Title: The Seven Stages of Rodney's Coming Out Process
Author: Kitchyy
Rating: PG-NC-17
This Chapter: PG
Pairings: Eventual Sheppard/McKay
Warnings/Spoilers: Upto the End of Season 3, just to be safe

Summary for this chapter: He just really, really needs this to work.

Disclaimer: So not mine. Never will be. Please also remember, this is totally unbeta'd so, yanno, mistakes are mine and I take full responsibility for them.

Previous Chapter

Stage Six: Realization

Ever since they found the Atlantis Medical bay, a lot of things once considered serious injury dropped in severity. Issues that once needed exploratory surgery or complex operations now only needs the med bay scanner, and human physiology compared to Ancients are so similar that many of the remedies in the medical database can be used for the expedition members.

Teyla has four stitches at the back of her head (due to getting hit with what Rodney would modestly refer to as a huge boulder, Teyla keeps insisting it was a fist sized rock) and a nasty concussion, but within days she's able to resume her usual duties. Ronon only suffered a fractured wrist--

"What were ye thinkin', helping with the Rescue team, Ronon?" Carson asks. He looks very annoyed as he wraps Ronon's wrist with the Ancients version of a cast. It's incredibly thin, lightweight and of course, blue.

Rodney's in a lot of pain from the nurse bandaging his foot, but still smiles as Ronon shrugs. "They needed help." He replies, as if it's silly to even ask.

Carson rolls his eyes. "And I'll need all the help I can get with you lot."


Not everything is fixed with a snap of a finger, but Rodney's sprained ankle only takes a week to heal, Ronon's wrist takes two, and John's seven week recovery time reserved for broken and cracked ribs is reduced to three. Rodney is very glad of that. He doesn't like seeing his friends in pain.

However, there's a part of him, - an ugly part Rodney refuses to acknowledge - kind of wishes it would take the full seven.

He doesn't want John out of commission, that's not it at all. It's just--Rodney doesn't want to be around him these days. It's not because he doesn't like John, quite the contrary. He wants to be around John all the time, wants to goof around and laugh with him, watch movies curled up on the couch next to him and soak up as much of the man as humanly possible.

Rodney wants to measure the width of those shoulders with his hands, wants to know what the skin right behind John's ear tastes like. And therein lies the problem.

He avoids John as much as possible, but eventually Team Night catches up with him. He debates if he should skip out and make some excuse, just hole himself up in his lab for the evening and work, but Atlantis is running beautifully for once. Zelenka fixed the major naqada generator power distribution problems while he was out of commission - a hack that Rodney will definitely need to fix up - but no other pressing astrophysics or engineering issues are hanging over their heads.

So when Teyla comes to pick him up - the glint in her eye makes Rodney wonder if his internal debate wasn't so internal after all, he goes with her, even takes the bag she was carrying for her, and they all meet in John's quarters. He's still having trouble getting around with his ribs.

"I have decided to help all of us with our recoveries," Teyla says shortly after Ronon arrives and heads straight for John's kitchenette, bringing the bag Teyla brought with her.

"Oh yeah?" John asks, Rodney can almost see his ears perk like a cat.

"Uh-oh." Ronon says under his breath and Rodney starts to worry. It's not often Ronon is negative about a team member.

Teyla patently ignores him. "Rodney and I shall make a fortifying stew."

"How did I get involved in this?" Rodney squawks.

Teyla looks at him cooly. "Ronon's wrist will not allow him the proper motions to cut things, and John's ribs limit his movements as well. Therefore, you shall help me." She says, matter of fact, then starts pulling vegetables and cooking implements out of her bag.

John looks a little wilted around the edges. "Are you making that tuddle root stew again?"

Teyla's cool look turns positively icy. "And what is wrong with my stew?"

There are some social skills Rodney's inept at, but even he knows this is dangerous territory.

"Well, it's just that--" John looks like he's searching for words that won't get him killed. "Nothing, I'm sure it will help." He ends lamely.

"I don't know what you guys are whining about, I love the stuff." Rodney replies loudly. Teyla makes good stew. Ok, so it might be a little crispy here and there, but it adds to the overall flavor. He doesn't understand why these two don't like it.

"Suck up." He hears Ronon mutter.

Rodney and Teyla get to work in the kitchen. Rodney's never been good at cooking and it would go a lot faster if Teyla didn't have to tell him step-by-step everything he needs to do. Since they're in John's quarters he gets to choose the music. Rodney was expecting something twangy and hard due to the Johnny Cash poster staring at him from over the bed, but it's smooth and mellow; it plays quietly in the background.

