Characters: Rodney McKay/John Sheppard
Prompt: #086 Choices
Word Count: ~10,300
Genre: Fairytale AU
Summary: He says his name is John and he's a prince. Rodney, born to anti-establishment parents and raised by a witch with plans for world domination, takes his word for it.
Part I is here
Sometimes, John is not very princely at all.
Saying, 'Oops, I've got to go' while he has his hand down Rodney's trousers and his tongue in Rodney's mouth is one of those times.
'There's something different about you, Rodney,' Dame Weir observes, and there's a suspicious light in her eyes.
In the nine years since she took him to live in her tower, he's done everything she asks and more. He's repowered her beloved city, he's built her bombs, designed new science-hybrid spells, reconfigured her energy output to operate more efficiently, and has finally completed the plans for the streamlined flying carriage he designed when he was eight.
In all that time, he's never asked for anything in return. He wants to call in a favor.
But one look into those eyes, the eyes that say, I know everything, don't even think about it, and he loses his nerve.
'I'm just getting older,' he says, and shrugs. Somewhere, off in the distance, there are bright flashes of light, like a giant lie detector, accompanied by thunder that shakes the foundations of his tower. He never asks about it, mostly because he doesn't want to know.
Something about Rodney that he'll never admit to anyone: buried under those books on nuclear fusion and black magic is a book of fairy tales that he's read cover to cover so many times, some of the pages are falling out.
So he's a romantic. Get over it.
Trouble is, without any other sources of information (except for his parents, and they're certainly not a reliable model), Rodney's views on love are heavily warped. There's supposed to be a Happily Ever After.
Falling in love with a seventeen year old prince with impossible hair and a tendency to just disappear doesn't follow the program. Rodney's not too good with going off script.
He's also not sure what this means to John. For Rodney, the kissing and the sex which is, oh, god, better than science, really means something. He's not sure what, but it's not a passing fling. It's an attachment.
He's not so sure about John. John, who can look at him from under heavily-lashed eyes and whisper things like, 'There is no process that produces no other effect than the subtraction of a positive amount of heat from a reservoir and the production of an equal amount of work,' sending a shiver down Rodney's spine. The same John who will throw paper models of Rodney's flying carriage at him from across the room and call Rodney a geek, just because he's not getting enough attention.
When the 'fling' goes on for months, and the months stretch to years, Rodney starts to relax, starts to think that he's not crazy after all, and John really does care about him.
He turns over onto his side, and just stares at John sleeping next to him. They're not really boys anymore, either of them, but in so many ways neither of them have hit adulthood yet. Rodney wishes there was a word for people like them.
It's just barely dusk, a good two hours before anyone's due to intrude, and there's a streak of light that sits across John's face, highlighting the shadows under his eyes and the worried tilt to his mouth. Rodney can't help wondering what's put that look on John's face, even in sleep.
He's read enough fairytales, however, that he suspects he knows the answer.
'John?' he says quietly, resting his head on the pillow right near John's, one hand drifting up to ruffle that irresistible hair.
John's eyes flutter open. 'Mm?'
'Do you have to marry a princess?'
There's a hardening in those hazel eyes, an expression that absolutely terrifies Rodney. It disappears as quickly as it comes.
'I’m the heir to a kingdom,' John murmurs, swallowing a yawn. 'I'm expected to have more heirs, sometime in the future.'
'So that's a yes.' Rodney shifts, and tries to hide his humiliation. 'I wouldn't worry if I were you. You're extremely attractive. I'm sure the princesses will be throwing themselves at your feet.'
If they're not already, oh, god. For the first time, Rodney wonders what John does, how John lives when they're not together.
John smiles, and he looks so young. He throws one arm over Rodney's chest and bends their heads together so that their eyes are only an inch apart.
'I don't happen to like princesses very much,' he says in a slow drawl. 'Never been a fan. They're too high maintenance.'
Then he cups Rodney's face in his hands. 'Come with me, tonight. Don't think about it, just do it.'
Rodney's eyes go wide and panicked; he tries to mask it with his usual sarcasm. 'Oh, don't be stupid, you know I can't do that.'
