[Stargate/Atlantis] Five Relationships Jack O’Neill and John Sheppard Could Have Had
Thursday 31st July 2008
Pairings: Sheppard/Teyla, Jack/Daniel, Sheppard/Weird, Sam/Jack, Sheppard/McKay
Summary: Between them, Jack O'Neill and John Sheppard were in love with five people. But if they'd just done something different...
When John first starting sparring with Teyla he told himself envy had nothing to do with it. He was wrong but then that was never the only reason. He thought it would be an excellent opportunity to watch her - she was good to look at after all. He soon found out that he did indeed need to watch her carefully - just not in the way he first thought.
At the moment he was trying to give all of his attention to her right arm, since it was holding the stick that was coming towards his head. To bring her arm up there from her previous position she'd had to spin round and in doing so her skirt whirled around her legs, exposing her thigh. John had tried really hard not to look down but he had spent too much time with the idea that movement in your peripheral vision could be important. He wondered if she did it on purpose, if she knew the reason he did not improve much was not lack of practice. It was hard to concentrate on two sticks when there was the whole of Teyla there too.
It did not help that Atlantis itself was full of distractions. It was easy to catch your eye on the orange glow around the window or the muted blue of the lights that never seemed to be too dim or too bright. He had wondered what the Ancients could possibly have used the patterns on the floor for. As there was no way of really knowing what they had even used each room for it had only ever been a passing thought.
He wrenched his mind back to the job and quickly brought his left arm up, meeting her stick with slightly more force than was strictly required. It threw her arm back and he was rewarded by a sharp pain to the ribs: he had been paying too much attention to the stick in one hand and not enough to the other. She did not admonish him for his lapse - the pain did that.
"Ow," he said. He saw Teyla's frown and decided to ask for a break and some time to collect his thoughts.
It was not all that painful really - Teyla never hit that hard - but it was probably still enough to leave a bruise. When he showered he often took the opportunity to take stock. He wondered if anyone who saw him naked would think he was regularly being beaten up - even though in some respects that was true. Perhaps if that someone was Teyla she would go easier on him. The chance, however, seemed slight. She would be far more likely to remind him to practice, so that he would end up with fewer bruises and she with more, or indeed any.
He had definitely had a crush on her the first time they met. He thought she probably felt the same way about him, which was lucky because Colonel Sumner had not exactly endeared himself to the Athosians. Once they had got acquainted they discovered they liked more than just looks and had become friends. John coveted that friendship very much. The trouble was that the crush had never quite gone away, at least not for him.
"Is there something on your mind, Major?" Teyla asked, as she took a seat in the window, laying her sticks carefully in her lap. She sounded so sympathetic that John felt guilty there was not. Not really, anyway.
He sat down next to her, making sure to look at her face and not the way her skirt lay. Not that it was any less off-putting, he was just more used to the sight. "No," he said, yet there was hardly a time Teyla was not in his thoughts.
Now he felt like a little boy caught out in a lie. "It's just a little frustrating that you beat me every time we spar." Which was the truth, if not all of it.
"If you practice, one day that will change." She patted him on the arm.
He could not help smiling at her confidence in him although he suspected that day was a long way off yet. He could feel exactly where every one of her fingers lay and had to fight the urge to grab her hand and hold it where it was. Unfortunately, Teyla was a suspicious person.
"There is something bothering you."
He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and decided to do something insanely stupid. "I can't concentrate with you looking like that."
He opened his eyes again to see her looking down and frowning. "I am not wearing anything special."
"No, and that's the problem."
All he got in return was a quizzical look. He saw it on her often, usually in response to some reference he had made to Earth. Part of the reason he said some of the things he did was to get that look.
"It's that skirt and that top. It's like...your worst enemy's Ferrari."
The expression did not really change.
