Pairing: John/Rodney, implied Rodney/Ronon
Notes: Many thanks to my betas, jessifanfic and munchkinofdoom. All remaining mistakes are mine alone.
Summary: He might not know much about the Satedan way of life but he knew courting when he saw it.
"It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head."
- Sally Kempton
At first John didn't even notice the difference--it was subtle and barely there and Rodney, being as oblivious as he was about anything non-scientific, of course, completely failed to notice. But it was there and John narrowed his eyes when he saw it, really saw it, for the first time.
Ronon had joined the team close to two months ago. He was strong, near-silent, but smart in his own right. He actually fit the team quite well. And John was glad to have someone else who easily obeyed orders, because Rodney took more energy than John could divide whenever he got it in his head that one of John's orders was more or less a suggestion he was free to ignore.
John knew that at first Rodney thought he had been nuts for adding Ronon to the team and had expressed it in very loud and overly complicated indignant arguments that usually ended with John rolling his eyes before walking away. And if he smiled at the sputtering behind him, Rodney didn't need to know.
Then something shifted. Rodney began to impart what he conceived as 'words of wisdom' to Ronon--citing his extensive off-world experience. The fact that Ronon had spent the last seven years surviving purely on his own seemed to be neither here nor there.
For his part, Ronon just seemed amused by McKay. He'd grunt out a response, or stay completely silent, just staring intently at Rodney, which usually ended up making Rodney stutter and flush, eyes widening with each passing moment of quiet. Rodney didn't do quiet well and Ronon's silence more often than not left him flustered and a little panicked. John figured Rodney hadn't quite decided if Ronon was friend or foe yet.
Mostly John just found the whole thing funny. But then the shift happened. Ronon smirked at Rodney more, voice rumbling quietly in response to Rodney's rants. And then Rodney started smiling back, tentatively at first, but it was there and it left a distinctly unpleasant taste in John's mouth.
The day Ronon pushed his pudding toward Rodney, shrugging at Rodney's confusion, John's stomach tightened. He might not know much about the Satedan way of life but he knew courting when he saw it. And how fucked up was it that Ronon--Ronon Dex, was courting one sarcastic, acerbic, pain-in-the-ass, Rodney McKay? But there it was, plain as the nose on John's face.
And for all intents and purposes it seemed that Rodney was receptive to the big, burly man's intentions; which just made John more certain it needed to be stopped. If anyone was going to be getting Rodney McKay's affection, attention, or anything else, it would be John Sheppard. He'd spent over a year flirting with the man, and no man-ape, no matter how skilled a fighter, or how attractive he was (okay, okay--no matter how hot), was about to snatch Rodney out from under John. Especially since John hadn't yet gotten Rodney, well--under him.
So John set out with a plan to woo Rodney away from Ronon before Ronon had the chance to actually have Rodney. Slinking into the lab, propping himself beside the scientist, John grinned. “Hey, McKay."
“Colonel," Rodney responded, not even looking up from his laptop. Well that wouldn't do.
John slid a little closer, bumping his shoulder into Rodney's, causing the man to blink up at him, mouth turned down in confusion. “Is there something you wanted?"
John shrugged nonchalantly, smirking at Rodney while twirling a piece of ancient tech he'd snatched from Rodney's desk between his fingers. Rodney grabbed the device, huffing impatiently. “I actually have work to do, Colonel, so if there's nothing else…?" Rodney trailed off, eyebrows raised in expectation of John's departure.
Crossing his arms under him, John didn't move from his slouch against Rodney's desk. “The Daedelus brought some new movies--figured you could use a break. I got more popcorn," John waggled his eyebrows enticingly.
Rodney frowned for a moment before nodding, waving his hand in a shooing motion towards the door. “Yes, yes, okay--can I get back to work now?"
John pushed away from the desk, practically bouncing on the balls of his feet, hands in his pocket, grinning like the Cheshire cat. “Eight o'clock?"
Rodney mumbled something, nodding as he turned his attention back to the screen. John's grin widened and he clapped Rodney on the shoulder before sauntering from the room, a spring in his own step that he absolutely ignored.
Later that night, John had set up his laptop, a bowl of popcorn off to the side, and glanced around his room to see everything was in order. He nodded to himself before checking his watch; Rodney would be here any minute. John debated whether he should stretch out invitingly on the bed, deciding against it at the last moment, thinking he didn't want to scare Rodney off.
When his door chimed, he gave his hair one last look before mentally opening the door, a smile wide on his face when he saw Rodney standing in the doorway. His good mood quickly dissipated though when he saw Ronon and Teyla follow Rodney in.
