Teyla has an accident with an alien device that leads to revelations about the team. Rodney's not too happy about his. McKay/Sheppard, Teyla/?.

Spoilers up through and including 3x08 McKay and Mrs Miller.

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Life Lessons Learned From Aliens
by eleveninches

 

The first civilization they came across that was advanced enough for Rodney to be genuinely impressed -- without them being Replicators, of course, which were also very impressive once you got past the part where they wanted to kill everyone in Atlantis and got their kicks out of sticking their hands in people's heads -- was P1X-887, a world of happy, smiling, lab coat-clad scientists. Their team had been greeted by the Supreme High Chancellor as soon as they'd set foot on the planet, and the people of Midea, as the world was called, seemed very eager to share their technology. It was wonderful. Rodney was instantly suspicious.

"You want to give it away, just like that?" he asked. "You don't even know us. We could be planning to take over your planet."

Sheppard elbowed him in the ribs. Hard. "That's just Rodney's way of saying, yes, we'd love to see your technology."

The Chancellor was obviously a very wise man, as he had recognized Rodney's significance almost immediately. He seemed to be under the impression Rodney was the team leader; Rodney felt it was in everyone's best interests not to correct him. "It is rare we meet travelers who have knowledge such as yours," he said, leading Rodney and the rest of the team towards what he'd said was their main research facility. He was an old geezer with a trimmed white beard, dressed in a long, grey robe with bell sleeves. He also had a tall, pointy grey hat that was a little more Harry Potter than alien. Sheppard had already slipped and called him "Dumbledore" twice.

"Well, very few people have quite the amount of knowledge I do, Your Honour," Rodney replied smugly. He threw Sheppard a smirk; Sheppard rolled his eyes.

The Chancellor smiled. "The people of Midea hope we can trade with the people from the city of the Ancestors."

"Yeah, the Ancestors," Sheppard said, sounding uncomfortable.

The Chancellor frowned at him. "And we hope to trade with you as well," Teyla added hastily.

"If I could just see some of what your people are working on, that would be great," Rodney said, directing them back to the more important issue: his getting to see the technology.

The Midean capital was a sea of large, dome-shaped glass buildings that reminded Rodney of bee hives. The paved streets were relatively empty, but a quick glance around showed the buildings full of workers. The life signs detector confirmed this as well; like Rodney was going to walk around an advanced alien planet without checking a few things out first. He wouldn't be making that mistake again. Luckily, the stargate was situated right outside what appeared to be the city hall, so their journey was brief. Rodney liked this planet. Maybe this would finally be the planet that would provide them with something useful for fighting the Wraith. Or at least something to make their daily lives easier.

Half an hour and a tour of the primary laboratory facility later, he realized he was terribly, horribly wrong. This wasn't the planet of helpful Wraith haters. This was the Blind Date planet.

"So you're telling me," he said, standing in the middle of one of the largest and most well-equipped research labs he'd been inside of in two galaxies, "everything in your culture is centred around finding a spouse?"

"Not just a spouse, true love," said the Chancellor.

"Twu wuv," Sheppard murmured under his breath. Rodney tried to catch his eye for a shared look of disgust, but Sheppard was gazing straight at Chancellor Cupid. "You'll forgive us if we find that a little weird."

"There is nothing more important than finding your true love," the Chancellor continued airily. "Without love, there is no reason to continue. It's the goal of everyone on Midea to help their fellow citizens find his or her love match."

"So the giant super computer...?" Rodney asked, gesturing to the lab across the hall.

"Is for predicting love matches," the Chancellor supplied.

"Fantastic," he muttered. Another planet of crazy people. Just what he needed.

"What if someone doesn't want to find true love?" Ronon asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

The Chancellor looked horrified. "I think what he means is, what about the people who want to wait?" Sheppard asked.

"Why would you deny yourself love?" the old man asked.

He looked about ready to start lecturing, which was just one more experience Rodney really hadn't hoped to go through on this mission, when there came a crash from behind them. Rodney turned to see Teyla and a young man picking things up several metallic objects that had fallen to the floor, and placing them back onto a tray. "I am very sorry," Teyla was saying, "I did not realize you were there."

She reached for one of the objects.

"No!" the Chancellor cried.

Before Rodney's very eyes, Teyla flickered out, like someone had hit a switch. In her place was Sheppard. Another Sheppard, because the real one was standing next to Rodney, his brows furrowing in confusion.

"Oh, this is going to suck," Rodney said.

"Yeah," agreed Ronon.

"What is going on?" the Sheppard holding the object asked. Only it was Teyla's voice, which was creepy and wrong, coming out of Sheppard's body like that. Sheppard -- Teyla -- climbed to his -- her -- feet. "Why are you all looking at me like that?"

The real Sheppard said, "This is weird."

"Yeah," said Ronon, "I didn't know giant boxes of pancake mix could talk." The fact Ronon looked genuinely disturbed did not make his statement any less bizarre.

