“Hey, buddy,” said John, stepping out onto the pier.
The sun was just beginning to set over San Francisco, golden light sliding over the lone figure sitting there, and glinting on his impressive collection of beer cans.
Rodney didn’t move, even when John walked closer. He was sitting on the edge of the pier, legs dangling over the water, can of beer held in a loose grip. There were only two empties on the deck beside him, so John plopped down and opened another.
They drank in silence, watching the sun set, turning the sky into shades of gold and magenta, fading into purple and indigo. Stars began to appear, tiny pinpricks of light in the inky sky, until John had had enough.
“Usually, I’m trying to get you to shut up, but you’re creeping me out, here, McKay.”
Rodney snorted. “I just came out here for a quiet drink. You decided to join me.”
“You brought an entire case of beer out here,” John argued. “Forgive me for being a little worried.”
“I’m not going to drink it all tonight,” said Rodney. “I bought it in the city, because I could. Because there’s a beer distributer two blocks over from the warehouse where we keep the ferry jumpers. But then I got back to Atlantis and I realized I didn’t want to go back to my quarters. Even to just drop off the beer.”
John fiddled with the tap on his can. “Is this about Keller?” he asked, hesitantly.
“What?” said Rodney, then waved a dismissive hand. “No, no, that’s… I mean, breaking up always sucks, but we’d both known that was coming. Jennifer thought of Atlantis like a study abroad – she always intended to go back to Earth, even before we flew the city here.”
“So what’s with the drinking?” asked John.
“I’m having an existential crisis.”
“Because you and Keller didn’t work out?”
“No,” said Rodney. “Because before I came to Atlantis, we would have.”
John frowned and reached for Rodney’s beer. “Maybe you’ve had enough, buddy.”
The scientist pulled it out of reach. “I’m not drunk,” he protested. “I’m introspective.”
“Sure,” said John, and slid a few of the unopened cans a little farther away.
“I’m serious, Sheppard. A few years ago, a woman like Jennifer is exactly what I would have wanted. Beautiful, smart, career-oriented – and most importantly, able to put up with me.”
“But it’s different, now. I’m different. Do you understand, Sheppard? A beautiful blonde woman who wants a stable, safe life on Earth, enjoying the fruits of our combined and no-doubt impressive private-sector salaries… and I’m going back to a galaxy where, in post places, running water is a recently-acquired luxury.”
John blinked. “You weren’t seriously thinking about staying on Earth, were you? Because I’m sure we could—”
Rodney stopped him with a hand on his knee. “No,” he said. “Not even for a second. Which is one of the reasons Jennifer and I were over. But not the only reason.”
“Is one of those reasons the same as the drinking?” asked John.
“Maybe,” Rodney allowed. “Because once I realized that Jennifer – the life Jennifer represented – wasn’t what I wanted, I needed to figure out what I did want. And that needed beer.”
John fiddled with the tab on his can. “Come to any conclusions?”
“I—” Rodney began, then smiled. “I did. What to hear?”
“Uh, sure,” said John. He wasn’t actually sure he did, but he’d be supportive, for Rodney.
“I used to want safety,” Rodney said. “I used to want scientific glory. The money and fame and adoring family that went with it. Until I met you.”
“Oh.” John tried not to sound disappointed.
He must not have succeeded, because Rodney frowned, then continued, “I met you, and all of that was suddenly unimportant. I mean, not all of the scientific glory, I still expect to win a Nobel when all of this is declassified, but… I wouldn’t be happy on earth anymore. Without you.”
John almost sighed in relief. “Well,” he said, “You don’t have to worry about that. You’ll always have us.”
“Us,” Rodney repeated, then huffed out a laugh. “You really don’t see it coming, do you?”
“I – what?”
“I realized what I want, John,” he said, confidently. “Atlantis, the Pegasus Galaxy, being on a team, breaking the laws of science. And someone to share it with, someone who understands me, better than anyone ever has, who’s saved my life so many time I’ve lost count – and I usually keep track of these things.”
Rodney leaned over to take the beer from John’s hand. “I want you.”
“Oh,” said John. He felt a little lightheaded. “Okay.”
John’s smile was ridiculous, and he didn’t care. “Okay.”
“Okay,” Rodney said again, and kissed him.