It had started off with John on Rodney's couch, the depression of losing the city a shallow but immensely painful wound between them, and a long weekend having been handed down by the powers that be. They both knew that Elizabeth's name—and Radek's, likely, because Rodney was a fucking menace right now—was stamped all over the three days downtime they'd been ordered to, but it hadn't mattered on day one, when all they could do was sit there and stare blindly at the television.
Then John had sighed as House was berating Chase for something or other and asked, “Wanna go to Vegas?”
And Rodney, desperate to get away from his tiny spartan apartment and Area 51 for a few days, answered, “Yes.”
It felt good to be home, even for as brief a time as they were permitted to stay before being dragged back to Earth for the formal reprimands they'd all known were coming, and John was all but soaking in the feeling of Atlantis as he walked the length of her corridors and peered into labs and rooms and workshops. He spent a night just staring at the jumpers, eating peanut butter on hardtack when he got hungry and remembering their first year when he'd done exactly that for a week straight.
“And you mock me for liking MREs,” Rodney commented when he'd found John around dawn. He was scruffy, yawning but clearly hadn't been to bed yet, and he held out his hand for his own bit of John's breakfast. “Elizabeth says we're going to use the bridge both ways.”
Unspoken message: They'd only be gone four days instead of twenty-two.
Thank fuck. There'd been talk of coming home via the Daedalus, bringing back the stragglers with them.
“She have to stop you from shouting at Landry?”
“I don't shout.”
“No, you have polite conversation.” There was laughter in his voice.
Rodney rolled his eyes, mouth full. He chewed thoughtfully and leaned back against Jumper One, swallowing before asking, “You wanna sleep before we dial in? I... uh... I have actual food in my quarters and I put clean sheets down.”
Sleep was unlikely to happen if the two of them were alone in quarters together—sex had been more difficult on Earth with both of them in different states and they were desperate—but John nodded anyway.
(They most assuredly didn't sleep.
Not more than catnaps and when they showed up to the gateroom at AST 1500, they both looked bright and awake if a bit worse for wear.)
There were several meetings over the first three days they were trapped back on Earth, along with several private reprimands that didn't make it into their files and a very public one that would. John figured he'd already had one black mark for disobeying orders, what was two, really, because in the end, O'Neill pulled him aside and told him, “You realize they all think you're nuts, right? You're probably going to wind up getting command of Pegasus forever if you're willing to fight this hard for it.”
He wasn't entirely sure if O'Neill was encouraging him or chastising him. Maybe (probably) both.
The last day was all personnel meetings and policy crap and John was about ready to rip his brain out of his head and run screaming from the conference room: he had so many updates from the international branches to learn between then and Monday when the teams would reactivate.
“You know, this would be easier if we we only had one policy for the entire contingent.”
O'Neill snickered from behind his coffee cup and Landry looked tired.
John wondered idly if Rodney's meeting was going any better.
The civilian contingent, plus Carter at Rodney's request, had been sequestered to another area to discuss their own possible additions and policy changes for Atlantis and they'd started a full half an hour before John's meeting had so he imagined the tally likely went:
- Number of Blonde References: 12
- Number of Remarks about Intelligence: 72
- Number of Times Elizabeth Shut Rodney up: 4
- Number of Times Daniel Stopped Carter from Homicide: 6
He got an answer approximately twenty seconds later when Jackson slammed into the room, grumbled over to the coffee pot, poured creamer and sugar directly into the carafe and then took it away with a string of curses that got half the room smirking.
“Okay,” O'Neill announced after a minute of snickering, “Time for a break. Sheppard, you up for a tag-team? I'll take Daniel. You've got McKay.”
When they got to the other conference room, Daniel had his head down on the desk and one hand white-knuckled around the handle of the coffee carafe. The other arm was out on the table toward Carter who looked like she might be tempted to turn her pen into a shiv at any moment. Elizabeth was covertly tipping something into her glass of coke from the flask that John had given her on the second anniversary of expedition's arrival. He was fairly sure it was either rum or Kythian liquor.
For his part, Rodney looked perfectly relaxed.
John realized in hindsight that it was probably more his smirking that set everything off and less O'Neill's comment about the tension in the room, but either way, the black eye earned him another private meeting with the General.
This one, thankfully, involved some very nice whiskey.
“Yeah,” O'Neill muttered as he settled into his chair, “as a rule, we try to avoid pissing off Daniel.”
John nodded in understanding. He fished the ice out of his glass to hold to his eye, then admitted, “He, uh, has one hell of a right hook. Sir.”
“I wish I could take credit for teaching him that one, but it was Fraiser.”
The stories of Janet Fraiser were told even in the Atlantis infirmary and Beckett still got starry-eyed whenever her name got brought up, so John applied an appropriately reverent expression and nodded.
“Soooooo, off the record, Daniel was aiming for McKay, so he'll be sending you an apology gift on the Daedalus. Let me know what you'd prefer in the way of contraband and I'll see what I can do to sway him in that direction.”
John didn't even need to think. “Bacon.”
Hey, it wasn't like there were pigs running around Pegasus or a butcher on staff. The Daedalus didn't regularly bring fresh or frozen meat products to them, so bacon and ground beef, when it was sent, was a rare treat.
O'Neill lifted an eyebrow at him, remarking, “You're a strange man, you know that?”
“Been told that a few times before, sir.”
“Now, that was off the record, on the record... I've been trying to get the IOA to consolidate the expedition's military policy for the last two years. At this point, I think we're both starting to feel like that monkey on a bike with the the sticks and the spinning plates and it's only a matter of time before they start hitting the ground.” He leveled his eyes at John, mischief sparkling in them in a way that made John feel more than uneasy. “I'd like you to formally request that the policy be changed. I need it in writing before the end of next week.”
“Yes, sir. Not a problem.”
“Good.” O'Neill sipped his whiskey and smirked. “If you wanna toss in anything that might help us along with the repeal of DADT, that would be great. I mean, you have seen other parts of the contingent that permit gays and lesbians to serve working along side those that don't do so with no problems, right?”
“Stop with the sirs and the yessing. It goes right to my head.” He went on, “You never know what could help, you know? Make things easier. Especially out there. In Pegasus. With all those Wraith and Replicators and those whacky Ancients.” That damned look was on his face again.
John might have been grateful when Rodney came blustering in and demanded that Sheppard be released from O'Neill's clutches. “It's time for the dial in and it's Tuttleroot Stew in the mess tonight. You do not miss Tuttleroot Stew night.”
“Mmm, Tuttleroot Stew. Wouldn't want to miss whatever that is. Go forth, John Sheppard, you are released.”
John wrote the formal request and sent it off and didn't think about it after that because holy God, Pegasus. He almost felt like there was a kid's rhyme to be found in their adventures: Telepathic Whales, Ascension Machines, and Ancient Worldbuilding Games, Oh My!
There was Jamus and his people and the loss of Meghan Biro who'd only been acting as CMO while Carson went home to deal with his dying mother, and once they finished the memorial and sent the casket through, John followed Elizabeth up to her office and said, “I call time out.”
“I'm sorry?” She looked both amused and confused; she leaned one hip against the lip of her desk as she waited for him to continue, then gestured when he didn't immediately do so.
“We got back and it's pretty much been go-go-go since then. McKay and his team have been running around like chickens with their heads cut off in between every crisis, the recon teams have gotten Medical to designate beds for each of us now, and my Marines have started a contest to break the time it takes to get between the armory and the 'gate room for back-up calls.”
Elizabeth might have smirked, but she hid it behind the brush of her hand.
John sighed. “Our Sunday didn't quite go to plan, so I call time out.”
"All right. And what exactly does that mean?”
“I don't know exactly, but I want McKay out of the damn lab for at least 24 hours.”
This time the smirk was an actual, full watt smile and she didn't hide it one bit. In fact, there was something in her eyes that seemed so similar to the mischief that'd been in O'Neill's; John felt his gut twist and had he not had his training, he might have taken a step back, but he remained where he was, heart racing in his chest.
“McKay, Zelenka, Simpson, the whole science team. Chuck locks them out after the last one of them leaves and they don't go back in until we let them or the city is on the ocean floor.”
“Maybe not the ocean floor.”
“She's got a shield.”
Elizabeth shook her head at him and pushed off the desk, circling around to her chair, and caved: “Okay, I'll concede to your time out.”
“Excellent.” He collapsed into a chair, finally, and relaxed.
So much for relaxed. “But?”
“But,” she smiled, “I don't think that Rodney can be trusted to stay out of the lab even if we enact a lockout protocol. We all know he could override them in a heartbeat.”
John felt like he was being circled by a shark, the tune from Jaws playing away in his head. He cocked his head to the side, and remarked, “He does say all the time that he knows the Ancient systems the best of everyone.”
Elizabeth agreed. “That he does, and he's not wrong. Though God help anyone who would dare tell him that,” she said, “I think maybe, for Rodney's sake, we should let him take a few days vacation back on Earth.”
“Not a bad idea. If I contact Carter A-SAP, she might be able to contact Jeannie to meet him in Cheyenne, and he won't even get the chance to breathe near a computer at the SGC.”
“Oh, I'm sure you'll be able to keep him away from them. I mean, after all, you'll be going with him—who else can I trust to make sure Rodney actually relaxes?”
Yep, circling shark that just leapt up and bit him.
But he didn't fight her on it because anyone who fought a sudden five days of downtime after the Non-Stop Pegasus Funtime Extravaganza was a fucking moron: he would take it and he would go through the 'gate tap-dancing in a tutu if he needed to.
“We have five days off,” John told Rodney that night, “Wanna go to Vegas again?”
“If I say yes, can we get back to what we were doing?”
(They didn't talk after that, except for one muttered, “We didn't get Vegas married while we were there last time. That could be fun.”
“Elvis or Star Trek?”
“Fffff, Star Trek, of course.”
“Think we could find a place where Worf officiates?”
Rodney would never confirm or deny if he tried to smother John with his pillow, but John knew better.)
They were practically shoved through the 'gate Friday morning by a smirking Lorne and an Elizabeth who, swear to Janus, had a martini in one hand. Rodney was still yelling threats at Zelenka as he entered the event horizon, but John was fairly sure Radek was too busy up in the control room doing a damn jig to either listen or care.
“You'd think they were happy to see us leave or something,” John had said when they arrived the next morning.
Carter pat John on the back. “I'm sure it's not you, Colonel.”
“Wait. Where's my laptop? Did those morons forget to send my laptop through? Oh, for... dial back now!”
“Rodney, you don't need your laptop for vacation,” John told him. He conveniently left out the part where he'd made sure that the laptop bag—which was actually a rolling suitcase filled with not one but two laptops, at least four hard drives, a dozen or so jump drives, and cards, cords, and discs of all kinds—had been left behind in Midway with strict orders that it was not to be sent through for any reason, not even if Rodney had a knife to the throat of General O'Neill himself.
The look whipped in his direction spoke of the impending argument.
“Yeah, it was definitely not you,” Carter reiterated. This time her pat was meant as both comfort and farewell, leaving John alone in the corridor outside the SGC Gateroom with their duffel bags and a pissed off travel companion who was about to take Lost Baggage Complaint to a whole new level.
He ended up promising Rodney his body weight in good chocolate and a replacement laptop if they could please just get through the Medical before they missed their flight. John doubted Rodney would care much about the latter once he had the former, and he made a mental note that he should definitely ensure that the chocolate was purchased first.
The exams went quick and as John tried to commandeer a car from the motor pool, Mitchell appeared with keys in one hand and a letter from O'Neill in the other and told him, “It's 90 minutes north. I'm gonna take you guys up, catch a late dinner, and then come home in time for the Daniel and Vala Show.”
“I can sign a car out. You've been up since, what, 0-800?”
“0-6, but what's a little sleep deprivation between friends? McKay, you're in middle.”
And they were off, crammed into an old truck that rumbled along the back roads but was smooth on the main ones. Here and there, John would banter with Cam, Rodney looking like someone had jammed a lemon in between his teeth and ordered him to chew, probably because most of the ride was spent talking shop.