"Right," Sheppard said slowly, squinting at Ronon. He turned back to Teyla. "Teyla, it doesn't look like any of us are seeing you as... well, you."

Rodney eyed the old man, who seemed flustered. "It happened when she touched that device. What is it? It can't be Ancient, she doesn't have the gene." He snapped his fingers. "Teyla, give it to me, maybe there's a way to shut it off."

"No, you must'n't!" the Chancellor said. "The device makes other people see the wearer as whomever they desire the most. This is an indication, my dear," he said to Teyla, "you are in need of love."

"Huh," Sheppard said thoughtfully, while Teyla inspected the small, round device in her hand. Sheppard's hand.

Sheppard's hand. Rodney froze. "Did you say 'the thing you desire the most'? Ah, what do you mean by 'desire,' actually?"

"Like in a man loves a woman kind of way, Rodney," Sheppard said, sounding irritated. "It's for finding love, not for finding friends."

This was unbelievable. It was more than unbelievable, actually; it was impossible. For one thing, was the device telepathic? He hadn't seen any technology like that in the Pegasus Galaxy thus far -- just that Tok'ra memory tool he'd had a chance to look at when he'd been at Area 51. Was this an Ancient device that had somehow been lost on Midea?

But the more pressing question was why the hell was he seeing Sheppard? If anyone was the love of his life, it was Sam Carter. Even if she didn't know it yet.

Ronon crossed his arms over his chest. "Your thing is broken. I don't see a person."

Relieved, Rodney asked, "What do you see?" Clearly the device wasn't working properly.

"A giant box of pancake mix." Rodney's hope fizzled and died. All four of them stared at Ronon, who raised his eyebrows in response. "I really like pancakes."

"Well, there goes another food the Pegasus Galaxy has ruined for me," Rodney grumbled.

"Does this mean you're pansexual?" Sheppard asked Ronon.

"I don't know what that means," Ronon said.

"Yes, let's just stand around here all day making jokes about Ronon having sex with pancakes," Rodney scoffed. "That'll be really productive. Chancellor, how do we turn the device off?"

"You can't," the Chancellor responded. "It is programmed to remain on until the wearer finds his or her true love."

"How does this help her find true love?"

"Ah," said the Chancellor. He raised a finger in the air. "That is for the wearer to discover."

"You're kidding," Rodney said incredulously. "Is this your way of saying you don't know what it does?"

The Chancellor's eyes narrowed. He looked ready to start on something when Teyla jumped in. "Perhaps it is best if we leave it on for now," she said. "It is not doing any harm, and this way we can take it back to Atlantis to study. If that is alright with you, Chancellor."

"As long as there are plenty of single men in the city of the Ancestors!" the Chancellor said jovially.

"Please stop talking," Rodney said.

*

On the way back to the stargate, Rodney asked Ronon, "You seriously see her as pancake mix?" Ronon grunted an affirmative.

"I guess there are worse things to see," Sheppard said slowly. "You know, like, kids or animals. Or General Landry."

Rodney frowned. "Now I'm not sure I want to know what you're seeing."

But Sheppard kept looking at Teyla oddly. Rodney would be lying if he said he wasn't a little bit curious. "Hey, here's a question," Sheppard said. "Do I seem kind of... repressed to any of you?"

"Believe me, Colonel, if anyone's repressed here, it's me," Rodney said. He was starting to get a headache from having one Sheppard on either side of him. He had a feeling his next session with Dr Heightmeyer was going to be an important one.

Sheppard looked at him in surprise. "What do you see, McKay?"

"Nothing. Nothing important. You don't want to know, trust me. What do you see?"

"A hot babe," Sheppard said, tone implying this should be obvious. All he was missing was the "duh" at the end.

Rodney glanced over his shoulder at Teyla. She smiled back thinly. It was unusual, seeing such a Teyla expression on Sheppard's face. The real Sheppard, meanwhile, was biting his lip, and Rodney was definitely not going to think about what two John Sheppards would look like together, with their identical pouts and crooked noses and hedgehog hair. No, it was crazy to think that, because either Rodney was seeing Teyla as Sheppard due to a malfunction, or he was sick in the head.

He sighed. "We're pretty screwed up, aren't we."

"I'm good," said Ronon.

*

Walking back home through the gate created a flurry of excitement. The normal low-level buzz around the command room grew louder when Teyla stepped out from behind Ronon, and someone in the back exclaimed, "Holy mother of God!" A bunch of people scurried over to the balcony to peer down at her.

Elizabeth jogged down the stairs. "John, what's going on?" she asked.

"Teyla touched something she shouldn't have," Sheppard explained.

"Teyla did?" Elizabeth repeated, raising an eyebrow.