“I saw Ronon and Teyla at supper," Rodney explained, walking towards the popcorn. “It boggles the mind, but Ronon's actually managed to go the entire four months he's been here without actually seeing a movie," Rodney said through a mouthful of popcorn. “And since we haven't had time to have a team night in a while," he shrugged as if that explained everything.
Teyla smiled cautiously at John, seeing his frown. “If we have interrupted," she began and John shook his head, schooling his features into a familiar grin.
“Not at all," he said, waving a hand towards the couch in the 'living room' area of his bedroom. “Sit down, I'll grab the movie." Teyla perched on one end of the couch, Rodney beside her. Ronon took up almost the rest of the available room, still pressed much too close to Rodney for John's liking.
When he'd sat the laptop on a table so everyone could see, John squished himself between Rodney and Ronon, ignoring the quiet growl from the Satedan and the curious look from Rodney. Snagging the bowl of popcorn from Rodney's hands, John studiously kept his eyes on the screen.
Halfway through the movie, he felt Ronon shift on the couch, his large arm sliding along the back. When Rodney shivered beside him, John's jaw clenched, his back stiffening. From the corner of his eye he could see Ronon's fingers, slowly tracing along the skin above Rodney's collar.
Clearing his throat, John asked, eyes still on the screen, “You cold, McKay?"
“No, no…" Rodney's voice was higher than normal, “…fine--I'm fine."
John heard Ronon give an amused grunt beside him, but he moved his arm, which was all John cared about. The rest of the movie passed awkwardly as John sat stiffly between Ronon and Rodney. When it was over, Teyla stood gracefully, thanked John and excused herself to head to bed.
John, Rodney and Ronon were all still sitting on John's couch, still sitting very close together. Rodney stood uncomfortably, waving a hand around as he rambled about the movie, the popcorn, pretty much anything his brain supplied was coming out of Rodney's mouth. Ronon stood, stretching, grinning when Rodney's eyes strayed to the slip of exposed skin at his belly; John's hands clenched into fists at his side.
“Well, I better," Rodney gestured to the door, “get back to the lab; make sure no one has accidentally blown it up." He smiled at John, a quirk of his lips that caused a shot of lust to course through John's body, landing low in his belly. “Thank you for the movie, Colonel."
Ronon nodded beside Rodney, “It was--interesting," he said to John with a tilt of his head. Then he turned to Rodney, “I'll walk back with you…" The intention was clear and Rodney flushed, nodding his head hastily and stepping to the door.
“Actually," John said quickly, jumping up from the couch, “could you stay for a few minutes, Rodney? I need to discuss something with you." John tried not to let the look of annoyance on Ronon's face, or the look of disappointment on Rodney's, sway him.
“Uh," Rodney looked from John to Ronon and back again, “sure, uh yeah, I guess the lab can wait for a few minutes?" His voice rose, making it sound like a question as his eyes cut to Ronon again. With a barely perceptible nod, Ronon walked to the door, grunting out a goodbye and leaving Rodney alone with John.
John licked his lips; now that they were alone he wasn't sure what to say. He'd just wanted to stop Rodney from going off with Ronon, especially since the Satedan had been looking at Rodney like he was pudding and cake and chocolate all rolled into one. Rodney stood, looking at him with an irritated air of impatience. John took a deep breath. “You can't have sex with Ronon." Jesus--that wasn't what he'd meant to say. He winced, mentally slapping himself on the forehead. What the hell was wrong with him?
Rodney's eyes widened, his face flushing as he stuttered out a denial before dropping his eyes to the floor. John bit his lip. Okay, this was really not at all going like he'd planned. Just as he was about to explain to Rodney that that wasn't exactly what he'd meant, Rodney's head shot up, eyes narrowed. Shit.
“I appreciate that your military has certain--rules and regulations, Colonel," Rodney bit out, his voice cold and hard. “However, I am not in your military, not from your country and sure as hell don't need your permission to sleep with whomever I choose."
“Rodney," John began, but Rodney cut him off quickly.
He crossed his arms, mouth turned down in an unhappy scowl. “I actually expected better of you, Colonel. I never took you for a homophobic grunt," he shook his head sadly, and John could see the disappointment in his eyes. “Who I choose to sleep with isn't your concern, Colonel, and I'd appreciate it if you stayed out of my business." With that, Rodney turned on his heel and stormed from John's room.
John ran his hands through his hair, tugging at the wild tufts with a muttered, “Fuck," before he followed Rodney out the door.