'Of course you can,' John whispers, laughing against Rodney's lips, and his hands travel south. 'It's easy. Through the trap door, and away.'
'But – Dame Weir –' Oh, God, that feels good.
'Has kept you locked up like a prisoner for eleven years,' John points out sitting up on his elbows. Rodney grits his teeth. 'You don't have to be a prisoner, Rodney. You've done everything she's asked – you've even built those puddlejumpers she demanded. Come out to the real world and really put that genius to work.'
There's a twist to John's lips. 'I named them when you showed me the finished plans. Hope you don't mind.'
Rodney says, 'Of course not, but –'
'I've got to go,' says John, collecting his clothes. He rolls off the cot, then stops, and holds out his hand. 'Come on.'
For the first time in eleven years, Rodney wants to, he really does, but the thought of leaving this room – it's beyond terrifying. Who knows what dangers lurk out there. There might be wild animals, or ogres, or magical spinning wheels of death, not to mention the air pollution, global warming...
'What about food? I'm hypoglycemic, I’m going to need food!'
John just smiles, one hand still outstretched. 'There's food on the outside, Rodney, I promise.'
'But I need it in regularly controlled doses!' Abruptly switching focus, 'Is it citrus? Oh, god, your kingdom grows citrus fruit, doesn't it? Groves of it! I'm going to die just by stepping onto the land.'
'Rodney, relax, no one's going to poison you.'
Rodney just keeps shaking his head. 'I can't,' he gasps, starting to hyperventilate, feeling tears in his eyes and hating every second of it, 'I can't.'
'Whoa, Rodney,' and John kneels down at his side, squeezing both his hands, worry scrawled all over his face. 'Okay. I can see that we're going to need to take this one step at a time.'
Amazingly enough, he means it.
The first day is difficult, and Rodney's body starts seizing, scaring the hell out of John, who shouts at some point, 'Isn't there some spell or something you could use?'
Rodney pauses in the middle of his freak-out to say with great disdain, 'That's not how magic works, John.'
John returns the next day with a blindfold and Rodney thinks things are going to get really interesting, but instead John ties it around his eyes, leads him to the trap door, and holds his hand as they walk down the first step of what turns out to be a rough, stone spiral staircase. A very tall spiral staircase, Rodney sees when the blindfold slips.
'Hold it!' Rodney screeches, nearly knocking John over. 'I can't leave without my notes. And the telescope. And the grimoires. And –'
'Rodney, no offense, but I highly doubt you're leaving today, period. This is going to take some time.'
And when Rodney freezes on the second step, feeling his hands go cold and clammy, imagining the horrors that await at the bottom, he knows John's right. Something warm flutters in his chest, though, when John doesn't let go.
Rodney's started packing; ferreting away information and supplies he thinks won't be missed. He feels vaguely guilty, particularly when Dame Weir drops in and tells him how proud she is, how grateful she is for what he's accomplished. Carson and Radek don't make it easy either when they start bringing him dirty magazines and telling him jokes, nudging him in the chest about Teyla, almost as if they're friends. Rodney gets the idea that they've just been waiting for him to grow up and he finally understands – he wouldn't have wanted to get friendly with an eight-year-old either.
But there's still John, and like it or not, Rodney knows that John has a life, and responsibilities that he won't turn away from. If he wants any part of John, and he does, then he has to leave the tower.
Every step he takes closer to freedom, the fear and panic choke him until he gags on it. Eleven years – who the hell knows what's out there, and how much of it wants to kill him.
It's the final step, and John's kissing him because Rodney says it helps, keeps him from thinking of other things. John pauses just long enough to put one of Rodney's latest inventions, a portable transporter, into his pocket, and hands Rodney his bag. Rodney's holding on so tightly he's sure he's cutting off circulation in John's arm.
'Rodney? Are you – oh!'
It's Teyla, and Rodney drops John's hand like it suddenly burns.
'Teyla!' he blurts, and John frowns, hissing in Rodney's ear, 'You forgot to mention that she was a bird.'
'Not all the time!' Rodney hisses back.
