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Fic: Baby Steps (McKay/Sheppard, 16+)

Title: Baby Steps
Author: gottalovev
Recipient: moon_destiny
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard, mentions of past McKay/Keller
Rating: 16+
Word Count: 7 000 words
Disclaimer: Done for fun, not profit. No warnings for triggers necessary.
Author's Notes: Made for moon_destiny, who loves established relationships, fluff and romance. This is sweet... a lot. Maybe too much. I hope you like it :) Much love to my beta, she rocks ♥
Summary: Don't Ask Don't Tell is history and it throws John for a loop. If he's going to come out of the closet, he'll do it at his pace.

---

Drifting between a dream and consciousness, John shifts and burrows closer to the heat source that is just there. It takes him a second to identify it as Rodney, lightly snoring beside him and John smiles. Rodney always puts out heat like a wood stove, which is kind of awesome on the cold humid nights that make up the winters on Atlantis. John stretches a little, and then it suddenly hits him: it's way too bright in the room and his eyes snap open. Shit. The alarm clock says it's 0530, so just about to be the change in shifts for security patrols. Panicking a little, John curses as he grabs his pants, deciding to forgo socks and underwear. And where is his fucking shirt? He's about to get up, having spotted it on Rodney's chair when an arm encircles his waist and stops him.

"No, no, no," Rodney grumbles.

A sleepy Rodney is endearing, but this is not the time to cuddle, not this morning when John has overslept and could get caught.

"Let me go! Shit Rodney, I have to go!" John hisses, but Rodney clings.

"Not this morning, you don't," Rodney says, holding a bit more strongly.

Just as John's about to argue that he really does, it all comes back. The data burst with the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', how he'd fallen in bed with Rodney the night before giddy with the idea that he could spend the whole night in his room and no one could do anything about it. The copious amounts of epic monkey sex that had followed... How John forgot about it, even for a few minutes, he has no idea. The flight instinct leaves him all of a sudden and he lets himself be dragged back down on the bed.

"You're staying right here because I said so," Rodney says and John turns on his side to face him. Rodney promptly hauls him against his chest; it always gives John a thrill when Rodney shows how strong he is. "Hi there," Rodney adds with a little smile.

"Hi," John says, grinning. "Sorry. I can't believe I forgot..."

Rodney snorts.

"S'okay, six months of sneaking out can't be overwritten like that, I suppose," he says, before yawning and closing his eyes. "Sleep, now. We don't need to get up for another two hours or so."

True, they have a meeting at 0900 so it leaves them a little time. If Rodney seems ready to fall right back asleep, John still has adrenaline running through his veins and he's awake for good even as he uses the usually sure-fire trick of counting bullets. He tries to keep still and just enjoy lazing in bed, something he's never been able to do with Rodney, but after five minutes he's still restless.

"Stop fidgeting," Rodney says in his pillow. "We can sleep, remember? Glorious sleep?"

Deciding he knows many things that are a lot more glorious than sleep, John dives under the covers and decides to put his excess energy to good use and for the benefit of all. He's thoughtful like that.

As predicted, Rodney doesn't protest too much.

**

"How do you think your men will take it?" Rodney had asked the night before. "Most seem civilized enough..."

"I think it's going to be ok?" John said, hating how uncertain he sounded. He didn't have to worry about hazing or shit like that, not with those guys. Right?

Rodney had seen through him.

"You're worried for your badass image?" he'd asked, tilting his head to the side.

"I don't know," John had partly admitted. He was sort of worried: he was pretty sure that if one of the men came out, there would be jokes and then it would taper out. But their commanding officer? Would the big macho Marines be able to get over it as simply as that?

"Are you less badass than you were last week?" Rodney asked.

"No," John said resolutely. Because come on, he kicked ass and took names.

"Are you ashamed of sleeping with the king of the geeks?" Rodney asked after, though he didn't seem as insecure as the question could imply.

"Of course not!" John protested. Rodney was the best catch on the base, for sure. More than once John had been forced to glower menacingly at people doing a pass at Rodney, frustrated that he could not tell them to fuck off because he was already taken.

"Look, as much as I'm tempted to tell everyone I've snagged the jackpot, sending everyone else on an emo drinking binge of not getting you first, nothing says that I have to do it right now," Rodney had said.