Teyla gazed back innocently. It was such a Sheppard expression -- one that always should have annoyed Rodney, but never did -- that Rodney was taken aback. He had to get out of there. "I'm going ahead to the infirmary for my check-up. There's really nothing for me to report, and I have a lot of work to catch up on," he said, walking backwards towards the exit. Two Sheppards blinked at him, and Elizabeth frowned. The only one who wasn't paying attention to him was Ronon, who was busy staring at Teyla like she was a cheeseburger and he hadn't eaten in a week. Which was a horrible, horrible analogy, considering he saw her as pancakes.

"Rodney," Elizabeth called.

"Busy!" he shouted back.

"Wonder who he sees," he heard Sheppard say as the doors whispered shut behind him.

*

There wasn't anything in the Ancient database on the device from Midea. Granted, he hadn't expected a search for "hologram love machine" to come up with much, but there wasn't a single file anything that remotely resembled what he was looking for. He'd have to get Elizabeth on it later; his Ancient was a tad more rusty than hers.

After a few hours of searching, he did find a file with a few notes on the planet. His Ancient wasn't great, but he definitely made out the words "crazy" and "marriage" and "cult." Three words he never wanted to see put together.

Rodney tensed when the doors opened, but it was just Zelenka, carrying a tablet under one arm and pushing up his glasses with his free hand.

"John is looking for you," Zelenka said, instead of, "Hello."

Rodney barely managed not to roll his eyes at Zelenka's use of Sheppard's first name. If anyone should be seeing Sheppard as their love match, it was him. "He'll just have to wait," Rodney said tersely. "I'm not at his beck and call."

Zelenka looked up from his tablet, pulling a stool to the lab bench closest to Rodney's console. "Are you hiding?"

"No," Rodney said.

"But you never come into my laboratory unless you do not want anyone to find you," he said.

"What are you talking about, I'm in here all the time," Rodney protested.

"You said it smelled like a cabbages, and that being in here for too long made you long for death."

"No, I said your constant ramblings in Czech made me feel like I was trapped in a room with the kid from the Exorcist," Rodney said. He paused the scrolling words on the screen and took a seat opposite from Zelenka. He wasn't getting anywhere with the database. "Although I've noticed the smell of cabbages has mostly dissipated. Well done."

Zelenka snorted. "While you are not hiding from John, I have something you can look at."

From the front pocket of his jacket, he retrieved a small, circular object. The glass was a quarter inch thick, and it was framed by a thick piece of black plastic. "Dr Coleman found it in one of the abandoned rooms. It was covered in cobwebs," Zelenka said, while Rodney weighed it with his palm.

While Zelenka went back to his tablet, Rodney continued to study the thing. He held it up to the light; there was a faint reddish sheen on the glass, but that was the only distinguishing feature he could pick out. Sheppard probably would've been able to figure out what it was. Sheppard had always had the uncanny ability to think outside the box, no matter what the situation.

But then, in a flash of amazing insight, it came to him. "I've got it!" Rodney exclaimed.

Zelenka jumped, knocking his tablet to the floor with a loud clatter. "Kurva drát," he swore. "What is it?"

"I know what this is." Rodney held up the artifact proudly. It was so obvious; he didn't know why it had taken him so long to figure out. This was exactly why being preoccupied with his and Sheppard's non-existent sexual relationship was a bad idea.

Zelenka leaned forward. "Yes?"

"It is a monocle, like you see in movies," Rodney announced.

Zelenka visibly deflated. Rodney put the monocle over one eye and squeezed the other shut, raising his chin. "What do you think, do I look dignified?"

"Dignity is impossible for you," Zelenka said.

"Huh, I wonder what the Ancients needed monocles for," Rodney mused. He didn't see any differently with it on; it like wearing a pair of fake glasses. Even the reddish tint on the outside of the glass didn't do anything. "It doesn't seem to have an actual purpose."

"Perhaps it is for a costume," Zelenka said dryly.

"What, for Ancient Halloween?"

On a bench against the wall sat a crate Zelenka and some of the other scientists had been using to keep Ancient objects they'd thought were useless. Rodney began shifting through it. Maybe he could find something that went along with the monocle. "You didn't see a pipe in here, did you?"

He stuck his head in the crate, pulling out all sorts of interesting yet probably useless artifacts. In the glee of discovery, he'd almost forgotten Zelenka was there, until Zelenka casually asked, "So who do you see instead of Teyla?"

Rodney's head shot up. He glared. "You've been waiting all day to ask me that, haven't you."

"I have," Zelenka admitted. He didn't sound ashamed.

"Who I see is none of your business," Rodney said stiffly. Like he'd let anyone know some malfunctioning alien doo-dad was telling him Sheppard was his one true love. "Fine, if you must know, I see Colonel Carter. Of course. Who else would I see?"

"Oh, I thought you would have seen John. My mistake."

"Why would you think that?" Rodney asked, shocked.

Zelenka's gaze shifted to something in the distance. "No reason," he replied slowly.

