Rodney resigned himself to never understanding how he went from proposing to Jennifer at 8:04 pm, complete with champagne, Godiva chocolates, and a new bag of Cheetos, to being not only unengaged, but also single by 12:38 am. How did she go from being so happy that she'd begun crying when he'd handed her that little blue box that could only come from one place, to being so mad and hurt that she was sobbing when she kicked him out of her room. The phrase, "I never want to see you again" might have been uttered and not by him. All because he assumed that they would live on Atlantis. Forever. Because, duh, as he said to her in those exact words. Which were, unfortunately, precisely the wrong words. Because she wanted children, and she didn't want to raise them on a military base where nano-viruses lurked (maybe) in every corridor. And besides, they'd never get clearance, which Rodney thought was a non-starter, because of course they would get clearance and and and and...
The final straw as far as she was concerned was him saying, "I'm not sure about children. What if they are stupid?" At that point his clothes were dumped out the window into the ocean, and he was ordered out of her room. Her room. Which he had thought had been their room. But apparently not. There didn't seem to be a whole lot in the middle between him handing her the ring and her handing him his walking papers except shouting. And drowning his favorite sweater.
She'd change her mind. How could anyone live anywhere else?
She didn't change her mind.
In fact, she transferred out three weeks later. There were several more scenes, each one more emotional than the last. As much as Rodney loved Jennifer, he loved Atlantis more, or at least he couldn't conceive of any other place being home. Jennifer might be the cream in his coffee—not that he actually took cream in his coffee but metaphorically speaking—but Atlantis was his coffee.
This sense of place, this sense of himself and place, was new to him. His brains had moved him around the world, from college campus to college campus, military installment to military installment, with accommodations ranging from pretty nice to pretty craptastic. His basic requirements were (1) a state-of-the-art computing capability, (2) a citrus-free environment, and (3) minions with a minimum of two PhDs. Over the years, he'd demanded and got top-notch computer systems. He now carried epi-pens as a matter of course after nearly dying at that stupid astrophysics conference in Florida where there were oranges on every possible surface in the hotel. And, sadly, despite numerous post-docs at places like Berkeley and M.I.T., he never had as many brains at his disposal as he needed or wanted.
Then he went through the wormhole. The computers at Atlantis were teh bomb, Sheppard had honed his citrus-sniffing skills to a truly astonishing level, and Atlantis' science staff was as close to perfection as was possible, given that they weren't as smart as he was, but then how could they be? Since it had taken him twenty years and seven Wraith attacks to get the staff that he actually could work with, he had no intention of leaving these people behind. Why didn't Jennifer get any of this? Why? Why? Why?
That said, with his engineered gene, Rodney had always felt a distance between him and Atlantis. He was truly jealous of John's ability just to know her. Rodney always felt like he was speaking to her in some ancient Celtic language that hadn't actively been spoken in something like four thousand years and didn't have prepositions or pronouns and was largely composed of verbs. She was speaking in Iambic pentameter. Sometimes the verbs were the same, but most of the time not, and a lot of hand gestures and begging was required to get his point across. Sheppard spoke like Shakespeare. They probably wrote little sonnets in Ancient together in their mental love fests. She never pulled the same shit on him that she did on Rodney. Every now and then he suspected that the shit that she pulled was purely designed to humble him. And maybe laugh at him. A little.
So when Jennifer left and Rodney fell apart, all of a sudden the normal every day shit stopped. Systems didn't spit out error messages for no reason. The desalination tanks began working properly and continued to work properly. Directories with critical schematics that had been hidden for years and years all of a sudden popped up, unannounced, on drives that said they were empty.
Initially, Rodney didn't notice any of this. He was hurt and lonely and just so sad and empty. But slowly he began to crawl out from under all that sad, and then he did notice. In addition, the mess had begun to stock his favorite foods: the coffee wasn't that PX garbage made out of ground-up surplus tires, no, it was Peet's; and chocolate pudding was now a staple for dessert. His laundry seemed to get done without him doing it. When he got headaches, right before the pounding started, the lights would dim just enough so that it didn't feel like spears were puncturing his brain. The water in his shower was a perfect temperature. Sheppard, who'd probably engineered ninety percent of the "be nice to McKay" campaign, was there for all of it. The hurt. The sad. The bewilderment. They played a lot of chess. Battled it out with the cars. Watched Dr. Who over and over again.
Weekends were the hardest. Now that they were stateside, it wasn't a twenty-four seven gig anymore. The staff actually demanded days off, and since they weren't about to be clawed open and sucked dry by the Wraith, Rodney couldn't exactly expect them to work seven days a week. So John took him on puddlejumper runs on the weekends. There was always some clandestine troop movement that they charted to give lip service to using the puddlejumpers for what were essentially joy rides, but they also swooped over the Napa Valley, landed on Half-Dome, zipped by the length of the Canadian Rockies, and saw the pyramids at Giza and the falls at Victoria.
They didn't say much on these trips. Rodney appreciated John's habitual silence for the first time in their friendship, mostly because he didn't have anything to say either. Sometime you don't. Or more like you can't. It did give Rodney pause when he realized he was silent because he knew it would hurt too much to actually verbalize how he was feeling, and he couldn't help but wonder what it was that had wounded John so much that silence was his default.
It wasn't until they were having dim sum in Beijing—unsurprisingly, John spoke flawless Mandarin—that Rodney felt he could say something without crying.
"How many languages do you know?" That got the usual smirk and shrug. Rodney over the years had begun to call it a "smrug." "I'm okay now. Thanks." Rodney did a hand flap just to emphasize that, yes, he really was okay.
"Good. I can go back to being an asshole?"
Rodney ignored that. He reached across the table and slowly placed his hand on John's. When John didn't pull away and merely raised a questioning eyebrow, Rodney tightened his hand. "What did you do? Threaten the staff? Sing endless rounds of "Close to You" to Atlantis so that she'd stop yanking my chain for a bit?"
"Something like that," he replied, which was followed by a real smile, one so rare; a smile with no irony or sarcasm on the edges. "She's more into Beyonce. Naughty Girl is a personal favorite."
That should have had Rodney going into fits because John Sheppard singing Beyonce to Atlantis was such fantastic blackmail material. Something to hum during meetings and make obscure references to in the mess that only Sheppard would get. There were years of material. And he couldn't. All Rodney could think of was how much everyone cared about him, especially John. As much as breaking up with Jennifer had hurt like the most motherfucking hurt ever, he'd been right to stand his ground and not leave.
"She wanted me to leave." John was excellent at hiding things, but Rodney knew him. That minute flare of the left nostril wasn't anger but it was close to it. Maybe outrage. "I couldn't."
John shifted his hand and interlocked his fingers into Rodney's. "Nope."
"Let's go home."
"This?" John held up their interlocked hands.
"Naughty Boy is a personal favorite."