Characters: Rodney McKay/John Sheppard
Prompt: #082 If.
Word Count: ~2,800
Summary: 'Hello, Jenny,' John replies, wondering what the proper protocol is when you see your ex-wife in a town that technically doesn't exist while your de facto life partner stands beside you.
A/N: Part of the Life Less Ordinary universe, following Too Much Caffeine in Your Bloodstream.
'You know,' John drawls as he applies the bandage, 'you could stand to learn a bit about armed combat.'
'Oh, what would you know about it,' Rodney replies irritably, wincing and staring at the blood on his forearm. 'You're a glorified medic.'
'I've told you about the testosterone issues in my family; it just so happens, my dad used to take me hunting. I practically grew up on a shooting range. I could teach you a thing or two - if you're willing to learn.'
John's voice is barely above a whisper, and as Rodney takes a look around the gateroom, staring as the bodies of four dead Marines are loaded into black bags, John can practically see the wheels turning in his brain. He knows they're talking about guns as a way to avoid saying Thank God you're all right.
'Oh, all right, Dr. Sheppard. What did you have in mind?'
Definitely not this, John thinks, feeling his palms sweat as Alison Blake from the DoD steps up with another woman in tow. Rodney's bouncing irritably next to him, but John's eyes are on the not-so-strange stranger.
'Hello, John,' she says, voice not entirely free of irony. Rodney stops moving immediately.
'Hello, Jenny,' John replies, wondering what the proper protocol is when you see your ex-wife in a town that technically doesn't exist while your de facto life partner stands beside you. Should he shake hands?
'Would someone please explain to me what's going on here?' Rodney snarls, pressing slightly closer to John without touching him; John knows Rodney's the jealous type, and sometimes it's endearing, but he suspects this isn't one of those times.
Alison steps in to make the introductions since neither John nor Jenny make any attempt to open their mouths.
'Dr. Rodney McKay, this is Jenny Sheppard, Director of NCIS. She's here with her team investigating the deaths of the four Marines. Director, Dr. Rodney McKay is our foremost expert in astrophysics; he was on a classified mission with the Marines at the time of their deaths, so I assume you'll need to question him at some point. I see you already know Dr. Sheppard.'
Of course, John's sure Rodney stopped listening after 'Sheppard' and knows he's hoping to hear the word 'sister' real soon. John decides to put him out of his misery.
'Jenny and I were married,' he says, and from Alison's look he suspects she already knew. 'It was a long time ago.'
Jenny looks from him, to Rodney, then back again, lips pressed tightly together.
'That's right,' she agrees. 'I'm not here to get in your way. I have a job to do.'
Then John says in a low tone, surprised by how much intimacy she still provokes, 'Since when do they make the Director of NCIS do the grunt work?'
'Don't kid yourself, John,' Jenny replies, reading him like a book. 'I didn't come here for you.'
John knows she's lying.
'You want to talk about it?' he asks Rodney later, in their apartment. Rodney's been talking about moving to a bigger house, but there's not a lot of real estate for sale in Eureka; the town's not in the habit of acquiring new residents all that often. The sheriff, Jack Carter, who dropped in unexpectedly and found the place suited him, still lives in his talking bunker because apparently his house gets depressed if he tries to leave.
'Talk about it?' Rodney repeats, slamming silverware down on the table. 'Oh, no, what's to talk about? The wife I didn't even know you had just comes waltzing into town and she's probably going to investigate me for murder, because I don't know how we can explain that the Marines were killed by the Goa'uld.'
'I should have told you,' John says, trying to placate him. 'It was a really long time ago, we were both kids. It didn't last long - it was more a business arrangement than a marriage. Plus, she was having an affair with some guy from work. It was a mutual decision. No one's feelings got hurt, and she's not in Eureka to take me back.'
'Are you so sure about that?' mutters Rodney, and John swallows. So he'd noticed it too; John is sure it isn't longing or desire on Jenny's part, but she definitely wants something from him. He doesn't know what he could possibly have to give. Working in Eureka has its perks, but money isn't one of them.
'Rodney.' John forces him to look up by taking Rodney's head in his hands. 'I'm sorry I didn't tell you, it's something I try not to think about. Trust me, even if for some bizarre reason she did want me back, I'm not going anywhere.'
The first thing Jenny does when she finds him in the medical labs is say, 'I heard about Jack. I'm sorry, John.'
John, thinking of Rodney and how he risked life and career on the smallest of chances that Jack might be alive, says, 'Thanks.'
John owes her. He doesn't like being in debt to anyone, least of all his ex-wife - even if they did part amicably enough. John's survived this long by virtue of his independence. He has a hard enough time accepting Rodney's overtures without feeling like he should be running a tab.