"Zelenka, you disgusting little monkey, if you're not straight with me--"

"Ho, straight!" Zelenka said. He wagged a finger at Rodney. "That is a good one. Is it really so strange to think someone else has noticed your, how shall I put this, infatuation?"

Rodney felt his heartbeat quicken. Oh no, he was not panicking just because Zelenka thought he had feelings for the most frustrating person in the Pegasus Galaxy. "Infatuation?" he echoed loudly. "That's the most ridiculous thing you've ever said to me, and, yes, I'm including your theories on special relativity. Colonel Sheppard and I are friends. We're-- very good friends, who happen to save each other's lives on a near-daily basis. There's nothing romantic about it."

"Okay," Zelenka said, but when he turned away, Rodney saw him rolling his eyes.

That pissed him off. What made Zelenka think he knew Rodney better than Rodney knew himself? That was why he was a second-tier scientist while Rodney was in charge, because he jumped to conclusions without knowing the facts. He didn't know a single thing about Rodney if he thought that, and he certainly didn't know anything about friendship. And just because Rodney hadn't had many close friends during his lifetime didn't mean Rodney didn't understand his relationship with Sheppard for what it was.

"What kind of person do you think I am?" he demanded. "Do you really think I've been carrying a torch for Sheppard this entire time? The entire three years we've known each other? All the times we've saved each other's asses and worked in close combat situations, relying only on each other for our very survival? All the time without either of us seriously dating anyone, because no one outside our team could possibly understand what we've been through? What, I ask you, what kind of person would that make me?"

Zelenka's eyes narrowed. "You know, Rodney, perhaps I would take you more seriously if you were not wearing the monocle."

*

The next morning, when Rodney carried his tray over to their usual table, Ronon and Elizabeth were already there. Ronon was chowing down a stack of pancakes like he wouldn't get a chance to eat for another seven years. Elizabeth's back was to Rodney, but he could see she wasn't eating. She was probably as grossed out by Ronon's eating habits as the rest of, oh, civilized life.

"You know, considering a box of pancake mix is your one true love, this is really quite disturbing," Rodney said, taking the seat next to Elizabeth.

Ronon paused. "How come?" he asked, mouth full.

Rodney rolled his eyes and dug into his eggs. Elizabeth was staring at something in the distance, plate still untouched, and his curiosity was piqued. He asked, "What's going on?"

"Nothing," she answered with a shake of her head. But then she nodded in the direction she'd been staring at, and Rodney glanced over.

Rodney's chest tightened at the sight of two Sheppards sitting together at a corner table. It wasn't them sitting with each other that was the problem, because Sheppard and Teyla ate together all the time. They were friends, after all; she'd been Sheppard's friend long before Rodney had magnanimously decided Sheppard was less of a clown than he'd previously thought. But the way the Sheppard on the left side was leaning back, head tilted, lips curled, that was horrifying familiar. He wondered what Sheppard saw when he looked at Teyla. He really couldn't imagine Sheppard would see anyone in Atlantis. An old girlfriend, perhaps? One of the many men and women who had thrown themselves at him offworld? That slut from the cloister? Chaya?

"What do you suppose John and Teyla are talking about?" Elizabeth asked.

"That bimbo," Rodney muttered.

"Watch what you say about my pa-- about Teyla," Ronon warned.

Elizabeth was also peering at Rodney disapprovingly. He waved a hand dismissively. "No, no, not Teyla. Whichever space babe of the week Sheppard's seeing in her place."

"Is that what you think he sees?" Elizabeth wondered. She sounded amused. When he looked at her in surprise, she quickly started eating her breakfast. He narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously.

"Yeah, I don't know about that," Ronon said. "Sheppard flirts a lot, but I don't think he loves any of those women. That's what the device is for, to show you who you love."

"You see pancake mix," said Rodney irritably. "You can't marry pancake mix, now can you?"

Ronon leaned forward with a knowing smirk. "What do you see, McKay?"

"I have to go back to the lab," Rodney said hurriedly.

*

There were many things Rodney could be working on, including taking apart Teyla's hologram device, but he found the thing he wanted to sort out the most was the monocle. But there wasn't anything to really do to it. The plastic casing on the outer edge was seamless, and the glass appeared to be just that: glass.

He was considering taking it over to the main labs to test different kinds of chemicals on it when the door opened, and in walked someone he'd really been hoping to avoid.

"Hello, Colonel," he said flatly. Sheppard's eyebrows shot up, and Rodney added, "Well, I suppose since you're here, you might as well help me out on something."

"You see me as John?"

That wasn't Sheppard's voice. Rodney's stomached bottomed out as he had the horrible realization it was Teyla standing in the doorway, and he said hastily, "Of course not, that was a joke, why on Earth would I ever see Colonel Sheppard as the love of my life? The very idea is laughable. See, this is me laughing. Ha ha ha!"

"Rodney," Teyla said.

"There's something wrong with your match-making device," Rodney insisted.