John was not the only officer under O'Neill's Command to be asked to write formal complaints about how the IOA and the SGC handled certain policies and Cam had written a few of his own. John's were clearly specific to Atlantis, to how the military was handled when there were too many rules and regs to keep track of, and Cam's were more personally related to the fact that off-world, the rules and regs sometimes didn't matter. What a person did to keep themselves, their team, and the people back home alive, so long as it was moral, should never need questioning.
“Oh, look, the airport,” Rodney announced when Cam brought up a fertility ritual from a few weeks back. “They better have chocolate.”
“Come on, Rodney, it'll be like ten bucks a bar here!”
“Should have thought of that before you made me listen to an hour and a half of mission report erotica!”
Cam waved out the window at them as he drove off ten minutes later, his laughter audible despite the noise of his tires on the asphalt.
As John discovered, it took three stores to find a Dagoba Eclipse bar (marked up to $4.50), but Rodney made noises John had only previously heard when his mouth was south of Rodney's waist so he accepted the mark up as money well spent. He did, however, make sure that the bar was gone before the flight because he did not want to think about those noises being heard by another passenger.
Another outrageously priced bar got them through McCarran, although the cab driver kept giving looks in the rearview that had John prodding Rodney in the thigh over, and through hotel check in.
Chocolate basically kept Rodney pliant for the first twenty-four hours, so John got his visit to the Red Rock, Rodney his visit to the all you can eat buffet, and as they lay in bed that night, sated and sticky and John still inside Rodney with no intention of moving just yet, he muttered, “Star Trek wedding tomorrow?”
Rodney slapped at John's thigh. “Fine. If you move so I can go clean up. Did you have to use the entire bottle of lube?”
“The honeymoon is over already.”
The pillow Rodney smacked him in the face with had come on it.
Rodney woke up first.
With one eye cracked to take in the room, he moaned, “Coffee,” in a voice that sounded nearly dead before rolling over to nudge at John's still form. He upped it to shoving when John didn't budge; his fingernails dug into John's arm, little crescents denting the flesh.
John startled, pushed up onto his hands, and reached for his gun, then the night before rushed back at the same time as the hangover hit and he collapsed to the mattress with a huff. He muttered, “Ow,” and, “What did we drink last night?” before shoving his face as soundly as he could into the pillow.
“Coffee,” Rodney demanded again.
“Good idea. I'll take it black,” John whispered back.
This time, Rodney poked him hard in the ribs. “You called me your wife last night. You get the coffee.” But John's face when he turned it to look at Rodney was enough to get the point across that he was definitely not going to be getting up for anything for any time in the near future. “You look like you lost a fight with a Wraith.”
“Aw, you don't look like a Wraith.”
“You so owe me a blowjob for that remark.” Rodney then declared, “I'm ordering room service.”
He left John in the bed and shuffled into the bathroom for their kit, dry swallowing the ibuprofen Keller had sent them with, and having a piss, before heading into their suite's sitting room to hunt down the menu. A quick order called in, he took the time to find clean clothes and gather up the dirtied ones they'd scattered the night before in their haste; he was feeling vastly more human by the time a kid barely pushing seventeen showed up with one of those rolling carts and several covered plates.
Rodney slipped him a twenty to leave the coffee carafe, then ushered the teenager out and poked his head into the bedroom to see that John had finally decided to sit up.
“You really do look like hell.”
“Gee, thanks, Rodney.”
“I got us breakfast and coffee and I'm getting you some pills. Go sit and eat.”
John turned a very distinct shade of Ancient Green at the mention of food. “I don't know if that's a good idea.”
“It'll just get worse if you don't and I have no desire to spend the first day of our honeymoon in the ER getting you treated for dehydration.”
“You say the sweetest things.”
The eye-roll was involuntary.
Breakfast did end up helping, and John felt decidedly more human once he'd had the chance to get caffeine in his veins and banana-stuffed french toast in his belly. He still felt like someone had his head in a vice, but the ibuprofen was kicking in and taking the edge off that while the butter and sugar did their magic.
“Jacuzzi tub?” Rodney suggested as he finished off his own meal, the plate practically polished clean.
And that sounded fantastic, but John's cell phone—his concession to O'Neill on this trip—began to ring incessantly.
“I couldn't have my laptop, but you could have a cellphone,” Rodney groused as he found the device on the coffee table where it'd been charging and set it before John.
“I only have this because I was forced. You would have started up the laptop and never shut it down.” John lifted an eyebrow in challenge, then finally answered the phone. “Sheppard.”
O'Neill sounded jovial as he said, “Good morning, Colonel. You know, when I said you could toss in anything you felt would help the repeal of DADT, I didn't mean yourself.”
John sputtered and coughed around the mouthful of water he'd just taken. Evidently he was a living spit take. “I'm sorry, sir, what?”
“I'm holding a picture of you and McKay in what appears to be an interesting looking chapel. Did you pick Spock or did he?”
“Oh, that.” John's unease ebbed slightly. “We were just goofing off. Thought it'd be fun to do one of those stupid fake Vegas weddings.”
“Fake Vegas weddings... Sheppard, you are nearly as smart as McKay. How did you not know that Vegas weddings are real? Wait, did McKay not know those weddings are real either? Wait 'til I tell Daniel...”
John might have squeaked.
“Not gay ones. Don't worry, you're not legally married to McKay yet. Still gotta go to Massachusetts for that one.” O'Neill then added, “But you stirred the pot of flying monkeys to a rage over here. The picture made its way around the SGC e-mail within an hour and then it hit the Pentagon. Landry's under orders to arrest you the minute you step foot on base and I've got the IOA breathing down Elizabeth's neck. Of course, considering you and McKay were the worst kept secret in the program...”
Oh, look, John damn near swallowed his tongue. He didn't know a human being could do that while conscious.
“Breathe!” Rodney snapped. He took the phone and started to say something only to deflate as O'Neill got his words in first; his eyes went wide and John could have laughed—had he not been in shock—when Rodney urged, “Define real.” He passed the phone back a few minutes thereafter, disappearing into the bedroom without another word.
“Good now? Freak out over for the moment? I can finish my thoughts before you hyperventilate again?”
“All right, then. You, McKay, worst kept secret in the program. Seriously. Weir and I have had to silence and reassign several of the more moronic members of the expedition in the past, but unfortunately this time, it was you two who managed to do something stupid. It may not be a legal marriage, but it's enough that they can discharge you for violating the UCMJ and there are people above me, Sheppard, who very much want to install a new commander and turn Atlantis military except they haven't had the ammunition against you before.
“So, you need to let me do some work behind the scenes. Do not step foot in the SGC until I tell you and don't leave the country. Have McKay get in touch with Carter about getting gear.”
O'Neill blew out a breath and there was the creak of a chair, then, “You will be arrested the minute you show your face. There is nothing that will be made better if you show up for Court Martial and the little piece of paper sitting in front of me with Weir's and Keller's signatures on it will keep you from AWOL charges for the time being.” He added, “Elizabeth's got Woolsey pinned in a room in Atlantis already. We'll figure this out.”
“Go find your husband and have your freak out now.”
“Not my husband.”
“Bah, way I hear it from Ms. Emmagan, you two have been legally married in Pegasus half a dozen times times now.” He sounded vaguely amused. “Seriously, Sheppard. I'll contact you. Go. Enjoy your honeymoon.”
The line went dead.
It took a full thirty-eight minutes for John to find the ability to move. His head was spinning, but that was probably the hangover; his heart was pounding hard in his chest and he rubbed at his sternum as he walked back into the bedroom, where Rodney was sitting on the bed with his eyes closed.
“I can't believe that we nearly got married by Spock.”
John swallowed. “Rodney.”
“Seriously, I wasn't expecting a grand wedding with flowers and all that pomp, but Spock...”
He finally looked over. “Are you going to pass out?”
Rodney had him sitting on the edge of the bed a minute later, his head pushed down between his knees and Rodney peeling off breathing cadence until John muttered, “Is this really happening?” which was probably meant as a rhetorical question.
“I'd like to say no, but...” Rodney stretched to slide a modified LSD out from the nightstand drawer with a guilty look and pressed a few spots on the screen to bring up the Atlantis email mainframe. There, at the top of Rodney's folder, was a message from Zelenka that John read quickly, then read again.
Apparently the news had hit Atlantis about ninety minutes after it'd hit the SGC and the outcry had preceded the IOA and the Air Force's arrival. John's men had mostly voiced their support and the ones that hadn't were currently being submerged in cold showers.
We have had odd breakdowns in the water delivery system. I haven't anyone to spare to work on it, sadly.
Elizabeth had sequestered herself into the primary conference room with Woolsey and several of his men, a couple of AF guys, and—according to Radek—a handle of Jack Daniels. A liaison from the Pentagon had shown up after and since then, only slips of paper had come from the room. Mostly requests for food, water, and more whiskey.
Major Lorne has command. He is doing well, but he is certainly not Colonel Sheppard.
“I'd ask you to be nicer to Radek, but I think it'd give him a stroke.”
Rodney snorted and nodded. “And considering he's actually got two brain cells to rub together, I'd like him to remain on staff as long as possible.”
Still, John felt gutted as he handed back the LSD and the situation sunk further in.
The Air Force had been his life since he was 18, the rebellion of his adult years when he'd turned tail and run from everything his father had set before him as being part of the Sheppard name. He'd made it his home, his family, and he had found his place flying anything with a rotor or wings. Without it, he didn't know what he would do.
“Hey, no hyperventilating.” Rodney squeezed his shoulder and sighed. “Let's, uh... we can't stay here forever. I can call Jeannie? See if she'd be open to us staying with her?”
“I can't leave the country, Rodney.”
“Please. It's Vancouver. It's barely over the border.”
Had John felt more like himself he might have made a remark about horseshoes and hand grenades, but lethargy had set into his bones and he couldn't bring himself to banter. “General's orders. Can't leave the country.”
Rodney shifted them on the bed as he said, “I guess it'd be seen as you running,” and settled beside John with an arm slung over Sheppard's shoulders.
“Deserting. It's called deserting.”
If he could have, Rodney would have screamed because all this over a stupid fake wedding. They'd just been trying to have some fun and really, who was it hurting? Well, it was hurting John, actually.
Fucking US Military and their asinine rules.
He felt John relax against the pillows and his arm; John's face was evening out and Rodney hoped it meant that he might go back to sleep, might be able to forget for a few hours that their Stupid Fake Wedding—capitals in place because that was how Rodney would forever remember it—might cost him everything.
But John didn't sleep. He never closed his eyes, just stared blindly off at the opposite wall, and Rodney knew that brilliantly hidden mind of his was working away at the problem. Except the John Sheppard School of Fixing Problems typically involved martyrdom and Rodney was not about to let John just waltz up to the SGC and turn himself over for immediate Court Martial.
For a Stupid Fake Wedding.
“Same-sex marriage is recognized in Massachusetts.”
“Only one of your states to have people of sanity in power.”
John smiled then, more to himself. “Look, if I'm going to be discharged over this, it's not going to be for a wedding in Vegas that we did as a joke. Marry me. Legally.”
Rodney watched him for a moment then slowly rolled back to his nightstand drawer, shifting something within to grab a cellphone (John knew he should have checked Rodney's carry on). He dialed a number quickly and two rings later, he demanded, “Carson, can a person in shock give themselves delusions?”
It took ten hours, two pots of coffee, three bribes to the kid from room service, and the world's longest shower, but by the time night fell, both of them were feeling less like something scraped from the sole of John's boot.
A nap brought some clarity to the situation for Rodney—as did a long conversation with Carson, who was still on Earth for another few days, that involved judicious application of the words arse, fuckwits, and something Rodney wouldn't repeat even if threatened with torture by Wraith—and John had gone for a walk through the Vegas strip to clear his head.
He returned still intent on one thing.
“You realize that O'Neill may be able to save your commission by pointing out that neither one of us had any idea that the Stupid Fake Wedding would be seen as a violation of Don't Ask Don't Tell.”
“Not under the regs, and they can still get me for conduct unbecoming.” John scrubbed the back of his neck, leaning against the doorjamb between the living space and the foyer. “Doesn't matter anyway because I'm not going to lie.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“Court Martial is a trial, Rodney. They're going to question me, try to get me to hang myself, and I will because I won't lie. They'll ask if we had sex and I'll say yes, sir, and they'll ask how long, and I'll say two years, sir.”
