eccentricweft: (peaceteam_orangedots)
[personal profile] eccentricweft
Title: five things that were in the cards, or, how love saved the pegasus galaxy

Pairing(s): mckay/sheppard; rating pg-13; spoilers through end of season 5. Written for the 2009 McShep Match Peace Team. Go Peace!!!

Summary: John wondered if there was a card for miraculously turn gay and fall in love with your best friend.



prologue

"Don't you think Teyla and Ronon must find this a little surreal?" Rodney squinted in John's direction, shading his eyes from the bright sun overhead. "I mean, it's kind of weirding me out. Instead of killing Wra... you know, what we usually do -- which at least makes sense -- they're firing popguns at ridiculously easy targets. To win unrealistically-colored replicas of animals stuffed with sawdust!"

John grinned at Rodney's hasty self-censoring. The IOA had finally given permission for expedition members to visit San Francisco: just in time to pile Rodney, Teyla and Ronon into a rental car and head for the Alameda County Fair. John had gotten his Ferris wheel fix; now they were strolling the midway amid crowds of fair-goers.

"I don't think they use sawdust in stuffed animals anymore, Rodney."

"Very funny, Sheppard. You know what I mean."

John bumped Rodney's shoulder happily. Hanging out together made it pretty much a perfect day in John's book, even if Keller had been a little sharp about Rodney getting back in time to take her out to dinner.

Teyla and Ronon were attracting a small audience with their performance at the target shoot, not to mention a growing pile of stuffed animals. As they watched, Teyla scored another perfect 10, and the carney running the game handed her a fluffy magenta rabbit. Ronon was next (a green plush pig), then Teyla again (an orange, bubble-headed octopus), and Ronon again (improbably, a fuzzy pink lamb).

Rodney perked up just as Teyla was preparing for another round. "Oh, ice cream!" John followed his gaze to a man pushing an ice cream trolley. "Fudgsicles! Ice cream sandwiches!" rang out above the general hubbub.

"Rodney wants some ice cream," John called to Ronon. "We'll be back in a minute." Ronon waved at them with the pink lamb.

A few minutes later they wandered back toward the target shoot, Fudgsicles in hand. Across the way there was a purple awning, with curtains of tarnished gold beads hanging down all around it. An elderly woman sat behind a small black table studying a set of cards. Her hair was covered with a red scarf and she wore long dangly earrings and (John thought) excessive eye makeup.

Magda, Queen of the Gypsies, her sign proclaimed. Learn Your Future. $10.

John chuckled and bumped Rodney's shoulder. "Want to get your fortune told?"

The reaction was predictable. Rodney gaped at the sign, the earrings, and the cards. "Learn your future for ten dollars? Even if that was possible, I mean if you could travel such miniscule distances in the space-time continuum to make it possible to play Peeping Tom with one person's life--" (because of course time travel was possible; they had first-hand experience. It was just a hell of a lot easier to travel millennia than to hit a destination a few years away) "--even if you could travel such relatively tiny distances with any kind of precision, ten dollars would hardly be fair compensation for the vast amounts of expertise required to bring it off!" He sounded scandalized.

The old woman looked up just as Rodney paused to gulp a breath. "Afraid to see your future, young man?" Her voice was cracked with age.

"Most certainly not! And besides that, you can't tell the future with a set of Tarot cards! It's preposterous, and--" He broke off when John elbowed him in the ribs. "What?"

"Rodney! Give the lady ten bucks and let her tell your fortune." In a lower voice he added, "Not exactly the kind of job that comes with health insurance, you know?"

"Oh, oh. Right, of course." Rodney was instantly contrite. He stepped forward, fishing a bill out of his pocket -- a twenty, in fact, John noticed -- and dropped it in the ceramic bowl on the table. "Okay, well, do your worst." He grimaced and muttered something about humoring the natives under his breath.

The fortune-teller narrowed her eyes at him. "All right, young man. Sit down. Pick out five cards. Pick five cards, and I'll tell you five things about your future."

John wondered if there was a card for miraculously turn gay and fall in love with your best friend.

