Thank you to djaddict for beta duties!
So, this is a 3400+ word tag following the series finale, Enemy at the Gate - and it's also a fixit for those of us who somehow didn't buy the McKeller.
WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY
John got up from his bed when the door buzzer sounded. He opened it and there stood Rodney, in civilian clothes.
“Boat’s here. You coming into town? San Francisco!” Rodney was very nearly doing a happy dance.
“Nah, I’m just going to relax here.” John climbed back onto his bed and picked up his book.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Rodney said, peering at the book. “Is that still War and Peace?”
“Yeah, it’s just starting to get good.”
“Well, I should hope so; it looks like you’re on about page 700.”
“You have a nice time.”
“No, no. You have to come with.”
“I told you, I’m relaxing.”
“We’re all relaxing. First time in years we’ve all been able to relax. Sightseeing is very relaxing.” Rodney waved his arms.
“No, thanks. You go on ahead.”
“I really wanted… you should really come.”
“You’re taking Jennifer with you, right?”
“I’ll pass on being the third wheel, then.”
“You would not be the third wheel. That’s the stupidest… anyway Zelenka’s coming with us.”
“You, Jennifer and Radek? That’s almost impossible to resist, but yet here I am. Resisting.” John smirked.
Rodney shifted from foot to foot, frowning. “You sure? It’s gonna be fun.”
“I hope it is. Maybe next trip.”
Rodney shrugged and left. The door closed behind him. John picked up his book.
Thirty seconds later the buzzer buzzed. John sighed, replaced his bookmark, and said, “Yes?” while ‘thinking’ the door open.
Rodney stepped into the room. The door closed behind him. “Are you mad at me?”
“Not at the moment, no,” John answered calmly.
Rodney came over to the bed, hovered for a second and then sat down on the edge. “Nothing’s changed.”
John raised his eyebrows.
“Well, yes, yes, obviously some things have changed. But not… I mean basically… we’re still friends, right?”
“Sure. If that’s what we were before, we still are.”
Rodney bit his lip. “Well, we were, weren’t we?”
John decided to relent. “Yes, Rodney, we were friends. And we still are.”
“I mean, we used to be ‘best friends with benefits’, but aside from that….”
“If we’re going to start quoting pop song lyrics at each other this could get ugly in a hurry. And that would be ironic, doncha think?”
Rodney glared at him briefly and then looked unhappy. “Are you… jealous?”
“Am… no, Rodney. I am not jealous. I’m very happy for you. I want you to be happy, and I’m delighted that you are.”
“I know I’m not around as much anymore.”
“I didn’t expect you to be. Rodney, give yourself a break, okay? I’m not hurt or offended or jealous. Now, off you go and have a good time.”
“It just would be better if you were there.” Rodney frowned and looked at the floor.
“Well, like I said, maybe next time. Go. Don’t keep the others waiting.” John gave Rodney a gentle shove.
“Yeah, okay. Going now.” Rodney stood up and shuffled slowly toward the door, head hanging dejectedly.
John snorted. “I’m not changing my mind, so cut that out.”
Rodney gave John an unrepentant grin as he turned in the doorway. “It was worth a try.”
The door slid shut and John picked up his book again and then put it down in disgust. Damn McKay anyway for bringing up things that would have been better left undiscussed. It didn’t matter what had been between the two of them in the past. For Rodney, he had never been anything but a convenient stopgap.
No, that was unfair. Rodney hadn’t been using him. Rodney had just always wanted something different. Something with boobs and long hair and a pretty face. Katie hadn’t been the right one. Rodney had actually spent as much time with John as ever while he was dating Katie. They’d even had sex a few times, after particularly rough missions, when Rodney said that Katie just wouldn’t understand. John had always made sure first that Rodney knew exactly what he was doing and understood that John wasn’t going to put up with any crap when and if Rodney suddenly sprouted a guilty conscience. John’s own conscience had been clear. Katie wasn’t the one.
So the sight of an engagement ring had shocked John totally. The tiny size of it had been pretty shocking, too, but that was Rodney for you. John hadn’t been surprised when a despondent Rodney came to him later, confused and inconsolable, at least according to him. In actuality, a few beers out at their favorite spot on the pier and one tiny, ill-considered ring cast out to become fish food, and Rodney had been totally in the mood to be consoled.
John remembered being stupidly happy. He should have known there would be another woman down the road. ‘Best friends with benefits’, yeah. That was all that there would ever be for him and Rodney, and of course that would have to come to an end, too, one day.
Had to. And it had.
His door buzzed again. Rodney again.