"But I have to set an example..." John half-heartily protested. Sometimes he hated leadership.

"Says who?" Rodney asked. "Did General O'Neill ask you to?"

"He doesn't know, Rodney," John said, rolling his eyes. "Of course he didn't ask me to tell."

"So why now? You've never been one to speak of personal stuff in the first place."

True. He really was dating a genius. John's love life was of no one's business but his own. And Rodney's.

"Just do whatever you feel comfortable with," Rodney said with a shrug. "I'll follow your lead, as always. I was prepared to hide this," he said, gesturing rapidly between John and him, "for a long time still. Your career is not in jeopardy anymore, that's what is important to me."

John was not ashamed of what he was, at all, and of whom he loved. And Rodney deserved a life in the open and no more secrets. It should have been an easy decision to make.

"I'll think about it," he had said instead.

"You do that," Rodney said with a genuine smile and it went a long way in reassuring John.

"You know, you are a lot better with people that anyone gives you credit for," John had said, coming close for a kiss.

Rodney hummed, pleased, as he kissed John back. He quirked a half grin.

"Shhht. It's a secret," he'd said. "I've been hiding it carefully, don't blow my cover."

**

So this is it, John thinks as he waits for Rodney to finish scanning his emails before going to grab some breakfast. Hiding that he likes men is a second nature for John and he's not sure he can let go of a life of conditioning just like that. He's always thought that he'd be relieved if one day he could do whatever he felt like without a threat to his career... But right now? He's nervous as hell, hands sweating and feeling a bit light-headed.

People will know.

When Rodney finally closes his laptop, John takes a deep breath and opens the door... only to realize once they have stepped out that there's no one in the corridor. Anti-climatic, to say the least. The result is almost pure relief and John relaxes as they walk to the mess, Rodney already deep in techno-babble, hands flying and acting as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened at all.

No heads turn when they enter and get in line, but it's not like they haven't eaten breakfast together before. No, everyone is acting just as usual; even Rodney, who's navigating towards their regular table with his sort-of-ham and toast, sits down and expects John to agree at the right places as he pretends the whole exchange is a conversation.

Nothing is out of place, as if John's whole life hasn't changed the day before after all. It's privacy, just like John has wished for. He sits back and picks at his food, wondering why he's not one hundred percent happy about that.

**

The whole time they had kept their relationship a secret, John had been worried that it was something Rodney would come to find too much of a hassle. The sneaking out in the middle of the night, of course, that was never fun, but John had been fairly paranoid about any display of affection out of their quarters too. No stolen kisses except once or twice in a transporter that John had tripled locked. Being extra careful not to casually touch too much. No sharing tents or rooms off world if they were not alone with Ronon and Teyla. Who knew, of course, and had met Rodney's careful explanations with twin raised eyebrows that said they'd noticed what was going on, probably before John and Rodney had even admitted it to themselves.

But not only did Rodney appear used to taking it in stride, he isn't asking for any outwards sign of affection now either. It's John, weirdly if you ask him, who starts to initiate things.

Wonders never cease.

**

It's nothing big, at least at first.

Woolsey is explaining the latest politics shenanigans in the Milky Way and John twirls his pen, bored out of his mind. He contemplates how going in a hive ship is a thousand times more fun than those briefings. That is until John slouches even further down in his chair and presses his knee against Rodney's under the briefing table. Suddenly, he only can hear his blood pounding, which is a net improvement over Woolsey's speech, so he presses some more.

A couple of days later, it's deliberate when John lets a clap on Rodney's shoulder linger several seconds when they part ways in a corridor. A fully crowded corridor, with people actually looking sort of their way. John's hand tingles for minutes, afterwards.

Once, John even dares to put his hand on Rodney's neck for a second as he leaves the mess, a quick light touch, but still. He feels himself flush and almost runs out of the room, going to the armory to hide. It takes a while before his face doesn't feel hot anymore, but at least all of the ammo boxes are in nice little rows now.

Rodney always answers these touches by leaning into John. He also smiles, most times, bright and happy and it makes John want to make it happen some more. Meanwhile, the rest of the expedition is totally oblivious about what is going on, to a point that John starts to worry that they are maybe collectively going blind as bats.

