amid the old and then he noticed one very new patch, stitched with what he recognised as the Satedan characters for J and R, ornate and intertwined.
Rodney would miss the mantle’s comforting weight, but not its warmth on this hot midsummer day, nor the sense of responsibility he felt carrying something so precious, a rare relic belonging to an almost lost culture. In its place, Ronon put sashes on each of them, in a similar style to the mantle, a blend of gold colours and intricate stitching, with their initials intertwined.
‘These were made on Belkan, but the tradition is Hoffan. The unbroken circle symbolises unity, much like your Earth wedding bands. The design matches the Satedan mantle, in the hopes that these too will be passed down, and a small part of the lost cultures of Sateda and Hoff along with them. They are yours to keep, and generally the couple wear them until they retire at the end of the binding celebrations.’
‘And now, we feast!’ Ronon announced, and they all made their way to the last puddlejumper. Lorne flew them to the mainland, as John had one hand still bound to Rodney’s. The Solstice Festival was in full swing with food stalls and dancing and music and mayhem. But they landed some way away from the festivities in a meadow on a hill overlooking the festival, where the music and chatter rose up to them softly enough not to drive Rodney nuts. Even the distant strains of what Rodney called Satedan heavy rock barely penetrated the peace of the meadow. The breeze was light, the sun warm enough to make them all feel lazy. Rodney had, of course, remembered his home-made sunscreen.
They spread blankets on the ground and unpacked Athosian woven baskets full of food.
Priya approached them with a plate of sticky, halva-like sweets. ‘This is kada prashad, traditionally we eat this in the temple at a Sikh wedding. Congratulations to you both and thank you for letting me share your day.’
Having the ceremony before Priya left had been a priority for them. She been responsible for bringing John back to Atlantis, but more than that – they kind of adored her. They both exchanged warm hugs with her before taking some of the kada prashad. Rodney noticed John only politely nibbling a corner of the sweet, with a look in his face that Rodney recognised as “bad texture alert,” but then John took another nibble, and the alert downgraded to “challenging but ok.” Rodney, of course, just thought sweet, sweet, yum, yum.
It turned out each of the guests had brought some traditional or favourite food item for the feast. Halling and Jinto brought spiced Athosian flatbread, Evan and Cam brought hot dogs of all things, and set about lighting a fire to cook them. Carson had brought them some high quality Scottish smoked salmon. ‘People think traditional Scottish food is shortbread or deep-fried Mars bars. I have to set the record straight and save the world from tired Scottish clichés, even if offering salmon to a Canadian is like bringing coals to Newcastle.’
Miko had made them a beautiful round wedding cake, frosted around the edge with the design of the Atlantis stargate and rippled blue across the surface. ‘Cake is a big deal at Japanese weddings.’ She told them. ‘We will get you to cut it later.’ She brought a bottle of sake too.
Then Radek came up with a thermos bowl of . . . soup?
‘It is Czech tradition for newlyweds to eat bowl of soup together, using only one spoon, to symbolise the cooperation marriage requires.’ He smiled, looking slightly sweaty, his unkempt hair wilder and thinner than ever.
Rodney shot him an accusatory look, but without any heat behind it, and then smiled at John. ‘I’m game if you are?’ Radek put the bowl on a sawn-off log in front of them and handed the spoon to Rodney. Rodney carefully scooped up some of the warm soup and fed it to John, then handed him the spoon so he could reciprocate. Because they had bound John’s left hand it meant he had to use his still under-used and painful right. John’s hand shook a little as he lifted the spoon, but it still managed to deliver its payload into Rodney’s mouth. It was good soup, but very garlicky. Rodney’s eyes met John’s and they were sparkling.
‘I guess we’re properly married now?’ Rodney inquired.
‘I think we probably are.’ John leaned in for a kiss, and then looked embarrassed when everyone around them applauded. ‘Oh god, I hate being the centre of attention.’
‘Don’t worry,’ Rodney said in a low voice as he fed John another spoonful of soup. ‘There’s a fuck off big festival going on down the hill, and Ronon’s band is playing later. I don’t expect we’ll hold their attention for too long, and if we do, I’ll just take advantage of my reputation for legendary rudeness and tell them all to fuck off.’
‘God, I love you, Rodney Sheppard-McKay,’ John said at this, as he fed Rodney more soup.
It finally hit Rodney that maybe John was the one person in the world that loved him precisely because of all his quirks and complications, not in spite of them. Exactly the same way he felt about the man currently spilling soup down Rodney's chin.
‘Apparently the feeling is more than mutual, John McKay-Sheppard,’ Rodney tried for a teasing look, squeezing John’s hand in its bindings. His face, however, uncooperatively went for completely besotted and ridiculously happy. John’s bright hazel eyes sparkled back at his, mirroring his own joy.