“I know, I know. Don’t look at me that way. I’m not here to try to change your mind.”
“The boat’s going to leave without you.”
“It already has. Jennifer and Radek hooked up with Lorne and Parrish, so they’re fine without me.”
“Don’t tell me you were feeling left out?”
“What? No. Of course not. No, I mean once I saw that they’d be all set I… I wanted to come back here.” Rodney looked at John anxiously.
“Why?” John asked cautiously.
“To talk. If you have the time, of course.”
“Don’t be an idiot.”
“Well, I can understand how War and Peace might sound like a better proposition than listening to me moan.”
John frowned. “Come here. Sit down. Now what’s all this about moaning? I didn’t realize you had anything worth moaning about.”
“Well, I’m realizing that having a girlfriend sometimes has its drawbacks.” Rodney sighed dramatically, and John grinned.
“Tell the divorced guy something he doesn’t already know.”
Rodney scrunched up his face and looked at John. “Jennifer can be a bit of a nag, actually.”
John wagged his head from side to side. “I don’t want to make a generalization about women here. Let’s just say you’re not surprising me. You wanna talk about what she’s nagging about?”
“Hmm? No. I’m just moaning about it. I mean, it’s not like I don’t realize that I maybe have one or two shortcomings. You know. Stuff I’m working on.”
“Sure,” John said gently, biting back a laugh. “Well, she’s just trying to be helpful, I’m sure.”
“It’s annoying,” Rodney grumbled.
“It’s probably not going to change,” John warned.
“Yeah, so I should just get used to it. I know.”
“Well, Rodney, no, what I meant….”
“You know what the worst part is?”
“I suddenly realized this the other day, and it’s been kind of freaking me out ever since.” Rodney’s eyes got big.
“I realized that Jennifer reminds me of someone, when she gets all bossy and naggy.”
“‘Naggy’? Is that even a word?”
“That’s beside the point. Do you want to know who she reminds me of, or don’t you?”
“I do.” John set his face into sympathetic lines.
“Jeannie. She reminds me of my sister. How warped is that?” Rodney looked at John as if he was bracing himself for his reaction.
“Oh, hey. Don’t worry about that. I actually remember reading about that in a psychology class I took. People tend to hook up with people who remind them of family members.”
“No, it isn’t disgusting. It isn’t about sex, it’s about familiarity and….”
“Don’t fool yourself. Everything’s about sex.”
John rolled his eyes and sighed loudly. “Okay, if you want to read something deep and Freudian into it, knock yourself out. What I’m telling you is that it’s perfectly natural and normal. Which is quite an achievement for you.”
“Oh, ha ha. Thanks for your support, Sheppard.”
John patted Rodney’s arm. “You’re welcome, buddy. Any time.”
“Well, even if you’re right, it still isn’t fair that I have a naggy sister. If Jeannie were all sweet I’d be set for life.” Rodney looked wistful.
“Or have a harder time attracting someone so gosh darned wonderful.”
“Well, there is that,” Rodney acknowledged after thinking about it for a second. “I’m not saying that Jennifer isn’t sweet when she wa… really sweet. She totally is.”
“That’s nice,” John said lamely.
“But when you factor in all the other things… I think I’m probably just having a hard time adjusting, don’t you think that’s it? I mean, I’ll probably get used to everything after a while.”
“Does ‘everything’ mean that there’s more than bossiness and nagging going on here?”
“Well….” Rodney made a reluctant face.
“Hey, you don’t have to answer that,” John said quickly. “I’m not trying to pry.”
“Oh, no, it’s not that. I’m just not all that comfortable, you know, kind of talking behind her back about… stuff.”
“We’re guys, Rodney. We talk behind women’s backs all the time. Good stuff and not so good stuff. You know damn well they do the same thing. On the other hand, if this is about your sex life, I’m not sure I’m ready to have that conversation.”
“What? No.” Rodney flapped a hand. “That’s all fine.”
“Okay,” John said. “Good. Good. Because that’s frankly too much information right there.”
“What is wrong with you?” Rodney asked, shaking his head.
“Let’s just get back to Jennifer, shall we?”
“Right. Well.” Rodney leaned closer and lowered his voice. “Don’t you think Jennifer’s kind of… whiny? I mean, sure, nobody can help the voice they’re born with… well, I suppose that’s not true. I mean, singers take voice lessons, and probably those could help anyone who wanted to improve their… tonality and pitch and… she’s really got a whiny voice.”
“Well,” John said judiciously, “it’s sort of cute in a way. I mean it’s not like it’s aggravating or anything. It’s not unpleasant.”
