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[ N.T.B.D.W.B. ]or, How John Sheppard Learned to Stop Deluding Himself
by kHo

After The Incident John was sent to McMurdo and besides being busy with being bored out of his ever-lovin' mind, and flying the occasional visitor to and from the base, he was ordered to meet with a psychologist to explore his "need to engage in reckless behavior and aversion to obeying authority."

The most useful thing he'd gotten from that was the concept of putting everything that bothers him, that weighs him down, that confuses or upsets him, that interferes with his "internal and external happiness," into a metaphorical "box." The point was to then open the box and examine those issues in a controlled environment in order to deal with and move past them.

John decided he wasn't going to do that part of it. He was going to do the box part, but he was going to leave that box there, collecting dust and getting all corroded and spider-webby. He called that box his Not To Be Dealt With Box (hereinafter referred to as NTBDWB).

Things currently in the NTBDWB are, in no particular order:

  • The Incident that got him sent to the Tundra of Hell.
  • His father and everything that was always left unsaid.
  • His brother and everything that was always said. Over. And over. And over.
  • The Big Huge Epic Failure (otherwise known as his marriage).
  • The girl in London in his sophomore year of college, because he still swears he had no way of knowing she had a twin sister.

The list stayed that way for a long time, but after he figured out that yeah, aliens exist, and yeah, they do suck your life out, and yeah, you can step into a big blue whirly thing and end up underwater in an entirely other galaxy in 1.4 seconds, and yeah, they do have Cold Wars even in other galaxies, he had to add one more thing.

  • Rodney McKay.

It was easy to forget that Rodney was gay. Mostly because he only seemed to get fixated on women. Also, probably because they were so busy running around like chickens with their heads cut off that first year, and well, to be honest, every year thereafter too. It was also because John just didn't think about it.

He very purposefully, in a willfully obtuse sort of way, didn't think about it.

He was good at that. He had a box for that.

It came out maybe their third week there in Pegasus. Just after Rodney had come up to him grinning from ear to ear and said "punch me." And John had frowned and walked away from the group of Marines doing laps and said "Um. Huh?"

Needless to say, he hadn't needed much convincing to help Rodney test the personal protection device because three hours later, after punching him, throwing him against the wall, smacking him upside the head, throwing eggs at him (cleaning that up was going to be a bitch, but oh, so worth it) and pretty much laughing non-stop, Rodney had looked at him, taken a deep breath, and said "Major? I'm gay."

John, who had been busily looking for those throwing stars Murtoch had said were in the supplies, dropped the box he had gotten down on his foot. "Um," he said again, and looked at Rodney. "Ow. I mean… wow."

"Not gay, necessarily, but I don't really see the merit in limiting myself to one particular sex when both have equally pleasing attributes," Rodney had expanded, meeting him dead in the eye. John hadn't expected that, not from what little he already knew of the guy. He'd sort of expected a pole-axed expression, a ‘What the hell did I just do' kind of expression, not a ‘Go ahead, have a problem with it. I don't care.'

"That's okay. I mean…" John cleared his throat and looked away. "I mean, I'm not, but. That's okay."

Rodney's mouth tilted up in a sneer. "Oh please, you think I'm hitting on you don't you? Don't be a moron," he said, waving a hand and sitting down. "I'm only telling you because you will be acting leader of the military, and I am head of the science department, and we'll be working very closely together. Plus I've gotten the impression thusfar, and I could be mistaken but that's very unlikely, that you're not a complete idiot, and these past few hours have been fun, and I think that you may be the kind of person that I may consider if not friend than at least a colleague I can tolerate, so if you're going to be a dick about my not being 100% straight I'd rather know that now and not waste my time."

John nodded. "And you thought that--"

"That being that you're part of an institution that has a less than positive view on homosexuals that you might have a problem with working with a gay, or open, or bi, or whatever arbitrary label you would like to label it with, person, yes. I did."

