Title: Outside The Box
Rating: R (for kisses and swearing)
Characters: Keller, Ronon, John/Rodney
Spoilers/Warnings: Post Finale.
Beta: Thanks to outsideth3box for her ability to slay the evil typos with a single pen stroke, as well as her wit and willingness to beta on the fly.
Summary: "If you spent less time trying to change him... Jennifer. Open your eyes. Pay attention and you'll see the truth. Look at actions, not just words."
Keller watched Rodney studying equations on the screen before him, occasionally grunting as he typed in a change while muttering about the stupidity of his staff. She'd come to accept it was unlikely he would ever completely let go of ridiculing those less brilliant than himself, but he was obviously trying to reign in his outright derision of their thoughts and ideas. At least to their faces. It was a start.
"Hmm?" he responded absently, acknowledging he'd heard her. This was also an improvement. As his doctor, she wanted to see him spend more hours outside the lab, cut down on the caffeine and get more sleep. As his lover, she wanted the same things, and she'd set about getting them. Sitting with her on the balcony overlooking the bay (and wow! They were really on Earth, it was hard to believe!) while he worked was a compromise she could live with as long as he was willing to put the work aside for just a little while to talk.
Some days, their whole relationship seemed like one giant work in progress, but it was worth it. The work-obsessed man she was coming to love more dearly each day was slowly opening up to her, making changes she hadn't been sure were possible. She was well and truly enamored with Rodney McKay. Which was why they had to have this talk.
* * *
Keller stood leaning against the rail, enjoying the afternoon sun. As she took in the serene view of the Golden Gate bridge, it was hard to believe that a few short hours ago, the city had been a hair's breadth from destruction, and Earth at risk of being overrun by the Wraith.
Rodney had meandered away from her, and now stood with Sheppard and Teyla. It was easy to overhear the animated discussion the three of them were having about the things they would need to do on Earth before heading back to Pegasus. Unsurprisingly, McKay was vociferously shooting down most of Sheppard's suggestions and inserting his own. The two of them acted like a couple of 12 year olds sometimes.
"He's not the one for you."
Keller pulled her gaze away from the harbor to look up at Ronon where he stood next to her. Squinting against the glare of the sun off the water, she held up a hand to shield her eyes.
"You heard what I said."
Keller crossed her arms, and fixed him with her best stern doctor look, one delicate eyebrow arched in challenge. "Ronon, I already explained to you that I am not interested in you that way. Jealousy is unbecoming. I expected more from you."
Ronon's mouth slowly curled into a grin. "Not jealous," he corrected. "Concerned."
She took a deep breath and tried to use a comforting, gentle tone. "I appreciate your concern, Ronon, I really do. But I'm a big girl and I can take care of myself. And I really like Rodney a lot, so I think I'm the one who gets to decide if he's the one for me."
Ronon closed his eyes and shook his head slowly. Keller was worried that he wasn't as well as he'd been letting on and stepped in to clasp her hand around his forearm while lifting her free hand to touch his brow. "Are you all right? Maybe you should sit down-"
His eyes snapped open and he stared at her with an intensity that took her breath away as he grabbed the hand on his forehead and grasped it firmly in his, holding it out between them.
"He's in love with someone else, he just doesn't realize it. He's not the one for you."
She wrenched her hand away, took two steps back, glaring. "Who the hell do you think you are?" she hissed furiously. "He loves *me*. Katie Brown is gone."
"Not talking about Katie Brown."
"Colonel Carter was never interested in him-"
"Not talking about Carter."
"Well, who in God's name could you possibly be talking about?" she demanded quietly. "And furthermore, what business is it of yours who he's with? He's capable of making his own choices!"
A grimace twisted his features before he responded. "Wasn't *gonna* say anything." Ronon took a deep breath, then continued. "But he's *team*. He's my blood brother, every bit as much as Sheppard is, and. I owe him. I had to speak."
Keller waited, but it was clear Ronon wasn't planning to elaborate further.
"Fine. You're convinced that he's in love with someone else. At least tell me who it is!"
He shook his head. "Not my place to tell. Your people have weird laws. You're smart, Jennifer, but you're not very observant." She started to protest, but he continued. "On the Daedalus, you couldn't see things that didn't fit your world view."
"I saw enough to get away from you!"