Rodney licked his lips and wished he could bang his head into the wall because he felt this conversation was vastly similar to such an experience.
“So rather than wait for General O'Neill, who likes you for some weird reason and is trying to help you, to actually help you, you want to do over our Stupid Fake Wedding with a legally binding real one in Massachusetts.”
“Just presuming I go along with this, there's a residence requirement. How do you expect to get around that?”
John cocked his head to the side and his lips curved into that ridiculous 'gotcha' smirk that made Rodney want to drag him down and fuck him senseless. “And how do you know that?”
“Well, I... may have made a few phone calls while you were out.”
“So you do want to marry me?”
Rodney snorted as he muttered, “Smug ass,” and then said, “Yes, I want to marry you, you fucking moron. I just don't know if this is perhaps the best time for it.”
“Look, I don't want to go down for something I didn't actually do and yeah, General O'Neill is working on it, but once the leave runs out, I will be listed as AWOL if I don't show up to the SGC. You really think he's going to fix this in the two weeks of leave I've got left, Rodney?”
Okay, yeah, John had a valid point.
“Go big or go home, Sheppard?”
The smirk became a grin.
“Alright,” Rodney conceded, “Fine. I will help you dig this grave of yours with the understanding that if they really do discharge you for something as irrelevant to your job as who you sleep with, I will make the lives of everyone around me hell and that includes you for being a damn self-flagellating idiot. Now, residency requirement? Around? How?”
A blush crept up John's neck; he looked away, bashful, and said, “Trust me.”
John carefully said nothing when Rodney twitched. Perhaps Carson was right when he said people in Atlantis were getting PTSD from the fallout that followed him saying those words.
They went to bed and woke to the checkout slip being shoved under the door. Rodney balked at the alarm clock, but somehow despite sleeping in, they made it to McCarran a few minutes before their flight was due to board.
“What's in DC?” Rodney asked as they waited for their turn to queue.
“Someone who has something we'll need,” John replied, “Look, it's complicated and I'll explain when we touch down.”
It was like waving the red flag. Rodney was not about to give that tidbit up and after they were settled into their seats, he demanded to know everything right then, right there. John reached down to pull a small gold box from his carry-on, dropping it onto Rodney's lap a moment later.
“Where did you get Godiva?”
“Yesterday, on my walk. I also found handmade artisan chocolates from another shop that only uses Belgian dark.”
The squawk was endearing.
It didn't earn him quiet for too terribly long: it was only a box of truffles and Rodney practically inhaled them. Thankfully, John had taken other steps during his long walk, purchasing more than just chocolate to gain compliance from his fiance.
With the trip going longer than expected, he'd bought an actual suitcase to repack their clothing and toiletries in. Its purchase had made it easy to smuggle in the goods that he'd later packed into the carry on, one of which he revealed to Rodney to be a laptop. A bag of Perugina Baci chocolates followed.
“Best fiance ever,” Rodney whispered.
There was blissful silence for a while, broken only by Rodney's typing, and John was able to nod off for a time. Then Rodney got into it with the stewardess over the laptop interfering with instrumentation, which John smoothed over but ended up requiring the loss of three of Rodney's chocolates. He braced himself for questions in the aftermath, the laptop powered down and stowed with Rodney's gear, only to get a reprieve by the the meal arriving. They were both too busy eating for a solid enough amount of time that John finally felt the tension leave him.
Oddly, though, there was no further prodding when the remnants were swept away. Instead, Rodney pushed the arm separating them up and inched over until they were pressed together from shoulder to thigh, and he murmured, “I'm worried about you, you know.”
It was endearing and affectionate and John momentarily felt his stomach flutter because that was probably as close to an I Love You as either of them were comfortable getting in public.
John turned to discreetly press a kiss to Rodney's temple.
The rest of the flight passed without word or interruption, at least from Rodney. John himself took delight in grinning at the woman across from them who sneered in disgust when John glanced in her direction and spent the remaining time being as physically affectionate as they could handle simply to see if he could get a further reaction.
Hey, he never said he wasn't above tormenting bigots.
It did earn him a very clear, “Faggot!” when they were off the plane, but John, one hand on Rodney's shoulder in restraint, made a show of adjusting his dogtags and hefting the duffel over his shoulder. It was entertaining to see her sputter indignantly before walking off, which soothed some of his battered nerves.
If only he'd been able to hold onto that feeling.
The guy holding the paper with Sheppard on it at baggage claim shot his anxiety level up immediately.
“You got a car service?” Rodney asked.
John made a throaty non-committal noise, flagged the guy, and kept walking: the family drivers were used to brusque acknowledgment. He overtook John's long steps with practiced ease, guiding them out to the curb.
He wished fervently that he had called a car service or a taxi or rented a car or something other than having called his brother. God, a black Lincoln sedan, did no one at Sheppard & Sheppard think that perhaps it was time to move on from the stodgy old cars?
“Sir,” the driver prodded when John hesitated to get in beside Rodney who was already leaning forward to stare at the driver's console.
“Yeah, yeah, sorry.” He settled into the rear seat, the scent of leather and glass cleaner invading his nose.
Bags properly set into the trunk and both passengers buckled in, the car was off and Rodney was asking rapid-fire questions about the latest features. The driver was patient enough that John didn't try to deter Rodney, and interrupted only to say, “Listen, before we get to the house or the office or wherever Dave is holed up, we need to stop somewhere with decent cold-weather clothes. We weren't packed for a New England winter.”
“I'm sorry, sir, but your brother was clear that I was to bring you to him first and then any other trips could be made afterwards.”
John winced. Great. Of course Dave would make sure John couldn't stall for time.
Rodney's attention immediately shifted as well. “Your brother? David Sheppard, the premier lawyer for members of the US Senate? That's who we're going to see?”
“Yes, Rodney. I left the keys to my house with him when I went to the base and I need to get them back unless you want to deal with the cops when I have to break us in.”
“You have a house?” Rodney was vibrating next to him, pent up energy making him fidget. “You didn't stay there when the... when we were on leave.”
“I told you I would explain and I will. Can you just hold off for a little longer?” John really didn't want to have the conversation in the back of a chauffeured car that was in the employ of his family. God knew, the driver was probably being paid to also hie information back to Patrick and/or Dave and John would rather wait until they were safely on their own to explain the whole dead mother, inheritance, Martha's Vineyard... thing.
Rodney nodded, but his mouth was in that slanted, pursed, perturbed line and when he resumed asking questions of the driver, they were stilted.
Thankfully, it was only another five minutes before they were driving past several horse paddocks and John started sliding down in his seat; he dropped lower as they crept toward a large house and closed his eyes when the car stopped altogether.
Rodney didn't say anything about the house when they got out of the Lincoln, a small mercy.
John needed another minute to compose himself, get his head together, so he turned to help the driver unload their bags; he kept one eye on Rodney though, surprised to see him head toward the fence where an older bay mare was nickering.
“You should probably say hello to her before she opens the gate.”
It was pure willpower alone that kept instincts from kicking in. Between himself and their father, one would think his brother could remember don't sneak up on a guy who'd done tours in war zones, but evidently not.
“I can't believe she's still alive.”
Dave admitted, “Dad wouldn't let anything happen to her. Think we've spent more on her health care than we have on the actual breeding line,” and then, before awkward silence could set between them, added, “Don't you have a coat?” as snow flakes perched in John's wild hair.
“Funny thing. I tried to get the driver to stop at a store, but he said your orders were visit first, shopping later.”
“Ah. Well, let's get you guys in the house before you freeze. Nina's got the coffee on.”
Nina was the housekeeper.
Phil was the driver.
Alexandria was the nanny.
Rodney blinked as each crossed his path, his cup of coffee long gone, and while he shouldn't have been surprised by the fact that one of Washington DC's go-to lawyers lived in the lap of luxury, having known John for so long, it did. Probably more than anything it was the strange antithesis: John slept on crappy polyester sheets in a twin bed and ate reconstituted potatoes in the mess, Dave had six bedrooms with luxury down blankets and had a personal chef.
The living room was the size of the gateroom and filled with expensive looking furniture, all brocade fabrics and carved hardwood. The sidebar—where Dave was prepping three whiskey neats—had carved marble and gold leaf, expensive looking decanters filled with what was likely even more expensive liquor lined up along the top.
Christ, Dave even had a sterling silver tray that he brought their drinks over to the sofas on.
It was all nauseatingly beyond anything a person needed.
John took his whiskey and drained half in one pull, rolling the glass in his hands then. “So...”
Dave nodded. “Yeah.”
“She's good. She's in the Poconos with Caitlin and Rory.” He drank some of his own glass. “Brady's got graduation in May and then off to Harvard in the fall.”
Dave smirked and Rodney suddenly saw the very obvious resemblance between the brothers. It was both physical and mental because apparently Dave got the same look on his face when he was being baited that John got.
“I knew he got Kerry's brains.”
It was right there that Rodney shifted, expecting an inevitable screaming match since that kind of talk in his own home had always resulted in flying dishware and shattered lamps. The fight, however, didn't come, and instead, Dave leaned into his chair and sipped his whiskey, saying, “And my looks. Poor kid hasn't had a date in three and half years of high school.”
“You should probably discuss the jocks and the coeds before college then.”
Dave laughed at that and slapped a hand against John's face. It was affectionate rather than angry and the man rose to his feet after, his glass abandoned on the coffee table; there was a wooden chest on the mantle over the fireplace and he opened it to pull out a set of keys.
“When I didn't hear from you after six months, I told Dad I had them.” The keys clicked in his hand. “He wanted me to put them in the business safe deposit box, but I knew you'd never...” he sighed, “I kept them here.”
“Before I hand them over and call up there to have them get everything ready, could you do one thing for me?”
John waited, eyebrow raised to coax the rest from his brother.
“Talk to Dad.”
“John, please. He regrets whatever it was that happened between you and I think you owe it to each other to at least speak with him.”
Ah, there were the fighting words.
John was on his feet, fists clenched and he was all but hissing, “I owe? I owe?”
“I don't owe him shit, Dave. I tried. I tried a hell of a lot harder than he did. He wants to talk to me, then you can tell him where I'll be for the next two weeks.” He ripped the keys from Dave's hand, and glanced at Rodney, “You ready?”
“Wait, please, John,” Dave tried, “I meant...”
“I know what you meant and I don't want to hear you talk about reconciling with him.”
Rodney moved near but didn't touch him; he didn't dare touch John when his muscles were quite so corded, lest he want a fist to get thrown and not necessarily at him. He interjected, “John, I, uh, I have a headache. I need to eat.”
The puff of John's chest deflated. He swallowed down his anger and rubbed his eyes, opening them as Dave made an aborted move to lay a hand on his shoulder. “He's hypoglycemic. He needs food or he'll pass out.”
Dave nodded, contrite, and guided them to the kitchen.
“Look, I know we're not... good at, you know, talking. But I think, at this point, it kind of has to be done.”
God bless Rodney, king of the understatement.
“Well, considering that the steering wheel looks like it's bending under your hands, yes.”
Also the king of the dramatic.
“Not much to talk about.”
“Really? Not much to talk about? How about the fact that if I hadn't had a low blood sugar moment back there, you and your brother would have gotten in to a rousing game of fisticuffs?”
John couldn't help the laugh. “Fisticuffs?”
“That what the well off say, isn't it?”
They were on I-95 North, the traffic all but non-existent given the late hour, and John had already been driving for three and a half hours. There was another five ahead of them, which meant that John was not going to be able to put this off any longer.
He sighed. “Where do you want me to start?”
“Generally, people start at the beginning and work their way forward, but that's just a suggestion.”
“I was born January 5th, 1967 at Brigham and...”
“In 24 hours, I'll be your smartass. Just food for thought.”
Despite the fact that it was night and he could only see Rodney in his periphery, John knew when Rodney rolled his eyes and shot him a warm smile.
“Yes, yes, I'll be stuck with you until death do us part. The beginning, John.”