It didn't take a genius to figure out Rodney wouldn't be in his lab, but John couldn't bring himself to go to Ronon's room, or Rodney's for that matter. He walked quickly, hands clenched inside his pockets, towards the lab, trying to appear like he was simply out for a stroll through the halls of Atlantis. When he glanced into the lab to find it predictably empty the knot in his stomach grew. John's jealousy had screwed everything up; Rodney thought he was fucking homophobic, he didn't have a clue about John's real intentions. Ronon probably just thought he was being an asshole and Rodney would no doubt fill the Satedan in on all the perceived flaws Rodney saw in John and his behavior. Right before they had sex. John felt sick.
He'd never really expected that he'd end up being his own worst enemy. Who the hell needed competition when John was more than able to fuck things up all on his own?
He avoided the section of quarters that held Rodney's room, and the one that held Ronon's, instead he wandered into one of the less used sections of Atlantis, finding a lone balcony with a view that stretched as far as the eye could see--not that all of the balconies on Atlantis didn't hold the same view. Stepping into the cool night air, John grabbed the railing, shoulders hunched, eyes closed. He'd blown his chance--Rodney and Ronon were probably already naked and…
Shaking his head to try and banish the image of his two friends together, John raised his head, staring at the stars. With a bone weary sigh, he wrapped his arms around his chest, pushing his feelings for Rodney into a tiny box inside himself. He could do this. He could pretend to be perfectly okay with Rodney and Ronon as a--he swallowed hard--a couple. Prove to Rodney he wasn't homophobic--maybe in the process hang onto the best friendship he'd ever had.
“So, apparently I might have been wrong about your homophobic freak-out."
John spun, heart beating wildly as Rodney stepped from the shadows onto the balcony.
“Rodney," John cursed his voice for squeaking.
Rodney's arms were crossed over his chest, life-sign detector in his hand, head tilted to the side as his mouth quirked into an amused grin.
John leaned a hip against the railing, clearing his throat, “Where's Ronon?"
Rodney looked embarrassed for a moment, leaning his own hip against the railing, still a half dozen steps away from John, before answering, “Uh--probably picturing both our faces on a punching bag at the moment." Rodney's mouth curled on the right side as he shrugged his shoulders, “I might have left on an inconvenient note."
John's eyebrows rose.
Rodney looked flustered. “It's not my fault!" His hands began an impatient dance, flailing as he said in a fast, clipped voice. “We were, well--anyway, Ronon kind of mentioned you were acting a little…" another wave of his hand, color high on Rodney's cheeks, “uh--well his exact words were you were being a jealous, cock-blocking asshole--which convinces me he's spending far too much time with the marines." He laughed a little too high, wrapping his arms around himself again.
John choked a little, feeling his own face begin to heat. “I…"
“I tried to explain," Rodney continued, ignoring John in favor of looking at the floor. “I've been--well, I never thought you were--and when Ronon said you were…" Rodney cleared his voice, taking a deep breath and hitching his chin up a few notches as he stared at John. “Are you?"
John, by this point totally overwhelmed, just stared at Rodney, his mouth open and dry, his heart pounding so loud in his ears it was the only thing he could hear. “Uh--am I…?"
Rodney looked even more uncertain as he tilted his head before he smiled a little sadly, nodding more to himself than John. “That's what I thought."
But when Rodney turned towards the door and John realized he was about to walk away he sprung into action, moving swiftly, grabbing Rodney's arm. Before Rodney could even so much as blink, John pressed their mouths together, hard and desperate.
When he realized that Rodney wasn't actually kissing him back, John's stomach dropped. He pulled back like he'd been burnt, taking a step back, swallowing thickly at the shock on Rodney's face. And then Rodney was moving, pressing him back against the wall, hands buried in John's hair as he kissed him like he needed the very air in John's lungs to survive.
John definitely did not whimper when one of Rodney's legs slipped between his own, but his fingers clenched in the back of Rodney's shirt, pulling him closer, chasing his tongue back into the warm recesses of Rodney's mouth. When they finally broke apart for air, John buried his face in Rodney's neck, breathing in his scent, feeling the rapid-fire beat of Rodney's heart against his lips where they were pressed to the pulse point in Rodney's throat.
“So I might have been a bit of a jealous, cock-blocking asshole," John murmured, grinning at the vibrations of Rodney's laugh.
Rodney tilted his head, pressing his lips to John's temple, smiling as he mumbled, “But you're my jealous, cock-blocking asshole."
John couldn't really argue with that.