Pairing/Characters: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay, Rodney McKay/Jennifer Keller established; Jeannie, Teyla, Ronon
Warnings/Content notes: (skip) None that I'm aware of
Spoilers: through season 5
Word count: 4177
Summary: Jeannie is tired of standing by and watching her brother make the biggest mistake of his life.
Note: Many thanks to mecurtin for making the fic so much better! This is a sequel to Wants him to be happy. snowglow1275 wondered what would make Jeannie sure and what she'd do once she was, and mecurtin encouraged the idea. So here it is :)
Jeannie is glad to have them all under her roof. She had little time to really talk to Teyla the last time she was in Atlantis, and watching Ronon and John's antics is always amusing. It reminds her that her brother has his own family now, in his home faraway from home.
It also gives her an opportunity to watch her brother and John. The affection beneath their playful arguments is very obvious, but Jeannie still isn't quite certain how far it goes. There's affection between all of them, after all, but still the relationship between Mer and John stands out as one that seems to have a particularly strong undercurrent beneath the surface.
Maybe she's influenced by what happened when Jennifer left them the day before. She'd said goodbye to everyone, getting ready to take the flight to Wisconsin, and Jeannie had looked over to John. She's quite certain that John thought he was unobserved. The tension left his body as Jennifer waved goodbye, and Jeannie could hear his quiet sigh of relief.
It's still no proof of anything, of course, other than the fact that Jennifer's presence makes John slightly uncomfortable, but it's one piece in the larger puzzle that is her brother's happiness.
They're going ice skating that afternoon. Ronon takes a fall the moment he hits the ice, and John laughs so hard that he falls down, too. Ronon gets the hang of it fairly quickly after that; Teyla has a bit of a harder time. Mer is positively gleeful. Jeannie suspects it's because it's not very often that he is better than all of his teammates at something that doesn't involve science.
While Ronon and John try to one-up each other, Mer takes Teyla's hand and they go a few faster rounds.
Jeannie is sitting with a cup of hot chocolate when her brother joins her. "This was a good idea," he says.
"Ronon's getting better than John," she comments, watching the two men.
Mer follows her gaze. Ronon is making headway. John tries to follow but falls. A man holds out his hand to help him up. "Did I mention that they'll stop enforcing Don't Ask, Don't Tell at the SGC?" he asks.
Jeannie looks at John accepting the man's hand to get up. So Mer knows that at least. "John must be happy," Jeannie says.
"What?" her brother says, turning around. "I didn't— I only— You shouldn't tell anyone. It's not yet through all the higher-ups and in any case, it's John's decision to come out or not."
"I wasn't going to say anything," she says. John is chatting to the man who helped him up, now. Mer is watching, stone-faced. "Is he in a relationship?" she asks.
And wow. She has hoped for a reaction, but the shock on Mer's face... He obviously hasn't even considered this. "No," he says forcefully. "At least, not that I know of. And if he were I don't think he'd be flirting with some random guy." He spits out the last words angrily, gesturing towards the rink, where John is still talking to the man.
Jeannie looks at her brother's unhappy face. She feels the strong urge to just give him a hug. As far as signs go, it won't get any clearer than this. Poor Mer. She's still not sure if her brother is aware of his feelings for John or if he's successfully suppressed them, but she no longer doubts their existence.
Of course, certainty alone is nothing without a plan of action.
Her brother can be very stubborn. He refused to talk to her for years after she decided to give up her career, marry Kaleb, and have a family. She has to admit she hasn't handled his rejection very gracefully either, telling him that he was just jealous because he was going to die as a lonely, bitter man. At least she apologized. But it still serves as a good lesson that she has to tread carefully with Mer.
She really wants to just sit down with him and tell him that he should stop being an idiot and realize his feelings for John. And if he has realized them, he shouldn't stay with Jennifer for whatever unfathomable reason. But she knows Mer will only get defensive, and from that point on he won't even listen to her.