It took fifteen minutes to decide where to start and what to say, how to say it, but once he opened his mouth the story started to fall out in bits and pieces: the happy summers he'd spent in his mother's Martha's Vineyard house before her death, the misspent teenage years he'd spent there after, and how she'd left the house to him in her will.
“Dave's my half-brother, really. Dad's first wife ran off with her personal trainer when Dave was three.” John remembered hearing the story once, a long time back, and could only wonder how the woman survived being a walking cliché. “He married Mom eighteen months later and I was born a year after that.”
“How old were you when she died?”
“Eleven. Dave was sixteen, handled it pretty well.”
“Were they close? Were you?”
John shrugged and flipped the blinker, arching up in the seat to check the rearview before changing lanes. “Yeah. He didn't even realize she wasn't his biological mother until he went to college. Dad had to pull out his birth certificate for something and they had a huge argument over it. Dad just never felt it was important enough to tell Dave about it until he already knew. And she was my mom, Rodney. I thought the world revolved around her.”
Rodney wasn't sure he could understand that: his parents had been angry and awful in his younger years and while he had always respected his father, it wasn't until he was grown that he started to so much as like him. He asked, “Okay, what about your dad?” when a minute passed in silence.
“My old man had my life planned for me starting age 10. Dave was going to be the lawyer who made Dad's firm Sheppard & Sheppard, I was going to be the businessman who handled Sheppard Equine. I think I nearly stroked him out when I told him that instead of Harvard, I was going to MIT.” John bit his lower lip as he thought about the events that had followed his announcement. He pushed himself on, “We said some pretty ugly things to each other... I ended up spending the rest of the summer at the house mom left me and didn't go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas breaks. Spent Spring Break down in the Hamptons with a couple of friends.”
“But things got smoothed over?”
“I had to go home some time, Rodney. Which led to the next argument and the next and eventually, I moved all my stuff up to Heiligdom. We managed that way for a while and then just when I thought he might have finally come around, you know, seen that I was happy... well. The fight that time... we were both bleeding after and he flat out told me to leave and never come back. Canceled the credit card I'd been using, rescinded my bank allowance, disinherited me completely.”
“So you joined the Air Force.”
“No. I mean yeah, but the argument was because I'd already joined. He had this idea that I'd go off to grad school and form an aeronautical business after graduation instead, design planes and get us into the military sector eventually. Then I told him I'd been in the ROTC program the entire time I was in school and was to report to OTS in two weeks.”
“Went back to the house after that?”
“I had no where else to go. Dave wouldn't talk to me and mom had left enough money in trust for the house that I didn't need to worry about the bills. It sucked, but I had a few friends near one of the ferry ports that I could visit when I got lonely and mom's family set up a grocery delivery and sent some money so I didn't starve.”
John was quiet for a moment.
He felt a little better. Not quite enough to say he felt good, but he didn't feel as bitter and angry as he had when he'd left Woodmore and the Sheppard Compound. Apparently there was something to Heightmeyer's love of talking.
Rodney's hand crept over, settling high on John's thigh.
While it was likely meant to be comfort, it was having an effect of an entirely different kind and John, desperate for the contact after the long day, reached down to shift Rodney's hand.
“Not while you're driving. The accident rate skyrockets between 1am and 3am as it is and I'm not explaining to the police when you drive off the road that you were too busy having your dick played with to pay attention to the car.” Rodney moved his hand back to John's thigh, but he rubbed his fingers along the inside of John's leg in promise.
The rest of the ride went by in a blur, his brain too focused on the fingers and the heat in his groin.
“Did you get real married?”
John blinked at the phone in his hand.
Yep, that was General O'Neill's number.
“Good morning, sir.”
“Good morning. Did you have a good drive? Weather up there okay? Did you get married yesterday?”
Rodney was still passed out beside him or else John might have started laughing. As it was, he ran a hand down Rodney's naked back and muttered, “Just a second, sir,” before pressing a kiss to Rodney's hairline. He rolled out of the bed, scrounging up a pair of sweats because you didn't have conversations with commanding officers nude, even ones over the phone.
He wandered from the room, headed for the kitchen where coffee and leftovers from their celebratory dinner were waiting. “Sorry, sir. Had to cover up.”
“Well, aren't you a wilting flower.”
“How did you find out so quickly?”
“Same way as the Vegas wedding—I have spies. Everywhere.”
The, “For cryin' out loud,” did make John laugh and he continued to snicker as he poured coffee into his favorite old mug. “There was paperwork submitted. Your name got entered in a computer out there and it popped up here.”
“So you already know the answer then. Sir. I'd rather be discharged for actually marrying Rodney than just pretending.”
“I get that. See, warning me before you did it? That would have been useful.”
“Wanted to be there?”
“Sheppard, if I could reach through this phone right now...”
“Wouldn't have been all that interesting anyway. We did the standard vows in front of a Justice and his aides, and then got some confetti thrown at us.”
“Don't you mean 'on us'?”
John grinned to himself, amused as he told O'Neill, “No, it was definitely at us. Rodney mouthed off to the wrong person in the office and she retaliated.”
“You know, he really isn't a people person.”
“And you still married him?”
“Strange, strange man.” O'Neill took another minute, then went on, his tone different. “I've been in and out of meetings for the last two days.”
John sipped his coffee, the cup clutched in a numb hand, and waited.
“As of right now, we've got a 30-70 split toward rescinding DADT within the entirety of the SGC and its associated outposts. Daniel and Elizabeth are continuing to work on the IOA and I'm working the military, but there's a possibility—remote—that this may take longer than the time you've got.”
“Kind of expected that, sir,” John admitted, “I already told Rodney I'll be surrendering myself in twelve days. Avoid the AWOL charge on top of whatever else they hit me with.”
“I'll have Carter meet you at the nearest airfield if the time comes.”
O'Neill hung up after that and John finished his coffee, his hands trembling as the dread bled in and he fought it down. He'd known already that he'd likely be spending some time in the brig for the mess he'd made, but to hear it confirmed was harder than he'd expected.
He glanced at his wedding ring before rubbing it with his thumb.
Okay, it might all be a huge amount of fucking agony right now, but it might also be incredibly worth it.
“Coffee,” Rodney muttered as he entered the kitchen, “Need coffee.”
Despite his zombified state, he wandered toward the carafe with barely one eye opened, making himself a cup while John swore he was still snoring. He moved to sit at the breakfast bar, dropping a kiss onto John's lips as he went.
Definitely worth it.
This, Rodney decided, was how honeymoons should be done.
John smirked into Rodney's neck, hips snapping forward again as he tightened himself around Rodney's back. Another groan and John bit down, sucking a hickey into pale skin; he nuzzled it when he finished.
“Possessive,” Rodney grumbled.
“You knew that.” John's voice had dropped low, growly. He bit another patch of pale skin as he thrust, moving slower, trying to dull the need to come a little and draw out the contact between them.
“Yes, but... oh, god... but there's a medical exam when we go home.”
John laughed. “Married now. Don't think Lam or Beckett will be surprised by a few hickeys.”
Rodney huffed. “More than a few.”
There was a pause as Rodney fought with himself, then he turned so he could actually look at John, murmuring, “No.”
In response, John grabbed Rodney's hand, drawing his ring finger into his mouth until it could close around the tungsten band. Rodney whimpered then, and his other hand went to John's thigh; he said, “It's possible I don't mind it at all,” and reveled a little in the feel of John laughing.
See? Perfect honeymoons had sex and laughter and food and more sex, and in deference to John, surfing, even in fucking January when it made no sense to be the freezing water.
“Coldwater surfing is good for the body. Should take you out with me today.”
Apparently he'd said some of that sentence out loud.
“Yes, yes, threaten me with a day on a freezing beach. See if I blow you later.”
“Mmm, it'd be worth it.” John resumed sucking on that finger, and sped up the pace; he began to jerk Rodney's cock roughly, chasing after orgasm for them both, and when Rodney thought he was just about there, the stars rising in his vision and the small of his back tight...
The bedroom door popped open.
“Rodne... Oh! Oh, God! I'm so sorry!”
The door closed again swiftly.
John had pulled the sheet up over them when he'd heard the knob turn, but he was still hiding his face in Rodney's neck; his cheeks had gone flush-warm and he asked, “Was that Jeannie?”
“I think so.”
“I knew I should have locked the front door.”
“You didn't lock the door?!”
There was a weak shrug and John began to pull away, gripping the condom as he moved and Rodney whimpered at the loss. If either of them were still hard, he might have demanded an apology blowjob to finish him off, only they were both shaky and blushing and Rodney thought he might've passed out if it weren't for the fact that hey, his sister just got a nice eyeful of his husband's ass.
Could be he was a little bit proud of that.
He might even have been grinning when they headed downstairs after cleaning up and Jeannie was standing there with an appreciative if extremely embarrassed look on her face.
Yep, little sister, your brother managed to marry John Sheppard and that is what we call winning, he thought to himself.
“I'm really very sorry. I thought... I thought you might have slept in and that I'd surprise you. I should have knocked,” Jeannie babbled, “Sam called me. She said something was going on and she didn't think you'd called me. Why didn't you call me?” She reached out to cuff Rodney on the shoulder. “You got married without telling me!”
“Ow! It wasn't like we've been planning this! It was kind of spur of the moment because Colonel Martyr got in his head that we should have a Real Wedding instead of a Stupid Fake one.”
John pressed the coffee cup into his hand with a muttered, “Drink this, Rodney. I think there's too much blood in your caffeine stream,” and then looked at Jeannie with a look akin to facing a firing squad. “We did something in Vegas that's led to my being charged under the UCMJ.”
“I heard. Sam says there's an order for Court Martial.”
“So you decided to dig a deeper grave by marrying my brother?”
She had the grace to realize what she'd said and apologize. “I mean, maybe you could have gotten the charges dropped if you hadn't gotten married legally. If you'd explained that it was just a misunderstanding by two otherwise smart individuals...”
“Jeannie,” Rodney warned.
“Because it would have been a lie,” John settled into a chair, gesturing to her to sit down at the table as well. He went on then, “I'm not going to lie, not about Rodney.”
She was quiet for a minute as she watched them, watched as John thumbed at his wedding ring like he was scared it would disappear; she watched as Rodney slipped one hand down out of view and she knew it was resting on John's leg, the same way she always tried to comfort Kaleb when he got upset. He pushed his coffee away and she could see from the slosh of it against the wall of the cup, John had made it as Rodney always took it and he'd done it without looking. John was leaning toward Rodney, body cocked some as if to keep a physical barrier between Rodney and a threat.
“I'm sorry,” she finally said, “Rodney questioned everything about my relationship when I got married until I hated him for it, and here I am doing exactly the same thing.”
“You're trying to protect your brother. I get it.”
Jeannie shook her head. “No, John, Rodney's not the one who's in trouble. I was trying to protect you. You don't need protecting, though, you need support.” She pushed back from the table and stood, grabbing his hand to pull him up and into a hug. “I'm going to help General O'Neill with his plan, okay?”
It was Rodney who muttered, “O'Neill has a plan? This will not end well. His plans always involve explosives and end with a dead Daniel Jackson,” which made both John and Jeannie snort with laughter.
Jeannie returned four days after her initial arrival at the house, deciding that she wanted to spend the weekend with them despite Rodney trying to ward her off. Really, he was quite happy to not have contact with anyone for the last four days of the leave allowance, living in blissful ignorance of the world outside the walls of John's house.
He still couldn't quite comprehend that John had added his name onto the deed, that he'd be signing paperwork in two days to okay the change.
“Come on, Mer!”
“It's a good idea,” Jeannie pressed on.
John was out on the water, a black and ultramarine wetsuit keeping him warm as he surfed. Rodney so looked forward to when he came trundling home, peeling the suit, booties, and gloves off his husband while he licked away the salt water that reminded him very much of their other home. Their proper home.
Rodney sighed as he stared out the window at John.
“It's a good idea,” Jeannie repeated, moving from the couch to her brother's side and taking his hand in hers, “I think it would help John.”
“Help John? How? By flinging more evidence onto the pile? They've already got the pictures from Vegas and our marriage license.” He felt the anger rising, then remembered it was Jeannie with him and deflated. He rubbed his eyes tiredly. “It won't help.”