Probably not, but he smiled a little at the idea.



the first card: the falling tower. complete and sudden change. unexpected events.

They started the day early with team breakfast, and the sheer rightness of that made John happy. Atlantis was finally going home: lift-off at 1200. John was just glad he hadn't had to highjack the city himself, though he totally would have if the IOA hadn't admitted the importance of the Lantean defenses in Pegasus.

Teyla was bright with anticipation and Ronon had a quiet air of satisfaction. Rodney was cranky and snappish, though. Repairing Atlantis' hyperdrive had taken a solid month of work and they hadn't seen him at all the last two days. Rodney deserved more down time on Earth than he'd gotten, John thought.

"Excited?" he asked Teyla, even though he knew the answer. She smiled brilliantly. "I am anxious to see Torren and Kanaan. Torren may even be walking by now."

"Hey, we'll have the little guy playing football in no time." Ronon went so far as to crack a smile at John's prediction, but Rodney rolled his eyes. "Right," Rodney said. "Because tackling each other is exactly what toddlers ought to be doing."

"They do fall down by themselves a great deal," Teyla said distractedly. Her attention was caught by something at the entrance to the mess, and John turned to follow her gaze. Mr. Woolsey stood just inside, speaking to a tall black woman in a lab coat; he caught sight of them and walked over with his guest.

"Good morning, everyone. I'd like you to meet Dr. Adebayo, from the Odyssey. Dr. Keller has decided to remain on Earth, so Dr. Adebayo is being transferred to Atlantis, effective immediately." Adebayo nodded pleasantly as they all stood to greet her. "Doctor, this is our senior offworld team."

Woolsey and Adebayo moved on after introductions. Rodney avoided everyone's eyes, and there was a short, uncomfortable silence. Not so much tense about flying the city, then, but unhappy about Keller.

"Buddy," he started to say, just as Teyla spoke: "Rodney, did you know Dr. Keller was leaving Atlantis?"

"I thought she might," he said stiffly. "She wanted to stay on Earth. She wanted me to stay on Earth."

"And you would not?" Teyla asked gently.

"Of course not! Who else is going to keep you all out of trouble? I have to keep Sheppard from killing himself with his heroics and my scientists from blowing up the city with their idiocy. Also I can't let Torren grow up with you three supervising his education. He'd end up with nothing in his head but self-defense and superheroes."

Ronon was gruffly sympathetic. "So you broke up."

"I didn't want to." Rodney looked miserable. "I promised to visit. But she said it'd be over unless I stayed."

Teyla laid a hand on Rodney's and squeezed. There wasn't much to say to that, and John grimaced to himself at the thought of Keller's ultimatum. It wasn't exactly surprising. He'd seen enough of Jennifer's insistence on 'improving' Rodney. What had bothered John even more was Rodney straining to meet her expectations.

There wasn't really time to deal with it, either. Atlantis' head of science might have been dumped by his girlfriend, but the city was still scheduled to leave Earth in less than five hours.

"You get any sleep last night, buddy?" Rodney shrugged, and John exchanged looks with Ronon and Teyla. "Maybe you should take the morning off then. Shower, nap, a little stretching in the gym."

"I have a million things to do!"

"Go. I'll tell Zelenka to expect you at 1100." Ronon pulled Rodney from his chair, and together he and Teyla steered him out of the mess.



the second card: the high priestess. wisdom, sound judgment, serene knowledge.

Back in Pegasus, it became clear Rodney was taking the latest break-up hard. His usual sarcasm had an angry, bitter edge. He worked nonstop. He could hardly be dragged away for meals, and slept -- when he did sleep -- on a cot at the back of the lab.

"This is kind of insane," John said grimly to Teyla over lunch. "When we're under siege from the Wraith, okay, we all have to push ourselves to our limits. If he keeps this up he's going to fall over dead when we do have a crisis. And that's if someone doesn't kill him first."

"It is indeed a difficult situation." Teyla hesitated. "Have you tried talking with him, John?"

"Sure, every time I try to make him eat or sleep."

"I mean, have you tried asking Rodney why it troubles him so much that Jennifer ended their relationship."