"Yeah. But there were things we could have done – you just couldn't see them. Same on other missions. Same with people."
Keller was stunned into momentary silence. It was the most she'd ever heard Ronon say at one time, and it wasn't about food, or shooting things or the Wraith – it was about her relationship with Rodney McKay, and how weird was that?
"If you spent less time trying to change him... Jennifer. Open your eyes. Pay attention and you'll see the truth. Look at actions, not just words."
Her retort died unspoken on her lips as she realized that this time, he really was faltering. Keller lunged forward to steady him as he slumped over, catching himself on the railing.
"Colonel Sheppard! Rodney!" she called out as she tried to keep Ronon upright. They were both their in a flash, relieving her of Ronon's bulk, wrapping his arms around their shoulders, supporting him as they led him back to the infirmary.
"Geeze, Ronon," McKay complained loudly as they eased him into the bed. "You weigh a tonne! My back may never be the same after hauling your carcass halfway across Atlantis-"
"Rodney," Sheppard drawled out his name as he helped get Ronon settled. "It was 20 feet down the hall. Quit your bitching."
"Hey, I'm not meant for these menial tasks! We should have drafted one of your grunts to lift and carry. I have important things to do, and I could be laid up for days- ow!"
Keller slipped in to take Ronon's blood pressure as Rodney lifted a hand to rub the back of his head and glared at the Sheppard.
"It's not enough he's thrown my back out, you have to give me a concussion too?"
Sheppard nonchalantly lounged, hip against Ronon's bed, and smirked at McKay. "Y'know, if you would just work out now and then, your abs and back muscles wouldn't wuss out over a little thing like helping your buddy to the infirmary."
Rodney turned to Keller. "See the abuse I have to put up with?"
"Oh, no," Keller shook her head as she made a notation on Ronon's chart. "Don't put me in the middle of your little spat. I think working out to strengthen your back muscles so you're in less pain is a great idea."
"You're all out to get me!" he declared dramatically, scowling at her for a moment, before turning back to Sheppard and shaking a finger at him. "Even if I *did* agree to work out with you, because letting Ronon beat me up with sticks once a week isn't enough pain already, I'm not letting you turn me into one of your knuckle headed marines, so don't get any crazy ideas."
Sheppard rolled his eyes. "Naw, 'course not, Rodney. I like you just the way you are." He gave McKay a friendly slap on the shoulder. "So. Lunch?"
"And exactly what is that supposed to mean?" McKay demanded..
Keller caught Ronon staring at her. She couldn't seem to look away as McKay followed Sheppard out of the infirmary, their conversation still clearly audible as they walked away.
"It *means* I'm hungry."
"No, you moron! The other thing you said."
Sheppard's laughter drifted back with the final exchange. "Seriously, Rodney. Don't ever change."
Ronon silently held her gaze as footsteps of the two men faded down the hallway. Finally, she couldn't stand the silence any longer. "You're not honestly trying to say that Rodney and the Colonel..." she trailed off, unable to complete the sentence.
He settled back on the bed with a yawn and closed his eyes. "Not sayin' anything. Gonna sleep now."
* * *
"Rodney, why didn't you ever tell me you were bisexual?"
He froze, completely still, lifeless for a moment. She waited, and slowly, so slowly he turned his head to face her.
She'd half hoped that he would deny it, had envisioned protestations of wounded masculinity; she'd been prepared to apologize, to grovel if necessary. Her heart sank as she watched the colour drain from his face. He opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came out, and some removed part of her brain noted that this she'd discovered what it took to render Rodney speechless. Finally, he cleared his throat.
"I, ah... I didn't think it was important," he managed. "I haven't been with a man for a very long time, Jennifer. And I'm with you now." Bright blue eyes returned her gaze, equal parts worry and puzzlement contained within. "Is my past choice in partners going to be, uhm, a, a problem for you?"
Keller shook her head. "No, not at all, Rodney," she replied, and truly, his choice of men or women in the past didn't bother her one whit. "The present is all I'm concerned about." And she was. She was very concerned, and if she admitted it, jealous. Goddamn Ronon and his goddamn observations and his need to share with the class! Because ever since that day, she *had* been watching, really paying attention to things around her that she had been oblivious to before, and now she didn't understand how she missed it, how anyone with *eyes* didn't see the Thing between McKay and Sheppard.
