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Summary: Rodney's protective of those he considers family.

Updated: 16 Jan 2011; Published: 03 Jan 2011

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Story Notes:
For the SGA Secret Santa 2010. This is an alternate universe in which Markham, Grodin, Carson Beckett and Elizabeth Weir do not die. Set after Season Five, after Atlantis returns to Pegasus.

Author's Chapter Notes:
This story has been edited from the version submitted to the SGA Secret Santa on lj.


Pairings: McKay/Keller, McKay/Sheppard
Genres: AU, Het, Breaking-up, First-time, Slash
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"Rodney, what are you doing?" Jennifer asked when she found him hammering away at the keys of the laptop as if the device had done him grievous harm.

"It's Markham." Rodney growled out with a frustration that led to a splitting headache when having to deal with stupid people. "Someone reported Markham."

From the very beginning of the expedition to Pegasus, Sgt. Ryan Markham had always been a favorite with everyone for his easy going manner and ability to make everyone laugh. He had the innate ability to ease tensions, bring people together, and make the most of any situation. Even during that first year without contact from Earth, Markham was there to bring a smile to everyone's face and bring cheer even in the gloomiest situations.

During that first year, despite all the insults and put downs he received from McKay, Markham had always found Rodney funny. He found ways to make Rodney forget about his fears if even for a moment. After Rodney had blown up most of a solar system, during what was one of his darkest moments, it was Markham who ate with him every day and offered non-judgmental companionship.

They had nearly lost Markham in the first year during a dog fight with a Wraith dart above the city. For several hours, everyone had believed him dead when the jumper exploded. It was only after they found the soldier wandering through halls in a daze from his head injury that they learned about the emergency jumper protocol. In the case of a catastrophic event within and around the city, the jumper would beam all occupants to pre-programmed sites. From then on David Stackhouse had remained close at hand, never venturing far from Markham.

Despite the speculative romance stories that occasionally ran rampant in the science departments about the pair (and made Rodney want to puke his guts out), everyone had been happy the pair had found each other.

Almost everyone, Rodney growled to himself as he continued to trace reports. None of the original expedition members would have turned the couple in, back then they'd only had one another to rely on for their very survival and everyone from the first year adored the couple. Stupid American politics!

"Rodney?" Jennifer placed a hand on his arm and frown at his laptop. "This really isn't our business."

It took a few minutes for her words to sink in and when they did, he looked up at her, confused. "It's Markham." How could it NOT be their business? Someone was trying to hurt one of their own over something so completely stupid as whom they fell in love with. How could Jennifer not see that something had to be done? "They want to take him away from Atlantis, discharge him from the service, take him away from us."

Jennifer sighed in that way she did when he'd done yet something else wrong, like tell people when they were wrong, wrong, just so unbelievably stupid and yeah, wrong. Even when he was right which, of course, was all the time. So he waited, confused and a bit hurt. He was trying to help someone who was being senselessly prosecuted against a policy that the Canadians had abolished nearly two decades before. How could helping someone he considered a member of his extended family in Atlantis against homophobic actions that allowed an entire segment of the population to be treated like common criminals and second class citizens be wrong?

"It's not that he's not a good soldier," Jennifer bit her bottom lip, "he is and he's certainly well-liked in the city but trying to fight this could have serious repercussions for anyone who tries to take it on, career-wise. We talked about going back to Earth when you're contract is up; something like this could have a huge impact on where we get jobs, even what kind of jobs we get offered. Maybe, maybe it's for the best, right? I mean, we wouldn't want – " here the doctor hesitated in continuing her line of thought.

"To throw our careers away on a faggot?" Rodney exclaimed, not believing what he was hearing.

"You're making this out to be far worse than it really is and consider the example you'd be setting for our children – "

"How is righting wrongs a bad example? Markham could be sent to jail over this, Jennifer, like some kind of criminal!"

"He knew the consequences of joining the U.S. Military, he made his decision and he chose to break the rules." Jennifer scolded him as if he were the slow one between them.

Rodney felt himself snap and jerked away from her touch. "I can't believe you made it this far into the Stargate Program with this level of prejudice!"

"It's not like that at all!" Jennifer cried out, "it's just not a part of what I grew up with and I was hoping we'd move close to my father – "

Rodney snapped his fingers at her, shock and horror on his face. "You're a doctor, you know all kinds of things about your patients! Tell me you didn't send in the report on Markham! Jennifer, tell me you didn't violate doctor-patient confidentiality to get a good man kicked out of his job!"

"What? No! I would never violate my patient's confidentiality like that, Rodney!" Jennifer shouted back, bewildered and angry with him. "How could you think that?"