No one says a word. No conversations are suddenly hushed when John enters a room. There is no evidence that people are huddling somewhere and giggling because they smell something to gossip about. No more eyebrows are raised. Lorne, who usually sees everything, doesn't even smirk. His men obey without looking at him differently.

And the more nothing happens, the more John is tempted to push the boundaries. It's not even playing with fire, since there's no fire to get burned with anymore, but he finds a thrill in it none the less.

The first kiss John steals in the lab - though he knows that no one is around, but it's the principle of things - has Rodney blinking afterward, but then he smiles and tells John he's going to see him later tonight because he has work to do right now. So even Rodney doesn't seem to get how big this is for him. Another theory is that Rodney does know it all too well and is just letting John go at his pace, as he said he would.

It's oddly freeing. If some of his newest fantasies are to grab Rodney and ravish him in front of everyone, well that's John's problem and his alone.

**

John starts to wonder about himself because the more people look the other way, the more he tries to make it obvious. Could he be a secret exhibitionist? He even flirted with the idea of the inspiring email announcing his coming out, posing as a proud example for every gay member of the armed forces, cue swelling music and everything. For fifteen seconds, at least, and John even went to his computer and tried to type his masterpiece that would be looked at in the future as history changing. But then he got the shakes and felt queasy enough to go lie down. He's never been good with words and something so public is unthinkable. For the moment at least.

"Why are you in bed at two in the afternoon?" Rodney says as he enters his room. He stops at the side of the bed, hands on his hips, watching John with curiosity.

"You were looking for me?" John says, trying to deflect.

"As a matter of fact, yes. You're obviously ignoring your emails again, I had no notifications you even opened mine," Rodney says, looking insulted.

"I was trying to work on something," John says. "I'll get to my inbox later, and I am not ignoring you specifically. What's so important?"

Rodney sighs and sits down.

"Jeannie. Jeannie is pestering me and wants an answer for the holidays, and the data burst to Earth is in two hours."

"Then go, the SGC owes you about a million weeks of leave, anyway," John says, trying to smile supportively because he does think Rodney deserves the time out with his family. It will suck to be separated for the Holidays, but if it makes Rodney happy...

"I know that, but you haven't told me what you want to do," Rodney says. "Is the whole two weeks at Jeannie's too long? Or should we rent something in town for a bit? There's always the cabins..."

Frankly John is just too busy grinning to care about how the vacations will pan out. Rodney has not even considered that John wouldn't tag along, then, and instead of feeling cornered in the equivalent of "meet the parents", John is endeared. He has it bad. So he grabs Rodney's shirt and makes him topple sideways on the bed with a sudden pull; it produces a highly comical yelp.

"Wha-" Rodney starts but John cuts him with a deep kiss, rolling on top of him and getting comfortable.

When he has to come up for air, John is satisfied to see that Rodney is flushed and blinking, thought process totally derailed.

"Tell Jeannie we'll be there on the 20th."

**

Okay, so John might have gone to the Millers several times by now, but it's the first as Rodney's boyfriend and he's starting to get nervous, after all. Oh, he's been there on leave with Rodney before, and that's probably why no one in Atlantis or the SGC made a comment, as if it's perfectly normal that John would tag along with his best friend for Christmas vacations. Frankly, John wonders why he's even been worried of being caught when DADT was in effect.

John doesn't know if Rodney has told Jeannie about them or not, he didn't have the guts to ask. His plan at the moment is to play it by ear. They're picking their duffels from the rental's trunk when Jeannie's door open and Madison is launched like a mini blonde rocket, squealing in delight as she throws herself at their legs, an arm around each of their thighs.

"Uncle Rodney, Uncle John!" she says, beaming up at them.

"Oh my god, it's my favorite niece!" Rodney says as if it's a complete surprise to see her here, patting her head a little and she laughs.

"Yes it is, silly!" she says. "You're finally here!"

"We sure are," John says with a caress of her hair of his own. She's pulling off, though, and trying to pull John towards the house by the pant leg.

"We have a surprise, Uncle John!" she says, excited.

"Really?" John says, shouldering his duffel and tagging along, Rodney just behind.

"Yes! It arrived this morning!" Madison is babbling and John stops by the door to greet Jeannie with a kiss to the cheek.