She didn't know for sure what it was. There was no proof. It was possible that the two were just friends but even casual observation told her that Rodney had feelings for Sheppard that ran a lot deeper than friendship. She knew enough about herself that she wasn't going to be willing to share Rodney's affections with the Colonel. Rodney was going to have to make a choice.
* * *
Their second day on Earth, Keller walked into the cafeteria, puzzling over some incongruous results in Dr. Choi's physical. She grabbed a tray and absentmindedly selected a few items before glancing up to see Rodney and the Colonel sitting near the window where they usually did. She was about to go and join them when she heard Ronon's voice echo in her head.
Open your eyes. Pay attention. Look at actions, not just words.
Instead of walking over, she settled across the room at another table that afforded her a clear view of them and pretended to be going over her notes as she surreptitiously watched them interact.
Over the next few weeks, this careful perusal of the two men turned into a habit. She spent at least one meal a day ostensibly 'reviewing cases', but in actual fact was really watching Rodney and Sheppard.
It wasn't that they spent an excessive amount of time together, because really, they were both very busy men and they weren't together every possible waking moment. Overall, Rodney had spent more time with her recently than with John. But despite the time, attention and effort he was clearly putting in to their relationship, she was more and more convinced that his loyalties were divided.
At first glance, their constant jabs and smart ass remarks, friendly competition and obvious familiarity with each other made it seem that they were merely what they first appeared to be – very good friends. But as she watched, she realized the body language was wrong for just friends.
They touched. A lot. Casual touches, hand to shoulder, light smack on the arm or head, poke to the chest. When they walked down the hall, it would be impossible to get a piece of paper between them. If it had just been Rodney, she might have let it slide. If Sheppard didn't feel the same way, a one-sided infatuation was doomed to go nowhere. But she was beginning to believe it wasn't one-sided, and for all Rodney's rants that Sheppard was their very own Kirk over the years, he was anything but.
* * *
"Sheppard!" Rodney called out, excitedly as he came running into the cafeteria. The Colonel had been slowly working on his lunch, looked up, a smile crossing his face.
"What's up, buddy?"
"Come on, come *on*! You have to come to the jumper bay right now! Zelenka had this idea, and of course, it was completely flawed, but with my help-"
Laughing, Sheppard stood and grabbed his tray, stopping only to buss it before he gave Rodney's shoulder a hearty clasp. "Lead on."
He got a brilliant smile from McKay in return, his grip on Rodney's shoulder lingering a few more moments before the hand finally dropped away.
* * *
Only Rodney could elicit what Keller was starting to think of as the Colonel's mega-watt smile. They could be talking about puddle jumpers, math or their silly RC cars, and Rodney would make some snarky remark, and Sheppard's face would just light up right before he pulled out all the stops and lambasted Rodney back as good as he got.
* * *
"Clearly, that growth holding your skull bones apart, which may have once been known as a brain, has long since atrophied due to neglect and toxic exposure to hair gel."
"Aww, Rodney," Sheppard quipped back as he peered over at the tablet McKay had on the table in front of him. "Don't be bitter. Also, you've got the Lyapunov exponent assigned to the wrong variable."
McKay just gaped at him. "Oh, COME on! You don't know anything about nonlinear iterators and chaotic time series -"
Sheppard just grinned.
"I hate you," Rodney grumbled as he stole the pudding off John's tray and then made the change.
* * *
"So, then..." Rodney's face clearly showed his discomfiture and confusion. "If me being bi and having been with men in the past is not a problem for you, then why even bring it up?"
She dropped her eyes and took a deep breath. "The problem, as I said, is not what happened in the past, Rodney. It's what's happening right now."
"What?" He looked shocked. "Jennifer, I swear, I'm not cheating on you!" He abandoned his laptop to come sit right next to her, knees touching, and took her hand. "Why would you ever think that I'd do that? I love you."
She wanted desperately to just sink into the assurance and let everything else go. Rodney was so sincere, so sweet, and it was be so easy to just sink into his arms and pretend everything was fine. But they had to talk about this, otherwise it would drive her crazy.
"I don't think you're cheating on me, Rodney,"
"But I do think that you have very strong feelings for someone else. A man. I know you care about him, and I think he feels the same."
"Are you suffering from post traumatic stress? A previously undisclosed head injury? There's *no*one!"