"Uh, no. I haven't." Teyla sighed. "Honestly, Teyla? I don't get why he can't shake it off. Keller was always trying to get him to be someone he's not. Seems like he might be relieved."

"Perhaps, but let me ask you another question. Why did Dr. McKay's proposal to Dr. Brown not work out as he planned?"

"Well, I guess what Rodney thinks is she hadn't seen him really melt down before. You know how he gets, if we're stuck somewhere and he can't do anything to solve it. He was embarrassed."

"Do you see the similarity with Dr. Keller?"

John thought about it. "Neither one knew the real Rodney?"

"Neither one loved the real Rodney." John winced. "Dr. Brown did not have a chance to. Dr. Keller chose not to.

"Rodney may not understand this fully, but I believe it is why he chose Atlantis over Dr. Keller. In his heart, he knows that his friends here do care for him as he truly is."

Teyla held his gaze intently, and John's face heated up. It felt like Teyla could see inside him. "And of all Rodney's friendships here, yours is the most important to him, John. He would never turn you away."



the third card: knight of cups. an invitation or opportunity may arise.

John tried not to get too excited about Teyla's assertion. Maybe all she meant was that Rodney would always be John's friend, no matter who he dated. Not that Rodney would, well, miraculously turn gay and love John back.

Still, he thought a lot about what Teyla said. It was clear the last break-up had knocked Rodney down pretty hard, and he wasn't getting up again. Maybe it would help, a little, for Rodney to know that someone loved him. Even if he wasn't wired to love that person back.

John even thought Rodney would do okay with having someone around whose feelings he didn't quite return. He wasn't the self-sacrificing type (except when he was) and despite his big mouth, he could keep a secret. Their friendship was solid; John was sure of that. Putting himself out there was a small price to pay if it helped Rodney hang on until the right girl came along.

John was taking a midnight run when he finally reached this conclusion, and he knew himself well enough to act on his resolution quickly. Waiting would only make it harder.

The science labs were deserted except for Rodney. He sat alone, surrounded by Ancient devices in various stages of disassembly, but he wasn't working. He was bent over his laptop with his head in his hands. John's stomach did a strange kind of twist, seeing him like that. Rodney was even more depressed than John had realized.

John cleared his throat a little. "Hey buddy."

Rodney's shoulders tensed and he quickly dropped his hands. "I'm busy. Go away."

"Your laptop's gone to sleep mode."

Rodney let out a weird sound, half laugh, half sob. "All right. You've got me. I'm not working, I'm brooding over Jennifer. Are you happy?"

"Rodney, no. You hurting doesn't make me happy."

"Oh good, very good, we've established that you're a kind-hearted soul. Now will you go away?"

"Can we talk, just for a minute? I want to tell you something." John's voice felt a little off, and he took a deep breath. "It's important."

Rodney studied him skeptically. "I'm listening."

"Yeah. I just want to tell you... I, I want you to know..." Geez, this was hard. He should have written it out on a damn note card.

Rodney's expression had softened, at least, from skeptical to quizzical. "What are you trying to say?"

"Look, here's the thing." John started again, with renewed determination. "When you were dating Keller it really, really bugged me how she always wanted you to act different. Like whatever her idea of the perfect boyfriend was. And I thought, maybe you're having a hard time getting over her because you think nobody likes you the way you are."

Rodney was plainly disbelieving. "You figured that out?"

"Well, Teyla explained it to me. The second part. I noticed the Keller part on my own, though."

"Oh God. Is the whole team talking about me?"

"No! Just me and Teyla. Just the one time."

Rodney sighed deeply. "So you're here to tell me that you all do like me just the way I am. Which is -- well, it's definitely a Mister Rogers kind of a moment, and, actually, I don't know why I'm making fun of it. That's really -- nice of you. Extremely nice."

"Yeah, but Rodney. That's not exactly what I was trying to tell you."

"You don't like me the way I am?"

"Yes! Jesus, McKay, you're making this so hard! Listen to me. If breaking up with Jennifer is making you think no one will ever love you, that's wrong. I love you."

Rodney froze. "You love me."