In fact, no matter how delicately she phrases it—and to be honest, subtle persuasion is not one of the McKays' strong suits—the moment Mer knows what she's really trying to tell him, he's likely to just shut down and ignore her. No, the far better strategy would be to have someone else do the talking. Or at least to have someone else to back her up.
She talks to Teyla first. "It must be hard to maintain a relationship on Atlantis," she says, trying to ease into the subject.
"I do not believe it is harder than anywhere else in the world. I find life on Earth to be quite...overwhelming at times," Teyla says.
"You're probably right. But so much time on Atlantis is spent working. It's probably difficult to navigate through the ups and downs of a relationship if you don't have a good understanding of your partner, a connection." Jeannie silently curses, because she knows she's probably blown that subtlety thing.
"May I ask whom we are talking about?" Teyla asks.
"Okay, this is about Mer and Jennifer," Jeannie confesses. "Do you think they're happy? Do you think they're suited for each other?"
"I have not been given a reason to believe they are not," Teyla says.
"Well, I have," Jeannie says. "I know that he says he loves Jennifer, and I'm sure she is a great person, but I can't help feeling that in the long run she's not right for my brother."
"Jennifer is a great person. She is also a very good friend of mine. I do not believe it is my place to suggest whom Rodney should choose as a partner. And I do not pretend to know better than Rodney who is 'right' for him," Teyla says. She's not getting loud or even unfriendly, but Jeannie knows a rebuke when she hears it.
She might have even deserved it. Yes, from Jennifer's point of view, what Jeannie is doing is careless at best and deliberately hurtful at worst. But despite their differences, her brother will always come first for her of all the people on Atlantis. Mer might think he's happy now, but a month from now or a year or maybe even a decade, he'll realize that he wants more and Jeannie thinks it will be better for all involved—including Jennifer—if that happens sooner rather than later. She would hate the thought of Mer having to divorce and especially of doing that to his children should they have them. If it's selfish of her, she doesn't pretend to be objective here. "I only want my brother to be happy," she says to Teyla.
Teyla's expression softens. "I know. But some things cannot be forced. It took me years to realize that my friendship with Kanaan could be more. And while I may regret the years we could have spent together instead of being apart, I am not certain I would have been ready for it."
"I think Mer is ready for it," Jeannie says, remembering his look when he watched John talk to another man at the ice rink.
"And you believe you know who is better for Rodney than Jennifer?" Teyla asks.
"Yes," Jeannie says, giving Teyla a look. She's pretty sure Teyla knows it, too.
"I think there is a saying in your world. It takes two to tango?" Teyla asks.
Jeannie snorts. "Yes. But I doubt that," she hesitates for a moment, but then just goes ahead and says his name, "John will be the problem."
Teyla gives her a long look. "I would not be so sure of that," she says almost sadly.
Jeannie talks to Ronon next. After her discussion with Teyla, she's not sure how much support she can expect. She still wants to try though, and this time she doesn't beat around the bush.
"Do you think Mer and Jennifer make a good couple?" she asks him.
Ronon gives her a long look, then shrugs. "They seem okay."
"Don't you think they deserve more than 'okay'?" Jeannie asks.
"It's not up to me," Ronon only says.
"But what if it were? Don't you think someone should point out to him that he's making a mistake?" she presses on.
"Or she is," Ronon says.
"Yes!" she says, happy to find him agreeing. "They're both making a mistake, aren't they? The whole time she's been here to visit, I couldn't help thinking that she's just a friend to Mer. He doesn't act any different toward her than he does toward Teyla, except when he tries to bend out of shape to do something to please her." Which is another thing that frustrates her about her brother's relationship. She'd be first in line to tell him to improve his attitude, but his little pleasantries for Jennifer are so fake that it's been hard for her to watch. Especially since Jennifer is so receptive to them, even though she seems to know that it's not really Mer.
"There's not much to do about it," Ronon says.
"I think there is," Jeannie disagrees. "If someone would just talk to him and tell him—"
"He won't listen," Ronon interrupts her.