Teyla carefully sat on the stool nearest to the lab bench. That was unlike Sheppard; he preferred to peer over Rodney's shoulder or lean all over everything, like a big, slutty leaning thing. "You do not need to worry about me telling John," she said. "I believe he is avoiding me."

"Why is that?" he asked, not entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.

While her movements were all her own, it was amazing how the device managed to make Teyla's distasteful expression look identical to Sheppard's. Rodney would really have to get his hands onto some of that technology. But his focus on the device faded when Teyla said, "He became quite nervous when I realized he saw me as a man."

"What?" Rodney demanded. "Sheppard's into men? That can't be! I'm shocked! Shocked! That's-- actually, that does make sense. So who does he see? Is it Keras from the kid planet? I knew that piece of jailbait ass had a thing for him. My God, Sheppard's practically robbing the cradle."

"I am sure John did not sleep with Keras, Rodney," Teyla responded. "And even if he did, that was years ago. They have not seen each other since."

"How do you know he hasn't? What with this whole homosexual double life he's been leading."

Teyla looked annoyed. Or at least, she was making the same face Sheppard did when he was annoyed. "Because we would know if he was taking trips through the stargate often enough to have a relationship with someone on another planet."

"I suppose you have a point," Rodney admitted grudgingly. He narrowed his eyes at her. "So if Sheppard's hiding from you, why are you here?"

Teyla squared her shoulders. "It is very uncomfortable when everyone sees you as the one they desire. Everyone is acting very strange around me. Ronon keeps calling me 'Pancakes,' and even Elizabeth is not herself. I was hoping you, at least, would behave normally. Since you have a difficult time telling someone you like them even as a friend."

"Thank you," Rodney said, touched.

"What are you studying?" Teyla asked, nodding to the monocle.

"I'm trying to figure out what the function is of this," he said. He held it between his thumb and forefinger.

"It looks like half of a pair of glasses."

"Yes, I'm aware of that," he snapped.

Teyla gingerly took it from him and lifted it towards the light. This gave Rodney the perfect opportunity to study the slope of Sheppard's narrow jaw, the slight upturn of his nose. From this angle, his eyes were a soft green. Okay, so Sheppard was hot; this wasn't news. It didn't mean Rodney was in love with him or anything.

She handed the monocle back to Rodney. He was finishing putting it on just as Zelenka walked through the door, and immediately, Teyla shifted from Sheppard to Ronon.

"Oh my God," Rodney said. He gestured for Zelenka to stop moving.

When he pulled the monocle off, Teyla was Sheppard again.

Rodney stared at the monocle in his hand, and then back at Zelenka and Teyla. "Zelenka," he asked slowly, "you wouldn't by chance see Ronon when you look at Teyla, would you?"

"How did you know?" Zelenka gasped.

"Ronon?" Teyla asked. "That is even stranger than you seeing John, Rodney."

"You do see John?" Zelenka smirked. "I knew it. Did I not say I knew?"

"You see Ronon," Rodney pointed out.

"He is very tall and muscular," Zelenka said defensively. "He is, how would you say, man candy."

"I would never say that," Rodney said.

"Neither would I," said Teyla.

*

"You have to do this," Rodney insisted.

"No," Teyla said stubbornly, "I will not."

"It's an important scientific breakthrough--"

"You want me to do this so you will know who everyone is in love with, and you can blackmail them," Teyla interrupted, glaring. "I will not subject the others to your pettiness."

Rodney crossed his arms over his chest. "You'll have to go in the control room eventually. I can wait."

It turned out Teyla was far less frightening when she looked like Sheppard, whose faces tended to be more ridiculous than menacing. She gave Rodney one last, long scowl and stormed down the corridor.

"I'll be waiting," he called her to back.

She returned ten minutes later.

"Well, well, well," he said smugly, "look who's come crawling back."

"I had forgotten I have a meeting with Elizabeth," Teyla said coldly. "You may follow me in, but I will have nothing to do with your scheme."

"That's fine," Rodney said, moving aside so she could step through the doors.

When he left by himself a few minutes later, it was in outrage. He'd been hoping for something funny, or at least something he could use against them, but everyone -- literally everyone -- in the control room was in love with the same person: Elizabeth. That was so predictable. Zelenka loved Ronon, Ronon loved pancakes, he loved (supposedly loved) Sheppard, but everyone else had a thing for the boss.

*

He was headed to Zelenka's lab when a supply closet door opened, and out shot a hand. It latched onto the front of Rodney's jacket and pulled him in.

"What the hell?" he started to shout, when he realized he was looking at Sheppard. A Sheppard. He didn't know which one. "Hello?"

"Hey, Rodney." Definitely the real Sheppard then.

"Why are you hiding in supply closets?" Rodney asked suspiciously.

Sheppard smiled brightly. Rodney recoiled. "You haven't happened to see Teyla recently, have you?" Sheppard asked, unusually chipper.