“Well, you don’t have to listen to it as much as I do. It can get a little annoying after a while, let me tell you!”
“Sure,” John placated, “that’s understandable.”
“It depends on what she’s talking about I suppose,” Rodney mused. “I mean, if she’s going on and on about her work….”
“That’s when it gets annoying.” John nodded.
“No, actually that’s when my mind sort of wanders and I kind of tune her out a little, so that’s not really annoying at all.”
“She’s very extremely whiny though when she’s nagging me.”
“Kind of goes without saying,” John empathized.
“And then sometimes she gets really, really, really whiny when she talks about things that kind of scare her. You know, I don’t really think she belonged in the Pegasus Galaxy. Too much weird shit, you know? She’s really not that brave when you come right down to it.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I think she improved, don’t you? She was doing a whole lot better. Hell, she wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in a room with Todd when she was new.”
“Todd scares her to death! She just learned to maybe cover it up better. But you should hear her whining on about him.”
“I’d rather not, thanks anyway. But I really think you’re selling her short. I mean, look, I remember a certain scientist who was new to the Pegasus Galaxy about five years ago. And quite frankly I wouldn’t have expected him to last very long, but today I’d trust him with my life any….”
“Oh, my God!” Rodney looked thunderstruck.
“This, this is worse than I thought. Much, much… I am the most sick, twisted….” Horror was dawning on his face.
“You know why Jennifer reminds me of Jeannie?” Rodney clutched at John with a trembling hand. “Because Jeannie reminds me of me. Oh. Oh! Jennifer is me! Whiny, scairdy cat, bossy me! I’m… I’m… I think I may be having a heart attack.”
“You’re not having a heart attack,” John said forcefully. “I’m not going to allow you to have a heart attack in my quarters, you got that?”
“I’ve been sleeping with myself!” Sweat stood out on Rodney’s forehead. “I’ve fallen in love with… oh, God!”
“Lie down,” John said. He pushed at Rodney’s shoulders until he was flat on his back with his feet still on the floor, then leaned down on one elbow beside him. “First off, you’ve always been in love with yourself.”
“Most of us are. Well, except for the ones who hate themselves, and I’d rather have you this way, flaws and shortcomings and all.”
“Except now we’re finding out what my greatest shortcoming is. I’m an idiot, a narcissistic idiot who shouldn’t be trusted out in public among normal people who don’t go around screwing themselves.”
“Calm down, would ya?” John used a corner of sheet to blot at Rodney’s damp forehead. “Sometimes opposites attract; sometimes it works out the other way. This isn’t something to panic about.”
“Well, no, not for you! What the hell else am I supposed to do besides panic? I’ve been completely misleading myself, and her… oh, God, what am I going to say to her?” Tears sprang to Rodney’s eyes.
“Are you sure you want to tell her anything? I mean… I… Rodney?”
“What?” Rodney said hopelessly.
“Are you saying…?”
“Saying it’s over? Yes.” Rodney closed his eyes and moaned piteously. A tear squeezed out the corner of one eye and slid towards his ear.
John patted his shoulder. “Don’t rush this decision. Give it a few days. Get a better perspective on it all. I mean, it’s kind of hitting you hard right now, but….”
“Oh, it’s over,” Rodney declared. “I can’t even imagine touching her now. Kissing her? It’s unimaginable.”
“You said that already,” John muttered.
“I’m doomed.” Rodney opened his eyes and blinked and two more tears escaped. “I am doomed to be alone forever. I am never going to be able to approach a woman again for fear of what warped… thing is going on inside my brain. What if her fingernails remind me of my mother? What if her breath reminds me of my father? What if she’s allergic to citrus?”
“What do you want?”
“I want you to turn off your brain for a minute. You’re just working yourself up here.”
“I think the problem is that my brain was turned off. How could I have missed this?”
“Rodney, listen. I’m not saying you’re overreacting….”
“Well, maybe a little bit. Listen, I don’t think you’re particularly warped or blind or idiotic. I really doubt that anyone would have seen what was happening. Maybe it’s a good thing that you recognized it now instead of down the road. And I think there could still be a ‘down the road’ if you’ll just calm down and give this some time. Do you think you can do that?”
“Not ‘particularly’ warped?”
“For crying out loud, Rodney, did you hear a word I just said?”
“Yes, I absolutely heard the part where you apparently think I’m maybe only a little warped and blind and idiotic and all that other stuff. That’s… that’s really heartening to know, you know? Here I am, struggling to come to grips with the mental instability that has apparently been creeping up on me, unbeknownst, and leading me down the garden path and up the creek without a paddle….”