John nodded again. "Okay," he said.

Rodney nodded, standing up. "So."

"So," John said, and then lifted the gun he had slung on his shoulder. "Wanna see if that thing you're wearing can withstand a bullet?"

Rodney grinned, and John knew then and there that they wouldn't just be colleagues that could tolerate one another, they would be friends. "Let's. But make sure you get the angle right."

He mostly forgot about it immediately after until they went off-world and John caught Rodney's eyes following a lithe, tall, slender man with, admittedly, pleasing features. He shrugged it off. Instead of paying attention to the way Rodney stumbled over his words and flushed when the man looked at him, John filed it away in the NTBDWB and turned his attention to Teyla and trade negotiations/fact-finding/relationship-building/etc, and maybe, maybe he made sure that Rodney was not left alone with the man at all times, but it was only because he was protecting his team.

It was harder to file it away in the NTBDWB when Rodney disappeared just after supper and when John noticed Teyla caught his arm, smiled easily at him, and said "I assure you, Major, he is not seeking rescue. Jai is…" Her smile grew at this and just a little too knowing for John's comfort level. "... very pleasing company."

Ford's giggling didn't help matters.

When Rodney returned a few hours later, looking just a little too pleased with himself and more than a little disheveled, it's not that John was mad at him, he just didn't have anything to say to him.

"I'm sorry, Major," Rodney said in the jumper on the way to the gate. "I thought I told you I had… a prior engagement."

"Well you didn't," John said, gritting his teeth. "You just suddenly weren't there, and I had no way of contacting you."

"I never took off my radio, you would have been able to reach me," Rodney said, tone hardening as he looked forward, mouth a thin line and arms crossing. "I didn't hear you buzz me once."

"Well excuse me if I didn't want to hear--" but he didn't finish it, because finishing it meant acknowledging it, and acknowledging it meant dealing with it, and that would fly in the face of the NTBDWB, so he left it alone and they flew home in awkward silence, Ford and Teyla talking quietly in the background.

John had almost pushed it completely from his mind by the time Ford came to him about it. After the Dagan debacle with Kolya and his men, he came to John's room after the mission debriefing frowning in confusion. "I don't get it," he said. "I thought McKay was gay, but he was all over that Allina chick."

John looked up in surprise. "You… thought McKay was gay?"

"Yeah, it was obvious," Ford said, his hands flailing. "I mean, I've been kind of, ya know, pointing him in the direction of-- people who shall remain anonymous-- that I thought would be, ya know, maybe into it, and then the first chance he gets he's all over that chick. I feel like a dumbass."

John shifted uncomfortably. "So… if he were, and I'm not saying he is, and I'm not saying it's either of our's business, and I'm not saying--"

Ford laughed. "Jeez, okay, I get it."

"I'm just saying, if he were," John said, looking up at him. "That wouldn't be an issue for you?"

"I just said I was being his wingman, dude," Ford said, because he forgot sometimes that John was his superior and John didn't mind because being called dude made him feel a hell of a lot younger than Atlantis had made him feel lately, so he never corrected him. "No, it's not an issue."

"He's not," John said as Ford was just about to open the door. "Gay. Or straight. He's… both."

Ford nodded. "Okay, I get that."

John frowned. "You do?"

"Yeah, because I might buy that he's not exclusively into men, but I don't buy for a second he's not into men at all," he said, smirking at John. "He was so beyond jealous of Chaya it wasn't even vaguely covert."

John rolled his eyes. "He's not into me, if anything he was into her."

Ford looked at him and made a face. "Whatever you say."

John thought "Huh" and then he thought "No" and metaphorically slammed the lid shut on his metaphorical box so loudly that it metaphorically gave him a headache.

As time went on it became easier and easier to ignore the times that Rodney disappeared on missions with various tall, lithe men with too easy smiles, and part of that was because every time he did he thought of the first time and how Ford had laughed and that hurt way down deep in that place that John doesn't like to ever talk about so he had two things to not be thinking about and they cancelled each other out easily enough, plus now there was Ronon to spar with and you can't dwell on things you don't want to dwell on when a big damn wookie is kicking your ass.