“It might show the IOA and the Air Force that they're being bigoted, that they're actually stopping good people from being in Atlantis where they should be.”
“Right. Because that's not an argument that's been had a dozen times over the years.”
She squeezed his hand, crowding closer until she could wrap him in a side hug. “What's your plan?”
“Who says I have one?”
Jeannie gave him a look that said, 'Because you're Meredith Rodney McKay who has had more than enough time to come up with something'.
“John went to MIT, did you know that?”
“I may have seen his file during a meeting with Elizabeth and Daniel.” She conveniently left out that Daniel had slipped it to her among a sheaf of papers and had read every word of it before secreting it into Daniel's backpack.
“Got his Masters at AFIT. He had started working on a Doctorate when he was deployed to Afghanistan and, well, he didn't finish obviously.”
“You're going to hire him.”
“There's no reason I can't get him back to Atlantis as a member of my staff,” Rodney admitted, “They'll probably fight over it, but I have other people working for me who were military discharges. He's had the background check and O'Neill is weirdly fond of him.”
“You do realize he's probably going to lose his mind if he's forced to spend all day in a lab, right?”
Rodney gave a small crooked smile, watching John wipe out and then surface the water. He was pushing his hair out of his eyes because his hair refused to be contained by the wetsuit hood, but he didn't look like he was ready to come in yet. Hell, John looked like he might have been grinning as he floundered for the board and hefted himself back up—he looked happy—and Rodney was grateful for it.
“I know. Elizabeth and I have been messaging each other and she thought the same thing at first, but see, thing is, we kind of need more people with pilot training on the jumpers. John's got the experience and understanding of the mechanics, and with his aero engineering degrees, Radek agrees that we could teach John to fix the jumpers himself. It'd be hands on, lots of interaction with people, and he'd get to keep flying.”
“Have you told him that?”
There was a moment, both of them quiet, before Jeannie prodded him to continue.
“We've got four more days, or three, rather, since he's going to surrender himself before we get to the point where they'd consider him AWOL.” Rodney finally turned from the window: John had pulled himself from the water at last and was heading toward the house, custom board held over his head to keep the quickly falling snow out of his eyes. “Let him have three more days before we have to deal with all this.”
“You're a romantic, you know,” she murmured.
“Don't tell anyone, would you? Last thing I need is for my department to hear about it.”
Jeannie kissed his cheek with a mournful little smile. “I won't say anything. And I'll head back to the hotel now, too, so you and John can be as romantic as you like.”
Rodney was tempted to remind her that there was plenty of bedrooms for her to choose from at the house, but it seemed she also understood how important the next three days were going to be for John and Rodney both. He let her go, promising to check in with her later, and he watched as John said his own goodbye when he caught her at the door.
“She likes you, you know.”
John blinked at him owlishly.
“She's dropped her life in Vancouver to fly out here to help us. She's all motherly and worrying.”
“What I'm saying is,” Rodney explained at last, pulling John near, “I hope you realize that you have a sister.”
That got another of John's laughs, something that he'd heard so frequently over the last few days that Rodney didn't know if he'd survive the loss. So short a time left and he could already feel the tension starting to come back into John's body, see how he shuttered himself whenever Rodney took his laptop out to e-mail with Elizabeth and Radek.
O'Neill seriously better have a good plan or there was going to have to be more talking and that might actually kill John outright.
John caught his mouth, droplets of water slipping onto their lips, and Rodney sighed into it. He lifted a hand to rest on John's neck, holding him close as he found the zip of the wetsuit and dragged it open.
They were oh so done with talking for the next hour at least.
“Should move upstairs,” John murmured when he pulled back, lips reddened and beautiful.
“Lock the door.”
John smiled and kissed him again because that was going to be a thing for a long time, locking the door, but he moved to it to do as requested before heading up to join Rodney in their bedroom.
Rodney was a master of the blowjob.
“Ghhh,” John half-gurgled from his place splayed out on the bed.
He was limp against the sheets, unable to do more than flap a hand at Rodney when prompted and when asked if he was tracking, John might have demanded a kiss instead.
“You needed that,” Rodney grinned, clearly proud of himself. He was laying next to John, head resting on John's shoulder and one leg over one of John's own.
“I see language is returning.”
John smacked him on the side.
“And gross motor function.”
John grumbled at him as he shifted, rolling to face Rodney and dumped his husband's head onto the pillow in the process. He kissed Rodney as best he could, licking traces of himself from Rodney's mouth, and ran his hand along Rodney's back; they weren't done for the night, that was definite, but John was lost in Rodney and Rodney wasn't going to discourage him.
It went on for a while, long enough that Rodney's stomach made sure to voice a complaint at the lack of dinner. “Guess we should eat,” John told him with a snicker.
For the first time in recorded history, Rodney shook his head. “Not yet. More kissing now, food later, and then you can suck my cock until my brain leaks out my ears.”
“Gracious, but I have plans that require you to have energy.” John sat up, limbs still ungainly despite the recovery time and he looked so much like a newborn gazelle as he staggered to the bathroom to clean up.
Rodney preened some, more than smug: there truly was nothing like the lassitude one got after a spectacular blowjob.
Dinner was reheated pizza, wolfed down between greasy kisses. Paper plates were quickly disposed of and then they washed down their meal with cherry Coke, passing the bottle back and forth instead of dragging out cups they'd have to clean. John felt something warm in his chest that his germaphobic husband would share a drink with him, something that felt bittersweet and he wanted to cling to it.
He pulled Rodney up, instead, and pulled him back to the bedroom; he stopped them every few steps to steal more kisses, the taste and scent of artificial cherry sweetening them. He blazed it into his memory along side the image of Rodney as he slid his boxers off again and reached for the drawstring on John's sweats.
“You owe me a blowjob.”
“How about something else?” John asked, nuzzling against Rodney's neck while those clever fingers worked the knot loose. The sweats fell to the ground in a puddle of dark fabric, John kicking them toward the half-filled hamper.
“Mmm, like what?”
John grinned and turned to flop down onto the bed. “Okay?” he asked, once he was comfortable on his back with his legs spread obscenely.
Rodney licked his lips at the sight because oh this was so much better than okay. So, so much better than okay. Of course, there was something niggling him at the back of his mind, but there must've been a short somewhere in his mental circuitry since he ignored it in favor of crawling up over John. “Yeah, yeah, it is.”
“Good. I'd hate to think you weren't interested in my ass the way Jeannie is,” John teased.
Rodney groaned and shook his head. “It is wildly inappropriate that my sister is smacking you on the ass.”
“Well, she has seen it, but don't worry,” John's voice pitched low and he nipped at Rodney's ear, before whispering, “you're the only who gets to have it.”
“Laying it on thick, aren't you?”
John bit him accordingly for that.
“Ow,” Rodney whined, though the grouse lacked all of his typical heat. He didn't even try to pull away and when John finished, soothing the mark, Rodney stayed there still. Only once John was tugging him so Rodney's weight would press him into the mattress did he move under his own power once more.
“Jesus, Rodney.” John tweaked one of the peaked nipples in front of him and murmured, “I love you, you know that?”
“Don't... don't forget it, all right? I'm not exactly...”
“Good with words. I know, John.” He kissed John soundly, grinding down and sliding his cock against his husband's. “Vous êtes ma maison.”
John nodded, eyes sparkling in the light of their bedside lamp in a way that was suspicious of tears, and Rodney started to pull away. He didn't get far before John was yanking him back in and kissing him with hands on either side of Rodney's face; they kissed and ground against each other until John grew impatient and spread lube onto his own fingers.
“Please. Want to watch you open yourself up,” Rodney pleaded. His pupils were blown wide with arousal, his cock hot and hard in his hand once he knelt back on his heels, and John swallowed around the growing lump in his throat—fuck, Rodney was gorgeous like this.
He didn't need more in the way of prodding and with his feet propped on Rodney's thighs, John slid his fingers inside himself. Two fingers only, more to spread the slick than anything else: he wanted to feel the burn tonight, feel the twinges in the morning from having been filled and fucked and loved. He wanted to be sitting there listening to the charges against him with a reminder of Rodney that they couldn't take away from him.
Rodney let out a strangled noise and asked, “Now?”
“Should roll over.”
“No. Like this,” John murmured, eyes locked on Rodney's. He pulled his knees back to bare his hole to Rodney's gaze and said, “Like this.”
There was nothing Rodney wanted more, even as his lips slanted in uncertainty. It wasn't their normal position, too hard on Rodney's back and too much for John's skinny hips, but John had that look back in his eyes that Rodney would do anything to get rid of. “Okay, just... tell me if it starts to hurt.”
John nodded in a lie of an agreement, throwing his head back when Rodney set the head of his cock against John's hole and pushed in. “Fuck.”
“That's the idea.” Rodney was growling low in his throat, hips slipping forward until he bottomed out and John pulled one leg down from Rodney's shoulder to wrap it around his back. He stilled to compose himself, then leaned in for another kiss.
Under him, John kissed back even as his body writhed against Rodney's, silently begging him to move. Rodney, thankfully, took the hint.
“Jij bent mijn huis,” John repeated, “Don't forget. Please don't ever forget.”
Rodney whispered, “I won't. I can't.”
Their room smelled of sweat and sex, the fitted sheet rumpled and the comforter pushed down onto the floor. In the middle of the bed, wrapped tightly in an old quilt, Rodney slept the sleep of the worn out.
John sat at the foot, his shoulders hunched.
His heart was pounding and he thought he might vomit. His anxiety had come roaring back after being quelled for so long and he wanted to just lock the doors to the house, to stay inside with Rodney forever, but he knew he couldn't.
Carter was waiting at the airfield for him and Mitchell was waiting in a car out front. Jeannie was in the living room, ready to be there for Rodney when he realized that John had left without a goodbye.
Okay, he figured Rodney would quickly realize the sex the night before had been John's terrible attempt at goodbye, but he knew Rodney would still be pissed that John had left without a word to him.
He breathed in the scent of the room one more time, soothed by the sight of Rodney's relaxed shoulders and the drool escaping his mouth. Rodney's hair was sticking in six directions, a necklace of hickeys winding up from his collarbones.
John closed his eyes, steeling himself.
It took a moment before he could get up, moving silently to kiss Rodney's forehead and then set his wedding ring on the nightstand. They would take it from him once he was signed into the brig, so it was better that Rodney had it.
Except he felt bare without it.
Empty and cold.
He swallowed it all down, and gave Rodney one more kiss. “Jij bent mijn huis,” he whispered brokenly, brushing a hand on Rodney's cheek. And then he was moving again, out of the room and down the stairs, hugging Jeannie for longer than Rodney would probably have liked. He told her, “Take care of yourself. Take care of him,” and kissed her temple.
The door didn't even snap shut behind him, only closed softly against the jamb.
“Thanks, by the way,” John managed to get out as Cam waved his ID at the waiting guard. He could see a Cessna Latitude further down the runway, Sam Carter sitting on the airstairs.
Cam shook his head. “No one at the SGC wanted to send random MPs after you. The guys respect you too much and a couple of them were fighting over who'd get the honor of escorting you back to base,” he said, “I just got to be the lucky guy to do it.”
“All the same... thanks.”
The car rolled to a stop and Carter nodded, climbing the stairs to the plane and closing the door at her back.
The doors locked before John could open his.
Mitchell started, “no one is happy about this. I don't know if General O'Neill or anyone from Atlantis has told you, but there has been massive backlash. Dr. Weir has actually, subtle as it was, threatened to cede Atlantis from Earth if anything happens to you or Rodney to the IOA. You've got the crew of the Daedalus all submitting reports on how you've saved their asses and shouldn't be drummed out for being gay.”
“John, are you sure you want to do this?”
Sheppard sighed and shook his head. “If I don't go back now... it's only a matter of time before they order me transported to Command and I don't want it to be like that.”
“Not that. I get coming back now. It's that you're walking into a shitstorm and you're not taking McKay with you.”
“Did you even ask him to come with you? I think it might be a good idea to at least...”