"Hi John, it's so great you could come!" Jeannie says, smiling openly and John feels a wave of affection overwhelm him. If he has to get a family on top of getting Rodney, this one is awesome.

"Thanks for having me," John says, voice a bit rough but Jeannie doesn't notice, too busy glomping Rodney in a tight embrace.

"God, Mer, it's so great to see you," she says. "In normal circumstances," she adds with a smirk.

"Look, John, look!" Madison is saying, pointing to the living room. John sweeps the room but doesn't notice anything worth that much excitement except for the Christmas tree. Thankfully, as a true McKay, Madison just keeps on talking and answers the mystery. "The new couch turns into a bed, a real bed!" she says, patting it as if it's the best thing ever.

John blinks, not processing for a second.

"The seller said it was real comfy," Jeannie says. "For sure it will beat bunking with Mer!"

John throws a sideways glance at Rodney who looks just as surprised as he is and about to protest. That answers John's question: Rodney definitely has not told Jeannie about them yet.

"But..." Rodney starts.

"It's like a Transformer, but a couch instead of a car!" Madison says, excited. "I even chose the sheets and everything!"

"That's really nice of you, but..." Rodney starts again.

John puts a hand on Rodney's arm and cut him too. Madison is so proud, he can't crush her surprise like that.

"That's great, sweetheart, I can't wait to try it," John says, raising an eyebrow at Rodney to urge him to shut up for now. "You chose the sheets, huh? What color?"

"They're Transformer sheets!" she says, beaming, and John can only laugh out loud.

**

Somehow, his evening ends up with him being sprawled on the new sofa now fully transformed, propped against the back of the couch, feet crossed at the ankles and drinking a beer. The TV is on a channel mainlining The Simpsons reruns, but the volume is turned down low because Madison is fast asleep in the middle of the bed. On her other side, Rodney is sulking, arms wrapped around himself.

"Why does she always get her way?" Rodney says. "I haven't read much on the joys and agonizing trials no doubt necessary for raising a child, but it must not be healthy."

"Come on, Rodney. She just wanted to try the bed," John says.

"Well excuse me, but I don't want her obvious glee at sleeping on Optimus Prime sheets to be unconsciously associated with the idea that it's perfectly okay to hop into bed with a good looking older man."

John laughs.

"Come on, she knows I'm practically family. No inappropriate associations there," John says.

Rodney's face changes. He looks a bit shifty and worried, the face he does when he realizes he missed an appropriate social interaction.

"Yeah, about that, I am sorry that I didn't tell Jeannie. It's not that I don't want to, in fact I..."

"Hey, hey," John says, smiling, though he could kick himself. He didn't mean to imply that he was frustrated by the omission or anything like that. "It's fine. Want to tell her tomorrow?"

The idea makes John's heart speed up a bit, since it will be the first person out of Team to know, but it's still family. Family is safe.

"Okay," Rodney says, with a ducking little smile and it's so endearing that John can't help but lean over Madison to give him a kiss. Rodney tries to fist his t-shirt and pull him closer but John shakes his head and pulls away, though he kisses Rodney again before letting go.

"Tomorrow," John says, settling back in his place and glad Madison didn't even twitch.

"Fine," Rodney says with the sigh of the perpetually put-upon.

"You're jealous of my awesome sheets, admit it," John teases, jokingly caressing the bed.

"Sure, sure, that's my problem right there. You found me out. It's the sheets I want in my bed, not you," Rodney says, rolling his eyes.

"I've always had a thing for robots," John says, just to hear Rodney snort in amusement.

"I'm sure that Jeannie will tell me where she got them. I heard that a fat guy with a red suit might be touring the neighborhood soon."

John smiles but then it hits him. Four days until Christmas and he hasn't found the perfect gift, yet.

"I need to go shopping tomorrow," John says. "There must be a mall close, right? Canada does have shopping malls?"

It's too easy to tease Rodney.

"D'oh. Of course. But no way am I setting a foot in there, no way," Rodney says.

John frowns.

"You're not getting gifts? You know checks are tacky, right? Even if it's enough to cover Madison's college."

"Two words for you, John," Rodney says, looking smug. "Online" he tacks on a finger, "shopping" he says for the next. "Delivery should be tomorrow, therefore another reason I cannot accompany you to the Third and a half Circle of Hell."