"Look, you're beautiful, okay? I mean, how can anyone not...?" He did not quite want to finish that sentence. He tightened his fingers on his sticks before they fell to the floor. "But I know you don't feel the same way, so just pretend I never said anything and I'll leave before I embarrass myself any further or risk our friendship any more than I already have." He got up and walked out of the open door, half hoping she would call him back.
She never did.
There was something about talking to Daniel that made Jack smile. He was so different from the rest of Jack's friends. Which was not really surprising given they were Air Force through and through. He did not want to use the cliché 'breath of fresh air', but sometimes he felt Daniel was almost better, and more essential, than oxygen. Which made Jack think about feelings he had not had for a long time.
At the moment, though, he was not doing the talking, as Daniel was briefing SG-1 in his office, although it was more like a lesson, really. Daniel stood next to a computer that occasionally showed them pretty pictures and Jack, Carter and Teal'c sat around the table, taking in everything he said. Carter at least looked as if she was concentrating, like the school swot she probably had been. Teal'c just looked his ordinary inscrutable self, which made it somewhat hard to tell. Jack had once asked him how he did it. Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow in answer and never changed his expression. Jack did not know why he had been surprised at this.
Jack idly picked up what looked like an ordinary piece of stone and out of the corner of his eye saw Daniel glance over. He suppressed a smirk (Air Force Colonels did not 'smirk'), looked directly at Daniel once again and waited for him to complain. Daniel surprised him by carrying straight on with whatever he was saying about a Goa'uld called 'Tough Nut'. She was only a minor Goa'uld and did not seem to pose any immediate threat so Jack was not too worried about her. Daniel certainly seemed more excited than worried, so Jack took his cue from him.
The trouble was Jack was not very good at listening to Daniel. At least, he was not very good at hearing the words. He probably would have been content to listen to Daniel read the Book of the Dead if he had the chance. It did not really matter what he said, the voice alone was enough to make him tingly (not that he would admit that to anyone, Air Force Colonels did not get 'tingly'). This was a problem during the times he needed to know what Daniel was saying and it was hard to concentrate. At least if Daniel kept it short he would be more likely to actually hear what he was telling him. Protesting not only got a short speech but Daniel's full attention and that was something he both coveted and reproached himself for.
"...Tefnut was close to Ra..."
Jack suddenly sat up and dropped the stone when he heard a name he recognized. It clanged on the table and all eyes were on him. He put a hand over it to quieten the noise.
"Ra. We killed him. He is dead, right?" he said, mostly to cover himself but also because he was afraid Daniel was about to tell them this Tefnut had resurrected Ra or something. You just never know what these crazy snakes were going to get up to next.
Daniel was talking to him like he was a child but it didn't matter. Jack was more worried he had accidentally set something off, so he let go of the stone and put his hands up. When nothing happened he frowned and picked it back up.
"It's just a stone."
Daniel met his eyes and there was a small smile on his face. Jack tried hard to look as innocent as possible and not return the expression, without much success. That was the trouble with having briefings in Daniel's office, there were too many things in it that Jack just could not help himself. He didn't do it consciously, at least, not always, but he couldn't concentrate without having something for his hands to do. After a while it seemed Daniel started getting wise to him and put the important, breakable stuff on a shelf too high for Jack to idly pick up.
At least in the briefing room the only thing he could play with was his pen but he'd had to stop doodling when he realised Daniel's name was far too obvious. But that meant he had nothing to do with his hands, so instead regularly lost pens under the table or behind his chair somewhere. Which was not a place possible to casually pick anything up from in the middle of one of Daniel's speeches. Besides, pinching Daniel's pen was much more fun, not only to see the expression on his face.
He constantly had to remind himself it was all just friendship on Daniel's part. He longed to tell him how he felt but was too scared of his reaction. Besides, men just did not talk about their feelings, especially Air Force Colonels. Jack told himself he never had and was not going to start now, not caring that Daniel had got a fair few feelings out of him already.