"Why not? He's gay so what would it matter? It's not like he's normal, right? It's not like he's someone worth fighting for! Tell me, Dr. Keller, do you give your gay patients the same dedicated work as your straight ones? Do you try your best to save them or do you figure it really isn't any of your business?"

Flinching back as if she'd been slapped, Jennifer stared at Rodney with open hurt. "How can you even say that to me, after all we've been through? I've only ever wanted the best for us – "

"The best for us? You mean the best for you!" In an odd moment, Rodney found himself viewing this entire out of hand situation from outside his own body, no more able to control what was coming out of his mouth than he could create a ZPM from thin air.

The tension between them had been building for some time, since Atlantis had left Earth and returned to the Pegasus galaxy. Jennifer talked more and more of returning and settling down and spent more and more time correcting him and admonishing his behaviors. The detachment left him to realize that this wasn't the happy relationship he'd hoped for and while he did love Jennifer, it was crystal clear that she didn't love him. Not the way he was, at least.

"You want me to be that man who complimented you and was nice while a parasite was turning me into a simpering idiot. You don't want me, you never did. That's why you keep trying to change me." He looked at her and wondered if this odd distance was deflecting the hurt he knew he should be feeling. "You don't love me for the way I am but for what you hope you can shape me into so I don't embarrass you in front of others or in front of your father."

"Rodney, it's not like that," Jennifer shook her head as she realized the serious turn the conversation had taken and the possible ramifications.

"I'm an atheist, I don't believe in religion. I'm also Canadian if you hadn't noticed and my country not only allows homosexuals to openly serve in the armed forces, but to legally marry. Did you not know these things about me or were you hoping to change them as well?" The words were spoken soft and calmly, something he knew was not right. "And if your father can't handle something as simple as someone who's gay serving in the military, how would he deal with a son-in-law whose bisexual?"

As his words landed each blow, he could see the truth so painfully etched on her lovely face. He'd have to deny and repress who he was and what he believed in to fit into her world. "I see. This isn't going to work out, Dr. Keller. Please leave, I have work to do." Suddenly, he found himself back in his own body and furious as all hell as she paused, about to continue arguing. "Don't! There is nothing left to talk about."

Jennifer walked quietly out of the lab, tears flowing down her face. Rodney found he couldn't bare the silence in the empty room so he packed up his laptop and headed out.

----------------

"You daft bugger." Carson swore as he caught his breath at the top of the stairs that led out onto the balcony that Rodney had sought refuge on. "You didn't take your radio with you, Rodney."

Looking up from where he was seated on the floor, Rodney shrugged. "Is the city sinking?"

"No and that's not the point, we're worried about you." Carson eyed the mostly empty bottle of rock-gut that came from the local still. "Please tell me that was almost empty when you got it." He sat next to his friend and carefully took in his friend's condition. Rodney's eyes were red, there were dark circles under those shielded blue eyes of his that indicated lack of sleep, he looked pale and clammy and his uniform was wrinkled. Carson had to wonder when the last time it was that Rodney had eaten or showered. Taking out a power bar, he handed it to his friend.

"Almost half full." Rodney told him, "and I don't need anyone's pity, Carson!" He snagged the power bar and went back to his laptop. The comment earned him a smack on the shoulder.

"Has that rock gut made you stupid, man? It's not pity, its concern for a friend!" He sighed and felt suddenly tired. Some days were harder than others to be Rodney's friend and Carson wanted to box the ears of those people who had hurt his friend to make him think no one really cared. Looking out at the spectacular view of the city, it was easy to see why Rodney had picked this particular balcony. Nearly all the balconies had exceptional views and everyone had their favorites, especially when they wanted to be alone and this one wasn't easy to reach.

"How did you find me?"

"Grodin helped scan the city. I'm sorry to hear about Jennifer."

"Yeah, so am I." Rodney spoke softly, not nearly drunk enough for that conversation. "But that's not what's important right now. I've been doing some thinking and I believe I have a way of not only keeping Markham here, but also abolishing that hideous American policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Carson gazed at his friend with open affection. Prickly, arrogant, self-centered Rodney had found a way to keep those he cared about safe, even if he would vehemently deny the caring bit. "What help do ye need?"

-----------

The approach was three pronged as Rodney wasn't about to rely on just one avenue of attack.

First, he discredited the claim against Markham and the person who had filed the report. It had taken time to run through the city's systems to find the disloyal bastard who had turned Markham in and what evidence he or she had to support their claim.