While they prepare the meal John teaches Ronon how to play chess.

"So, I can take your porn?" Ronon asks four moves in.

"Pawn." John corrects him, his cheeks are bright and his ears are a startling shade of pink when Rodney looks over. "Their called pawns."

"Yeah, pawn." Ronon repeats with a tiny knowing smile. Ronon moves his knight, picks up the black pawn he took and throws it over his shoulder.

"Uh Ronon..." John says at the piece lying on the floor by the window.

Ronon looks at the piece and then back at the board, a look Rodney can't read passes over his face. "Oh, yeah, sorry." He says and goes to pick it up. "There's a game on Sateda we used to play. When you took the other person's piece you'd throw it over your shoulder."

Rodney's surprised, it's only recently that Ronon talks about Sateda. After those conversations he becomes more quiet than his usual stoic self for long days and spends hours in the training room. He looks closely, but Ronon's shoulders are relaxed, and he's smiling, or the nearest thing to it.

John nods. "We used to do that with salt for good luck."

Teyla stops chopping. "You used to play games with salt?" She asks uncertainly.

Ronon snorts. "See, Teyla? I told you Earthers are weird."

Rodney sighs loudly. "We never played games with it." Rodney quips from the kitchen. "It was a highly pointless and arcane ritual that isn't practiced any longer. Salt was once a precious commodity, so if you poured too much or spilled it then you had to throw some over your shoulder as an offering to the good spirits, or ward away the bad ones."

"So, which one was it--good or bad?" Ronon asks as he studies the move John made.

John shrugs. "Depended on where you lived, I guess." He replies.

"The Athosians had something similar," Teyla says as she dumps vegetables into the broth. "In the ancient days, before my people were given the gift of sensing the Wraith, there was a plant called the renzicul. It is very rare, and blooms even more rarely. It was believed that when the flowers bloomed the Wraith were awakening. It became a rule that if one were to cut the plant down it would endanger us. It was incredibly bad luck even to walk upon it. But if you were to bring a bloom to the village, it was very good luck."

"At least that one makes sense." Rodney says as he grates a dark red vegetable. It has the consistency of cheese, but it smells like spicy carrots.

"Did it ever work?" John asks.

Teyla shrugs as she stirs the stew. "It is hard to say, but there must have been a reason for my people to have believed it."

When Teyla doesn't know the answer to something she sounds incredibly diplomatic. "So, you're not sure, then." Rodney surmises with a smug smile.

Teyla tilts her head thoughtfully. "My people are still here, so I believe that maybe it did help, although I cannot be certain." She looks down at Rodney's grating job and sighs. "Like this, Rodney."

Teyla shows him how to grate the absurdly red cheese-carrot again. "I told you I'm not a good cook." Rodney mutters.

"And yet you are making dinner for us all." Teyla rebuts, which is such a huge stretch of the truth it's painful. "Soon you will be able to make this without my help. I look forward to the day."

"That will be interesting. I can't wait to see the apron." John says, Ronon chuckles and John gives Rodney an appreciative once-over that makes him flush and look pointedly away.

"If my cooking skills have anything to say about it, that will be a long way off, as in the never to be fulfilled fantasy world that you've obviously concocted within the confines of your head." Rodney replies. He wonders if John really has imagined him being domestic in his kitchen and cooking something just for the two of them. Sitting and eating alone together. Sharing evening conversation and seeing that sweet little smile John sometimes gives him between mouthfuls of food.

Teyla, John and Ronon keep up the conversation, but Rodney becomes uncharacteristically quiet. He stops grating and sneaks another look at John. He looks so comfortable. His long legs are stretched under the chess table, and his intelligent eyes are studying the board and laughing at something Ronon says at the same time. John reaches out and touches the Queens Rook, taps it with his index finger and Rodney can't tear his eyes away.

It's not his hand that he's obsessed with now, it's the easy curve of his back, the messy flip of his hair, that full bottom lip and how soft it looks when he smiles. John turns his head a fraction, instinct kicks in and Rodney looks away as John looks up.

He feels John's eyes on him. Rodney's heart is beating too fast under his chest, his mouth is dry and he has a sudden wild thought that he should leave, simply walk out the door and save himself a world of problems. He knows that's rude though, so he grates the root instead and keeps from looking anywhere else but at the food in front of him.

Dinner is very good, and even though John originally complained about it, he still eats two helpings and Ronon eats three. It's amazing how much Ronon can eat in a single sitting.