It was also easy to not think about considering the fact that Rodney just about never shut up about Samantha Carter, and then along came Katie Brown, and John always suspected that Rodney had more for Elizabeth than just the "intellectual admiration" Rodney proclaimed to have.

And suddenly it was turning out that Rodney was starting to need his own damn box because not only did he not like to think about Rodney with men but he was realizing he didn't really like thinking about Rodney with women, and then he was starting to realize that he didn't really want to think about why it bothered him to think about Rodney with men or women, and that's when Rodney died on him.

Or, well. Almost.

John thought "Jesus, I think I'm in love with McKay" and then he thought "Fuck."

He didn't get to dwell on it then and the NTBDWB got closed pretty well on its own without him having to tell it to because Carson died and Elizabeth died his Dad died and Teyla got taken and in between he met Larrin and it was easy enough to fixate on the hot chick that kicked his ass and looked gorgeous doing it so really, he started to think he didn't even need the box anymore.

Then he stepped through the stargate and wound up 48 thousand years in the future and the only person waiting for him on the other end was an 80 year old version of Rodney McKay that had dedicated his entire life trying to find a way to bring John back home and he didn't need the box anymore because there was no ignoring it anymore.

"You dedicated your entire life to getting me back."

"Of course," Rodney said, grey hair so out of place, and he looks exactly like what John thinks Rodney really would look like in 40 more years, which is a stupid thought because yes, of course he does, 40 years has passed for Rodney, and then 48 thousand more, but for John it's just been 40 minutes and Jesus Christ, Rodney had spent his entire life thinking about him.

"You don't know I'd do that for you?"

"I…" John swallows thickly and looks away. "I've never thought about it."

"Yes, well, I know you're very good at ignoring things but surely you knew how I felt about you, no?"

John frowns. "I never thought about it."

"Well everything went to hell when you didn't come back, so it wasn't only for selfish reasons that I wanted you back, but yes, John, even if things hadn't gone to hell, I would have still dedicated the rest of my life to bring you home." And those eyes have always killed John but seeing the worry lines, the aged, sagging skin, the crow's feet, the kindness that a young Rodney would never have shown except when drunk, they kill him even more. "I love you, John."

John blinks and looks at him and feels tears sting at the back of his eyes. "You know, McKay's gonna be pretty pissed at you for telling me that."

Rodney laughed, and his voice warbled and crackled and John suddenly, desperately needed to know that they would both get to be that old together, as friends or as more than friends.

"I do too though," he whispered, stepping closer, and a hologram version of Rodney is just not damn good enough, not nearly, because he wants to touch him. He wants to just feel Rodney's skin under his fingers one more time. Wants to swat him upside the head, put his hand on his shoulder, grab his arm and yank him around just to watch him squawk. Wants to kiss him and hold him there with him, forever, and never let go. "I always have. I didn't… I didn't know, but I did. Always. I do."

"That's nice," Rodney said, and smirks. "You idiot. Of course you tell this to my long-dead, hologram-self instead of right to my face. I wonder, when you get back, will you tell me then?"

He doesn't of course. He doesn't because when he gets back it's all too obvious that Rodney is in love with Jennifer and he has to sit back and watch all of that without the comfort of the stupid, useless NTBDWB because the stupid NTBDWB was shattered into a billion pieces on the Rodney front and all of a sudden it's all too painful to watch Rodney make googly eyes at Jennifer and know without even the slightest shadow of a doubt that in the future if not now, Jennifer loved him back.

He tries to tell Rodney once, when Rodney tries to die on him again because of that stupid virus from the planet that floods, but Rodney's so scared and child-like he can't. Afterwards he's going to try again but then he sees how the way Jennifer looks at him has changed and so he backs off.