Shit, John should have thought of that. But maybe...

"No, you can't chip in on my gifts," Rodney pre-empts as he gets up, obviously planning to go to bed. "My gifts are carefully thought of and highly personal."

A quick kiss and he's going up the stairs, humming a Christmas song sounding kind of righteous. John sighs. He'll brave the mall alone, then. In fact it should be easier if he doesn't have to hide from Rodney.

**

The mall is, simply put, Hell on Earth. And not exclusively Dante's version. It's surely a religion wide consensus at this point.

John's too hot, his feet hurt, his ears are ringing, he's not sure if he's nauseous or hungry and if he NEVER gets to see this many people at the same place at the same time again it will be too soon.

He's got gifts, at least. Even had them wrapped in shiny paper, though the cost was near extortion. He's got a dinosaur robot for Madison, some nice service wear for Jeannie and a good bottle of booze for Caleb (it eases his Rodney tolerance). Dave and the kids are already taken care of. He found a pretty necklace for Teyla (that doesn't attract Wraith, thank you very much) and a gorgeous wooden box for Ronon, with engraved dragons fighting. A toy plane for Torren. Various little things for other people, too.

But nothing for Rodney. Nothing that feels just right.

And John's gone through the whole mall, too, it's not because he hasn't tried. Electronics had been his first idea, but Rodney has everything he needs already. John had bought the iPad anyway but he looked for more.

Video games had been appropriate when they had been only friends. Rodney would like Undead Nightmare, but it was not thoughtful enough even if it had zombies.

John had found a nice white page Avengers for a couple of hundred at the comic book store, but superheroes felt a bit lame to say "I really really care about you a lot." Or it was highly appropriate, he wasn't sure anymore.

When John was waiting to pay for Teyla's necklace, he'd found himself looking at silver chains in the men section. He had a flashback to those fake dog tags he'd seen guys give their girlfriends before going on a tour, but with the job they had there was a chance Rodney would get the real ones before long and John was afraid fakes ones would be more morbid than romantic. Anyways, chains aren't a good idea for people working with machinery. John managed not to look at the rings.

Highly personal gifts, Rodney had said about his own. Maybe it was just to mess with John's head, though.

John hefts his bags and admits defeat for now as he goes towards the parking lot.

**

Rodney has eyes just as round as a kid when John comes back to Jeannie's.

"So?" Rodney says, almost bouncing on his toes.

"Productive. A walk in the park," John lies smoothly.

"Good for you. Jeannie, Caleb and Madison went to the arena, so the coast is clear, you can bring everything in," Rodney says.

Rodney probably hopes to get a sneak peek at the gifts but John had anticipated the curiosity. He'd stopped at a gas station to ditch all store bags: with the stuff already wrapped, stuffing them in garbage bags assured he gave away as few hints as possible. When everything is finally hidden in the basement so Madison doesn't find the gifts by accident, they end up on John's couch, again.

As much as he wishes to ravish Rodney here and now, they don't know when the Millers will be back. On top, John is exhausted by his shopping spree so it feels just as good to lay his head on Rodney's lap to watch some Christmas specials on TV while Rodney cards his fingers in John's hair and massages his scalp. Honestly, it rivals sex, or at least hurried hand jobs. Content, John lets his eyes close and drifts off for a well deserved nap.

**

"Oh."

It's faint but John snaps his eyes open, immediately awake. He's heard this exact tone of voice so many times as pieces finally slot together for Rodney that it's associated with getting ready for action.

It wasn't Rodney who made the sound this time, though, because he's asleep himself, dead to the world with his head resting on the back of the couch. He's got a hand still deep in John's hair and the other on John's shoulder, fingers sneaking into the collar of his t-shirt to rest against his collar bone. No, the surprised sound came from Jeannie, who stands stock still in the house's entry way that has a direct view of the living room, looking at them with round eyes.

Oh indeed. It seems that conversation time is upon them, after all.

Jeannie snaps out of it real fast, covering with a smile and turns to put her coat in the closet.

"Sorry I woke you," she says. "Did you see it's snowing? Madison is making a snow angel on the front lawn."

John rubs Rodney's arm lightly.

"Hey, nap's over buddy," he says softly and Rodney blinks his eyes open, before giving John one of those sweet smiles John had never seen aimed at anyone but him.

