Summary: Sheppard discovers something about his SiC and confronts Lorne
Originally this was an old wip that I started and let sit (initially I stalled out at around 700wc) in 2006? For the Slashing_Lorne Sept challenge, prompt: What Lorne brought from Earth. Anyhoo, I retooled and finished it for slashing_lorne's 12 Days of Lorne 2014 - then proceeded to forget & post it here, yikes! Sorry...
John stood there feeling awkward even as his chin jutted out in a nod to acknowledge Lorne's presence. Trying to shake off his nerves, he smiled. "Thanks for meeting me here."
"No problem, Sir."
"Ah yeah about that. We're both off duty... one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you out here instead of my office. Mind if we dispense with the protocol and just talk as, friends, John and Evan?"
Although he tried to conceal his reaction, it was easy to see Lorne was thoroughly surprised. Then slowly Evan nodded his affirmation before adding a slightly drawn out, "Okay."
"Good, good." John nodded, though he still felt anxious his hand automatically reaching up to rub his neck trying to find a way to broach the subject he didn't want to have with his SiC. However after everything that went down with the Genii, John knew there was no avoiding it. "So everything go okay with Beckett?"
"Yeah just fine, Doc cleared me for duty. I'm sure he'll send you a report."
Distractedly, John nodded and repeated, "Good, good."
Silence descended. John felt the sting of prickly heat as panic hit. This, trying to bring up personal shit wasn't John forte especially when it was breaking protocol on DADT.
After several long minutes of waiting, Lorne finally promoted him, "John?"
Hearing his name, the concern in Evan's voice gave John the fortitude he needed and exhaled, nodding. Nervously he cleared his dry throat. "You know I thought you were dead...we ALL thought you were dead." Looking Evan in the face, John hoped Evan would get what John was trying to say, instead Evan just stared back at him blank faced. Inhaling he continued, "I wanted needed to—Ah hell, I was in your room..." Opening his jacket he pulled out a book he had hidden there.
Evan just stared at the book. It was an old worn copy of Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It had been Jenkins idea of a joke, his old team's send off when they discovered Lorne was shipping out to Atlantis. However Lorne knew this wasn't about the book, but what John, his CO found inside.
Evan's gut knotted, lips tightened into a thin line, and his jaw clenched. Watching helplessly his CO pull out the pictures he had hidden randomly throughout the book.
John's thumb gently swept over one of the photos.
Frantically Evan searched for a plausible explanation but none came to mind. Only panic as his mind screamed: 'deny, deny, deny' whatever Sheppard was or wasn't asking. Over the years at different times he had contemplated a few 'what if' scenarios, how he'd react, what he'd do if anyone—the military discovered his true orientation. Though they were far and few in-between his imagination never really escalated until Rodney came into his life. With Rodney he cared, he cared too much and for the first time had considered even 'day-dreamed' about what civilian life might be like with Rodney.
In the end, it didn't matter; he had learned early on that even though McKay was civilian, science, his work came first— as much as the military and flying were for him; it was their commonality of work, responsibility and commitment that they understood and respected in each other. In the end it only increased their attraction for each other.
Altogether there were six photos tucked in the book. The last was taken almost four years ago. Their only real getaway; even from this angle he could see the pictures were out of order with the top one taken on their last day. It was taken at an Art & Wine music festival with a heavy emphasis on Jazz and Blue Grass music. Turned out Jazz was Rodney's second love behind science. Personally Evan wasn't very fond of anything that wasn't rock & roll. Usually he found Rodney's music to be a snooze feast; enough that Rodney had to actively persuade him into going. He should've known better then to argue with a genius especially when the genius was one Rodney McKay, and given time could make him do anything.
Luckily like the rest of the week it turned out to be a gorgeous fall day. Though it wasn't the weather that mattered to either of them—it was finally being together publicly. From the moment they stepped off the plane they both shed their professional personas and appeared like any other couple: laughing, openly holding hands, and enjoying the close intimacy of being within each other's space—basically taken full advantage of the opportunity.
That particular day was no different only the steady flow of wine helped ease the tension that it was their last day together before their careers pushed them into different directions - effectively ending their relationship.
The first photo, a Polaroid taken at random was of Rodney nibbling on his ear and if he recalls correctly whispering something very inappropriate about a few of the artist's craved pieces in front of them. Even in a Polaroid it captured an intimacy between them—a hint of something that could have been more then what they were.
Each photo was different; each captured a similar intimate moment.
The memories and those photos John was holding were the only reminder of what he and Rodney had once shared, or that it had even existed. Once they parted they each focused into their careers.
Suddenly he realized John was still speaking, "... Rodney looks good. Bit pinkish on the nose, what he do, forget the sunscreen?"
At his light chuckle Evan looked up, and watched as John continued gazing at the picture. Realization hit.
Not that he hadn't suspected before. From the moment he stepped through the gate and saw Rodney he noticed the changes. Saw the way Rodney held himself now, walked taller, a less bitchy bravado, his confidence stronger, and it didn't take Evan long to see why. Where Rodney's ego clashed with Colonel Carter and nearly everyone at SGC, here on Atlantis Rodney seemed to thrive under Weir and Sheppard's command.