So he sits there and watches as Rodney pines for Jennifer and almost but not quite has to fight Ronon for her and in the end, he watches Jennifer choose Rodney, and Rodney is so pleased and touched and shocked and bewildered that it's really kind of hard to hate either one of them except for the part of him that is apparently bitter and petty and so far gone in love with Rodney fucking McKay that he can't think straight and be the better man.

Then Rodney and Daniel Jackson get taken by the Asgard's evil step-brothers and John has just had enough, because life is short, damnit, and in Pegasus it's even shorter, and he has just had enough.

"Hey," he says after Rodney's been checked out and is no worse for the wear save a few cuts and scrapes, and he leans in the doorway to Rodney's bedroom and thinks ‘how many times have I been here and not known that what I really wanted to do was throw him down on that bed?'

Rodney blinks up at him from where he sits on the bed, looking tired and exhausted and a kind of slow-burn pissed that John can sympathize with, because there's only so many times a person can get kidnapped before he starts getting pissed about it and taking it personally. He smiles at John though and John takes that as an invitation to come inside and shuts the door behind him and thinks it locked.

"So. Kidnapped again."

"Yeah. Really getting tired of that."

"Me too," John says, walking forward until he's just in front of Rodney, only about a foot, and he crouches down until they're eyelevel and says "so I have something to tell you."

Rodney frowns and licks his lips and John's head spins because his heart is going crazy and he doesn't really know how he's going to do this except that he knows he has to or he's going to go crazy. "Mm. Can it wait? I‘m tired."

"I'm gay," John says, and there. It's out there.

Rodney blinks at him. "Um. Huh?"

John nods and thinks that this must be what an out of body experience must feel like because he swears he's not really doing this, and he's not really reaching out to steady himself on Rodney's knees, fingers digging into Rodney's legs. Not really saying "not gay so much as in love with you, really."

Rodney blinks and swallows. "I say again… huh?"

John raises up, because they're not completely level and he wants to be able to look into Rodney's eyes. "You spent your whole life figuring out how to save me," he whispers. "It's kind of enough to make a guy realize deluding himself isn't the answer anymore."

Rodney shakes his head. "What are you talking about?"

"You know I'm not good at this," John says, and it's not that he's pissed it's that he's… okay, yeah, he's pissed, because why does he have to say it? Why can't he just think it and have Rodney know it and it'll just be known, and out there, and done with? "I'm saying I'm starting to see the virtues of your theory that there's not much merit in limiting yourself to only one sex," he says, licking his lips and wondering if Rodney will reciprocate if he just kisses him. "Except it's just you. I just want you."

Rodney shakes his head again and John thinks that now Rodney's the one being willfully obtuse. "Sheppard."

"Look," he says, and he stands, because he can't do this without pacing. "I know, okay? I know you're not expecting it, and I know you're in love with Jennifer, okay? I know."

"I'm not in love with--"

"You are. You will be. You were," John says, closing his eyes. "Okay, it's possible traveling into the future and knowing ones possible outcomes muddles things, but if you're not in love with Jennifer now I know you can be, because you were then, in the past's future, and…" He sighs and scrubs at his face. "I just, I know, it's confusing, and I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about anymore, I just know I want you, and I've been deluding myself into thinking that I wasn't, or, deluding myself into thinking I can't be, but they, them, everyone keeps trying to taking you away from me and one day they might actually succeed and I won't ever know what it's like to even kiss you, and I can't. I just can't."

When John opens his eyes he sees Rodney staring at him like he's one of those incredibly complex math problems Rodney had figured out when he was on the effects of the ascension machine but can't make sense of now, and he doesn't know if that's a good or a bad thing, so he shuts his eyes again and wishes he could just go back to how things were to begin with which was painful but at least it wasn't fucking humiliating.

"How long have you been sitting on this," Rodney asks, and when John opens his eyes Rodney is in front of him and there's a slight smile playing on his lips and John thinks ‘Thank God.'