He watched the way Daniel smiled at him, listened to his voice, coveted every touch and even bought the same soap so washing seemed more like smelling Daniel. The only sense was left was taste and he didn't think there was a big enough alien influence excuse to get out of that one. Sometimes he thought it would be worth it. Mostly, though, he thought he should save that for his death day, just in case.
He would far rather have Daniel as a friend than nothing at all. He already had most of Daniel and what he did not was in his fantasies. Anyway, not much would change if they were lovers.
John took a deep breath of warm Earth air and tried to make out patterns in the stars. In the year they had been in Atlantis he had got used to spotting different shapes and these somehow seemed strange now. Much more so was the feeling of homesickness he felt. Coming here felt more like a vacation than home, a break from looking for ZPMs and killing Wraith.
He had given up on the constellations he had never known very well anyway and found one that he thought looked like a Puddlejumper when he heard footsteps. He thought about leaving but unlike Atlantis, places such as this where you could breathe fresh air and look at the sky were hard to come by. At least, they were when you were living under a mountain, however temporary that arrangement was. He could share.
He had found this spot nearly by accident. He had gone running round the parking lot, which had been enough of a novelty that he ignored the looks the guards gave him. After a few circuits he had started looking for better scenery and found a path in one corner leading to a relatively secluded spot with more interesting views than gray corridors or cars that had not really changed much in a year.
He went to call out but only got as far as opening his mouth when he heard a sob. He was torn between leaving and probably being heard or asking what was wrong when the figure came close enough that he could work out who it was in the dim light.
"Elizabeth?" He knew he should not be quite so taken aback as he was. Elizabeth had the best poker face on Atlantis, which he had discovered while losing large amounts of chocolate to her, but even she must get upset from time to time.
There was a pause before a slightly shaky, "John?" in response.
His first thought was that something had gone horribly wrong with their return plans to Atlantis but he immediately dismissed it. If that was the case Elizabeth would be doing everything she could to fix it and not be outside the SGC crying. So it must be something else. But even though they were friends she played things very close to her chest and he knew almost nothing about her personal life.
He wished things were otherwise, that he could be someone she could tell things to, but he had not really told her much about himself either. Sure, she could look in his file (and she certainly had) and he could do the same. It did not tell him much about her, though, beyond what amazing things she had done and when her birthday was, a date he had made certain not to forget.
After a few months their relationship had moved on from a working one to friendship. He suspected that Elizabeth kept her distance with all the personnel on Atlantis because of her status of the head of the mission. That didn't mean she had to be lonely, though. John had reached out to her a few times and she had made small gestures towards returning them. He wanted more but had no intention of rushing her.
He moved closer to Elizabeth, so she would be able to see it was really him. He could only see by the distant lights from Cheyenne Mountain, but since he could no longer hear her he was fairly sure his presence had stopped her tears for the moment.
"What's wrong?" he asked, not expecting an answer straight away. He was right.
"Nothing." Her voice sounded much more like normal, which confirmed his guess.
"You can't fool me, Elizabeth, we know each other too well," he cringed as he said it. "I heard you crying," he added.
There was silence as she turned away from him. He looked at the back of her head - or where it would have been, her hair being hard to see with only a little light. He thought he knew how to deal with upset women but none of them had ever been Elizabeth Weir.
"We survived an attack by the Wraith," he said, trying for a bit of humour, "nothing else can possibly be as bad as that."
He was not really expecting a laugh but he also was not anticipating the sigh he heard.
"I'll leave you alone, if that's what you want." He could not resist putting one hand on her shoulder for a moment before turning away.
"John," this time it was clearer and he stopped, looking at the black shape that was Elizabeth in the dark.
"My..." she began, "the man I thought I would marry has...met someone else."
"He was an idiot," he said, meaning it.
"No, it was my fault. I can't blame him for not waiting."
"If he loved you enough, if he thought you were worth it, he would have."