Finding the person responsible for the report wasn't very difficult. Dr. Ned Dakar was a relative new comer to Atlantis and from a long family line of military soldiers. Dr. Dakar, however, hadn't been able to cut it in the military and had been drummed out during basic training, turning to academics instead. The physicist wasn't very good at covering his tracks either and it took little effort to find and piece together his motive. He had a deep resentment at being overlooked for military service and blamed people who were gay as he felt gays were taking spots that rightly belonged to straight people like him.

How someone as prejudice as Dakar had gotten passed the shrinks at the SGC was beyond Rodney, though he suspected either political maneuvering or outright stupidity. But those were issues for another day.

As for the evidence, Rodney was rather impressed to find little of it; despite the lax policy on Atlantis, the couple had been very discreet. The only damning evidence was one security feed that showed a distraught and upset Markham who was clearly drunk, stating his opposition to Don't Ask, Don't Tell and an implied suggestion to his preference for men. It had come after a particularly harrowing mission where Stackhouse had nearly died.

Dakar hadn't yet sent the damning evidence onto the SGC and the Pentagon (narcissistic megalomaniac) so it was easy to hack into the Atlantis and Earth systems in the city and edit the security feed and create a virus that would alter every copy in every laptop connected to the city's systems. And if Dakar's room was searched for a hidden copy stashed in a secret compartment in the bathroom and altered as well, the imbecile was too busy working on the desalinization tanks across the city to know anything about it.

For the few other American military personnel in the video, Rodney let loose Cadman to take care of any potential problems there. The scientists in the video got a visit from Rodney himself.

-----------------

"The JAG has done a complete investigation of this situation and has found the claims to be baseless. Dr. Dakar has been recalled back to the SGC and will have his contract terminated along with several charges filed against him." O'Neill was smiling as he appeared on the video. "Sgt. Markham, you are released to your regular duties."

"Thank you sir!" Markham saluted and was then dismissed.

"Well, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about these complaints...." O'Neill glared at Rodney who glared right back.

----------------

The second prong of the attack were the complaints to the IOA representatives on behalf of several countries about the inherent unsafe conditions placed upon the international members being exposed to such prejudice policies as well as the American government's arrogance and intolerance at not respecting the laws of other countries. For members of the Atlantis expedition and even those at the SGC from other countries, most had signed a letter stating their willingness to resign if this issue was not favorably resolved. It would wipe out nearly two-thirds of the scientific staff on Atlantis alone.

----------------

"Do you have any idea of how many calls the President has had to take in the last few days?" O'Neill demanded of Rodney. "There have been threats to make the Stargate program public knowledge if these demands aren't met."

"I am not responsible for your country's discriminatory policies, General O'Neill, or the backlash of your politicians not being able or willing to correct those policies. I am, however, responsible for the people in my care and I will not have them exposed to irresponsible, degenerative policies that could put them in harm's way over a fundamental difference of what is right and what is wrong. The recent witch-hunt against Sgt. Markham has simply brought to light the injustice of your system and the repercussions to those who do not bow to your country's backward and depraved laws simply because the Americans run the SGC program." Rodney paused to take a breath and seeing the look of bewilderment on O'Neill's face, added, "You've been handed a vote of no-confidence, General. We're in the middle of a war, we shouldn't have to fear the people who are supposed to take care of our safety or loose the people who have proven damn good at doing just that."

O'Neill looked away and swore. "You're serious, aren't you?"

"Do I look like I'm playing around?"

"Christ."

---------------------

"Rodney?" Elizabeth asked after the meeting with O'Neill finished. John had been oddly quiet throughout the entire briefing.

"You're American, Elizabeth and we didn't want to put you in a position the SGC or the IOA could use against you." Rodney winced at the all too vivid reminder of the battles just a few years ago to keep Elizabeth as the leader of the Atlantis expedition. It hadn't been pretty and for a long time he feared she would give up the fight when her authority had been undermined so many times. There was a reason he hated politics with a passion.

"I appreciate your concern but I still wish you had approached me about this, Rodney." Reaching out, Elizabeth placed a hand over his. "I really hope you know what you're doing, this could have serious consequences."

"I made sure everyone understood the consequences before signing that letter." Rodney squeezed her hand, got up and left the office.

"Are you insane?" John demanded of Rodney when he caught up with him in the hallway. "You could lose your job over this!"

Having been so wrong about Jennifer, Rodney had to wonder if he'd been wrong about John too. "Do you honestly believe that Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a good policy?"

"No! Christ, no, Rodney but you're risking your entire career on this thing and," John's gaze cut away as one hand went to rub the back of his neck, "I don't like it when you go into a fight without the team to back you up. I don't – I don't want to have to break in a new Chief Science Officer, I kind of got you broken in just fine." It was the closest declaration about their friendship Rodney was going to get and he had to smile, thankful that at least some things didn't change.