She wants something, he's sure of it, and even though they're long past the days of medical school and basic training, he still feels responsible for her. It doesn't make living with Rodney particularly easy.
Jenny asks to meet for coffee, and John expects the other shoe to drop. She's not in Eureka just because some Marines are dead - that's not her style. Jenny only gets involved when it's personal.
'How long have you been...seeing this Dr. McKay?' she asks, still as bad at small talk as ever.
John doesn't know how to answer that. 'It depends on what you view as the beginning. First date or agreement that we were exclusive?'
Jenny is so guarded, so closed off; John thinks maybe that's where he learned it.
'I really didn't come here because of you,' she says, hands cupped around her mug as if staring into the brown liquid will supply her with the answers she's looking for. 'Marines have been dying in this town for years - and it all seems to be connected with this top-secret project. Your Dr. McKay is at the center of it.'
'You think he had something to do with the deaths of the Marines?' John wonders who let Jenny get this close; whoever it was clearly underestimates her tenacity. John doesn't.
She meets his eyes. 'You tell me.'
'Those Marines died saving his life - because he's brilliant and he's necessary.' John lifts a forkful of scrambled eggs to his mouth. 'He's not responsible. And you know I can't say anymore than that.'
Jenny looks at him over the top of her coffee cup. 'Would you if you could?'
John just smiles.
Rodney still won't talk to him. Things got better for awhile - until Jenny started her interrogations. Now Rodney comes home and goes to bed without a word, and John has to lie next to that cloud of resentment all night long. He hears Rodney mutter 'Bitch' in his sleep sometimes, so he decides to have it out with his ex-wife.
'Could you lay off Rodney?' John says irritably. Jenny's taken over Alison Blake's office, and is in the middle of paperwork. 'You're making my home life miserable.'
She doesn't look up. 'This is the part where you make a quip about how that was supposed to end the day I moved out.'
'I don't have a problem with you, Jen,' says John, and he slouches in a chair. 'But you're targeting Rodney on purpose, aren't you? I can tell. I know you. I don't know why. You can take one look at him and know he isn't a killer. He doesn't even know how to use a gun.'
She finally lifts her chin; she's wearing glasses and they make her look so distant, so cold. She was never exactly fun-loving, but John wonders what happened to make his best friend from high school turn to stone.
'I figured I'd use this opportunity to see if he's good enough for you,' she says bluntly. 'He's not, by the way.'
Whatever John was expecting...this is about as far from it as possible. 'Jen, you lost the right to weigh in on my love life the day you signed the papers and walked away.'
'We're still friends, John,' she says, and he can tell he actually hurt her. He's too stunned to care. 'I will never stop caring about you. Look at you, what happened? I expected you'd be well on your way to Chief of Medicine by now.'
'You know I've never been a fan of authority.'
'Clearly I attract the type,' murmured Jenny.
John shrugs. 'My life took a detour.' He stares off into space and smiles. 'I got hit by a comet.'
'Look, I know someone, a member of my team - he's a little cocky and a little irresponsible, so I'm sure you'll get along great -'
'The one making eyes at the Israeli girl?' John shakes his head and sighs. 'Give it a rest, Jenny. I'm off the market.'
'There's nothing here for you,' she says, and John's still trying to figure out why she cares. 'They've turned you into a lab rat.'
'You've been out of my life a long time, Jenny,' John tells her, blunt. 'You don't know me, and you don't know what I want. I want to be here. I like it here; it's weird, sure, but they're good people. One in particular.'
'I don't know what you see in him,' Jenny says, rolling her eyes. 'He's loud, rude, and obnoxious.'
John laughs. 'I know. It's great.'
'Hey,' he says when Rodney walks in the door. 'Can we talk?'
'Your ex wants me to account for the eight hours spent on an alien planet, and my story has to be convincing if I don't want to go to prison, so, no. We can't.'
John sits helplessly as Rodney sweeps out of the room to change.
He finally corners Rodney at the shooting range.
'Here's how this is going to work,' says John before Rodney can get out more than a squeak of protest. 'You're going to listen to me because I've got a gun and I know how to use it.'
'You're not going to shoot me.' Rodney rolls his eyes. 'You took an oath: Do No Harm.'
'It's full of stunner shells, so, yes, I will. It won't hurt you but you'll lose precious lab time lying unconscious on the couch.'
Rodney eyes the gun and then looks at the determination on John's face. 'Fine. Talk.'
