For days, Rodney was miserable. He’d never been much good at talking about his feelings, but he’d never much cared for hiding them either, because life was generally more efficient if people knew what they were getting when they had to interact with him. Rodney had realized he was in love with John, witnessed John’s death, mourned him, witnessed his return, had glorious sex with him, and been rejected by him. Rodney was no expert in romantic comedies or romances in general, but he was pretty sure that chain of events entitled him to several days of misery, so miserable he was, storming around the labs, informing his staff in calm but cutting tones how incompetent they were, and scowling at anyone who dared to smile at him.
Teyla and Ford fled the room - Teyla politely and gracefully, Ford with a definite note of panic in his voice when he excused himself - whenever John and Rodney were in the same room. AR-1 hadn't been assigned for a new mission yet, not after the whole awful bug incident. Rodney wasn't sure he could stand to be in the same room with John for very long, not when John was all stiff politeness and deference and respect. Not when Rodney knew what John looked like calm, relaxed, happy, in Rodney's arms. Naked. In the throes of passion. During orgasm.
Those were things that, admittedly, gate team members weren't supposed to know about each other, but they were cut off from Earth, and they weren't a conventional gate team, not with Ford, Teyla, O'Neill, Rodney, and John all as one team. O'Neill had been making noise about giving Ford his own team since he was 2IC, and having the base commander and the 2IC on the same team was insane, but it was Pegasus and the Stargate Program. The program's entire premise was insane. Work with aliens.
Aliens who had stupid rules and ridiculous notions about interpersonal relationships.
Rodney couldn't stand the insincerity of John's politeness, knowing that what was behind it was not respect but distance, shutting him out. Rodney knew that ears were burning all across Atlantis for gossip about AR-1. No one knew what was going on, other than that it involved Rodney and John. The general consensus was that they were fighting over Teyla.
So Rodney avoided John and tried not to think about him, tried not to remember the softness of his kisses, his warmth and laughter and open sensuality in Rodney's bed.
Rodney was so twitchy with energy and tension that he actually went running. Running, to burn off the energy and hopefully get a good night's rest. He'd asked Ford about his running route, been blustery and defensive at Ford's skepticism, and then changed into sweats, a t-shirt, and sneakers, and started along the circuit Ford had described, that utilized a lot of Atlantis's balconies.
If he was going to exert himself into possible cardiac arrest, he wanted to have a nice view while he was doing it.
The seas of Lantea were endless, deep blue, stretching out to the horizon on all sides of the city. Maybe it was just Rodney's imagination getting the better of him, but he was pretty sure he'd never seen a blue like it on Earth.
He rounded a bend and prepared to return indoors for the second half of the running circuit, through some lesser-used halls, when he heard voices.
O'Neill. And John.
Rodney paused, listened.
"I get that I look about half your age," O'Neill said, "but the truth is, I'm old enough to be your father. And I've been in your shoes. Take a load off, son, and let's talk. I will tell you all the secrets of the universe that I've learned in my five decades and change. Gonna give 'em all away for free." He cleared his throat. "As much as it pains me to even discuss feelings, I know how you feel."
"Sir," John began. He sounded like every other soldier just then, tentative but deferential.
"I don't know if Ford explained this to you - oh, but this is almost worst than having the talk with impossibly virginal Marine privates - but in the American military, to which Ford and I belong, there's rule where men aren't allowed to have sex with men and women aren't allowed to have sex with women and if you do it, you shouldn't talk about it, and as long as you don't act suspicious, no one will ask about it." O'Neill sighed again; he sounded pained.
"Master isn't part of your military."
"That's right. He's a civilian, and a Canadian to boot. Totally destroys all those stereotypes about polite Canadians, by the way, which - never mind. What I'm saying is that I get where you're coming from. You, as a Jedi, have some rules about your interpersonal relationships, which were probably originally developed to maintain cohesion in the ranks and promote some kind of philosophy you espouse, am I right?"
"A Jedi must serve the greater good of the galaxy," John said cautiously.
"Right. And theoretically, never falling in love makes you better at that." O'Neill sounded almost as skeptical of the notion as Rodney felt.
Rodney realized he was eavesdropping, which was incredibly rude, but he'd never been one of those passively-aggressively polite Canadians anyway. So he settled in to listen.
"Here's the thing, though. You only live once. Which, admittedly, is a terrible cliche - and you know how I am about cliches; okay, maybe you don't - and Ascending and De-Ascending might seem more like living once, but really, in the end you get what anybody gets, you get a lifetime. And this lifetime is too short - ten thousand year naps aside - for you to go obeying stupid rules for the sake of obeying them."
"Strong emotions, dangerous attachments create disturbances in The Force," John said. "Romance can turn a good Jedi to the Dark side."