“Not happening. Rodney's always held the military in low regard, even if he respects the people at the SGC, and he's never witnessed a Court Martial. The last thing I need right now is for him to start yelling or making a scene when they strip me of my commission.”
Frowning, Cam at least nodded. “I gotcha, Shep,” he admitted, because yeah, he could understand that much. He still thought Rodney should be with John for the clusterfucking that was taking place, but he backed off and unlocked the doors.
There were no more questions after that, and John grabbed his duffel from the trunk while Cam handed off the car keys to someone. He moved toward the plane, black shoes tight on his feet; his Service Dress uniform was uncomfortable now, the collar trying to choke him despite being the correct fit.
Carter popped the door open and waited at the top of the stairs. She had that look on her face that was pain and respect rolled together, but it shifted as John started up to the plane. She nodded toward an approaching car, asking, “You know it?”
It was Jeannie's rental.
He should have known he couldn't just sneak out in the night like he wanted.
Rodney was pale when he got out of the car, walking over to John and saying, “Oh, you're here. Jeannie didn't think we'd make it in time and I...” he stopped, growling, “Asshole.”
The kiss was not unexpected—Rodney had dragged him by the lapels after all and that wasn't generally what happened before one was hugged—but it was filled with more emotions than John could name. He draw his arms around Rodney, holding him there, and when they parted, he whispered, “It'll be okay.”
“Don't try to comfort me.”
“Trying to comfort myself, Rodney.”
Rodney gave him a dry, sad bark of a laugh, and forced his fingers to release John's coat. “Take this with you,” he demanded. He reached into the pocket of the jeans he'd jammed on and pulled John's ring out, holding it up and as John shook his head, Rodney looked to Sam.
“I'll hold on to it at the SGC, John,” she promised.
“Take it,” Rodney pushed.
John slid the matte black band back on his finger, hand twitching as the lettering inside caught on his chapped skin. Behind them, the plane started, engines spinning up, and Rodney's eyes went wide.
Pulling him in one last time, John set his mouth to Rodney's ear and whispered, “Jij bent mijn huis.”
“Vous êtes ma maison,” Rodney murmured back, “Vous êtes ma maison.”
Daniel was pretty sure Jack was headed for a full tilt heart attack. Or maybe a stroke.
Actually, probably a stroke. He was steering Daniel toward one after all, only matter of time before they were both in the Infirmary with Lam yelling at them about their age and stress levels.
“No,” Jack was saying into his phone, “put him in a guest room. That's an order.”
He slammed it down and then picked it up to slam it again.
“Sheppard turned himself in and Landry was planning to put him in a cell in the brig.”
“That is kind of the protocol when dealing with someone who's under arrest.”
“He's not a criminal, Danny. We've treated Gou'ald better than we're treating him right now.”
Daniel held out his hands in supplication. “I know and I agree.”
“Then why are you arguing with me?”
O'Neill leaned back in his seat, rubbing his forehead with one hand. “This is ridiculous bureaucratic bullshit, you know that, right?”
“I've been working with the military for ten years. I'm pretty sure I've called it some extremely derogatory things through the years whenever things like this happen,” Daniel answered, lifting one eyebrow in a sad approximation of Teal'c legendary expression. “Yes, I know it's ridiculous bureaucratic bullshit.”
“I have to lock him up until the Court Martial date. I have to put guards on him if I move him around the base. I can't let McKay see him when he shows up here. His own husband.” He sighed. “McKay's gonna be on the warpath.”
“Yes, well, leave Rodney to me, Sam, and Jeannie.”
“Oh, like that'll end well.”
Daniel grinned because no, it wasn't likely to end well, but they had some plans worked out on how to handle Rodney and they had a plan to get him five minutes alone with John which they were definitely not going to tell Jack about so he could maintain plausible deniability should they be caught.
Then again, there wasn't a soul involved in this debacle that didn't believe that Jack had known about John and Rodney from the start of their relationship. He swore he hadn't, that he'd found out when the Vegas pictures showed up, but there was something in his eyes that Daniel and Sam had both privately deemed to be Jack O'Neill expression #16: Damn straight, I knew.
Yeah, they'd been the worst kept secret in the program, but to be honest, Daniel had expected Jack to ignore the rumors in favor of the other one that ran rampant about John and the Princess of the Hour. He might have, once again, underestimated his best friend.
It had made both of them ponder about the nature of Jack's relationship with John. Not that they had been involved, because there really wasn't ever a time where a romantic or sexual relationship could have sprung up, but the fact that Jack seemed to regard John as a son had been a little bit of a shock.
(“Maybe it was Antarctica,” Daniel said, “The drone nearly taking the helicopter out.”
Sam shook her head, amused, and said, “It's gotta be the resemblance. John has those moments where he's got the same goofy attitude that Jack has.”
“Still... it's odd.”
The curiosity had led them to look into John's record and with Sam doing some searches, managed to discover that it wasn't only Jack who was taking up the fight for John Sheppard. Man had family in pretty high places and that alone had given them hope that they could save John's commission and his place in Atlantis.
“I have to meet with Elizabeth soon. We're still working out possible new guidelines for the expedition,” Daniel told him, apropos of nothing, “Did I tell you Richard is actually helping us write them?”
Jack looked for a moment as if he was horrified and then he smirked, “You got Woolsey?”
Daniel smiled broadly. “We've got Woolsey.”
Walter stuck his head into the office then and nodded, interrupting the conversation, and Jack announced, “Time for my next meeting.”
“Who is this time?”
“A Rockefeller. Remind me to ask Sheppard why in the name of hell he joined the Air Force when he's related to the Rockefellers.”
Rodney turned up at on the SGC's doorstep five days after John surrendered. He had full access to the Mountain so no one dared to stop him when he steamrollered his way to the conference room where a group of men had settled in with O'Neill and Landry to discuss the Court Martial.
Surprisingly though, he didn't scream, he didn't berate. No, Rodney settled down into a chair and rolled up to the table, dangerously silent, while Generals and the like looked between each other uncomfortably.
“Dr. McKay,” Landry said, “May I ask what you're doing in here?”
Jack was silent, leaning against the window and giving messages to Carter via eye contact. Daniel remained in the hall, listening quietly, and Mitchell was beside him, waiting for Sam's signal.
They might have brought some things for Rodney to throw that wouldn't actually harm someone. Just in case.
“I'm sitting in on a meeting with the people who seem to think John is incapable of running a base while simultaneously being married. Ironically enough, everyone here seems to be wearing a wedding ring,” Rodney answered.
Landry looked to Jack who shrugged and gestured, “Let's continue then.”
It would be the longest and most painful hour of several people's lives and not only because Rodney was unerringly polite while speaking with men who knew his reputation. They'd all twitched anytime Rodney spoke, practically Pavlovian, and Jack had spent the meeting hiding his smile behind a coffee cup every time he saw one of them do it.
It ended finally, people filing from the room in a single line, and then it was McKay and vastly more friendly faces sitting beside him.
“They're seriously going to do this,” Rodney muttered. “He's saved countless lives, put himself between the Wraith and Atlantis time and time again, he was ready to die in a fucking nuclear blast...” He wiped at his lip with his thumb. “None of that matters though, because he happens like men instead of women.”
“It's a flawed system.”
“It's a fucked up system.” There was fury in Rodney's voice, sounding more like himself than he had earlier.
“Yep.” Jack set a mug and a handful of sugar packets in front of him. “It is. Been working on changing that.”
Rodney nodded dumbly, still feeling the hurt of the situation in his gut; he ignored the sugar and pulled the black coffee under his nose, breathing in the scent of the badly brewed liquid akin only to the SGC. Jack had probably made the pot, hence the thick viscosity and Rodney thought briefly of remarking about jet fuel. He gulped it down instead, looking at the bottom of the cup as he said, “I want to see him.”
Landry looked up at Jack before telling him, “I'm sorry, Dr. McKay, but we can't allow that,” with a pained expression. He braced himself for a McKay hurricane and let out a breath of relief when Rodney angrily demanded to know why: it really had been unnerving to not have the man as caustic as normal.
If it'd gone on much longer, he might have been forced to send Rodney down to the Infirmary for a Podperson Check.
Yeah, they had those. It was the damn SGC.
There was yelling, finally, as Rodney worked himself up into a grand tizzy, and it was only after Sam put a hand on his arm and coaxed, “Come on, Rodney, let's go find your quarters,” that he started to calm down. The ring she'd been wearing on her dogtags being dropped into his hand settled him down completely, and he jammed it onto the same finger as his own band.
He followed Carter out of the room, leaving Landry and O'Neill behind.
“You realize they're going to get them in the same room before the day is over,” Hank said.
“Before the day is over?” Jack draped an arm over Landry's shoulders, “I'll be disappointed if it's not before the hour is over.”
“But we know nothing.”
Jack would later be proud to admit that it had taken them only twenty minutes to override the lock in a way that wouldn't implicate McKay (Bill Lee's masterful fingerprints were all over that one though there was no electronic trail to peg him for sure), distract the guards without resorting to a zat or drugs (or rather, not distract but bribe with a six pack of beer each), and shove Rodney into John's room-slash-cell.
In blissful ignorance of it for the moment, however, he wasn't there when Rodney had grabbed John in a hug and muttered, “The house is too big for just me,” against John's shoulder.
“She was there, but sleeping in a bed with your sister is definitely not the same as sleeping in a bed with your husband.”
“I would hope.”
Rodney punched him, then leaned up to kiss John as soundly as he could. He kissed him again and again until Sam knocked on the door He swallowed around the lump in his throat and muttered, “That's my two minute warning.”
“Figured.” John pulled Rodney's hand up and ran his hand over both rings. “It's going to be okay, Rodney. Whatever happens.”
“It'll be okay when we're back in Atlantis—where, I'll remind you, we belong—and we're moving to new quarters with a bed that is actually comfortable for two people to sleep in. I'm tired of thinking that one of us will roll right off the mattress.”
John cracked a smile at that, just as the door opened. “Time's up.”
Nodding, Rodney stepped back. He glanced at the hand still caught in John's and asked, “Do you need anything?”
“I got what I needed. Go with Carter before you get caught.”
A thumb stroked over his cheek, Rodney stealing a few more seconds, and then John was alone again.
There were many ways to meet one's in-laws: over dinner, during a holiday, meeting up for coffee or tea...
Somehow, Court Martial proceedings didn't seem to fit the food and fun theme, but that was how it was happening now.
They had some time before the actual trial because apparently the brass really were going forward with the stupid unnecessary circus simply to prove a point. John's JAG-appointed lawyer had felt he could handle it fine—not his first Homosexual Conduct case and this one was rather cut and dry—and Rodney had made it quite clear what he thought of that to O'Neill.
“Well, you know, if John were to retain private counsel...” he'd answered, trailing off with a pointed look.
Patrick and David Sheppard showed up a day later.
There was another twenty-four hours before they were cleared to enter the Mountain, where neither did so much as blink at the Stargate when given the grand tour. Rodney, watching from the upper level conference room, liked them for that, though he remained nervous as all hell, Jeannie trying to temper his nerves to the situation by talking about meeting Kaleb's family.
It didn't really do much.
“Mer,” she said as the group below moved toward the staircase.
There was about half a minute of awkward silence when they entered the room, then Dave held out his hand and said, “Welcome to the family.”
Patrick eyed him much more critically, causing Rodney to jut his chin up and forward in challenge. The room lit with tension as everyone noticed the seeming showdown happening: Patrick gripped the handle of his briefcase tightly, dark eyes conveying what he thought of the situation, and Rodney resolutely stared right back. Every ounce of his stubbornness showing in his eyes to make clear that Patrick could push as hard as he wanted and Rodney would push right back.
You lost your chance.
He's still my son.
And now he's my husband.
A whole conversation was said with nothing more than facial expressions.
Then it broke, some sort of truce made between the two, and Patrick, at last, extended a hand, “Patrick Sheppard.”
Patrick nodded. “I've been warned you are something of an asshole, Rodney,” he said casually, “You've been sitting in on any of meeting pertaining to John, even if you were not invited.”
“Especially if I wasn't invited.”
“Good. We'll need you to get us up to speed.”