"Yes, there is. You need to accept that you do have these feelings for him and let them go." She looked into his eyes. "I'm not willing to share you Rodney, and I feel like that's what I'm doing right now. It has to stop."
He drew back a bit, crossed his arms and scowled at her. "Who on Earth do you think I have 'feelings for' as you put it?"
He was reigning it back but she could hear the derision in his tone, feel the dismissal of her concerns, and it made her face heat up. The way he brushed people off was the biggest thing they'd been working on, and she hated it when he did it to her.
"You're doing it again, Rodney," she warned.
He was instantly contrite. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to, honestly. I'm just trying to understand."
He looked puzzled. "What about him?"
"I think you're interested in him."
Rodney actually laughed out loud. "Sheppard? He's my team mate, my commanding officer! We play chess! Video golf. He cheats when we race the RC cars Jeannie sent me. Sometimes we watch terrible movies that I have to correct all the science for. Actually, I sometimes feel like I'm caught in an episode of MST3K when we're having a team movie night. But that's all beside the point. We're just friends, Jennifer!"
She spoke evenly, carefully. "I think some part of you would like to be more than just friends. I think you have very strong feelings for Colonel Sheppard. As in being attracted to him in a romantic or sexual way."
Rodney jumped to his feet and took a step back from her, as if he'd suddenly found himself sitting next to an asp. "Are you kidding me?" he demanded, his voice angry.
"No, Rodney. I'm not."
"We're just friends," he insisted again, throwing his hands up in frustration as he began pacing the room. "Best friends!" He stopped and turned on heel to face her, arms clasped tightly across his chest, looking like a bull dog ready for a fight. "I've never had one of those before. So, yeah, I admit I have strong feelings for the guy who has repeatedly saved my ass, all of our asses for the last 5 years. Who has my back when missions go pear shaped. Who still wanted to be my friend when I massively screwed the pooch and blew up the better part of a solar system because of my arrogance." He shook his head. "Are you telling me that I have to give up my best friend because you're jealous of our friendship? This is absurd!"
"Is it really?" Keller challenged. "Rodney, listen. You told me you love me, and I see everything that you do to try and make me happy. You're an amazing guy. And I love you. But I've seen the way you are with him."
"Like what? What the hell have you seen that makes you think there is something going on between us?"
"I didn't say there was something. Just that I think there is a part of you that wants that from him. And-"
"Oh for god's sake, get to the point already!"
Keller looked up at him, shocked. She'd seen Rodney upset and angry before, but never like this. She didn't like it at all.
"Alright," she continued choosing not to call him on the rude behaviour just yet. This was pretty big, she could cut him some slack. For now.
"When you were sick, when you'd all but lost who you were, it was the Colonel you were calling out for."
"When I was..." he trailed off, flabbergasted. "Do you even hear what you're saying? I was *sick*! I was out of my mind because of an alien parasite! What is your point?"
"My point, Rodney, is the only person you wanted was Colonel Sheppard. You would cry out for John, over and over, try to get out of your bed and look for him until I had to restrain and sedate you. You said you were in love with me, had been for a long time, but when you were in your worst place, when you had nothing left to hold on to, you turned to him. Him, Rodney, not me."
As she watched, Rodney's face underwent a transformation, from livid to pensive, and she could see that he was truly evaluating what she was saying. She felt a surge of hope, that she was really breaking through to him.
"I've known him for a long time," he finally responded, much quieter this time. "It only stands to reason that when I wasn't in full possession of my faculties that I would default to looking for John," he continued, clearly still parsing through what she was saying, like one of his precious laptops factoring new data points into an equation. "I always fix things, but John always saves us. He's never let us down, never let me down. He's always been there for me, no matter what."
She nodded and walked slowly across the room to stop in front of him, taking his hands in hers. "I know, Rodney. I understand that he's been a good friend to you. But I want to be the one you lean on. I want to be the one who comforts you."
Rodney twined his fingers with hers, looking down at their hands as if they were part of a larger puzzle. "He's straight, you know," he stated, an odd look around his eyes. "Even if what you think about how I feel was actually true, on any level, Sheppard's never shown the slightest interest in anyone who wasn't female."
"Are you sure about that?"
"What?" This time he met her gaze, surprise evident on his features. "Of course! Why would you think otherwise?"