'You've been acting like a bastard for two weeks now,' says John, 'and I know I deserve some of it for not telling you about Jenny in the first place, but it's not like you've told me about every person from your past either. And I'm sorry that Jen's being a bitch, she's just being overprotective. Apparently she doesn't think you're good enough for me.'
'Is this just petty jealousy, or is there something more?'
After a long, dangerous pause, a silence in which John considers the possibility that he's royally screwed up this time, Rodney sighs.
'I'm sorry,' he says, dropping his shoulders. 'I just...I'm not used to this.'
Now John's just confused; it's a nice turn from angry, though. 'What are you talking about?'
Rodney's waving his gun around as he punctuates his sentences with exaggerated hand gestures and John leans over to disarm him.
'I don't have a lot of people in my life,' he admits. 'Most of the ones who are don't have a choice. You actually want to be around me - which, truly, boggles me. So when Director Sheppard wandered into town, I just figured you'd come to your senses. I didn't want to lose you, so I acted like a jerk - which, I realize, is counter-intuitive.'
John can't help himself; he starts to laugh. Sometimes Rodney's insecurity is really hard to deal with, but this...the idea that John will leave because of the ex-wife he was never in love with is hilarious.
'I'm pouring my heart out here!' Rodney complains, but John can plainly see he's fighting a laugh.
'Rodney, you idiot, I'm not leaving you for Jenny. I moved to another city for you. One sour redhead with a god-complex isn't going to change that. I've already got someone with a god-complex. I love you.'
It's the first time either of them have actually said it out loud, and the world seems to come to a standstill while they both process it. It's past time, really, they're living together and they've been together some time, but still, it's momentous. And for a minute, John worries that he isn't going to say it back.
'I - I -' Rodney stammers. 'I love you, too.'
They just sort of stand there, staring, stupid grins on both their faces. Rodney speaks first.
'So, what now?'
John tilts his head to the side. 'Chinese?'
'Dear God, yes.'
John reaches out and gives Rodney's hand a squeeze, a gesture Rodney returns with a kiss that reminds John of the night he went through the Stargate for the first time.
'You look happy,' Jenny says when they meet the next morning at the coffee machine in Global Dynamics. 'Did you get laid?'
John's humming. 'Look, there's no way the DoD's going to let you report anything you learn here back to your superiors, so I know you're not really looking into the deaths of those Marines. We know what happened to them, it's not exactly a secret, and it's not like you can prosecute the bad guys. So what do you really want, Jenny?'
Jenny's smile is rueful. 'I knew I could never fool you, Johnny. The truth is I've been offered a position as NCIS liaison to Eureka and the DoD. I've decided to turn it down.'
John raises an eyebrow. 'Then I take it Rodney's not going to jail?'
'I'm not going to get in your way anymore,' she says. Then she blushes and John stares; he's never seen her turn red before. 'I'm getting married, and I'd like you to be there.'
'Is it the guy you left me for?' John asks, curious. Jenny smiles.
'That chapter is long over. Please come, John. You can even bring Dr. McKay.'
'You'll regret that offer,' John warns. 'You haven't seen him eat.'
She actually laughs, and John sees the girl he went to prom with, sees the girl he married to please his parents, so that he could afford medical school, the girl who married him to fend off advances from the men she served with. He sees the girl he'll always love, but not in the way she always wanted.
'Goodbye, John. Let's not wait fifteen years to talk again, okay?'
John nods and gives her a hug. 'You look good, Jen. Try to lighten up.'
She laughs into his shoulder then pulls away and walks out the door.
'...and then there was Marguerite, the French exchange student,' Rodney says, counting them off on his fingers, 'though I'm not sure she counts. I made it to third base, but she slapped me. It's not my fault if I thought she said "Please unhook my bra." French is dying language.'
John moans and shakes his head, pressing closer to Rodney on the couch in the process. 'I'm sorry I ever started this.'
'After Marguerite it was Brian,' Rodney continues, a little too dreamy in John's opinion. 'He was a figure skater.'
'Please,' John says, cover his ears, 'make it stop!'
Rodney smirks. 'Fine, you don't want to talk about my exes, let's talk about yours. How you guys end up married anyway?'
John shrugs. 'It seemed like a good idea at the time. My dad agreed to pay for med school if I proved that I was mature enough to settle down - plus I think he already suspected I was gay and tried to derail that train. Jenny was going into the Marine Corp and she figured with a wedding ring on she might attract less attention. Turns out it wasn't such a good plan. Sheppard men don't have the best track records when it comes to marriage.'
'She was in love with you, wasn't she?'
There's silence. Then:
'Can't say I blame her.'
John grins and rests his head on Rodney's shoulder. 'Good to know.'