"Um. Pretty much since, ya know… the first time I realized that I wanted to kill that guy you slept with on M3G-489?"

Rodney frowned, thought, and then he laughed. "Sheppard. That was four years ago!"

John cringed. "Yeah. I'm good at pretending I don't know things about myself that I do."

Rodney stepped forward and then they were breathing the same air and it would be so easy to just lean forward those last two inches and kiss him. So easy, and yet so hard.

"I've wanted you since I showed you the puddle-jumpers," Rodney says softly. "Your face lit up and you grinned at me and I was pretty much gone."

John's eyebrows raised. "Really? See, that's even longer than me! Ha!"

Rodney frowns. "Okay, so are you going to kiss me or do I have to do everything?"

"Oh," John says, and then suddenly he's terrified. Terrified of everything that could go wrong, or right and then wrong, and this is why it's taken him so long because he's 99% sure he's in love with Rodney but love doesn't mean it's gonna work out and if anything's worse than not ever knowing what Rodney tastes like it's the awkward silences and inability to meet each others eyes that's gonna happen if this doesn't work out.

True to his word though, Rodney gets impatient and John feels a mouth against his and hands sliding down his back pulling him closer and the thought of it not working out is the last thing on his mind because it feels so, so right, and good, and god, why did it take this long for him to do this, because Rodney's tongue is against his and his hands leave hot shivery trails of want-more-now-fuck-more-everything-now-now-now down his back and his head is spinning and he can't breathe and he doesn't care if he ever does again because as long as he gets to feel Rodney's dick pressed against his BDU's everything else can go to hell, including air.

And they're too old to do this on the floor but the floor is closer than the bed and John is ripping Rodney's shirt off over his head and Rodney's hands are taking John's pants off and then Rodney's fingers are on his dick and John thinks maybe he's not that old because the last time he came that quickly just from someone touching him he was a teenager, but then he's hard again before he's even finished and he's leaning over Rodney and pushing him into the floor and sliding his hand into Rodney's boxers because Rodney had been dressed for bed when he'd gotten there and he's long, longer than John would have thought, and thick, and he's not quite sure what he's doing so he listens to the way Rodney's breath hitches and quickens and tightens and loosens his fist until Rodney's moaning and writhing underneath him and saying "Yes" and "Fuck" and "Good, yes, there" and "God, Sheppard, we should have been doing this for four fucking years, fuck yes" and "there, there, I'm gonna, keep… God, yes, I'm gonna" and all it takes for John to come again is the sound of Rodney coming right next to his ear, hot panted breaths painting his skin.

His pants are an absolute mess and the floor is hard on his knees and he's probably going to regret not making it to the bed in the morning but he's absolutely not going to regret doing this because Rodney is looking up at him like this is just the first of many, many more fucks to come, and there's no way he could possibly regret that.

"So," Rodney says when they can both breathe again, John sacked out on the floor on his back next to Rodney. "You love me."

John sighs and rolls his eyes. "You're gonna make me say it aren't you?"

He looks at Rodney and Rodney's looking back at him. "We'll just say the feeling is mutual and nothing needs to be said at all."

He kisses Rodney again and it's slow and soft and sweet and it says all the things he's never been good at saying, and better yet, Rodney's saying it back.

Things currently in the NTBDWB are, in no particular order:

The Incident that got him sent to the Tundra of Hell (except for how if it hadn't happened, he never would have gotten Atlantis or Rodney)

  • Elizabeth.
  • His father and everything that was always left unsaid (and, now that he's dead, always will be)
  • Ford.
  • The fact that it was him that woke the wraith.
  • The girl in London in his sophomore year of college, because he still swears he had no way of knowing she had a twin sister.
  • Jennifer, and the fact that he knows she really would have been happy with McKay (and, moreover, the fact that even though he knows this, he wouldn't change one single thing)

  • All feedback much appreciated!
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