Teyla shifts to her human form, and backs away from them uncertainly, her eyes on John, as if she's seen him before. Her gaze travels from him to the open trapdoor, then to the pack on Rodney's shoulder, and she stares at her old friend as if she doesn't recognize him.
'I – I am sorry,' she says, bowing her head. 'I did not mean – Rodney, what will Elizabeth say?'
'She'll probably say, "What were you thinking?"' Rodney replies, stomach flipping over. 'Only with more cursing. If you say anything, I'm going to spend the rest of my life on a lily pad. Please, Teyla.'
Teyla shakes her head. 'Elizabeth is my friend, I thought you understood that. She is my mentor, Rodney. I cannot keep secrets from her.'
And, as a raven, Teyla flies out the window.
'Come on,' John says, tugging on Rodney's sleeve. 'We have to get out of here, now.'
Rodney says, 'It's too late. Go save yourself.'
John looks tempted to slap him. 'I'm not leaving without you, you idiot, come on!'
Rodney's frozen in place. 'John, I –' he starts, just as John opens his mouth to say, 'Rodney, I –' and then there's red smoke, and neither one can move.
'So,' she says, staring at Rodney and completely ignoring John, 'you're leaving. Without so much as a goodbye.'
'Dame Weir,' Rodney licks his lips and fails to think of a suitable excuse. 'Um, I think I love him.'
Dame Weir's eyes are almost filled with pity – almost. Suddenly he sees the same inscrutable expression on her face he saw the day she came for Jeannie. And he remembers that she's basically insane.
'If only he felt the same about you...isn't that right, Prince John? At last I understand, you're the reason why Rodney's plans stopped working, no matter how brilliant they were.' She turns to acknowledge the room's other occupant, who scowls at her, and draws a knife from his pocket. Rodney blinks. Where did that come from? An hour earlier Rodney had thought he was intimately acquainted with John's clothing.
'I'm sorry about this,' John tells her, and lunges. Dame Weir flicks her hands and sends John, as well as the knife, flying across the room, crashing into some of the heavier equipment Rodney couldn't fit into his pack.
Rodney cries out, and Dame Weir looks at him, a kind smile still etched on her face.
'I've been working for eleven years, with your assistance, to topple his father's throne. We're so close, Rodney! Don't you understand? With my magical skill and your brilliant mind, there's nothing we can't accomplish. We could give the people a chance for independence, a chance for peace. We'll be partners, you and I.'
'Some partnership,' John spits, wiping blood from his mouth. He climbs to his feet with a moan. 'You've kept him locked in a tower for eleven years. You're a psychopath. Do you have any idea what you've done to him?'
'For your safety,' Dame Weir says to Rodney, almost pleading. 'It was only to protect you. The dangers out there – the people with their inferior brains, their closed-minded attitudes, they would have ruined you. Look at you, nineteen years old, and look what you're capable of!'
Rodney just stares, unable to take it all in, feeling as though he might overload and explode. It's too much, and he puts his hands over his ears to block out the sound.
'Ah, ah, ah,' says Dame Weir, as John reaches for the knife again. Curling her fingers, she picks John up with invisible strings, and drags him before her. 'Sorry, your majesty. Your father will have one more grave to cry over, and then I'll see to it that he makes his way to his own.'
Rodney has no idea what she'll do to John, and can't move, can't close his eyes, can't even think of a spell to throw. All he can do is watch.
It really sucks.
Dame Elizabeth suddenly goes stiff, and stares down at her chest, where John has thrust his hand as if trying to rip out her heart. The green glow from Rodney's personal transporter device consumes her, and she disappears with a scream. John sinks to the floor, chest heaving, dripping with sweat like he's just run for miles.
'Come on,' he pants, and suddenly Rodney's being dragged by the wrist through the trapdoor and down the stairs, managing to dig his heels in on the very last one.
'Hold it,' he commands, completely freaked out. 'What did – you just – John, you killed her!'
'Transported her,' John says grimly. 'To my father's dungeon where she can rot for eternity.'
But Rodney's not listening. 'John.'