“Only slightly warped,” John said, smacking Rodney on the head.
“Ow!” Rodney gave him an outraged look. “What, now you’re hitting me? While I’m in the midst of the worst suffering imaginable, you think this is a good time to attack me?”
“If it will shut you up, yes!” John took a deep breath, grabbed hold of Rodney’s chin and swooped down for a kiss. Rodney mumbled something against John’s lips and punched his shoulder weakly, and then gave in completely and spectacularly.
Eventually, John forced himself to pull away. He ran a hand through his hair, combing it more or less back into place from where Rodney’s hands had mussed it, and took a few deep breaths, trying to rein in his galloping hopes.
“What was that for?” Rodney asked very quietly.
“To shut you up, of course.” John reached down and stroked Rodney’s cheek tenderly.
“Is this you consoling me or something? For my great loss and essential warpedness?”
“Is that a word?” John smiled.
“Probably not. Who cares?” Rodney chewed on his kiss-reddened upper lip for a moment.
John stroked his cheek again.
“My incredible warpedness doesn’t bother you?”
“It’s one of my favorite things about you,” John said with a smile.
“Seriously?” Rodney’s eyes lit up.
“Yes, seriously. You’ve got a lot of good points, Rodney. And some of your, shall we say, less stellar qualities are exactly the things that make me love you.”
“You’re just trying… wait a minute. Did you hear what you just said?” Rodney stared up at him, mouth open.
“The important question is, did you hear it?”
“Well, I think I might have, but my sanity has very recently been called into question, so….”
“So you’d like to hear it again?”
“You wouldn’t mind? Just to be sure? I mean, it wouldn’t be whiny and bossy of me if I asked you to please…?”
“I love you. I did all along. And, you know, you don’t really have to worry about being doomed to be alone. If somebody like me could, maybe, be somebody you could love a little bit, that is.”
“Mister Modesty! I like this side of you.” All doubt had left Rodney’s eyes.
“Um, very much?”
John sat up, biting his lip, and looked out the window.
“Much more than I’ve ever liked anyone else, ever? Did I mention ‘ever’?”
John looked down at Rodney. “If you don’t want to say it, or if you can’t honestly say it, that’s okay. But I’m not in the mood to be teased right this very second.”
“Oh, but hey! Isn’t it great that I’m in the mood to actually do some teasing? I think maybe that word you used must have done the trick.” Rodney sat up next to John and put an arm around him. “It’s a great word. Really.” His hand squeezed John’s shoulder.
“Not always easy to say, though, apparently,” John nudged, feeling his hopes rising again.
Rodney’s other hand was fidgeting in his lap. “It’s practically on the tip of my tongue.”
John turned to him and searched his face. “Seriously?”
“Well, I suppose that’ll have to do for now.” John tried to sound casual, but a warm glow was spreading through his chest.
“Or, you know, you could maybe try to kiss it out of me?” Rodney beamed at John hopefully.
“I don’t know,” John mused. “All that kissing might lead to other stuff. I think maybe we should wait awhile. Give you more time to make sure that….”
Next second John was flat on his back and Rodney was plastered on top of him.
“I don’t need any time to think. Not when…” he outlined the corner of John’s mouth with a finger and then ran his thumb over an eyebrow. “Not when this feels so right.”
“It always felt right to me,” John confessed, putting his arms around Rodney, where they belonged.
“Well, why didn’t you ever say anything? You moron.” Only Rodney could make an insult sound like an endearment.
“Because you would have run for the hills.”
“There weren’t any hills around.”
“Metaphorical hills. Metaphorical running.” John stroked Rodney’s back.
“Scairdy cat McKay, always ready to run?”
“No. You’ve changed.” John swallowed. “You were always braver than you realized. And now you’re braver than anyone realizes, except maybe me.”
“Me? I am?” Rodney smiled radiantly down on John.
“Yeah, but don’t go getting a swelled head about it.”
“You mean ‘swelleder’?”
John’s lips twitched. “There you go, making up words again.”
“Could be because I’m talking too much?”
“Unless the next words out of your mouth are gonna be the ones I’m waiting for, then yeah, you are.”
Rodney looked apologetic. “I’m working up to it.”
“Work.” John kissed him, short and hard. “Faster.” He gave him another brief, stinging kiss.
“You know I….”
“I have faith,” John said, and he did.
“That’s… I won’t let you down.”
“Talking too much,” John whispered against Rodney’s lips.
The words would come.
But, really, Rodney’s kisses were saying it all.
“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Pogo Possum (Walt Kelly)