"Uh, recently?" Rodney responded. He tried to think fast. "How recent are we talking about?"

Sheppard rubbed the back of his neck. His smile faded a little. "Did she say anything to you about me? Maybe about what I see?"

"No, she hasn't," Rodney lied. "And if she has, why would you think I'd care? Do you think I don't have anything to do but sit around and gossip over what kind of guys John Sheppard finds attractive?"

Sheppard's eyes went wide. "What?"

"I mean, women," Rodney said.

"So she did talk to you," Sheppard said accusingly.

Rodney pinched the bridge of his nose. "Honestly, that's all she said. I have no idea who you see when you look at her. Although you could've told me you were bisexual. I thought we were--" He waved a hand. "Close. In only the way two semi-heterosexual guys can be."

"We are," Sheppard said. He looked uncomfortable now, instead of defensive. "I never said anything 'cause I don't really date all that much, and dating women was just always one of those things I was expected to do, you know?"

"No, not really," Rodney said honestly.

"I was on the football team," Sheppard explained, like it should have been obvious.

"I have no idea how that relates to what we're talking about. So while you're not dating men, would you tell me if you slept with Keras?"

Sheppard looked taken aback. "Who's Keras? Wait, the guy from the kid planet? That was three years ago."

"Well," Rodney said sheepishly, "I just thought-- since he was so interested in you, and you're-- nevermind. It's not important."

"He wasn't interested in me," Sheppard insisted, frowning, "he just wanted me to be the person he spent the last moments of his life with. It's not his fault the ritual called for naked touching. It was a ritual."

"What?" Rodney asked shrilly.

"Hey, you're seeing Teyla as Carter, right?"

"Yes, Colonel Carter," Rodney said carefully. "You know me and my masturbatory fantasies about Carter. I do love those perky blondes."

"Okay, that's enough of that," Sheppard said.

*

The next time he lured Teyla into the labs for some assistance on something he could have easily had anyone else in Atlantis do, he worked fast.

"Major Lorne, could you come to the main laboratory right away?" he asked over the radio, turning away so Teyla couldn't hear.

"Sure thing, Dr McKay," Lorne's voice said in his ear.

When he walked through the door a few minutes later, Teyla's device shifted her over to Elizabeth's form.

Rodney rolled his eyes in disgust. God forbid Lorne be original and fall for someone else.

"What can I do you for?" Lorne asked cheerfully. He beamed at Teyla.

"That'll be all, Major," Rodney said.

*

Rodney had only briefly considered spying on Sheppard and Teyla so he could see who it was Sheppard loved. He'd almost called both of them into his lab at least four times, but each time he'd stopped himself at the last minute. Rodney was hardly the type of guy who preferred to live in blissful ignorance, but there was this little voice in the back of his mind -- the kind of voice he usually ignored -- that said, "You want to maintain the delusion you have Sheppard all to yourself."

Knowing Sheppard's love of all things bad ass, his mysterious love interest was probably Ronon. Or Lorne. Or, God help him, Caldwell. Maybe it was someone from Earth, and Sheppard had been pining away this whole time. Maybe it was some dead guy Rodney could never compete with in a million years. If his seeing Sheppard wasn't all a vicious lie meant to ruin his life, of course.

If he was being really honest, Rodney would admit the thought of Sheppard being in love made him a little queasy.

So it was really unintentional when he stumbled across Sheppard and Teyla alone in the commissary, and it was merely a coincidence he was wearing the Ancient monocle. (He'd been hoping to catch Elizabeth and Teyla walking through the corridors together, so he could figure out just why Elizabeth got that strange look on her face whenever the two women had been in the same room at the same time, in his pre-monocle period.)

When he saw a very handsome, and very familiar, person sitting at the table with Sheppard -- himself, Dr Meredith Rodney McKay -- he did the only thing any reasonable person would do:

"What the hell is going on here?" he demanded, disturbing their little tete-a-tete.

Sheppard squinted at him. "Are you wearing a monocle?"

"What I'm wearing is not as important as what you're doing."

"Getting something to drink with Teyla?" Sheppard said.

Teyla was looking at Rodney like he was something she'd found on the bottom of her shoe. Except it was with Rodney's own handsome, handsome face. "Rodney, you should not be here," she all but growled. Oh, that was bizarre, Teyla's voice coming out of his mouth.

Sheppard seemed curious at her words, but Rodney would rather throw himself off the nearest balcony than let Sheppard know he'd been spying on everyone. He had his dignity, after all. "You know, Rodney, She's not really Colonel Carter," he said.

Rodney looked at the image of himself and Sheppard at the table, at Sheppard all relaxed and smiling in a way he'd seen a thousand times over. It was at that point he realized the Midean chancellor had been right, and he really had been looking at the person he loved the most.

