Pairing: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay, mention of Rodney/Jennifer, John/Nancy, John/OMC
Spoilers: Season 5
Word count: 874
Summary: For years, being in the Air Force isn't a sacrifice for John. Then comes Rodney.
Note: "Sacrifice" as a story has to end where it does, but I couldn't leave it (and by that I mean John) there, so I wrote "Worth it" as a sequel/epilogue.
"John, do you have any idea what kind of sacrifices you'll have to make?" his father had asked many, many years ago when John told him of his plans to join Air Force ROTC.
What his father had meant, of course, was the sacrifice of not joining the family business and making as much money as humanly possibly. John's American dream was different and for him wanting to serve his country had nothing to do with money and all to do with flying and leading other people.
He wasn't afraid to die, thinking of his mother who would have deserved to grow old and die peacefully. He also wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty because the idea that money entitled you to a better life kind of abhorred him, even if he couldn't quite let go of the comforts it offered.
All in all he didn't consider it a sacrifice.
He still didn't consider it a sacrifice when his marriage failed. He could have blamed it on his job but he had to realize that Nancy simply hadn't been the right woman for him or he the right man for her. After his divorce he began to realize that the right woman was more elusive than he thought. So elusive, in fact, that he began to wonder if his bisexuality was a result of his wish to have a family, wife and kids and house. Not that his relationships with men had been better.
Paul had called it a sacrifice as well, spitting out the word with disgust when he told John to choose between him and joining the Air Force. He'd made it easy for John to choose his vocation.
Sacrifice would have been to give something up, but John never felt that way. Not with Paul or later with Nancy. It just hadn't meant to be. His safe, spoilt life wouldn't have made him happier. The right woman never showed up. And the right man...
For years, it doesn't matter to John that he first isn't allowed to act gay and later to talk openly about it. He has encounters with men. He doesn't fall in love. It's not a problem. Until it is.
Rodney is unlike anyone John has ever met and he feels so driven towards him that at first he doesn't even recognize it as sexual attraction. Romantic even, which is a hard word to associate with anything having to do with either of them, but it's there and John can only watch powerlessly as he falls in love deeper and deeper.
They're friends, but not lovers and John knows that it can't change, so he still doesn't see it as sacrifice because it's not about being in the Air Force. It's that Rodney is Rodney and John is who he is and what they are together is friends, nothing more, nothing less.
John doesn't like it, but he lives with it because there's nothing else he can do.
His job is his life and he's beginning to accept that and it's not a bad life, all things considered. He's living in a flying city, fighting evil space vampires with his kick-ass team. The life that he might have wanted so many years ago, the house and wife and kids, is a distant dream and to John it doesn't feel like he had to give it up because it's hard to believe that he ever could have had any of it.
"I'm thinking about asking Jennifer to marry me," Rodney says.
John has expected it for some time now. What he hasn't expected though is the look on Rodney's face, the question that he asks but doesn't ask.
For years and years, the answer to his father's question has always been, "It's no sacrifice to me." Now that the possibilities inherent in Rodney's look crash over John in wave after wave of what could have been, what could still be if he wasn't in the Air Force, he can't give that answer any longer.
"That's great," he manages to say to Rodney, not daring to look at him, too afraid of what else he might see.
He's proud of what he's done and what he does with his life, in the Air Force. Not of everything and not all the time, but he's doing his best for his men and his country and the people they meet. He doesn't regret his choice.
But from now on he can no longer say it hasn't been a sacrifice.
"I can't believe you've given up Atlantis to live with Rodney McKay."
John smiles. He knows how Daniel means it. And he'd be lying if he said he doesn't already miss Teyla and Ronon and the puddlejumpers and the breathtaking view on any balcony you can step out on. But then he thinks of the house that he and Rodney bought, the kids that are with Rodney—and now him—every other week and Rodney who wouldn't take no for an answer when he offered John all that he'd ever wanted—with slight modifications.
"It's worth it," he tells Daniel and picks up his new SGC uniform, step easy as he walks out for the day to go home.