“I’m late,” Jennifer said, standing over him.
Rodney nodded absently, his gaze tracking back to the simulation running on his laptop. “Then you’d better get going.”
He didn’t care much about being places on time. He ran on his own schedule, prioritizing activities as the day progressed. Staff meetings? Low on the list. But the simulation was –
Jennifer put her hand on his cheek and turned his head back to face her. Uh, oh. She was mad. Her nostrils were doing that flaring thing again. Rodney tried to think of what he might have done this time.
“I. Am late.” Jennifer raised her eyebrows and stared at Rodney like he should know what she was talking about.
And then all of a sudden he did, and his blood roared in his ears.
“Late. As in…?”
“As in possible meiosis,” Jennifer replied snappishly.
Ah. A lifeline! “Possible. You haven’t peed on a stick yet?”
“No, Rodney. I haven’t. I just wanted to make you aware that it’s a possibility.”
He was smart enough to know better than to express his relief out loud. Fifty-fifty odds still weren’t that great, but it beat a firm positive. He wondered why Jennifer had told him now, instead of waiting until after she’d taken a test and knew for sure.
“You don’t look happy,” Jennifer said, arms crossed. She still looked angry, which put Rodney on the defensive.
“Well, neither do you! I thought you wanted kids.”
“I do! But not here! On Earth, where there are parks and other children and no soul-sucking vampires.” Jennifer’s arms tightened like she was hugging herself. “This is no place to raise a family. You know that.”
As a matter of fact, no. He didn’t. Nothing on Earth could possibly compare to Atlantis. The literal secrets of the universe could be stored in those godforsaken databases.
“And how do I figure into this white picket fence scenario?” Rodney wanted to know.
Jennifer had no response to that, and Rodney could feel himself flushing.
“I see. Well, if you don’t mind, I have to get back to work.”
“Let me know when you have some actual news.”
Rodney pointedly turned his back. He intently studied the monitor until he heard Jennifer leave the lab, the door sliding shut behind her. Then he dropped his head in his hands and sighed.
A baby? What the hell was he supposed to do with a baby? Rodney could barely get along with other adults. How could he be responsible for the safety of a whole city, and everyone on her, plus a baby?
He could feel the panic building, and there was only one thing to do when that happened.
Rodney tapped his earpiece. “Sheppard. Where the hell are you?”
McKay? What’s wrong?
“A thousand things. Or maybe nothing. It’s too soon to tell yet.”
Meet me out on the pier. Sheppard out.
“She hasn’t taken a test yet.” Rodney chugged the beer John had brought with him, legs dangling over the edge of the pier. “But if she is, she wants to raise it back on Earth. She thinks it’s safer there, but clearly she hasn’t been keeping up with the weekly databursts because honestly, I don’t think things are any better back there. At least here we know who the enemy is.”
John made a noise that Rodney took to be assent. He knew John would understand. His love of Atlantis was just as deep, if not deeper, than Rodney’s.
“Do I do the honorable thing here? I mean, I fully support the idea of my spreading my superior genetic material, but I’m not cut out to be a father. Can you imagine me as a dad? I’d forget to feed it or something.”
“But even if I do the honorable thing, I can’t be expected to do it on Earth, can I? All my work is here. My…My friends are all here. Obviously, this expedition will fail without me, and I’m not the type of person to put my own selfish needs above the greater good. Right?”
“I just wish I knew what to do. I’ve never been in this situation before, you know? And we were careful, so I don’t know how this even happened. Unless…Do you think she was trying to get pregnant? Is this whole thing a trap?”
“Rodney! Take a breath!”
“Okay. Right.” Rodney took several deep breaths until it stopped feeling like his heart was going to pound out of his chest. “That’s better.”
“Forget being honorable for a minute,” John said. “Do you want to marry her?”
“No,” Rodney replied readily, and then blinked in surprise. “No. I really don’t. She’s great and all, really beautiful, but we don’t have anything in common. Huh. I guess I never thought about it before. You’re right, though. We could never make a marriage work.”
“That doesn’t mean you can’t help with a baby. Even if it’s long distance.”
And that was why Rodney had called John in the first place. He always had sound advice in these matters. Rodney finished off his beer, feeling pleased with himself.