As it turned out, meeting one's in-laws during Court Martial proceedings, for Rodney, was probably far better than anything involving food.
John was in the middle of shining his dress shoes for the fourth time that day when the door opened. Cam was there, looking entertained.
“The head of your legal team wants to meet with you,” Cam said.
“Finally. I've been waiting to see who JAG would assign me.”
Mitchell gave him a look, the corner of his lips quirked up. He looked entirely too mischievous and when he said, “He's kind of from JAG. Used to be a member of the Army's corps, retired now though.”
John cocked his head, heart pounding.
No way would O'Neill have permitted this.
“They loopholed him in,” Cam admitted, “You really don't look like your father, you know.”
The reaction was immediate: “No. I refuse. Get me counsel from JAG. The Air Force's JAG.”
“Yeah, O'Neill figured you'd say that. He said to tell you that you don't have a choice because JAG sent a lawyer and he's not going to be of real use.”
“Fine.” John glared down at the shoe he was still holding. “Send him in.”
He took the five minutes or so after Cam closed the door again to put his shoes back in the closet with his uniform and store the polish and rag; there was a dirty plate in his bathroom sink, an undershirt on the floor and his trash was teetering on the edge of being full, but he didn't have time to deal with any of it beyond closing the door between the bedroom and the bathroom.
Without tasks to do, John stood beside the small table in the bedroom with sweaty palms against his thighs. He contemplated how the hell this meeting would go, envisioning nothing but arguments and accusations.
The door opened again and John narrowed his eyes, heart still hammering away at his ribs.
“Dad.” John felt the anger thrumming in his veins as he was given an appraising eye, as if his father was trying to decide whether or not to stay and he growled, “You gonna say something?”
“I was waiting for you to invite me in.”
There might have been an internal scream.
“Please come in. Sit down. Make yourself at home.”
If his father heard the sarcasm dripping off the words, he didn't remark on it. He only settled into a chair at the table and began pulling papers from a box he'd brought with him. Stacks and more stacks went across the surface, until it was practically creaking under the weight of it all.
“John, sit. They're bringing your dinner soon. Might as well get through some of this before it arrives,” Patrick ordered.
It was entirely possible John was resisting punching his father in the face. It was also entirely possible that he was able to resist so well because he was already doing it mentally.
Yet he sat down primly with his hands on his thighs and waited for his father to start. He expected a lecture and some screaming—was looking forward to the screaming, in fact, so he could scream back—but what he got was the first stack of papers pushed to him and his father asking for details to fill in gaps. They spent an hour going over mission reports, legal defenses, and finally, his personal history with Rodney.
“No.” The fork from his dinner tray contacted the plastic with a loud clacking noise.
“John,” Patrick's voice was firm.
The question about his sexual history prior to Rodney was not something he was going to answer, not when it would out other officers serving in traditional commands, and he repeated, “No,” before getting up from the table and retreating a few steps.
“I'm not asking for names.”
“You better not!” John snapped. “Last thing they need is the Air Force and you making their lives miserable.”
“How would I make their lives miserable?” Patrick asked, eyes creased at the corners in confusion, and then relaxed as he worked out what was going on in John's head. Twenty years since they'd spent any measurable time together and he could still understand John better than John did. “You think I'd go after them because they're gay and they slept with my son.”
The younger Sheppard didn't move, didn't confirm, but no, his father wasn't wrong.
“John, I've known you were gay since you were six years old.”
That threw him for a hard loop. His father had known? Had known his entire life? For a moment, John felt like the air had been sucked right out of him, and then he snarled, “What?”
“Your cousin Michael's birthday party. That little boy who followed you all over. I can't remember what made me realize it, but I knew you were gay right then.” Patrick didn't dare to break eye contact. “My only worry for you after that was if you'd ever find someone because it wasn't as though there were plenty of gentlemen for you to choose from in our circle.”
John turned and sat on the edge of his bed, pulling in a breath through his teeth. “You knew,” he murmured, “You knew and you didn't say anything.”
He thought back to life before Atlantis: the sneaking around as a kid that had taught him how to move silently, the fights that had taught him when to give an inch or take a mile, the engagement to Nancy and the extremely short disastrous marriage that had followed. He thought about the black mark and the neat and proper letter from his father.
“Why didn't you ever tell me you knew?” John demanded, the shock ebbing into frustration.
“I thought about it, but your mother wasn't wrong when she used to call me emotionally constipated.” Patrick sighed at that remembrance and John looked away at the recall of his mother's humor. “Then you joined the military and I... John, I served with men and women who got the piss beaten out of them for daring to be gay in on base. I couldn't do anything that might end up with you being threatened.”
“You didn't say anything when I got engaged to Nancy.”
“I didn't think it'd last. I certainly didn't think you'd marry her.” He didn't mention the annulment that had taken place twelve days after the wedding; John didn't need it pointed out because really, he was there and he remembered well the embarrassment of having to confirm to a judge that they'd been unable to consummate their marriage. The papers were probably in the mess of stacks, all ready for court.
He was enraptured in his thoughts, startling when Patrick moved to sit next to him. A stiff hand pressed into his shoulder and John shrugged it off, because no, his father hadn't had the ability to comfort him in thirty years. It was one of the things he'd never had the skill to do.
“If I could change it,” Patrick said moments later, “I would.”
John was numb. “I don't know if I'm... If I could... I need time.”
“I know. I don't expect this fixes anything, John, and I didn't come out here to take your case to try to drag you home either, so put the thought out of your head.”
“Wasn't thinking that.” Except, yes, he had.
“You were. But it's okay. I've never really given you reason to believe that I had your best interests at heart,” Patrick admitted, “Your husband stressed that many times over.”
“You met Rodney.” John had hoped Rodney would have been recalled to Atlantis by now, safe and secure with his lab for distraction.
“I did. He is... he reminds me very much of your mother.”
With a little smile, John replied, “Don't tell him that.”
“I won't.” Patrick cocked his head to one side. “It's good though.”
“I mean it. Like as not, you're losing your commission by the end of this, John. I might be able to save you the Dishonorable, but the pension, your command, you'll likely not going to come away with any of it. But I think you might stay sane with him around.”
“Yeah.” He smiled down at his hands.
(It really did fix nothing, yet somehow, by the time John returned to the table, he felt like something had changed.
He couldn't decide if it was good or bad at that moment.)
Atlantis was not the same.
Rodney, with much prodding, had gone home for a few days to help with system repairs. Jeannie had accompanied him and was enjoying a rousing banter with Radek, which helped to fill in the spaces Rodney normally did with berating, but it was a noticeable difference in the labs.
Half his staff didn't know what to do with themselves around him, the other half celebrated the change and lauded Sheppard for the easing of Rodney's poorer manners.
Sam did neither, pursing her lips whenever Rodney would enter or leave a staff meeting without saying anything or he picked at his lunch rather than eat it. Such as he was doing now.
She'd asked him to join her in Elizabeth's office, hoping the familiar surroundings, the noise of the Gate, the company, might help him to feel less out of step—he'd been gone over a month after all and they'd moved planets on him. It had to have had an effect.
“You wanna talk about it?”
“About what?” he asked, pushing at a lump of reconstituted potatoes with his fork.
“Kate says you've skipped your sessions with her.”
He glared at her.
Finally, something that was a McKay mannerism.
She pushed on, “And Carson's worried about your declining appetite. Radek says you're making mistakes.”
“Well, Radek's got a big mouth. Everyone makes mistakes, am I exempt all of a sudden?”
“No, not at all. I'm a little terrified that you're admitting you make mistakes though. Thought that was beneath your genius.”
Rodney lifted his head, chin forward. Another McKay mannerism, this one even more comforting than the last when he pursed his lips in annoyance as well.
“What I'm getting at,” she said before he could get himself going, “is that we're all worried about you. Your friends have all noticed how not-you you are, and it's a little unnerving.”
“Yes, well.” He rubbed his temple. “Home doesn't feel much like home right now.”
Sam immediately bristled. “Do I need to speak with anyone?”
“No, no. Nothing like harassment. Don't think anyone's moronic enough to try anything right now.” He resumed playing with his food. This time, it was the tava beans that got his attention, mashing them down with the tines of his spork.
For a minute, Rodney busied himself with the food, then he sighed and set it aside, admitting, “Look, my home growing up was a war zone. My parents got married too young, had me and Jeannie, and we ran rings around them. Do you know how stressful it is to raise one kid with a genius IQ, let alone two?” His hands twitched and came to life as he started gesturing along with the words. “It strained their marriage even further, but they refused to get divorced, so I did everything I could get through school as fast as possible so I could get out of that house.
“After that, I lived in dorms, shitty apartments, even barracks. Nothing ever felt like that idealized home you saw in the movies, until...” he trailed off and rubbed his eyes.
Sam finished his thought, however, nodding as she said, “Until Atlantis.”
“Until Atlantis. But she doesn't feel right anymore, like something's missing.”
Sam reached out, crossing the void between their chairs and squeezing his arm. “We're doing everything we can.”
“I know. But I decided...” Rodney swallowed. “I decided that if he isn't allowed back, then I won't be returning after the Court Martial is over.”
“Rodney,” Sam murmured.
He looked down at the two wedding rings on his finger. “I could be happy, I think. On Earth. It'll be boring not having Zelenka around, but I won't be running for my life every week. I'll stay on as a consultant, make trips to the SGC and Area 51 from time to time. Break up the monotony.”
She squeezed his arm again.
“That hurts you know.”
Sam laughed, a small, tight huff of a noise, and did it once more.
Dave Sheppard hated pointless meetings. He'd been to plenty throughout his career and had learned the fine art of maintaining a bland expression for the duration, but Jesus, he wished he had a tumbler of whiskey right then.
Or a gun. A gun could work too.
“There's been countless studies done in other countries that show that morale does not degrade when gays and lesbians are permitted to serve.”
“With all due respect, that's other countries.”
He glanced up at Elizabeth and nodded toward the water glass she was clenching.
The Civilian Commander of Atlantis had surprised him at first meeting: she was a slim woman, dressed in a neat black pantsuit with red shirt underneath and her hair pulled back into a loose bun. She hadn't backed down from his father's brash attitude, but she'd also been so sweet and polite that Dave had worried she'd be flattened by the Congressmen and Generals he'd been meeting with.
That worry had definitely been misplaced.
She was eloquent, able to bring down the arguments of people twice her age and possessing three times more arrogance than Rodney had to his name. Nothing made her waver as she set to work to cut the legs out from under the resistant, gaining them more allies in twelve hours than he had in forty-eight.
She even had President Hayes' backing.
“Dr. Weir, you may be talking about the entirety of the military but make no mistake, we all know why you're doing this.”
Her eyes were focused on the General who'd spoken, waiting. Calculating. Then she said, “And why am I doing this?”
“John Sheppard. You want us to change a needed policy because of one man.”
“A good man,” she told the other, “And as a note, human beings have changed the course of history for one person many times before.” She sipped her water, tapped the table with a finger, then added, “Whether it's now and because of Colonel Sheppard or it's later and because someone else starts shouting at the top of their lungs about their right to serve, one person will be the reason this changes. This policy of exclusion is outdated and wrong and the entire country is pushing for change. It is quite literally only matter of time before this policy no longer exists.”
The General pursed his lips.
Dave hid his smirk as he bent to read some papers and shared a look with one of the Congressmen present; their uncle Jay had come to the meeting with weary optimism, but Dave could see that he had turned believer too.
“Like it or not, the tide is changing and it's going to come to a head sooner rather than later. Do you want to be remembered as the people who stood in the way, trying to preserve some sort of Old Guard mentality that no longer works, or would you like to be written into the history books for helping to do away with something that is a true disservice to our military?”
There was a grumbling around the table, and the Secretary of the Air Force looked to Hayes. “Sir?”
“Adams, if you're expecting me to argue against Dr. Weir's points, I'm sorry,” he said, “I know better than to fight with someone I know is right.”
Dave breathed steadily.
“Perhaps we should talk about what exactly it is that makes you uncomfortable with gay servicemen, Madam Secretary?”
With Elizabeth's help, they might—just might—get a win out of all this.
The maximum amount of time a person could be confined before Court Martial was 120.