She shook her head. Her eyes lit up briefly as the tears in them caught the light. He really wanted to tell her he would have waited, but didn't because she didn't need to know his feelings for her, not now, not yet. Not knowing what else to say, he put his hand back on her shoulder. It seemed to help because he felt her relax slightly under his hand. He resisted the temptation to move it, so they stayed like that for a few minutes until Elizabeth dried her eyes and they went back inside.
John made a vow to himself to make sure she never had the chance to think about what she had lost, as long as he was around.
Jack stood in the control room, hovering over Walter Harriman and trying to resist the temptation to take up biting his fingernails. It would not make the wait go any quicker. He was not by nature a very patient person and just standing here waiting for news didn't help, nor did the fact that the most likely news would be both good and bad. Good because Carter would have saved the world again and bad because the result would be her almost certain death. One that he had sent her to.
He trusted Carter to save their asses every time. Partly because she always managed to do it, even if it was sometimes at the last minute, but also because when she gave him that look he had no choice but to believe she could do the impossible. When he first met her he wondered if there was anything she didn't do well. He was still thinking about it but now he could just be biased. He couldn't deny it: Carter was brilliant and the SGC, the Air Force, hell the world, was lucky to have her. It made him distinctly jealous - he wanted her too.
"Five minutes," Walter reminded them, as if the countdown clock someone had decided was a good idea wasn't enough.
Jack watched the time tick down from 5:00 to 4:50, each second seeming to take an hour, before he heard Carter's voice.
In those two words Jack could hear a hint of desperation and maybe even panic, but Carter was too good a soldier to let it get to her. It was almost unfair. She was too busy to think of her impending death and he could think of nothing else.
He resisted the temptation to say anything to her because she needed to concentrate and the only thing he wanted to say right now was both unhelpful and not something he wanted the whole SGC to overhear. He tried not to regret that he had never said it because he had not had to.
"Carter, you're the best we have. You're the only one who can do this."
"I know, sir."
He nodded. Of course she did, but there was a difference between trying not to die killing the enemy and going in knowing your likelihood of survival was small.
"Carter..." but he just could not say it. To say the words made it real and, in this case, reality was a bad thing.
"I know," she repeated, but softer this time, and with a long look into his eyes.
Then she left and he was looking at the Stargate waiting for her to be gone forever. It sat there, as big and round and silent as usual. Just once, it would have been nice for something so important to all of them to have some answers. He knew an inanimate object was never going to be any help at all in this situation but meeting the eyes of anyone else in the room just made the tension worse. Daniel had already decided it was too much and disappeared, back to his office Jack assumed.
He had returned only a few minutes later, though. There had been just enough time for him to have got down to his office, wandered about a bit, and then come back up, Jack calculated. The countdown might have been unbearable but it was not as bad as pacing a room waiting - something Jack had had much experience of since his promotion. Sitting in his office while a team was off world and in a potentially perilous situation was much harder than going out there and being in danger himself. He told himself he felt the same whatever team it was but obviously he was closer to SG-1 than any of the others.
He had always reasoned that Carter was a busy person who did not have time for a relationship but the truth was the only reason he had never done anything about what he was fairly sure was their mutual attraction, was the regs. Jack O'Neill was not usually a man prone to obeying orders he disagreed with, and he disagreed with this one just at the moment, although before he had heard of the Stargate it had seemed much more reasonable.
Carter, on the other hand, was a good little soldier who did what she was told. She would never approach him and if he made any advances towards her it would leave her in a quandary, one which he did not want to put her in. He told himself it was not because he did not want her to choose the Air Force over him but in truth he did not know which was worse.
"Two minutes," Walter broke his thoughts.
"Come on, Carter," Jack said, almost under his breath.
Jack could feel Daniel and Teal'c looming over each shoulder. He took a few deep breaths to try and calm his racing heart, and put his hands in his pockets so no-one could see them shake. He almost prayed to a god he didn't believe in, the Goa'uld having made him take a long rethink about religion. He wanted to ask if, by some miracle, on top of the one he had asked her to perform, Carter came back alive he would not take her for granted again but that was not really what he wanted to ask for. What he really wanted was a promise he couldn't keep.