'Rodney, you heard her, you know what she is. My father is the king of Pegasus, and she wants to take over. Did you think I could just stand there and let her get away? You think it would be a peaceful coup? She's been waging war against us for years while you were just sitting up here in your precious laboratory! Killing people with the weapons you made her. For God's sake, Rodney, you built her bombs! I'd have to arrest you too if I didn't know that you didn't have a clue what you were doing. All in the name of science, God, you're so naïve.'
John is still pulling on his wrist, using his free hand to open the door to the outside world. Rodney sucks in his breath, has air always been this fresh? and then screams because there is a giant, hairy, thing standing out there, ready to eat him.
'Rodney, would you shut up?' John snaps. 'The witch could have guards around.'
The thing steps out of the shadow and becomes a person. A giant, hairy person, but still human.
'Prince,' he growls, staring first at John and then at Rodney. Are those screams coming from the city? 'Is this the scientist? Good, we have to get out of here. It's only a matter of time before this place is swarming with her spies. Our men have what they came for.'
'Who the hell is he?' Rodney demands, resisting John's attempts to pull him through the door.
'Well, I hate to use the term "bodyguard",' John gives the mountain man another look, 'but he's my bodyguard. His name's Ronon.'
Things are going too fast; Rodney's starting to get woozy. When was the last time he ate? Oh, he's going into hypoglycemic shock!
'Wait,' he snaps. 'John, what's going on? You need to tell me: how did you get here?'
John looks at his bodyguard, who just stares, big burly arms folded across his chest.
'We, ah, flew.'
'Through the island's Magic Ring. In, uh, a puddlejumper.' John's face turns red. 'We built them from your design.'
Mr. Muscles is impatient. 'Your father will be wondering where you are,' he tells John. 'Get the scientist and let's go. Now that the witch is gone, he can work for us. We'll put him to good use.'
Rodney wrenches his arm free; he can hear the clashing of swords in the distance. 'Use! John, how does he know who I am?'
John's eyes drop, and he won't look at Rodney. It's the worst feeling ever, but it gets worse.
'We heard that she had a scientist working for her, someone brilliant.' John pauses, looking up hopefully as if that tiny piece of flattery will sway Rodney from his righteous anger. 'My father sent me to find him, to bring him back to our castle so the witch couldn't use him. I didn't know then that you were just a kid like me. We assumed...We thought that maybe a kid could get closer than an adult. Then I heard you chanting those numbers, and I saw my way in.'
Rodney thinks he's going to throw up. His skin has gone completely white, his stomach is trying to climb out of his throat.
He says, his voice breaking, 'You seduced me to get me to leave Dame Weir?'
'No! Rodney, no, it wasn't like that –'
'I thought it was exactly like that,' growls the bodyguard and Rodney flies back up the stairs, John in pursuit.
'Rodney, please –'
'You lied to me!' Rodney feels the words rip out of his throat. He shouts all the time, shouts because people are stupid or just deaf, but this is screaming. And not screaming because he's scared – he's done that too – screaming because everything hurts so much that he wants to inflict a little of that hurt on the rest of the world.
'Let me explain,' says John.
'You didn't just want to be my friend, my –' Oh, God, 'the whole time, you had ulterior motives. You took away the only person who ever gave a damn about me, you made me question her. Teyla probably hates me, too, and if Carson and Radek haven't been killed by your own personal killing machine down there, I'm sure they'll never speak to me again!'
Rodney looks around the lab, the lab where John spent so many hours helping him with experiments that he just accused Rodney of designing to kill people.
'Did you sabotage my work?' he demands, seeing it clearly for the first time. 'Do you have any idea what a betrayal that is? Science, John, you don't mess with science!'
'Rodney! Will you listen to yourself? That witch locked you in a tower! She forced you to build weapons that, yes, I did my best to break. She has screwed you up so severely, that I don't know if the damage can ever be fixed!'
Rodney just gapes. Gapes and suddenly understands what it is to have an out-of-body experience.
He says, 'Get out.'
John flinches from the ice in his voice. 'Rodney –'
'You are no longer welcome here, your majesty,' Rodney spits. 'Get. Out.'