*

The problem with Rodney knowing Sheppard was in love with him was, well, knowing Sheppard was in love with him. And he loved Sheppard back. Probably. He hadn't been in many situations like this in his lifetime; mostly, he spent his time trying to convince the other person he was worthy of dating. It was rare for him to fall for someone who loved him back without him having to work at it. Katie Brown had gone out with him because she'd liked him, and look how that had turned out.

What Rodney needed to do was be upfront with Sheppard about it. Sheppard loved him. There was little chance this could all go horribly wrong.

The next day at lunch, he sat down at Sheppard's table.

"John," he began immediately.

Sheppard's eyebrows arched. "Meredith?"

Rodney was bursting to tell him everything, that he saw Sheppard just like Sheppard saw him, and they could run off (okay, fly away) into the sunset together, or maybe just that they should go talk privately before one of the Marines gay-bashed them, but what came out was, "You know, I still can't believe you didn't tell me you're bi."

"I can't believe you won't shut the hell up," Sheppard hissed, pointedly glancing around the commissary, which was mostly empty.

"What was that?" Ronon asked around his mashed potatoes.

"Could we not talk about this in public?" Sheppard asked lowly.

"Please, it's hardly like Ronon is public," Rodney scoffed.

"Are you talking about Sheppard liking guys?" Ronon asked. "'Cause I already knew."

Betrayed, Rodney glared at Sheppard, who snapped, "I didn't tell him."

"I watch a lot of movies with the Marines," Ronon said. He sucked a glob of gravy off his thumb. "There was a gay guy in Be Cool."

"Who, The Rock?" Rodney asked. "You used The Rock as a basis for figuring out Sheppard's sexual identity?"

Ronon nodded seriously. "He was funny. He had an afro. It made me think about picking my hair out."

Rodney snorted. "All that hair wouldn't fit in one room. It would get in fight with Sheppard's hair for team supremacy, and--"

"Hey," Sheppard cut in.

"I've learned a lot about Earth from movies," Ronon said. "Like how high school was the most important period of your life, and how everyone likes good-looking people the most."

"Erm," Rodney said.

"That's not really true," Sheppard said. "See, they're just movies..."

"Also," Ronon continued, pointing a food-slathered finger at Rodney, "never stick your dick in apple pie."

"Never stick it into something you could otherwise eat," Rodney said wisely.

Ronon looked pleased. "That's good advice."

"Can we talk about something else?" Sheppard said.

*

"You're not still mad at me for hanging out with Teyla, are you?"

Rodney startled at the voice. He glanced over his shoulder at Sheppard in the doorway, his hands on his hips. "Don't sneak up on me like that, you lunatic. What are you doing down here? Are you following me?"

"Here" was the formerly-submerged room where Simpson had found the monocle. Rodney had tried everything he knew of to find out exactly what the device was, but he was out of resources. The database revealed nothing; anything he tried to do to the monocle had no effect. If he hadn't been such a determined person, he would have written it off days ago. Instead, he'd had the brilliant idea of returning the place of its origin. Perhaps there was something in this room that would give him a clue.

Unfortunately, the wide, blue room was mostly empty. There was something that might have been a desk mounted to one wall; that was where the monocle had been found, most likely.

Sheppard shrugged. "I was bored," he said easily, practically sauntering into the room. "I finished all my back-logged paperwork, so I don't have anything to do. It doesn't look like Teya's going to go back to normal anytime soon."

"Yeah, about that," Rodney muttered.

Sheppard stopped walking when he barely two feet away from Rodney. Why had Rodney never noticed how Sheppard was just about crawling all over him all the time? He swore he didn't used to be this stupid. Maybe it was all the sun he was getting. And all the time he was spending with Ronon.

Oddly, Sheppard breathing down his neck gave him courage. If Sheppard wasn't going to the brave one, it was up to Rodney to get them out of this mess.

"I need to say something to you," he said, a little louder than necessary. He drew himself up to full height. "Look, I know you see me when you look at Teyla."

Sheppard's expression stilled. "What?"

"And I'm not upset--"

"What makes you think I see you?" Sheppard asked.

Rodney felt his face flush. "Ah, well, remember the monocle? Zelenka thinks it was left by the Ancients, and it allows me to see everyone's so-called 'one true love.'"

Sheppard cocked his head. "How does that work?"

"I honestly have no idea," Rodney said. "It's made of glass, but it has this reddish-- The point is, I saw you see me."

"Rodney," Sheppard started. His eyes darted left and right nervously.

"I wanted to tell you that it's okay. It's more than okay, really, because I'm very-- flattered. I'm very flattered, and it's nice knowing--"

Sheppard interrupted him with, "Cut the crap. We really don't need to have this discussion, I've heard it all before. You like me but you don't like me, you're not gay--"

"Ah," Rodney said, wincing.

"You are gay?" Sheppard shouted. "After you got mad at me for not coming out to you?"

"Well, excuse me for not being in touch with my sexuality at every moment of every day," Rodney countered, throwing his arms in the air.

"That doesn't even make sense!"