"I know. If I were to tell him, he wouldn't. But if it's not just me? Maybe it gets him thinking."
"He'll think I'm jealous," Ronon says.
"Why would he think that? Oh, you...I didn't know you and Jennifer..." Jeannie trails off. Mer hadn't mentioned that.
"Nothing really happened. She prefers your brother for whatever reason. But he wouldn't believe me," Ronon says.
She can see that. "John then."
Ronon gives her a short laugh. "He's not going to talk to McKay."
"Maybe he wouldn't normally, but it's in his interests as well," Jeannie says, giving Ronon a knowing look.
"Sheppard's not the kind of guy who puts his interests first," Ronon says.
Jeannie takes that as confirmation that Ronon, too, thinks that John could be interested in a relationship with Mer. But she also accepts Ronon's assessment that John wouldn't talk to Mer or try to have a chance with him. In the short time between the team's arrival and Jennifer's departure, John dealt with Jennifer by avoiding her for the most part. "He wouldn't want Mer to be unhappy," she says, certain of that at least.
"He's not going to say anything," Ronon insists, dashing her hopes.
"But he likes Mer. He likes him a lot, and what is between them could be more than friendship." It does come out more of a question than a statement.
"He's not going to say anything if McKay doesn't come to him first," Ronon says.
Which isn't going to happen without some outside assistance. She figured that getting John to admit his feelings to Mer would be the best—and perhaps only—way to get Mer to admit his feelings to himself. But Ronon knows John a lot better than she does and she has no reason to doubt his assessment. "I still have to try," she says, because she can't give up without trying at least.
"Good luck," Ronon tells her. The "you'll need it" is heavily implied.
She asks John to help her get something from the top shelves in the garage to talk to him alone. Once they enter and John looks ready to ask what to fetch for her, she simply asks, "How long have you been in love with my brother?"
He doesn't seem confused or unbelieving—or surprised. He looks at her for a moment, before saying evenly, "What makes you think I am?"
"How about the fact that you don't deny it?" Jeannie asks.
"Okay," he says. "I'm not in love with your brother."
And she has to give it to him. He's a smooth liar. She's beginning to see that Teyla and Ronon are right. She will never convince John to confess his feelings to Mer. But conversely, John hasn't managed to convince her that he doesn't have them. "You don't like Jennifer very much," she points out.
"We aren't very close. I wouldn't say I don't like her," John says.
"Would you care to be closer to her? Because if yes, it might help not to avoid her when she's around," Jeannie tells him, smiling.
One corner of his mouth turns up. "Okay, you got me. I don't particularly want to be closer to her. But she's good at what she does and that's all I care about."
"You don't care about my brother and her making a mistake?" Jeannie asks.
"Are they?" John asks.
"You think it will last? You think they'll be happy?" Jeannie asks. She can't believe John honestly thinks that.
"What I think doesn't matter. They'll do what they feel is right. Rodney will propose and Keller will most likely accept. And if I figured this out correctly, you don't actually need any assistance from me, so I'll just go back inside."
The discussion is over and Jeannie hasn't made any progress at all. It's as if John doesn't want to be happy when being with her brother would be within reach for him if only— A tought occurs to her. What if John doesn't believe his feelings are returned? "He loves you too," she says to John's back as he's about to leave the garage.
He turns back around. This time he does look surprised. "What makes you say that?" he asks.
"I know it," she says. When he turns back around, obviously not convinced, she adds, "The look on his face yesterday."
John turns back to her. "Yesterday when?"
"When we went skating. I'm not sure you even remember this, but you chatted a bit with a man who helped you up after you fell. Mer was jealous."
"What did he say?" John asks.
"It wasn't what he said. Out of the blue he told me about your government's plans not to enforce DADT for members of the SGC. Since he was looking at you at the moment, I said you'd be happy about it. Then I asked if you were in a relationship with someone, and I think he had a little mental meltdown over that. He said he didn't think you were and that you wouldn't be flirting with strangers in that case. And then he pointed at you and the man and looked as if someone had stolen his pet theory."