Relief hit Rodney like a wave, and he said the first thing that popped into his head without thinking. “We should break up.”
Wow. That felt even better than finding out he wasn’t going to be tied to Jennifer through a shared child for the rest of his life. When Jennifer nodded her agreement, it wasn’t exactly a surprise.
“I think that would be best.”
And that was that. It was the most amicable breakup Rodney ever had. He went back to his quarters to collect up anything that belonged to Jennifer so he could return it, assuming she would do the same.
Except there was nothing of hers there. Not an extra toothbrush, a single article of clothing, even a hair tie. That was uncomfortably illuminating. Had they both subconsciously realized they had no real future together?
But not nearly as illuminating as what Rodney did find – the black leather jacket John had loaned him during the whole brain parasite thing, one of John’s stupid golfing magazines, and some of the Power Bars John was always bringing him.
Rodney dropped down on his bed, contemplating the evidence he’d just found. Nothing of his girlfriend in his room, where she spent a lot of her time, but plenty of John. Who always came when Rodney called. And listened whenever Rodney needed dating advice, even though it clearly made John uncomfortable.
John. The one person Rodney never forgot when he was losing his mind.
“Oh, no,” Rodney whispered to himself.
Still, he gave himself two full weeks to study the data and make some extrapolations based on what he knew about John Sheppard. Which, surprisingly, was a lot. Rodney would have chalked that up to best friends just knowing each other really well, but he hadn’t known half as much about his own girlfriend.
He waited till movie night, which was just the two of them because Ronon was otherwise occupied and Torren had a cold, so Teyla was home taking care of him. That suited Rodney just fine.
“When Harry Met Sally? That’s a chick flick, McKay,” John complained.
“Cadman recommended it,” Rodney replied, which was the truth. She said it was the best friends-to-lovers movie ever made. Rodney was sure that wasn’t true, but it was a movie he could easily access off the shared drive.
“Cadman is also a chick. Come on. Let’s watch Top Gun or Back to the Future.”
Rodney rolled his eyes. “You’ve made me watch those stupid movie so many times I could recite them from memory.”
“So you’d rather watch a rom com? You hate those.”
“But this one is about two best friends who fall in love with each other,” Rodney blurted out.
Damn! That hadn’t been part of the plan at all. John was supposed to watch the movie, see the parallels between Harry and Sally and his own relationship with Rodney, and make the proper conclusions. At the very least, he could try the arm across the back of the couch maneuver.
John set aside his bowl of popcorn and leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “Is this about Jennifer?”
“Have I, at any time, even so much as insinuated that Jennifer was my best friend?”
“Okay, look. It took me a long time to figure this out, so I’ll give you the benefit of my thought processes.”
“Oh, this should be good.” John looked at Rodney expectantly.
“You and I are best friends, right? And I have your stupid magazine. And I know you like Superman, even though he’s an inferior superhero. So obviously I’m in love with you, and you need to get up to speed so we can do something about it.”
John just stared at him, the tip of his tongue darting out to wet his bottom lip. He didn’t say anything for the longest time, and Rodney was gearing up for an apologetic explanation, or maybe a defensive accusation, when John finally opened his mouth.
“Superman kicks Batman’s ass and everyone knows it.”
“How can you say that? He’s literally allergic to his own planet, which everyone handily has chunks of just lying around. You only like him because he can fly.”
“I like him because he’s the best.” John reclaimed the popcorn and sat back on the couch. “Let’s watch your movie. But I get to pick the next two.”
Rodney sat next to him, ego slightly deflated. John clearly didn’t want to acknowledge what Rodney had confessed, which wasn’t altogether unexpected. The man was notoriously stingy about revealing his own feelings, even with Teyla and she was sneaky about getting people to open up.
And really, a deflection was better than John storming out. At least they could still be friends.
Rodney wasn’t expecting the arm across the back of the couch maneuver, which happened ten minutes in.
Or how, twenty minutes in, John somehow closed the space between them without seeming to have moved.
Rodney stopped watching the movie twenty-three minutes in, because he was too busy kissing John to care about either Harry or Sally. It was salty and there was a scratchy popcorn kernel in there somewhere, but Rodney still put that kiss in his top five.
He just wished he hadn’t been so late to realize what, in hindsight, had been so obvious.