"Hey," Rodney says, voice scratchy, before caressing John's hair off his forehead. He obviously hasn't noticed they aren't alone anymore, which is confirmed when he freezes as Jeannie speaks up.

"You could have told me, you know," she says, sounding hurt.

Rodney's eyes snap to her and John sits up, hoping it won't turn into a blame fest.

"We were supposed to tell you later, in fact," Rodney says, hands starting to fly with nervousness. John captures one and laces their fingers together, suddenly bold. He smiles at Jeannie, who has assumed the semi-defensive McKay stand.

"Rodney wanted to tell you as soon as we got here, but with Madison so excited about the couch, I made him wait," John says, trying to shield a part of the potential shit storm. Rodney relaxes against him and so does Jeannie. She smiles again, though this time it reaches her eyes.

"Honestly? I thought you guys would never act on your respective crushes," she says.

"What? You knew?" Rodney splutters. "How long have you known?"

"Let's say that when I went to Atlantis when you were sick with that thing in your head, there was very little room for interpretation," Jeannie says.

John hates to think about that period, he had felt so powerless. And then Rodney had gotten with Keller, which had been a blow.

"You liked me then?" Rodney says, turning to John. He looks hurt, for some reason. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"Obviously you were into Jennifer, so..." John says with a shrug, avoiding the first part of the question altogether.

Rodney shakes his head.

"I can't believe you," he says.

"Is that really important, now?" John asks, secretly begging Rodney to let it go. Sure, if he had known Rodney wanted him too he wouldn't have waited all those years to make a move. But what's done is done.

Diversion comes in the form of Madison and Caleb entering, covered in snow and cheeks bright red.

"Mom! Uncle Mer! John! Come see the angels!" she says before running back out. John gets up and pulls Rodney with him, not letting his hand go. Funny how he's never been one for holding hands before, but this time it feels like the thing to do.

**

It's been a really long time since John has done any kind of baking, but he gets right into it. He's happy to follow directions and mix the batter for the second batch of gingerbread men while Rodney's decorating the ones that have cooled a little with Madison. She's shrieking with laughter because Rodney keeps making voices for one of the cookies, who comment about his imminent demise and asks for mercy... before Rodney chomps his limbs one by one. Soon, it will be the head.

Jeannie had been a bit annoyed at first that more cookies were being eaten than finished, but she's now laughing along and offering shelter to poor gingerbread men in the cookie jar, away from the awful, terrible and no good Doctor Hungry.

The excitement dies down after a while and John brings Rodney a glass of milk when he demands one.

"Thank you," Rodney says, finally remembering his manners. He's grinning and relaxed, obviously pleased with himself at having made everyone laugh so much.

John doesn't resist the always present pull this time and he leans down for a quick kiss.

"You're welcome," he says while Rodney flushes, pleased as punch.

There's a tug at the hem of his t-shirt and John looks down to see Madison looking at him with her big blue eyes.

"Can I have a cousin? I've always wanted a cousin."

Rodney gapes and John smiles.

"Can't really promise you that, darling," John says, because the thought honestly never crossed his mind. He might be having a small freak out right now, too, but the rule is to never show fear or they are going to eat you.

"Gay couples can adopt, you know," Madison says with a serious nod. "You and Uncle Rodney would make the coolest dads ever."

And ain't that an ego boost? John ruffles her hair.

"That's sweet," he says.

"You think so?" Rodney asks, looking happily surprised. "That's flattering. But you know Madison, not to worry you or anything, but we have really dangerous jobs and..."

"Mer!" Jeannie cuts him with a warning glare, and immediately distracts Madison into delivering cookies to Caleb who's installing a new decoration on the front lawn. Jeannie goes with her daughter to get her dressed properly to go out.

Rodney's watching John with a speculative look, as if he sees now possibilities he had never considered before.

"What?" John says, suddenly uneasy. "Evaluating if I am father material?"

He knows that Rodney thinks he's taking too many risks on the job, even though he only does what has to be done. Not necessarily a quality when trying to find someone to raise kids with.

"Oh, I know you're great father material," Rodney says. "But do you even want kids? Should we have talked about this before? I have no idea if it was something we should have discussed."