"Colonel Sheppard doesn't touch people, Rodney. He occasionally does that Athosian head touching with Teyla, but it's rare. Several days ago I saw him at lunch and I did a little experiment as we were chatting. I took a step closer, and he took a step away. Just a casual conversation, comfortable and non-threatening, but I backed the man around a table and out the door in less than 5 minutes just by getting several inches closer to him."
"He touches you all the time. Your shoulder, your arm. He flicks your ear-"
"That is so totally a touch I can live without!"
"-slaps the back of your head, yanks you along by your tac vest or lapel or just reaches out and grabs your forearm."
"He touches Ronon!"
"They spar. They give each other bruises, and split lips and black eyes. Occasionally I need to stitch them up after they 'touch' each other. This is not the same thing.
McKay shook his head, but his expression was conflicted. "No, no, no. If you'd ever seen the come hither looks he tosses at the alien priestesses and chieftains' daughters!" He was smiling down on her now, but it wasn't a happy smile. There was bitterness in it, and something else. Her heart sank as she identified it – it was longing. Unrequited, unfulfilled and apparently unrecognized. Rodney continued on, oblivious to her sudden epiphany. "It's almost cliché. Hell, it is cliché. Why do you think he's earned the nickname of Kirk?"
She dropped his hands and turned away from him, wrapping her arms around her torso in an attempt to stave off the sudden chill that enveloped her. Her voice sounded hollow in her own head when she replied. "You're the only one who has ever called him that, Rodney. As a matter of fact, you've had more dates than he has since the two of you arrived in this galaxy."
He stared at her. "How could you possibly know that?"
"People love to gossip, Rodney, especially about department heads. I've heard every rumour under the sun, but I've also heard all the facts as well. You've been on a couple dates with various scientists you didn't directly work with. You were fairly serious about Katie Brown for a long time. You had a well known crush on Colonel Carter. Now you're dating me. In contrast, there is a lot of speculation that Colonel Sheppard may have been interested any number of women here on the base, but not a single one of them has been able to say they had anything resembling a date with him. And while he may have been involved with a handful of women on other planets -"
"Like Chaya! I warned them, but no one would listen! And hello, ancient or not, she was a woman. And Teer, from the time warp village. Of course, you can't really blame him, after being trapped there for 6 months."
"Oh, oh! There was Mara from the ATA gene obsessed SCA planet, and
"Don't you think it's a little odd that you know the complete history of every woman John Sheppard might have been with since you've been here?"
He cocked his head to one side. "Huh. I never really thought about it."
"Most guys have a hard enough time keeping track of their own lists of former girlfriends, never mind who their best friend might have been dating."
"I think that I've established I'm not most guys."
"Yes." Keller nodded and took a deep breath. "And what I'm trying to establish is that you have to make a choice."
As if suddenly exhausted, Rodney sank back into his chair and blankly stared at the laptop that was still sitting open, quietly awaiting his attention. "And what is the ultimatum you are giving me, Jennifer? What's the choice I have to make?"
"It's him or me, Rodney. I'm not saying you can't be friends anymore-"
He scrubbed a hand across his face as he cut her off. "That's exactly what you're saying."
"No!" she protested hotly. "It is not! Friends are just that. Friends! But lovers, partners? They have to come first. You are my priority, Rodney. I have friends here, and they are important to me, but you come first. All I'm asking is the same in return."
He stood abruptly, and walked toward the door.
"Where are you going?" she asked, afraid of the answer.
He hesitated for a moment, then waved his hand over the sensor. As the door whooshed open, he spoke over his shoulder. "I'm going to talk to Sheppard."
She felt a prickle of tears in her eyes as she watched the door close behind him. "Damn you, Ronon..." she whispered as she prepared herself for the possibility that Rodney was not going to be coming back.
* * *
Rodney's mind was a mass of confusion as he walked down the corridor, eyes on the floor before him. Jennifer was afraid of losing him to his best friend? It was preposterous! She wanted him to give up his friendship with John because she was jealous? Completely absurd. He wanted to laugh, except it wasn't funny at all, she was really serious!
He tried to think back to when he first met John, when he first saw him as more than a military grunt and realized he was smart and attractive. He'd shelved those feelings, accepted them for what they were and then filed them away under unattainable, do not pursue. He had to work with the man, after all, and he couldn't do that if he was pining away like a love-struck teenager.