After dinner they sit and watch a cartoon. Rodney and John are sitting on the couch, Ronon is on the floor, legs stretched out and his back against the far side of the couch, and Teyla sits in the only other chair. "There are animals that talk." Teyla says, looking disturbed.

John offers the bowl of popcorn to Teyla, who takes a few pieces out of politeness. "Animals have personalities," John explains. "We've had talking animals in Earth culture for... Huh. A long time."

"There's some cultures built on animals that can talk." Rodney finishes for him.

Teyla eyes the talking animals. "I think I am starting to understand why certain people from your planet refuse to eat meat."

Rodney snorts. "No, it's because hippies like the idea of eating rabbit food instead of something real." He replies. "Maybe that's why their skinny and angry. They're always hungry." He adds thoughtfully.

Teyla still has that little crease between her brows. "I do not like the idea that food can talk."

Ronon looks mildly uncomfortable, too. John and Rodney share a look and realization hits them at the same time. It hits way too close to home for the Pegasus galaxy. They decide to switch the movie to a random comedy flick John has on his laptop. Ronon laughs loudly and at length at the new movie, mostly at points that aren't supposed to be funny at all and Rodney wonders again at the many cultural differences between Satedans and the rest of the universe.

Rodney is also incredibly tense, even though he knows he shouldn't be. John is sitting beside him, the warmth of his body is like a furnace along his side. All he wants to do is hold John's hand, and all he can think of is how nice it would be to press more firmly into that warmth. To taste his mouth.

At one point John nudges him to pay attention and out of nowhere Rodney thinks 'I don't know if I can pretend any longer.' That scares the shit out of him. He isn't pretending, he tells himself. He's straight. He wants to be straight. He wants John as his friend. That's all.

What scares him most is that he isn't sure if he believes that any longer.

***

He tries anew to find another date because he needs this to work. He needs to find a distraction - any distraction to put him back on the right track. Rodney ignores how it feels more and more like desperation and no longer an interest like it should. It takes a week but he finally finds her. Her name is Rosemary Cohen, she's a double PhD, one in linguistics, and one on neurosciences, specifically neurolinguistics. She's one of the departmental heads of the Xenolinguistics teams and is incredibly smart in her field, and yeah, it might be one of the softer sciences, but Rodney is still willing to give it a go.

She's also slim and athletic with chin length honey blonde hair and the most striking green eyes he's ever seen.

He takes her to his quarters where he's laid out some food from the mess and arranged it to look nice, the way Teyla showed him. He also brought a bottle of wine, he had to trade a week of night shifts for it, but it was totally worth it.

"I had no idea you could cook!" She laughs and it's throaty and rich. Rodney notices that it's an octave or two higher than John's.

"I'm not actually a cook, I got most of this from the mess, actually. However, I did help Teyla cook some tuddle root stew a few days ago and nothing caught on fire. If I think of a recipe as a formula, it goes better."

Rosemary nods, looking impressed at the spread. "That's a good way to look at cooking." She takes a forkful of dinner and asks, "she's on your gate team, right?"

"Who, Teyla? Yeah, she is." Rodney replies absently as he picks through the mashed almost-potatoes.

"I wouldn't mind going on a gate team." Rosemary admits. "I don't know how I would feel about doing it full-time like you do, though. I mean, where do you find the time to lead your department properly?"

Rodney stops picking at the potatoes and shrugs. "A lot of sleepless nights. And of course, my teams help. My gate team and the science team, that is. Zelenka is surprisingly good at paperwork."

She laughs again and this time Rodney tries to enjoy it.

Their conversation spans multiple subjects, and she even surprises him by knowing a bit of leading astrophysics studies. "Oh, it's just a hobby of mine." She demurs, and Rodney thinks that's really, really cool.

The rest of the evening goes incredibly well. He thinks he's found someone who can help him with this little non-problem of his. As he leads her to the door of his quarters at the end of the night, she runs a hand down his arm and holds his hand.

"This was really... Nice." He says, and means it.

Rosemary smiles right back. "It was." She leans in to kiss him, and Rodney hesitates for a second, then follows through. He can smell her perfume. It's something light and sweet, it matches her personality.

She pulls back and sighs. "Rodney, what were you thinking when you kissed me?"

"What?" He asks blankly. Her question feels like it's coming out of left field. Girls don't usually ask things like that directly after kissing.

"What were you thinking?" She repeats. She looks earnest and curious.

Rodney frowns. "Your perfume. It's nice. Why?"