At first Evan contributed it to being a part of a team then he observed them, how the team interacted together. The numerous 'in' jokes, teasing, all spelled out their obvious closeness. Yet it was seeing how John and Rodney finished each other's sentences; even when he was aggravated as all hell, or complaining unmercifully, Rodney always found a way to stay close... to touch Sheppard.
Closing his eyes, Evan exhaled and tried to let everything else go in order to think—this wasn't about him, and had nothing to do with DADT past or present, this was all Rodney, or rather his past with Rodney.
"John... we're not – that was a long time ago."
John nodded, but it was evident John didn't believe him. John's voice cracked as he spoke. "When we found the bodies... Your dog tag, we were all in shock. We couldn't do anything, but wait for Beckett and his team to collect what was left so they could identify you." John paused, his voice above a whisper. "He never said anything. Not about you, ever. Not even a vague reference. That night I woke up to the shower running and found him in the stall, crying."
The weight of helpless frustration stirred in John's words. "I thought maybe, I don't know... In the morning I tried to talk to him but he refused to listen. Already focused on how important it was to contact your sister, Teresa. How we had to make sure she got your personal things. At the time it didn't even dawn on me why or how he knew about your sister. I told him not to worry that I'd take care of it. Why I was in your quarters." John held the book up, "This, I found this by accident."
John stared down at the photos, "Now, it makes sense – his reaction. You two were... are"
Evan clearly heard the pained sorrow in John's voice and knew the man was deeply in love with Rodney, his Rodney. Except Rodney wasn't his Rodney anymore and hadn't been in four years. He had loved the man, more than he had loved anyone before, but not enough to change his career. He had wrestled with then reconciled his decision four years ago. If there had been any lingering doubts on his end they quickly disappeared when he arrived in Atlantis and saw Rodney – he was a different from the man Evan knew. Although Rodney was friendly and pleased to see him; it was abundantly clear there would be nothing between them but a fond friendship. Even that was down played since Rodney never told John about him, the man who was his CO, and Evan had agreed to keep it that way. Something he recognizes now was a mistake.
"No, were not! We're not together."
John barely acknowledged him. "Okay, yes we were together, back then, four years ago. However what we had also ended four years ago."
John nodded, but refused look up at him, his gaze this on the photo in his hand. It was obvious John didn't believe him. "Listen, we did, I did love him..." then he paused and inhaled, "I still do." This time John did look up. It was easy to see he was startled by Evan's confession, but what surprised Evan was to see the relief written all over John's face. It took him a second to realize it wasn't relief that Evan had confessed his love, but rather he wasn't going to dispute a truth that John plainly recognized in the photos and Rodney's reaction, what he had seen in Rodney when Rodney thought he had died.
Bobbing his head, realizing the painful truth that John needed more than the words, he needed to hear and see the truth in Evan's heart by being completely vulnerable. Something Evan always had a difficult time doing and would compare the experience to facing a firing squad – something he dreaded.
Inhaling then exhaling, Evan shook his arms to release some of the building tension. Meeting John's gaze, he dropped his guard spoke the truth. "I do love him, I always will. Just as I'm sure he'll always love me. What we had was special. But it's a past tense, what we feel now; it's a different kind of love. It's nothing like when we met and fell in love. Now we're just friends. We both moved on."
"But you kept these."
Evan looked down at the photos in John's hand, nodding. "Yeah I did. Like I said what we had was special. He was an important part of my past." Evan shifted, hoping John would see the truth reflected in his eyes. "I've kept them to remind me what I gave up and more important what I choose - the uniform, my career over him. I don't regret anything we had together or my choices and why it ended. However if I ever have a next time with someone else, I'm hoping those might remind me to chose differently."
The silence stretched as John stood there, staring him down as if he could read into Evan's soul. Abruptly John glanced away. The tension in John's stance started to melt away even as the corners on one side of his mouth tilted up in one of his familiar lopsided grins, then he turned back to face him. "I kept my ring for nearly six years."
Confused Evan asked, "Ring?"
Shrugging John said, "My wedding ring; I was young and in denial, when I met and married Nancy. I kept the ring for a long time afterward as a reminder that I needed to be true to myself."
Then John handed the book and photos back to him. "Let's call this a fresh start then as friends? No more secrets. Here in Atlantis, we'll make our own rules, and keep DADT out of the equation. However if they haven't eliminated DADT by the time we get back to Earth then this conversation never happened. Agreed?"
Evan read the sincerity in John's eyes and knew what the man was offering. His relief evident, Evan could only smile, "Agreed."
"Good. So now tell me, are you seeing anyone?"
Evan sputtered, at the sudden abrupt change of subject before he mumbled out a no.
"Good!" John clapped him on the back urging him forward. "Come on, let's get lunch. I told Rodney to meet me in the cafeteria."
Evan looked over at John, "You sure?"
John stopped and met Evan's gaze. "Okay, it's true I never had to hang out with Nancy afterward, and Rodney never met her. However we work together – we're all friends, right? What you two had was in the past. It'll be awkward for a minute because now I know. I love Rodney and I trust you to have my six. For people I care about, I can deal and put up with a little awkwardness.
His smile bright John's arm pushed him along as they made their way down the corridor. Without missing a beat, John added, "Now that I know you're available I just happen to know of someone... he's the tall strong and silent type."