He settled for the safe return of a friend instead.
John had always thought that the revelation that he was gay would come as more of a surprise. If he had expected it at all, that is. He thought this sort of problem was one only teenagers had. Perhaps he was going through some sort of early mid-life crisis caused by living in a galaxy far away.
He blamed his dilemma entirely on Rodney McKay, who, along with clearly being too sexy for his own good, was generally the cause of most problems. In all fairness, he was often also the solution to them, although even this one might be beyond even Rodney.
It had all begun that morning when the two of them had gone out for some flying practice. He had started the whole thing partly to soothe some of Carson's fears, but also because if there were fewer military people available to fly the jumpers than they needed in a fight, then he wanted the next best thing. He was sure people like Carson and Rodney would be able to get the hang of it eventually, they just needed enough practice to make it second nature.
Today Rodney had seemed more confident than usual and John had suggested he try some moves. It turned out Rodney had seen too many movies but he attempted some rolls anyway. It had taken a few tries but he did eventually manage to finish with the jumper the right way up and heading in the right direction.
"Woo hoo!" Unable to contain his excitement Rodney had felt the need to jump up and high five his instructor.
"Hands on the controls," John admonished but could not keep the smile off his face.
Suitably serious once more, at least in thought, if not in bearing, Rodney sat down and did a victory roll. John saw the world turn out of the corner of his eye and thought how strange it was that Rodney made the planet move for him. He had been staring at Rodney, though, and Rodney was too engrossed to call him on it.
In that moment John had fallen in love. Or at least in lust, he was not certain which just yet. He couldn't help looking at Rodney's hands and thinking about how much of him they would be able to touch. He really wanted to see that smile again but aimed at him. Perhaps it was all just because he hadn't got laid in a while and could see no chance of getting any in the near future. At least not without Rodney bitching at him about it.
According to John's plan, Rodney's success should mean he was ready to go out on his own. He told himself Rodney would just get cocky, try harder tricks, crash the jumper and get himself killed, but really it was just a good excuse to spend more time with a man who was usually only this happy over Ancient technology.
Afterwards they had gone their separate ways and John assumed the feeling was temporary brought on by the excitement of it all, or something. A belief he happily indulged in until he went for dinner in the mess and listened to Rodney brag about his flying. John had felt quite proud that he was the one to teach him, and Rodney in return was happy to give credit to anyone who would listen (a number which, unsurprisingly, fell rapidly after a few repetitions). The feelings he had felt back in the jumper had not gone away.
He ended up spending most of the day staring at pretty much anyone he could, which had involved some slightly odd looks back. Okay, very odd in some cases. But he had to figure this thing out and a comparison to Rodney seemed like the obvious answer.
The trouble was, none of them compared. Some were better looking, some even Rodney would be forced to admit were almost as intelligent but none of them had everything that Rodney did. Rodney was someone he could stay up all night talking to having debates about important things such as exactly how the Ancients built the great city of Atlantis, and unimportant things like the best flavor of ice cream.
Rodney was never going to have a second career as a male model (which given his temperament was probably just as well) but then who wants a pretty boy anyway? He had taken to the non-scientific side of Atlantis life as well and, in addition to his new piloting skills, was becoming a pretty good shot. They had so much in common how could they not be perfect for each other?
If Rodney were a woman this thing, whatever it was, would not be so much of a problem. His mind carelessly conjured up an image of Rodney with long hair, stamping his foot when he disagreed with someone. He couldn't help laughing, briefly imagining trying to keep a straight face next time they talked. It was probably going to be impossible but did have the added bonus of driving Rodney crazy trying to work it out. He had said once before how much he worried about what went on in John's head. If only you could see, he thought.
He recalled the morning once more and filled his mind with an image of a smiling Rodney, remembered his voice, and wrapped himself in it until it was all he could see and hear. Satisfied, he fell asleep almost immediately.
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