John thinks about what she says, then only nods. "I see where you might get the idea that Rodney was jealous, but I can tell you he's not. He's thought of me as 'Kirk' for as long as I remember, and for some reason it annoys him when I flirt with any woman. I guess now it goes for men, too. Not that I was flirting."
"I know you weren't. But don't you think it means something that my brother gets upset about the thought of you flirting with someone else?" Jeannie insists.
"I don't think it means what you want it to mean. Have you ever thought about your reasons for wanting Rodney to break up with Keller? From what I saw you weren't particularly friendly with her either," John says.
Jeannie is too stunned for a moment to speak. It's long enough for John to turn around and leave.
John is not right. Jeannie might not have hit it off with Jennifer the way she did with Ronon and Teyla, but to accuse her of trying to sabotage her brother's relationship just because she doesn't like his girlfriend is insulting.
She honestly doesn't believe they're right for each other. John and Mer might be the best of friends, but Jeannie still knows her brother better than anyone. He can be oblivious to his own feelings sometimes. She remembers when he stopped playing the piano from one moment to the other. She never knew why, but when she asked him, he only said he didn't care for it anymore when it was painfully obvious that he did. She doesn't think it's any different now. She's sure that Mer wants to be in love with Jennifer and that he wants to be happy, spending the rest of his life with her, but no amount of wanting will make it the truth.
It's sort of the opposite of John: no amount of denial will make either his or Mer's love any less true, no matter how much John wants to make it so. It's really frustrating to watch the two of them. She wishes she could simply lock the two of them into a room until they finally admit how they feel.
Hmmm. She can't believe that she's actually contemplating this, but they're all on leave and she's run out of alternatives. She has Ronon's support and Kaleb and Madison are at school. This might actually work.
In the end it's just a matter of timing. She locks the garage door down, then tells Ronon to ask John to come give her a hand with something. She figures he'll be too polite not to do it; meanwhile, she takes Mer to the garage to show him some equations she's been working on a blackboard there. She leaves him for a moment—"I just have to get the paper I wrote the second part on"—and then waits until John steps into her trap. She locks the door behind him.
"Where's your sister?" she can faintly hear John's voice when she presses her ear to the door.
Ronon does the same. They hear Mer's voice, too muffled to understand—and then someone tries to open the door.
"Jeannie!" Mer shouts. He's obviously left the blackboard to join John, just on the other side of the door. "What's going on?" She hears John say something quietly. "What?" her brother asks. John speaks again. "What?! That's insane! I have a girlfriend! Jennifer's been here for two days."
"Why don't you just tell him how you feel, Sheppard?" Ronon suggests.
"Ronon? You'll pay for this," John says through the door.
"Pay for what?" Mer shouts. "Jeannie, are you out there? You know that you can't keep me inside here. I've escaped Wraith. So why don't you let us out, like a sane person, and then we can talk about whatever crazy idea you're having about Sheppard and me."
"You're in love with him," Jeannie says through the door.
"What!" Mer squeals.
"I told you," Ronon says quietly to her.
"And John feels the same," she continues through the door.
John says something she doesn't catch; then, "Your sister's crazy."
"What's going on?" Teyla interrupts them.
"We've locked Sheppard and McKay into the garage to talk," Ronon says.
Teyla gives them a sour look. "I do not believe that is appropriate."
"Yeah, tell 'em, Teyla," John says through the door. "Better yet, let us out."
Teyla looks at Jeannie. Jeannie wants to stay put, but this was a crazy idea from the beginning, and she doesn't know what it would really take for them to finally admit their feelings. Just telling them certainly didn't help, though really—she honestly thought at least one of them would fold.
So she relents and steps aside. Teyla unlocks and opens the door.
"Thank you," John says to her.
Mer just stares at his sister. "I can't believe you did that. I thought you liked Jennifer."
"Who cares what I think of her," she says, frustrated. "You don't love her, but still want to go ahead and marry her. When I said I wanted you to find someone and have a family that was not what I meant."