The bodyguard calls from downstairs, ordering John to leave – with or without Rodney.
'Fine, but you have to know one thing: I didn't come here every day for six years intending to fall in love with you. I did. It happens, but it wasn't supposed to happen to me.'
John hesitates, then seeing the stubborn set to Rodney's jaw, he moves towards the trapdoor, and after one more pleading look, disappears.
Rodney doesn't even make it to the bathroom before he throws up, then climbs, shivering, nauseous, onto the cot – the sheets still smell like John.
Without Dame Weir, Atlantis Island still functions. In some ways, it responds even better to Rodney, and he can't help wondering if that was Dame Weir's intention all along, if he'd been set up as some sort of heir designate.
It doesn't matter. Rodney never leaves the tower.
He instructs two new servants on the correct way to prepare his meals, Carson and Radek having disappeared after the attack. If there's the occasional extra snack cake on his tray, he never notices. Then he seals the trapdoor shut, and throws himself back into his work, feeling a pang of regret that he'll never get to see one of his puddlejumpers (No, he corrects, gateships) fly.
John only comes once, and throws stones at the window.
'Hey,' he shouts. 'Let your hair down for once!'
Rodney ignores him, and crouches in the corner, rocking back and forth, trying desperately not to cry. He hasn't found a spell for that yet, but if he has to, he'll invent one. It has to be better than feeling like this all the time.
After John leaves, Rodney builds shields to hide Atlantis Island from prying eyes, and unwanted visitors. He makes the place invisible, allows it to sleep again, as he doesn't have the same interests as Dame Weir. Should she ever return he'll be happy to turn it over to her; in the mean time, Atlantis slumbers.
Over the course of the next eleven years Rodney figures out how to extract power from milk, names a new constellation, gains about fifty pounds then loses thirty-five, slips into a hypoglycemic coma once because he stops eating for 42 hours, has to be rescued by the incompetent idiots he calls assistants twice, builds a better mousetrap, and invents a sandwich – all without leaving the comfort of his tower.
He's had invitations from institutions all over the world, all clamoring for a piece of his brain, and he takes great pleasure in turning each of them down. There's even an invitation to the palace among them, signed by King Steven, and that one gets burned.
By this time he's thirty years old, his hair is thinning, and he hates his life.
Teyla visits once a year, flying in through the window like always. As a witch in her own right, she isn't affected by Rodney's haphazard spells. She's never said sorry because she isn't, and Rodney's never forgiven her because he can't.
'I have some news for you,' she tells him when she flies in around harvest time. Even from the tower Rodney can see the leaves are changing, can feel the shift in the wind.
'Oh?' Teyla doesn't talk to him much about the outside world; they hardly talk at all.
'Prince John is getting married.'
Rodney has worked very hard to avoid any news of the royal family, or any news at all.
'Congratulations,' Rodney says, without trying to keep the bitterness from his tone. 'He deserves it.'
'King Steven has granted Elizabeth amnesty,' she adds.
Rodney snorts. 'After eleven years? Took him long enough.'
'It looks as if they have come to an agreement, in the name of harmony for the land. She will take over relations with other kingdoms, and he will reign in his military, modify their "attack first, question later" policy. There is talk of a union between them as well.'
Rodney says nothing; he's calculating the physics of faster-than-light travel on a flying carpet.
'He wishes to see you,' she says quietly, and Rodney knows she isn't talking about the king.
'If I haven't left this tower in twenty-two years, what makes you think I'm going to do it now?'
She pauses and tilts her head. 'Perhaps because your ride is waiting outside.'
Unable to fight the curiosity, Rodney goes to the window, and stares. Sitting at the base of his tower is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen – a gateship of his own design, tactile and real, and he knows with great certainty that it's fully functional in every way. The metal casing was a stroke of genius, as was the glass front panel for visibility. It's simply flawless, and it's his creation.
And he'll never get to touch it.
'I don't like not knowing things,' he tells Teyla, who nods. 'There's so much out there, anything could happen. Anything.'