John was on day 121.
Daniel had managed to secret Rodney into the cell the night before, giving them a precious five minutes alone where neither had spoken in favor of clinging to each other and sharing wistful kisses. John had even worn his wedding ring until the warning knock had come and he'd slid it back onto Rodney's finger, feeling stronger for the little time they got.
This morning, though, he felt extraordinarily weighed down.
Mitchell'd had his uniform dry-cleaned and pressed, brought him a fresh razor and a bar of soap that Elizabeth had brought with her from Atlantis. Even the scent of the salt and honey soap did little to ease his mind, actually making it worse if he was truthful.
Despite his having made peace with the idea of losing the Air Force, he continued to struggle with the idea of losing Atlantis. Losing the former would hurt, but the later would rip his heart to pieces: he felt the buzz of her in his head every time the Gate activated, as if she was reaching for him across the distance, and he longed for the way she hummed awake wherever he walked.
He'd heard about the attack and the narrow escape, how Sam Carter, Lorne, and Zelenka—in charge of their respective posts while Elizabeth, John, and Rodney were on Earth—had managed to take her to a whole new planet to escape the threat of the Asurans. He worried for the damage the engineers were now working to resolve, if Atlantis would ever be able to fly again; he worried for Simpson who'd deliberately infected herself with nanites just so they could pilfer a ZPM and then was unable to escape the Replicators. He wanted to go home and criss-cross Pegasus until he rescued her.
All of that, though, had paled when John'd realized that if the Air Force or the IOA or both didn't permit him to return in any capacity, then he'd be separated from Rodney by 3 million lightyears.
And yeah, his father had commented that Rodney had made it clear that if John was banned from traveling to Atlantis, then the expedition would lose their CSO, but John wouldn't allow that to happen. Rodney belonged in Pegasus, in Atlantis, and he'd be miserable anywhere else.
He sighed and sat up, staring long and hard at the uniform hanging beside a new three-piece black suit his father had brought him.
There were hurdles to jump before they'd ever have a good relationship and John doubted they'd ever genuinely have that, but his father was trying to at least give them a bridge across the rift. He'd tentatively given some effort back, excruciating as it was, and from one of their talks, learned about Rodney's back up plan.
John rubbed his thumb over the empty skin at the base of his ring finger.
Rodney had put so much hope into the idea of getting John back to Atlantis as member of the science team after the Court Martial. John wondered if he'd ever stopped to think about the fact that without the IOA's final approval, it didn't matter if Rodney hired him or not, John wouldn't be leaving Earth.
“Hey.” O'Neill was standing in the doorway. “Whatcha doin'?”
“Thinking deep thoughts, sir.”
“You have those?”
The kicked puppy look eased off. “Now and then.”
“Horrible affliction, deep thoughts. I suffered from it, too.” He flopped into an arm chair, legs crossed at the ankles after he sunk down.
It truly was a mite unnerving to see General Jack O'Neill lazing about in his cell. John might have gotten the guy up on a pedestal, and this was knocking him straight back to the ground.
John gave the cheekiest response he could: “How'd you make them stop?”
“Oh, Danny and Carter glared them right out of me.”
“Rodney keeps trying, but no luck.”
“I suspect he's not really trying. Spouses tend to encourage us to use our single brain cell for something more than point and shoot.”
That finally broke the last of John's resolve and he grinned, shaking his head in agreement. “He is pretty convinced that I'm not an idiot. Well, 90 percent of the time... 80. Okay, 60.”
“At least you're above 50. I think I'm around 35, maybe 38.” Jack glanced over at John's abandoned tray, the food there long cold. “You eat anything today?”
“Not really interested.”
Jack shifted and sat up properly, thought for a moment, and slapped his hands onto his knees as he got up. “Come on. Mess'll have something more appetizing than that.”
“Sir?” John felt his hackles rise up—no escort guards had come with the General and he wasn't about to let O'Neill get in trouble because he'd decided to break protocol.
“Oh, yeah. I canceled your Court Martial. You wouldn't believe the amount of money that goes into one. And the paperwork...”
“I don't understand.”
“Here's the thing. I don't like bullshit.” Jack gestured at the room John had been living in for four months. “This is bullshit. From beginning to end, just total, unequivocal excrement from a bull. Big one. Or a buffalo.” He widened his hands to give his approximate estimation of a buffalo. It also could have been a giraffe. “Anyway, I've been trying to get the policy removed from the SGC ever since they decided that somehow, I'm General material. Been a thorn in their sides over it.”
John waited for him to go on, still looking incredibly confused.
“I never thought of combining my hatred for the policy with Weir's contacts and someone of your family background.”
Okay, yes, John was groaning. “You let them loose in Washington, didn't you?”
“You wouldn't believe what I could get done if I had their pull.”
“Oh, we invoked him too.”
John sighed. “So...”
“They haven't repealed the policy altogether. Apparently a bill has a long, long journey to the capital city,” O'Neill told him, “For the time being, the SGC and all its personnel are exempted from it by Executive Order 13426-A. It's buried nice and deep in the National Archives now, but it's all neat and signed and in effect. Retroactive too. Goes back all the way until the start of the Expedition.”
John thought he might be having a heart attack.
“No panicking now. I've had my hands full dealing with McKay all morning and I'd really rather not have to tell him you're in the infirmary. He might actually try to shank me. Or shiv. I'm always mixing those two up.” Jack made another few gestures that John ignored altogether because McKay.
“Oh yeah. He's with Daniel, Senator Rockefeller, and some guy from the House of Representatives writing a bill to submit to Congress, since we all agreed that it's not enough to get the SGC exempted if we can get the policy repealed entirely.”
John looked around, eyes wide and his mind struggling to catch up with all he'd heard. He put one shaky foot on the ground to confirm that it was still solid, and then asked, “That it then? All done, just like that?”
“Yep. Just like that.” Jack leaned against the nearest wall, “Told you to leave it to me.”
“It feels kind of anti-climactic.”
“Well, I can regale you with the tales of Elizabeth Weir and her merry brigade of agitators if you want. Has intrigue and threats and lots of fierce glaring from McKay. I think he immolated at least one senator with that look of his. It's all rated R though, because I'm told there were sexual favors traded.”
“Nope.” Jack smirked. “Now come on. I told the cooks to make one blue jello and it's just about the time that Carter and McKay will be heading for lunch.”
Rodney hadn't cared about the jello.
Hadn't cared about anything when he walked into the mess hall and John, sitting at a table in the middle of the room, blinked up at him.
Sam made sure to e-mail the photo of Rodney kissing John to Elizabeth.
“Please,” Rodney gasped, “More.”
“More like this?” John thrust forward, nudging Rodney's prostate with the head of his cock. “Or more like this?” He twisted his hips as he moved, running his slick hand over Rodney's nipples.
“Don't care. Just more. And don't stop.”
John nodded against his back, licking the sweat off Rodney's skin and nipping along the skin. He murmured, “Won't stop,” into Rodney's ear, breathy and needy. His hands scrabbled over Rodney's sides, then slid around to pull Rodney up and back, moving them until Rodney was in his lap.
“I didn't say stop. Pretty sure I told you not to stop.”
Teeth bit into the juncture of his head and neck, worrying the spot until a red mark rose to the surface. Rodney gave a little moan when John did it again. “I, uh, missed this,” he said, reaching a hand back to grip John's side and urge him to move again.
“Me too.” John ran his ring down Rodney's arm, watching the skin pimple along behind it. He growled, “Jij bent mijn huis,” into Rodney's ear.
The response was automatic: “Vous êtes ma maison.”
You are my home.
They were never going to be good at saying the words 'I love you', but they could shove that feeling into other ones. Other actions, too.
It didn't take much more than a handful of hard thrusts before Rodney cried out and came, body sagging against John who couldn't resist tilting Rodney's head back to kiss him soundly then pushed himself as fully as he could into his husband and came himself.
Panting, John felt the laxity start to thread up his body and he eased them both down to the mattress, reaching down to pull himself away from Rodney. Condom quickly dealt with, he reached for the washcloth on the nightstand to clean them both up, flinging it into the bathroom when he was done. He curled up against Rodney's back, one of his hands reaching for one of Rodney's. Their fingers tangled together and John lifted them to stare at their rings.
Silently, Rodney's free hand rose up from the bed. He carefully pulled on the top ring with sweaty fingers until it came away, and coaxed John to straighten his fingers so he could slide it back where it belonged. “Don't stop,” he murmured again.
“Never going to stop,” John answered.
Both were keenly aware that they were talking about anything but sex.
“Even if I blow up another solar system?”
“Even if you blow up Pegasus.” John pressed a kiss to the crown of Rodney's head. “Might be mad as hell, though. For a little while.”
Rodney nodded and hummed, closing his eyes as he leaned back against John. He slept.
John took a while longer, memorizing all over again how Rodney looked asleep: how his hair jutted in several directions mussed by pillow and damn good sex, how his fingers caught on the sheets, how he twitched if John stopped touching him. He stroked the pads of his fingers over Rodney's lips, saw how his cock tried to rise at the stimulation.
He smiled to himself—four months apart made him almost giddy to find that Rodney still responded to him—and then he settled down at last to sleep as well.
And they slept for a good while, too, until John's internal clock forced him awake and he rolled over to give Rodney a wake up call of a rather pleasant sort.
“Well, that was nice,” Rodney muttered after he'd come right down John's throat.
John only gave him a languid kiss, pulling away to announce, “Time to go home, Rodney.”
That got him moving before he'd regained feeling in his legs. John laughed at the sight, Rodney moving around as if he were a newborn gazelle, and when he finally took pity on his husband, John pushed him into the shower while he packed their duffels and the suitcase.
(The noise of the Gate sounded in John's ears, foreign because the Milky Way system was so different yet comforting because it meant Atlantis was only a 24 hours quarantine away. He tightened his grip on the duffel strap and took Rodney's hand in his own; his thumb went unerringly to brush against Rodney's wedding band.
The puddle bloomed into life with a swishing noise and then settled into the soothing blue event horizon that he had long since thought of as a comfort.
“Home?” Rodney asked after a moment.
John nodded, squeezing the hand in his grasp, and happily said, “Home.)
John really didn't know why he was so surprised. The expedition members had a thing about parties. They'd throw them for any cockamamie reason they could think of: survived a Wraith attack, party! Survived a contagion, party! Chuck screwed up the weekend rotation schedule, party! It's Tuesday, party!
It stood to reason that they'd include 'someone got married, party!' on the list.
“No more having to pretend we don't see you doing the walk of shame from McKay's quarters!” Lorne toasted. He was also four sheets to the wind and John made a mental note to tease him mercilessly when he sobered up.
Rodney rolled his eyes. “I don't think it counts as the walk of shame if you're leaving your partner's quarters, Major. I believe the walk of shame is reserved for one night stands.”
“And you're definitely not a one night stand. He married you.”
“Yes, he did marry me which defies the definition of one night stand. And I never was a one night stand because... oh, fuck it. I don't know why I'm trying to appeal to your logic when you're drunk.”
John bit his lip to keep from smiling and he waved Lorne away. From the other side of the mess hall, Elizabeth and Teyla lifted their glasses at them and Ronon gave them a smug look. Only Carson and Jennifer had the decency to continue their conversation without stopping to stare at them.
Then Elizabeth and Teyla clinked their glasses together, inspiring everyone else.
One hand falling to the small of Rodney's back in a small show of affection, John leaned down to give everyone the kiss they were demanding and when he stood back up, saluted the room with his beer bottle.
“We don't have to keep giving into them,” Rodney told him after everyone's attention went back to their conversations. He didn't want John to be embarrassed or uncomfortable, things Rodney was sure he was given how little John enjoyed public displays of any kind.
But John shrugged and thumbed his wedding band as had become his habit. “Nah. Let them have their fun,” he said, “You'll just have to make it up to me later.”
Rodney could live with that.
He nodded to Radek who grinned like a lunatic and the sound of glass being tapped filled the room again. John gave a faux-put upon sigh before kissing Rodney anew, and when they pulled away, Radek winked at the pair.
Yeah, someone got married, party! was Rodney's favorite iteration.