But Sheppard? The idea that John might have feelings, that he might not be Don Juan Casanova of the Pegasus galaxy, well, that was like hitting the reset switch and knocking everything loose. And the fact the Jennifer had been thinking about this – had been thinking about it for a while now, planning on what she was going to say to him about it – made him wonder if maybe she was right and he hadn't filed away all those longings as neatly as he'd thought.
And before he'd even had a chance to fully process everything, he found himself at Sheppard's door, knocking. The door slid aside to reveal Sheppard stretched out, reading in bed. He was propped up against the headboard, boots kicked off, and smiled at Rodney as he walked in, letting the door close behind him.
"Hey, buddy, what's up? Have you reconsidered coming wind surfing with me and Ronon?" he asked with a wicked grin as he put the book down on the side table and got off the bed to walk across the room.
McKay let out a snort. "Do I look like I've suddenly lost my mind?"
"No more so that usual," Sheppard replied after fishing two beers out of his mini fridge and handing one to Rodney.
"Well, that's comforting," McKay snarked, popping the tab as Sheppard did the same to his own. "Asshole."
Sheppard toasted him before taking a swig. "I try."
McKay took a long pull on his beer, and then another one, downing half the can at once, very aware of Sheppard's gaze on him, and the eyebrow that was threatening to crawl off the man's face and get lost in his unruly mop of hair.
"And also, I'd rather have to disable a Wraith ship with my bare hands than willingly step onto one of those contraptions. At least I have a chance at surviving on a Hive."
"Come on, it'll be fun! You should come along. You can sit on the beach under an umbrella all slathered up with your personal million SPF sunscreen and repeatedly warn us how we're going to die from drowning, radiation poisoning or sharks."
Sheppard studied him for a moment, then reached back into the fridge to snag two more beers before placing a hand firmly in the center of Rodney's back and giving him a shove toward the couch.
"Sit," he ordered as he plunked the beer down.
"What am I, a dog?" he complained even as he made himself comfortable, and finished off what was left of his beer.
"I should be so lucky," Sheppard commented dryly, still nursing his beer as he settled on the couch beside his friend.
Rodney set his can down and flipped John off without looking at him. Sheppard simply smirked, popped another beer and handed it to him without comment.
They sat like that for a while, quietly sipping beer. Sheppard finally broke the silence.
"So. Wanna tell me what's up?"
"Why do you assume something is up?"
"Well," Sheppard drawled out, "Usually, when you're this upset, you've told me precisely who did exactly what with the details of how. This is followed by how very stupid they are, a diatribe about their degrees coming from a cracker jack box, and varied insults about their parentage. All before you even pop the top of your first beer. Today, you're half way through the second, and I still don't know who pissed you off. It's a little unnerving."
"I didn't realize I'd become so predictable."
John gave him a serious look. "What's wrong, Rodney?" He reached out and placed a hand on Rodney's shoulder. "Can I help?"
McKay stared at the hand on his shoulder. Was she right? Was there really more to this that he'd realized? He lifted his gaze to meet John's, floored by the warmth he saw there.
"You or her. She told me I had to choose."
Sheppard looked at him askance. "What? Choose? Who told you? Choose what?"
"Jennifer. She told me that she wanted me to choose. Between you or her." The hand was still there, gripping firmly now. McKay felt grounded in a way he hadn't when he'd been talking to her.
His gaze was still fixed on John's. There were no demands in it, asking him to be anything other than who he was, to give anything up. Just acceptance.
Unexpectedly, the hand fell away and Rodney felt unaccountably cold. John dropped his eyes to look at the beer he was holding.
"What did you say?"
McKay rolled his eyes and let out a huff of annoyance. "Well, first I asked if she'd had a brain injury," and yes, he could see Sheppard was smiling, that was better than the awful tension that was gripping him a moment earlier. "Then we argued and I basically told her she was crazy and imagining things. I mean, she thinks-"
He stopped short, not sure if he should say it. Once it was said, it couldn't be unsaid and unlike Schrödinger's experiment, if he said it outright, he was going to find out if the cat was alive or dead, or had radiation poisoning.
Sheppard was looking at him intently. "What does she think?"
"She thinks that I have 'feelings' for you," the words poured out before McKay could edit them, shaky and somewhat frantic. "She thinks that you have feelings for me, too. Just because you flick my ear when I annoy you, can you believe that?" He tried to laugh but it fell flat.