There he goes, getting worked up all by himself. It's reassuring to know he's not the only one a bit freaked out and it makes John fall into the well know role of the calmer one. John puts a hand on Rodney's neck and kisses him softly again.

"I hadn't really thought about it, I don't know. Can't see it happening right now, but who knows?" John says.

It seems to be the right thing to say because Rodney relaxes.

"Yeah, okay. Sorry. She just totally took me by surprise there," Rodney says.

"I know. Me too. So?" John asks. "What about a game of Mastermind? I bet I can guess your colors in five tries or less."

Rodney squints.

"Oh, you are so on. You're going to crash and burn on this one, Sheppard, let me tell you that."

**

There is insistent pounding on the door and Rodney groans, before putting a pillow over his head.

"Come down, come down, Santa brought tons of gifts!" Madison says. The sound changes and it's like a horde of small elephants is thundering down the stairs.

"Rise and shine, Rodney," John says before yanking all of the covers away and throwing them off the bed. Rodney squawks and to make it better, John tackles him, throws away the pillow too and proceeds to kiss him thoroughly. When he's done, Rodney's not flailing anymore but has a death grip on John's arms. His eyes are dilated and John can feel him hard against his thigh.

"Screw Santa, I have everything I wished for right here," Rodney says.

"Now now, no screwing anyone right this moment. You wouldn't want to make your favorite niece wait for her presents, right?"

"Yes I would," Rodney says, petulant and trying to pull John closer. "With no remorse what so ever."

But there's the racket again, and more pounding.

"Uncle Roooodneyyyyyy, please please please!"

Rodney sighs deeply.

"Okay, okay, coming!" he yells, which produces hoots and yet more stampeding.

John grins.

"Coming, huh?"

Rodney cuffs him behind the head.

"Don't rub it in, smartass," he says, to which John wiggles his eyebrows and gets pushed away as Rodney gets up "Ha ha, you are so hilarious. See if I put out anytime soon."

"Liar," John says with confidence. "We find opportunity and you'll fold like a cheap suit."

Rodney shoulders slump in defeat.

"Well yes. I can't argue with that."

"Let's get going, then."

**

There are a whole lot of gifts under the tree and it takes a while to go through them all. Gifts and a large intake of coffee have put Rodney in a way better mood than he was earlier. Right now he's trying to explain to Madison all of the projects they could do with the K'NEX set (it's the big one with the double Ferris wheel. John knows it's not a coincidence).

John's received a real nice coat - black , fit for Canadian winters, with a collar of faux grey fur - and a framed collage consisting of a cute picture of him and Madison over a drawing of what must be him in a plane. When there's no more gifts for the Millers, Rodney gives John a little leather bag that he obviously got in Pegasus.

"I, huh, I don't know if you'll like it, but I did it myself," Rodney says, not daring to look him in the eyes.

Curious, John opens the pouch and it holds a round and flat stone from P3Z-493, the ones that shine blue when polished and this one is perfect, almost like a mirror. It's a bit bigger than a silver dollar, with a stylized skyline of Atlantis grooved into the surface. It's gorgeous in its simplicity but what makes John stare is the other side, which has the inscription "you + me, always" carved in. It's the most blatantly romantic thing Rodney has ever done and John is speechless. He looks up and Rodney is blushing, and then trusts a card at him.

"There, this too," he says and Rodney gets a little of his glee back, obviously excited by what's in it.

John caresses the stone with his thumb, brings it to his mouth to kiss it before he puts it back in the pouch, then drops it in his shirt pocket. It's fitting that it should be near his heart. Rodney beams at that, obviously relieved. John plans to tell him just how much he loves the stone later.

But there's the card, too, where Rodney has schematized a puddle jumper and then written - with Madison's red and green glitter pen - a big "+ 23 %". John blinks because that's... that's impossible.

"Forgot a comma, buddy?" he says.

"I've been working on this new system for months, and no. I do not forget commas," Rodney says, looking smug. "I did preliminary testing with Zelenka on jumper five the day before we left. It works, and more so it revolutionizes all we thought about the energetic conductivity of Sudolium. I wouldn't be surprised that in trying to soup up your babies I finally found my way to a Nobel."

"Wow," John breathes out.

That's all kinds of awesome. Twenty fucking three percent increase! The jumpers are going to buzz! He cannot wait to try them.