Mer clenches his jaw. He looks at her coldly. "Well, I'm sorry, if I cannot conform to what you think I should be and do."
"I want you to be happy," she shouts.
"What makes you think I'm not?" he shouts back.
"Can you look me in the eye and tell me that you've never loved anyone the way you love her? Can you tell me that you will never love anyone like you love her?"
Mer gets his stubborn look, and she can tell that he's getting ready to say it just to spite her—and because he wants to be right on this so desperately.
"Can you honestly tell me you love her more than you love John?" she asks, more quietly.
John, Teyla, and Ronon all turn to Mer. Mer doesn't say anything, then he drops his gaze and lets it flicker over to John. John looks...hopeful. Jeannie prays that it's enough for her brother to stop denying the truth.
It seems like forever that Mer and John only look at each other, silently communicating. Eventually, Mer asks in a small voice, "You...?"
John nods so imperceptibly that Jeannie doesn't count on Mer seeing it, but apparently he does. He turns to Jeannie. "I need to make a phone call," he says, then walks past her and the others.
John steps out of the garage too. "We're going to have a talk about this, buddy," he tells Ronon.
"Let's hear it," Ronon says, apparently unconcerned.
John glares at him, and they head in the direction of the living room.
Jeannie remains with Teyla, who looks disappointed. "I know what you were trying to do. But I am not sure this was the best way."
"Maybe not," Jeannie says. But it was the only way, and if it's working, Jeannie will be damned if she has any regrets.
She only wanted her brother to be happy, but when Meredith comes back down after what appears to have been a long phone call with Jennifer, he looks anything but.
The atmosphere is tense in the living-room. Kaleb gives her a questioning look when he comes home, but she only tells him, "Later."
Everyone's trying to act as if nothing happened. Teyla and Mer play with Madison, while John and Ronon work on rebuilding a Lego castle for strategic purposes.
It looks peaceful, but Jeannie imagines that Mer—and maybe the others—are in as much turmoil as she is. She's not sure if she should talk to Mer again. He didn't mention what happened during his call, what he told Jennifer.
Eventually, it's time to turn in for the night. Ronon is sleeping on the living-room couch. Teyla has a mattress in Madison's room and John and Mer share the guest room.
Jeannie waits for Mer to ask if he can change places with someone but he doesn't. She watches as he joins John in the guest room and goes to tell Kaleb about what she's done.
John and Ronon are out jogging the next morning when Jeannie comes downstairs. Teyla is cooking an enormous breakfast. Jeannie is grateful. She thinks. When Mer comes down not much later, she looks at him, trying to determine if she can tell from his face if he and John are together now, but he's too sleepy.
He's on his second cup when John and Ronon come back. John sprints up the stairs for a quick shower. Jeannie catches Mer looking after him. She has no idea if they've even talked. But she's done enough and doesn't want to ask.
John comes down again a few minutes later. He sits down at the table while Ronon goes upstairs for his turn in the shower. Teyla presents her meal, and both John and Mer smile politely at her but give each other a look as soon as she turns away. Teyla does seem to have a peculiar way of cooking. Jeannie's not sure if it's an Athosian or Pegasus thing or just Teyla.
It's edible in any case, with a healthy helping of salt and pepper, and Jeannie watches her brother finish his third cup of coffee and get up to get some apple juice. She sees John tracking his moves, but even that might simply be because he doesn't have to hide it any longer. It doesn't necessarily mean that they've come to an understanding.
Mer walks back around the table but stops when he stands next to John. John looks up, raising an eyebrow. Then Mer gives Jeannie a quick look, before turning to John and leaning down for a short kiss.
It's not their first kiss, she can see. She doesn't want to speculate about what else they did last night, but it doesn't really matter anyway. The only thing that matters is watching Mer taking his seat again and looking over to John with the hint of a smile on his face.
In that moment, she finally sees in his eyes what she's been waiting for for a long time: the spark of true happiness.