"I told her you were straight. Hell, I named a litany of off-world women who have thrown themselves at you, but she just seemed to think it was weird that I would know their names. That's not really weird is it? That I would remember that? I mean, you're my best friend. And I have an amazing memory, and-"
"If you decide that you need to stop hanging out with me, I'll understand. I want you to be happy."
McKay just gaped at him, taking in the stiff posture, the way that Sheppard just seemed to collapse in upon himself like a human black hole, not even the slightest inkling of what he was feeling able to escape the Sheppard event horizon.
"What? NO!" He reached out and smacked John upside the head, eminently satisfied and yelp and subsequent dark look it earned him. "Are you damaged?" he demanded. "I walked out on my girlfriend, who was insisting I give up my friendship with you, to come and hang out with you instead. No. I'm not willing to give up our friendship, no matter what crazy impressions she may have. What's the next thing she's going to ask me to give up? Coffee? Atlantis?"
"Glad to see you have your priorities in order."
"Those two are generally interchangeable."
They shared a brief chucked before Sheppard spoke again.
"There's just one problem, Rodney."
McKay watched as Sheppard took a deep and shuddering breath. "She's not wrong."
"She's not?" He felt his voice spike upward, not quite a squeak. Not quite.
Sheppard shook his head and took another swig of his beer before he replied. "I don't want to cause you to lose someone you love because I can't keep a crush under wraps. I'm sorry to have put you in this position."
Rodney leaned in close and poked Sheppard in center of the chest.
"Ow!" John pushed his hand away. "Cut it out!"
"Are you telling me that you really are interested in me?"
"No! Seriously! Are you?"
John wouldn't look at him, and McKay crowed. "Oh god, you are. You totally are!"
Sheppard's face got really tight, and he made as if to get up off the couch, but he wasn't fast enough, and McKay yanked him back down.
"Oh, I don't think so! You idiot! You moron!"
"Look, McKay!" he growled. "It's not like I planned to develop any kind of interest in you-"
"Oh my god, just shut up before I lose any more brain cells!" And with that he straddled Sheppard's lap, pinning him firmly to the couch. "I've been interested in you since about the time I discovered you knew how to do more than grunt and shoot. I just about lost my mind when I realized you could actually do math, knew what a Mersenne Prime was and that you could have been in Mensa. I thought you were straight!"
John stared up at him, his hands resting on Rodney's thighs, thumbs drawing lazy circles on the insides of his legs. "Well, that makes us both idiots, I guess. You were always talking about hot women with big-"
"Yes, yes, okay, we're both morons. It's time for kissing now."
And then Rodney slipped a hand into John's hair, the other coming up to cradle his cheek, gently sliding a thumb across his lower lip before leaning forward to kiss him. It was gentle, almost tender at first, and Sheppard was so shocked he barely responded. Rodney drew back for a moment to study him.
"I know it's a steep learning curve, but I'm sure you can keep up."
John smiled and wrapped a hand around the back of Rodney's neck, pulling him and and yeah, that was more like it, hot and wet. Rodney's tongue was as mobile and agile as his mouth was, constantly moving, never at rest and sexy as hell, and John relished the taste of Rodney on his lips, soft and inviting warmth sinking into him. Finally, they broke apart, gasping for air, foreheads touching almost Athosian style.
"I hate to bring this up, but..."
"What are you going to tell Keller?"
"First, I'm going to thank her for letting the cat out of the box."
"Never mind. It's not important. After that, I'm going to tell her she was right about me, and that I'm sorry I didn't realize the truth before she got hurt."
Sheppard puzzled over the cat in the box a moment longer, then gave up on it."You said you loved her. Feelings like that don't just go away.
"I do love her. But honestly John, even if you hadn't felt this way, I was going to call it off. You, Ronon, Teyla – you're not just my friends, you're my family. I loved you first, all of you. And if you tell Ronon I love him, you'll be very sorry. The point is, I won't give any of you up. This?" he grinned, indicating the intimate position that he and John were now in, "This is just unexpected extra added value."
John spared a moment to feel a brief regret for the pain this was going to cause for Jennifer. "Okay."
"Okay. Can we get back to the kissing now?"
With a laugh, John wrapped an arm around McKay, holding him tight as their mouths met once more.