'Rodney,' she says, 'you cannot be so afraid of life that you do not live. That is just foolish.'
Prince John is getting married.
Rodney stares at the trap door; it's sealed for good, he made sure of that. He can't get out that way.
'Teyla, could you –'
He leaves the question unasked, but she answers anyway. She waves her hands and the next thing he knows, he's standing on solid ground.
He starts counting prime numbers before the panic attack can swallow him completely. The earth feels strange, like it isn't thick enough to support his weight. And the smells, God, the smells. It's overpowering. He's caught whiffs through his window, but nothing like this. The inside of his nose is on fire, and his knees are shaking, and is it his imagination, or is there more gravity out here?
Immediately, breathing gets hard because he starts cataloguing a list of all the things he could be allergic to. He needs to get inside the ship.
It seems to sense his thought, opening itself up to him so he can scramble inside.
'This is better,' he mumbles when the ramp has closed. It's quieter, cozier, and there's a smaller chance that something will jump out and stab him. The air is a little stale, but breathable, and it already feels warm, lived in.
Of course, that's when he realizes he has no idea where he's going or how to fly.
'I can handle this,' he says, hands still trembling against the controls. 'It's just a matter of aerodynamics.'
Again, the ship seems to respond to his thoughts. Lights flash on the panel, and the whole thing gives a rumbling shake, lifting itself off the ground.
Huh, Rodney thinks, clinging to the insignificant details for sanity, I don't remember designing it to do that.
The sentient ship also seems to know where it's going, which is a relief. It heads straight for the Magic Ring, the gateway to the Pegasus Kingdom.
For once, he's completely at a loss for words. It's just...beautiful. The craftsman who built it deserved gold, jewels, international acclaim. Its design is both aesthetic and functional.
Then he actually goes through it. It's possibly the single scariest experience of his life, and the ship doesn't even give him a chance to have second thoughts. If he weren't surrounded by a blanket of steel, he would probably have fainted.
The colors, the water, the trees, there's so much to look at on the other side, pictures of Pegasus could never do it justice. This, Rodney thinks, is what John saw every day.
And yet he still came and spent his time in a tower with Rodney.
Ulterior motives, he reminds himself. But the memory of John, standing at the trapdoor saying 'I didn't mean to fall in love with you' is just as fresh as the views of mountains from the ship.
Eleven years. John's probably forgotten all about the hermit scientist by now. He's getting married, probably to one of those princesses he called 'high maintenance' while looking in Rodney's eyes and lying on Rodney's bed.
While distracted by those thoughts, he very nearly avoids crashing into the palace, and disaster is probably only averted by the apparent psychic link he has with the ship.
It's time to go outside again.
Remember why you're here, Rodney tells himself in the tone of thought that's meant to indicate strength of will. It never goes any further than that, because Rodney's next thought is, Shit, I don't actually have a plan.
He doesn't know why he's at the gates of the palace. So John's getting married; after eleven years, this is news? Rodney's faintly surprised it hasn't happened sooner. It's like there's an expiration date and John's been stretching it out for as long as possible.
It's not as if Rodney got an invitation to the affair. He's not even sure what he's going to say. He's outside the tower. He's actually on the outside, and now he's here, and he doesn't have the faintest clue what he's doing.
Since impulse seems to be working for him (and at least keeps him from dwelling on the way the bushes seem to be leering at him), he marches past a couple palace guards, acting like he owns the place, and storms into the chapel, just as the elderly priest asks if anyone objects to the marriage of Prince John of Pegasus and Princess Chaya of Proculus.
Wow, his timing is fantastic.
Rodney's head snaps up and there's John, looking older, more haggard, but still with those same beautiful eyes and the hair that defies reason. He's wearing full prince regalia, he practically shines from every angle, and Rodney's knees go weak just looking at him. His mouth is open, and he's holding hands with some cheap floozy, possibly pretty in a back-stabbing whore sort of way.
'Rodney,' the woman, Chaya he assumes, repeats. There are spots of red on her cheeks. 'This is Rodney?'