"Does too!"

"Does not! And are you saying you do like me?"

Sheppard was still shouting, which was probably a bad sign, but by this point Rodney was too worked up to care.

"Yes," Rodney yelled back. It was entirely possible he was flailing, just a little. "That's what I've been trying to tell you, if you stopped interrupting."

"Well, good!" Sheppard exclaimed.

"Fine," Rodney shouted. "Should we make out now?"

"I don't see why not," Sheppard said, and jumped on him.

Twenty minutes later, they both both lying on the floor, panting, their pants and boxers around their ankles. Rodney's entire body felt like it was made of rubber, and from the stunned look on Sheppard's face, he was feeling the exact same way.

"That was the best sex I've ever had on a floor," Rodney said.

"Mmmm," Sheppard sighed. He sat up and pulled his pants back up over his nice, lean thighs. Rodney had a lot of plans for those thighs, now that he'd been up close and personal with Sheppard's mostly-naked body.

"The funny thing is," Rodney said, moving to get his clothes back on and in order, "I didn't even know I had feelings for you."

"I did," Sheppard said, "but mostly it was me imaging shutting you up with, well, something other than words, let's say."

Rodney eyed him. "If you mean your cock, we're going to have to work our way up to that."

Sheppard smirked. Then his gaze shifted and he asked, "Hey, so this is what you used to find out what everyone sees Teyla as?" He reached over and plucked the monocle off the floor, where it must have fallen out of Rodney's pocket during their rush to tear off each other's clothes.

"Will you put that down?" Rodney asked, as Sheppard put it on. He looked completely ridiculous. "It's Ancient, you don't know how to handle it like I do."

"Whoa," Sheppard interupted. "You've got to see this."

*

"So the device appears to be, essentially, for reading messages written using a certain kind of-- well, we're not sure if it's ink or paint yet. Some of the chemists are working on that."

Sheppard added, "When I put on the, uh, monocle in that room, there were a bunch of messages written on the wall in Ancient."

"And here I just thought you were going crazy, Rodney," Elizabeth replied, but she was smiling. She looked a little too happy about this, actually. "I have to say, using a monocle as a tool for reading secret messages seems a bit silly. I always thought the Ancients were more sophisticated than that."

"Well, the stuff written on the wall roughly translated to, 'Ciceron is a butthead,'" Sheppard said sheepishly.

"Right," Rodney said, "our best guess is it was a children's toy, like a decoder ring from a Crackerjacks box." All that precious work for nothing. At least he knew some potentially embarrassing things about a good number of his peers now. It was the only thing keeping him going. Well, that and the inevitable sexual olympics he'd have with Sheppard later.

Elizabeth folded her hands on her desk. She kept smiling, though, which was beginning to creep Rodney out. "Well, that's interesting. I guess. Is there anything else you need to tell me about this device?"

Rodney and Sheppard exchanged glances. "No," they said simultaneously.

"Hey," Sheppard said quietly as soon as they were out of Elizabeth's hearing range, "I need to talk to Elizabeth about some stuff, but do you want to have dinner later? Just the two of us? I mean, since we already, you know." He made a funny gesture Rodney couldn't decipher, but he got the gist.

"That sounds, um, very good," Rodney said, keeping his voice steady. "I'll see you then?"

Sheppard grinned. "Yeah." He backed up a few steps without tearing his eyes away from Rodney's, before finally turning and heading back into the office.

Rodney stood there for a brief moment, unable to move away. Until Sergeant Campbell cleared his throat and said, "Uh..."

"Oh, go back to drooling over Elizabeth," Rodney snapped, and Campbell's face turned red.

Later, he was alone in his lab when Teyla came strolling in. Only she wasn't Sheppard anymore; she was herself.

"Oh no, one roll with Sheppard and I've fallen out of love with him already," Rodney cried.

Teyla's brows knitted. "I am sorry, what was that? Rodney, the device stopped working."

He was instantly relieved. "I knew that. Did the projector run out of power?"

"No," she replied. One corner of her mouth rose. "I believe the device did what it was intended to do."

"Who's your 'true love'? And more importantly, are you saying the Mideans actually created something to help single people find a match?"

"While the rest of Atlantis saw me as someone else they desired, there was one person who saw me as myself." She ducked her head, cheeks pinkening. "Elizabeth. That was why she was behaving oddly around me. I believe it was a revelation for herself as well."

At least seventy-five per cent of Atlantis was in love with Elizabeth, but somehow, this surprised him the most. "Elizabeth? Really?" he said in surprise. Then he realized how that sounded. "Not that there's anything wrong with that. The opposite of wrong, really. It just never occured to me that you two would be interested in each other. Although I guess that makes sense, since there's no hierarchy keeping you apart."

"And she has a nice ass," Teyla said.


Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis does not belong to me. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Due to time contraints, this story was not beta read, but thanks to Jenn for looking this over and telling me it didn't suck.

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