Her green eyes drop to look at their still linked hand. "Not that you want to see me again, or..." She blushes a little. "Anything like that?" She looks shyly up from under dark lashes.

Rodney frowns again. "Well, I would like to do this again."

Rosemary looks him over for a minute, and then looks at her feet and chuckles. "It seems like... I don't know. Like you wish you were somewhere else, or I was someone else."

"Oh, no, no, no," Rodney panics. "That's not it at all. It's possible I might be a little distracted, yes, but that's because of work. That's all."

Rosemary nods. She has the same look Heightmeyer wears when she says something that cuts Rodney to his soul. It makes him sweat. "I'll tell you what I think. It's not because of work. I think there's someone else you're interested in." She forces a laugh and Rodney tries not to cringe at the disappointed undertone. "She must be something."

Rodney looks at her hands in his. They are small, delicate and soft. She doesn't have a single callous and there's only the lightest brushing of a tan. "... Yeah." He says very, very quietly. Rosemary's eyes light up in triumph that she was right, and sadden at the same time.

"I like you, Rodney. But I'd like it more if you liked me back the same way." Rodney wants to refute his last statement. He knows if he does he will look desperate and needy, and those aren't good traits in a potential partner. Rosemary nods and lets go of his hand. "If it turns out this... something with her doesn't work out, please, by all means, call me again, ok?"

"What if I call you tomorrow anyways?" He asks.

She narrows her eyes and looks at him for a long moment. Rodney wants to squirm under her gaze. "Will it change how you feel about her?"

Now it's Rodney's turn to take great interest in his footwear. "Probably not."

"Then that's my answer for you, too." She says, just as quiet. She lifts his chin with her fingers so they're looking at each other again. "I want something real with you, Rodney. I don't want to wonder if I'm the second choice."

Rosemary kisses his cheek and slips out the door. After she leaves Rodney stares at the closed door for long moments, then sits very carefully on his couch and puts his head in his hands.

She's perfect. She's intelligent and funny and sweet and almost as smart as he is. He should go after her, tell her she was wrong and schedule another date with her because he wants to see her again. He really does.

This has to work, damn it. So why is he sitting here, looking forlornly at his Athosian coffee table instead of chasing after her like he's supposed to? Because if he's completely honest with himself, this whole construct he's built up hasn't been working for a long damn time, he admits. He knows Rosemary is beautiful, of course he's attracted to her, but it's not like he wants to sleep with her.

Rodney stops breathing for a full three seconds. He doesn't want to sleep with her. He lets that realization sink in. Then he thinks hard about the last time he's wanted to sleep with anyone. All he can come up with is John.

Rodney wants to yell. He wants to pick up the closest breakable object and just--throw it and hear it smash, then watch it crack into a thousand tiny pieces. He doesn't. He sits in the dark with his head in his hands and his life flashing before his eyes, and it's the rock slide all over again, with the fear and the panic and the growing nausea, but this time it's because what he thought was right all along just... Isn't. And no matter how hard he tries, and how compatible the girl seems, it just will. Not. Fucking. Work.

And for the first time in Rodney's life, he leans back and closes his eyes and allows himself to imagine what it would be like to have a relationship with another man. He's so scared he feels his hands shake and sweat gather at his temples. How it would feel to have half the closet full of another man's clothing, two razors on the bathroom counter, two pairs of heavy boots on the mat by the door? The sock drawer would be in complete and utter chaos because if one man is incapable of folding socks, than two would be a disaster.

His breath catches.

What if he had the freedom to trace his fingers over hot, hard flesh, taste another mans mouth, hear another low, growling moan in his ear. The stubble burn would be twice as bad since there would be two of them, and he could only imagine the knowing looks he would get at work the next day if left unchecked.

His hands clench.

How nice would it be to have a small, secretive smile waking him up in the mornings, his partners chin covered in stubble, his hair adorably mussed from sleep? He could only imagine the arguments they would get into. Rodney would at least hope they would be to the point and not have to get into the feelings of the matter quite so rampantly like his female partners have in the past. And after that argument, what if Rodney could wrap his arms around a toned waist, skimming down to a set of slim hips and kissing the back of a very male neck, whispering his apology and being held in strong, sturdy, masculine arms?

His heart aches.

It's not that he doesn't want this, he realizes now. He wants this so much he's terrified of it. The enormity of how right and perfect this feels makes him dizzy, makes his chest hurt and tears burn behind his eyelids. Rodney's never prone to being overcome with emotion. He doesn't cry at weddings or anything like that, but he's damn close to crying now, because, because--

God, it could be so fucking perfect.

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