'How does she know who I –' Then, taking into account Chaya's fury and the flush of John's neck, Rodney stops. 'Oh.'
This might not be such a bad idea after all.
'Pardon me, son, but do you object to this marriage?'
Rodney looks at the priest. 'I can do that? Really? Okay, yeah, absolutely, I object.'
The princess's mother sputters with outrage. It occurs to Rodney that he's wearing a torn and stained shirt over old tan breeches; there's ink all over his hands and probably on his face, and in short, he probably looks mad. 'On what grounds?'
'Uh, on the grounds that, um,' Rodney looks at John, who still seems shell-shocked over his arrival. There's something in those eyes though, that fills Rodney with encouragement. 'On the grounds that I'm still in love with him.'
The hall goes silent, and Rodney doesn't care. He's only looking at John.
John says, smile lighting up his face, 'Really? Even though I lied to you?'
'I let you lie to me,' Rodney admits. 'I was happy to look at the world through rose-colored glasses, to see only what I wanted to see. I never asked you any questions, which, for a scientist, is admittedly stupid.'
'Yes, stupid,' John agrees, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
'So while, yes, it was wrong of you to deceive me, I'm willing to share in the blame, but you are by no means off the hook – because for one thing, you actually sat around helping me design an aircraft you had already built.'
'Well, we had something before you, but you definitely improved on the final product.'
They share a grin, like it hasn't been eleven years and this is all just a silly joke. Like they're nineteen years old again. The princess stamps her foot.
'Excuse me, but what is going on here? John, are we getting married or not?'
John half-shrugs, and slouches, and Rodney feels something flutter in his chest.
'Not,' John says without even looking at her. 'Sorry, Chaya, really.'
The floozy runs, crying, from the chapel, her entourage in tow. John steps off the dais and comes to a stop about a foot away from Rodney. The rest of the chapel, John's people – including his father King Steven – are staring. Some whisper behind their hands, but most just look eager to see how the drama unfolds.
'Aren't you going to ask how I've been?' Rodney demands, gesticulating wildly because, by this point, he's not really interested in keeping his emotions in check. 'In case you haven't noticed, I'm outside the tower and trying very hard not to freak out.'
'I've noticed,' John says mildly. 'And I know how you've been. I've been keeping an eye on you.'
'You've been spying on me?' Rodney grabs him by the velvet sleeve and just rolls his eyes. 'Have you learned nothing in eleven years?'
'Well,' says John, 'I was never a very good student if you weren't around to teach me. Besides, I didn't seek Teyla out at first – she found me.'
'Teyla,' Rodney mutters. 'That witch.'
'I'm glad she did.' John's hand comes up and brushes against Rodney's cheek. 'I flew out to the island every day, until you made it invisible, just to make sure you were eating. I knew you didn't want to see me. To be honest, I didn't think you'd want to see me ever again.'
'Teyla told me you were getting married.'
John nods and his lips press together in a tight line. 'I was running out of excuses. And, just so you know, I didn't ask Teyla to tell you in the hopes that you might come running. I was going to let you just live your life as you saw fit. She just so happens to be pretty enamored of my bodyguard.'
'The mountain man's still around?' Sure enough, he's growling at Rodney from over John's shoulders.
'He prefers Ronon.' The space between them has gradually disappeared. John's eyes widen. 'God, Rodney, you're out of the tower.'
The way he sounds – impressed, relieved, grateful, awed – it releases something inside Rodney, something he didn't even know he was holding onto.
'I had a ride.' Obviously John's doing, now that he's had time to consider it.
'I made a few modifications based on your plans,' John tells him, eyes sparkling. 'I learned from the best.'
'Well, you weren't coming to me,' says Rodney. 'So I had to come to you.'
He runs a hand through John's hair, and his fingers tighten, drawing John's head close, and covering John's mouth with his own. Not exactly a fairy tale, he thinks, but who the hell cares?
When they're forced to come up for air, John doesn't let go of him, instead whispering, 'You know, I've got a few nice towers of my own around this place.'
And Rodney says, 'I like towers. I spent some of the best years of my life in one.'
And, yeah, they lived Happily Ever After.