"The geeks shall inherit the earth." Rodney reminded him.

John stared at him for a moment with a shy smile. "You have a plan?"

For the first time in days, Rodney found himself smiling too. "I have a plan."

--------------

Despite John's best attempts at interrogations and bribes, Rodney was not about to tell him the other parts of the plan. The last prong of attack was something Rodney hadn't told anyone about. Being a genius had put him in positions of not always wearing a white hat; his work with the CIA amongst those times. So it took very little effort to hack into systems and plant data mining viruses that wouldn't be discovered or traced back to their source. American politics was a dirty business and it didn't take long to find enough blackmail material on those who would oppose the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

It amazed Rodney how hypocritical the most vocal opponents against DADT were and why they assumed their secrets were any less fodder for the press than those whose lives they were trying to destroy.

When the time came to vote on the repeal and allow for gays to serve openly in the American military, it cleared overwhelmingly.

-----------------

"A toast!" Ryan Markham shouted out over the crowd who'd gathered for the party to celebrate the latest news from Earth. "To the man of the hour! And I strongly, strongly suggest no one ever get on his bad side." That got the soldier laughter though it faded as Markham grew serious, "Instead of being locked up in chains as some sort of deviant, I'm allowed to have a family, friends, and a home. And I can do this." He pulled David Stackhouse close and kissed him to within an inch of his life, onlookers hooting and cat-calling. When they parted, both looked a little giddy and a lot turned on. "To all of this, all that is my life, I owe to a man who has repeatedly denied any direct involvement but to whom I give thanks to anyways." Ryan turned and held up his glass to Rodney. "My very dear friend, Rodney McKay."

Looking up from his plate of food, Rodney scowled at everyone in an attempt to hide his blush. "That's Dr. Rodney McKay to you, Markham and I still have no idea what you're blathering on about!"

Cheers went up and the party went into full swing. Much to his dismay, Rodney found himself dragged out to the dance floor by both women and men and was constantly greeted with praise. Overwhelmed and more than a little embarrassed, he piled a plate full of food and snuck out to his quarters.

"Thank god!" He sighed heavily, hoping to get to his plate of food that had barely been touched all evening.

A knock came at his door and he cringed, wondering who had followed him. Opening the door, he was relieved to find John there.

"You should be at the party with your admirers." John stated as the door closed behind him.

"Right! Only once the party is over and they all remember my bad temper, all the good will they feel will quickly evaporate." Rodney sat down heavily on his couch and poked at his plate.

"Hey, I know things didn't work out with Keller but it's been months since she left and that doesn't mean – "

"What?" Rodney interrupted, anger washing over him. "That there's someone out there who'll accept me for who I am, the way I am? This isn't some story book, Sheppard! Not everyone gets their happy ending!" He deflated and poked at his food again. "Why don't you go back and enjoy yourself? I'm sure the entire expedition is waiting on pins and needles to get a chance to dance with you."

"I don't want to dance with the entire expedition." John told him, moving closer and sitting down next to him, putting a hand over Rodney's. "The person I wanted to dance with had a pretty full dance card." It took a full second before comprehension dawned on Rodney's face and he looked at John in shock. "Listen, we've been friends for a long time. We've seen each other's good and bad sides, we know how to deal with each other's – ah – idiosyncrasies and I think – well – that is – we could – that this could – ah – be something – well, not casual."

"Is this just because DADT's been repealed that you're willing to take this chance?" Rodney asked him, staring at him in shock. A small voice in his head was screaming at him to shut up but he had to know, there was too much that could go wrong if this ended badly.

John ran a hand over the back of his neck, ducking his head shyly. "I – ah – didn't know, you know, until all this stuff with Markham and – well – "

"You only recently realized you had feelings for me." Rodney couldn't help but sound amazed as he recalled the last few months. John had always been there, distracting him when he felt down, bringing him food when he worked long hours, geeking out over new tech and watching bad movies. But there had also been gifts of chocolate and coffee, weird looks at the oddest of moments and far more touches than they normally shared. How the hell had he missed what was right in front of his face?

Rodney quickly grabbed John, pulling the colonel over on top of himself. "It's damn lucky for you that I'm a genius and understand Sheppardese! Off, off, off! We've wasted enough time!" The goofy grin Rodney got was enough to make him pause and gaze up at his best friend in wonder and awe for a moment. Though Rodney would deny to his dying breath that there was anything romantic about it.

"Yeah, I think I can do not casual," he whispered before demanding access to expanses of naked, naked skin.

--end