"Yeah."

"You love me, the way -- a friend loves another friend."

John cringed at that memory. His biggest failure in their friendship. "I love you that way, and also -- the other way."

"The other way?"

"Like you wanted Jennifer to love you. That way. Hearts and... flowers. And stuff."

"Like Jennifer?"

"Is there an echo in here? Yeah, that way. And I don't expect anything from you, I know you don't do guys, I just want you to stop thinking you're unloveable. Because it's not true."

That was when Rodney fainted -- or, passed out.



the fourth card: the ace of wands. beginning of a meaningful experience. an adventure.

Dr. Adebayo diagnosed a combination of exhaustion, stress, and irregular meals, resulting in low blood sugar and electrolyte imbalance. She kept Rodney in the infirmary the following day to rest. John brought him dinner from the mess, and after a final check, Dr. Adebayo let him go.

"You kinda scared me when you went down like that," John commented as they walked to the residential tower at a leisurely pace.

Rodney grimaced. "It's bad enough I've passed out in front of you from actual injuries. Doing it to myself is beyond embarrassing."

"Rodney... you don't have to be embarrassed. With me. About anything."

"I guess not." But he sounded tentative. "John, tell me if you don't want to talk about this. But what you said last night. I thought about it all day. Even if you didn't mean it, all the way, it still means a lot that you. You know. Worried about me enough to say that."

John squinted at him. "What makes you think I didn't mean it?"

"Well, you said you didn't expect anything from me."

"I don't, buddy. But I still meant it."

"Huh." They walked along in silence for a moment. "So maybe you wouldn't mind if I, you know, asked to take you up on the offer. The, um, implicit offer."

They reached Rodney's door, and he turned to face John, his expression earnest and hopeful.

John grinned. "All you have to do is invite me in."



the fifth card: the star. bright prospects. optimism. happiness.

Well after midnight, John finally relaxed into sleep, dazed with pleasure. He had his arms wrapped around Rodney, the bed was warm, and this had turned out to be pretty much the best day of his life.

Rodney was settling down, murmuring happily, an arm around John's shoulders and his thumb gently rubbing the back of John's neck. Suddenly he froze, eyes wide and mouth half open. Before John could mumble "What's wrong?" Rodney leapt out of bed, yanked on his boxers, and ran out of the room shouting into his radio for Zelenka.

During the next two and a half weeks, a number of things happened.

Rodney and Radek spent 19 hours shouting at each other while frantically scribbling equations on whiteboards, walls, and anyone who tried to get between them and the nearest writing surface. The only words anyone could understand were Wraith and hyperspace.

At hour 19, the SGC sent Sam Carter. She greeted the gateroom personnel in her usual friendly manner before jogging to the labs to join McKay and Zelenka. The shouting and scribbling continued for another 27 hours.

At hour 46, Sam emerged from the lab and told Dr. Adebayo it would be all right to sedate McKay and Zelenka. She herself met with Colonel Sheppard and Director Woolsey for an hour before requesting guest quarters.

On day 3, the Daedalus arrived. On day 4, the Daedalus departed in search of Traveler ships.

On day 5, the SGC dialed Atlantis again and sent through 12 engineers and 5 dozen pallets of materials and components Rodney had requested.

From day 5 to day 13, McKay and Zelenka directed the engineers from Earth and from Atlantis in a construction project on the West Pier. Rodney called it EMG (Evidence of McKay's Genius). Radek called it the Built-In Generator for Hyperspace Emission And Distortion (BIG-HEAD).

On day 14, the Daedalus returned to Atlantis with the Traveler ship commanded by Larrin. She confirmed that all known Traveler vessels were on stand down from faster-than-light travel until an all-clear was received.

From day 14 to day 17, the people of Atlantis, Athos, and a dozen other worlds crowded around Atlantis' long-range sensors. They watched as, one by one, every hive ship in Pegasus entered hyperspace...

...never to be seen again.

And on day 17, when the last red dot had faded from the display, Rodney McKay grabbed John Sheppard in a bear hug and kissed him, in the middle of a crowd gone wild with joy.


end
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