"Right. The Dark Side. A little romance never -"
"My previous master's father fell in love with a woman, in violation of the Jedi Code. He turned to the Dark Side and joined the Sith, who formed an empire that oppressed most of the galaxy."
O'Neill made an indecipherable noise. "That sounds pretty bad."
"They built a weapon that could destroy an entire planet in a single shot."
"Big Honkin' Space Guns." O'Neill sounded dreamy for a moment. "I mean - look, you're the last of your kind. And I doubt there are any more Sith around. If you love Rodney, denying yourself for principles that no longer matter doesn't help anyone - not you, not Rodney, and certainly not the other Jedi who no longer exist."
"If I am the last Jedi, I must -"
"What, remain pure? No, you need to adjust to the new times. You've been asleep for ten thousand years. You're not fighting the Sith, now, you're fighting the Wraith."
"The Sith created the Wraith."
"Maybe. No one knows for sure." O'Neill cleared his throat. "We're getting distracted. I'm going to tell you a secret, remember? I've been in your shoes. I've been that soldier, trying to uphold the ideals of my organization, for good or ill. And I've been in love with a scientist of maddening proportions - brilliant, opinionated, stubborn. Incredible blue eyes."
"You were in love with Rodney?"
"No, not McKay. A different scientist."
Rodney would be hard-pressed to call an archaeologist a scientist, but he kept his comments to himself.
"You're not with this scientist."
"Well, I was abiding by those stupid rules. And also it wasn't actually me, it was the original version of me, because I'm a clone. But if I could be, I would. I'd be with that scientist in a heartbeat. Because this job is insane, and we're facing overwhelming odds, and if we're going to slog through this misery and danger day in, day out, we shouldn't do it alone."
"I have a team. I have friends." John paused. "Five decades, you said? You went alone for so long? How long did you know this scientist?"
"A decade," O'Neill said. "And before him I had a family. A wife. A child."
"He died. She and I drifted apart."
Rodney blinked. He'd never known O'Neill was once married, let alone that he'd had a child.
"That is a secret, isn't it?" John said in a low voice.
"Yeah. I've been in love before, and resisting it is like spitting into the wind. Pointless, and it always comes back to hit you in the face. Nothing is stopping you from loving Rodney other than you. I had the entire military-industrial complex in my way before I was cloned, and after - well. Now I have a galaxy and another lifetime in my way."
"Rodney's pretty mad at me right now."
"Yeah, he is, and understandably. But you're not at a place where you can't fix it. Not yet. Don't let it get to that place."
John sighed. "I never - I don't know how to...court. I was never permitted - not with women or with men."
"Oh, hell," O'Neill said with feeling. "It's like the virginal Marines all over again."
"Not a virgin," John said wryly.
"You've got a leg up on a lot of other guys. You already know McKay likes you. Go apologize. Be prepared to grovel and sleep on the couch."
"Never mind. Explain to Rodney how you feel, say sorry for being stupid, and promise you'll always protect him, you'll never let him go, that you will spend all your days from here on out doing your best to make him happy."
The sincerity and the pain in O'Neill's voice was terribly unexpected. As far as Rodney had always been concerned, O'Neill had two modes: Soldiering and Sarcastic. Rodney knew the secret he and John were being given was this: O'Neill's capacity to feel, and deeply.
"Would you have said that, to your scientist?"
"In a heartbeat."
"And what would he say, do you think?"
"'Regs, Jack. And - you're not really him. And you just look so young. I can't. I'm sorry.' So now I'm wearing this uniform again."
"Again?" John echoed.
"I had a chance to leave. I didn't take it, because there was no point. So I'm here." O'Neill's nonchalance was almost believable.
"You think Rodney will forgive me?"
"Not if you wait forever."
"But I -" John began.
"Don't wait any longer," O'Neill said. "Seriously. Don't make me lock you in a closet, rom-com style."
"Yes, sir." John sounded amused.
"Indeed," John said, and O'Neill burst out laughing.
Rodney flattened himself against the wall instinctively when he heard footsteps, but he didn't see John, who must have gone the other way. Rodney counted to twenty, then straightened up, took a deep breath, and stepped into the hallway.
"Don't say I never did anything for you," O'Neill said from behind him, and Rodney let out a cry.
"Easy, Doc. Don't have a heart attack." O'Neill clapped Rodney on the shoulder, the gesture friendly, but he caught Rodney's gaze and held it. "Don't hurt him. I know he hurt you, but - don't hurt him."
Rodney nodded. "I won't. And - thanks, O'Neill."
"And now you know all my secrets," O'Neill said gravely. "Don't have any more to give away." He jammed his hands into his pockets and strode away whistling, the picture of insouciance.
Rodney tapped his radio. "Control, get me a twenty on John Sheppard."