"And do you know what is even better?" Rodney says, looking like the cat that got the cream.

"It gets better than that?" John says.

"I think I can adapt the principle to the ZedPMs," he says, eyes sparkling.

"Holy shit."

Okay so right now, John wants nothing more than to jump Rodney's bones. His huge brain is such a turn on. It must show on John's face because Rodney blushes.

"Best presents ever, Rodney," John rasps out, making sure to stress the plural. His feel inadequate, now. "I wish I had something that good for you."

Rodney dismisses the thought with a hand wave.

"Please. You'll save my life with that, I might have thought a bit about myself while doing so."

No, no he didn't but John won't call him on it.

In terms of the number of separate gifts, John maybe went a bit overboard. On top of the video game, the comic book and the iPad - who does get a "ohhh, shiny!" reaction - John took a page out of Rodney's book and managed to coax a next day delivery from Think Geek, at astronomical fees, for an Star Trek Enterprise Pizza Cutter, little monkeys to hold cables together, an hilarious humping USB dog and a 'Science: it works, bitches' t-shirt. Rodney laughs at most and he seems overwhelmed at the sheer number of items.

But the real kicker, John has kept for last. He reaches under the couch and gets the envelope he got Fed-Exed, and gives it to Rodney, who frowns.

"What's this?" he asks, pulling out the little stack of legal documents John has coerced from his lawyer at the last minute. It's Rodney's name in all the right places: on the medical proxy, John's will, etc. All that's missing is a marriage license since John didn't dare, but nonetheless all of it will go through the official channels. It confirms Rodney as his life partner and with it there is no turning back.

He hopes Rodney sees it as John intends it to be: commitment and proof that he's the most important person in his life and that he has all of his trust. That John wants the brass to know about it. That he doesn't intend to hide anymore.

Rodney looks at the papers one after the other and when he looks up, John knows he does get it.

"Thank you."

He seems just as speechless as John has been a little earlier. He then grins at John and says:

"I was going to wait, but have you seen the awesome living quarters in Tower 33?"

**

Stepping out of the wormhole into Atlantis, especially if he's been away for a little while, always has a soothing effect on John. Not for the first time, John wonders if the old girl acts differently for him of it's just an impression that the lights shine a little brighter, as if she's saying hello and welcoming him back. What's for sure is that he can't help but smile, taking in her beauty and his people in the gate room. Woolsey nods at them from the ramp.

"All rested, I hope?" Woolsey asks with a little smile.

"Never been better," John says.

"What he said," Rodney agrees.

"Good, and welcome back!" Woolsey says and one of the newish members of the science team is already making a bee line for Rodney.

"Doctor McKay, we have a situation with the greenhouse's solar captors," he says.

Rodney frowns.

"What do you mean a situation?" Rodney says.

"They don't charge properly, and there have been variations in the power output in usage."

The scientist passes a tablet at Rodney, who is rapidly scanning the results and files.

"How long has it been going on?" Rodney asks.

"Five days, Doctor."

"Five days? And not one of you morons figured it out?" Rodney says.

"It was mostly under control, so Doctor Zelenka said it would be better not to interrupt your vacation."

"I'll speak with Zelenka about that. Now I need to go see this for myself," Rodney says, tapping a corner of the tablet.

He'd be on his way already if John didn't stop Rodney by grabbing his arm.

"Hey," John says.

Rodney looks at him with confusion, eighty percent of his brain presently occupied with the problem in the greenhouse.

But it won't do, leaving like that. John needs to put down the last of the blocks of this coming out thing he set in motion. He takes another step forward and uses his other hand to cup Rodney's face and puts a light kiss, not much more than a brief touch of lips, right on his mouth. He lets go immediately because the goal is not to make a big production out of this. Rodney's frozen in place, a little bit awed and the smile he gives John is worth it before he turns and goes to save the day once more.

There are maybe fifteen people in the gate room, from the technicians up at the consoles to the guards downstairs, but there's absolutely no reaction, save maybe a couple of smiles, as if it's business as usual.

So everyone had known, after all, John finally understands.

He's perfectly okay with that and he grins widely, suddenly weightless and already planning to go visit the quarters in Tower 33 after lunch.


The End
Tags: genre: slash, pairing: mckay/sheppard
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