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Icebreaker (Keller/Sheppard, G)

~1000 words, Keller/Sheppard with mention of past McKay/Keller (not cheating fic, though!); G; post-season 5. (Note: Title was "Coffee", but esteefee suggested a MUCH better one! Thank you!)

Their new world -- their third since returning to Pegasus -- is a cool world. It's not exactly Hoth, but winter comes early and continues for months with no signs of warming. As the sea begins to freeze, they unmoor the city and allow it to drift. Sometimes they guide it with small bursts of its navigation jets, but generally there is no need to drain the ZPMs when the current is carrying them into warmer waters.

The sea around them is an endless field of icebergs, jostling against each other as the city's shield grinds them to powder. At first they thought they'd have to keep the shield up all the time -- a massive drain on the ZPM -- but then Zelenka found a way of localizing the shield so that it only covers a relatively thin band around the outskirts of the city. While the shield was above the city, it felt a little to John like being inside a giant snowglobe, only with the snow on the outside. Now the snow is able to fall freely, settling feather-light across the city as it drifts around the world.

He's standing on the balcony outside the mess when Keller joins him, carrying two steaming cups. "You looked cold," she says. "Thought I'd bring you some coffee."

He takes it, and their hands brush. Her fingers are warm against his own.

"Do you mind if I ...?" She nods towards the icefield, then glances at him. "I mean, if you want to be alone, I can leave."

John doesn't mind, so he shrugs and she leans on the railing next to him. They both listen to the distant, muted rumble of Atlantis bearing inexorably through the ice.

"It's been a year," Keller says after a moment, quietly.

John doesn't have to ask A year since what. A year ago they returned to this galaxy -- he's heard murmurings that some of the civilians are planning some kind of anniversary bash. And, a year ago, with Carter assigned to the Hammond, McKay was offered some kind of cushy head-researcher job at the SGC, and took it.

"I'm forty years old," he'd told John. "I don't plan to spend the rest of my life running for my life on alien worlds, and I'm not likely to get a better offer than this -- all the shiny new discoveries will come right through my lab, and I can actually look at them without worrying about alien vampires sneaking up behind me."

To John, it's abundantly obvious that McKay's kidding himself about the relative safety of Earth. The fact that they had to fly Atlantis back to the Milky Way to defend Earth from Wraith is ample evidence of that. But, hell, five years of being shot at -- maybe that's enough for most people; maybe the fact that he couldn't wait to come back to Pegasus means there's something wrong with him.

And yet, most of those who he's gotten used to having around came back. A few stayed behind; Lorne was offered a promotion and a position running one of Earth's offworld research outposts, and took it -- John misses him more acutely than Rodney, actually, especially when he's going over inventories or personnel files and catches himself thinking Lorne would have had this done already.

Things change.

But it's still home.

"Do you remember ..." Keller says. John glances at her. She's looking out at the icebergs, and her nose is very pink from the cold. "When you asked me if I was doing okay, after we got back, and I said I just needed time?"

"Yeah." He'd gotten used to keeping an eye on his team's families as a general part of the whole team-leader thing -- Kanaan and Torren; Amelia -- and after they came back to Pegasus, it was easier to just keep doing the protective thing for Keller rather than trying to change. She'd been almost team, and maybe Rodney isn't anymore and neither is she, but it's hard to stop thinking of them that way.

And maybe it's become habit over the last year -- swinging by the infirmary late at night to say hi and maybe play a game of computer golf if he can talk her into it, just like he'll walk by Teyla's quarters on the nights when Kanaan and Torren are on New Athos, to see if there's a strip of light under the door and, if so, take her down to the mess for a cup of tea. It's what he does: protects them, looks out for them. And maybe if they reciprocate -- like bringing him a cup of coffee on a cold balcony; like stopping by his office to give him an excuse to put down his paperwork and go get something to eat -- well, that's just what team does for team, right?

She looks over at him. For a minute she looks uncertain, and then, it's like something firms up in her eyes. "I think I've had enough time," she says, and she leans across the space between them and stands on tiptoe.

There's a moment when he could have pulled away, a moment when he sees her hesitate, just fractionally, and look up at him, a question in her eyes -- asking if he's okay with it. John's brain does something a little bit flaily and then just whites out, because all these months he's slotted her firmly into the category of "Rodney's girl", but of course, she hasn't been, hasn't been for a year.

Her lips are warm and coffee-flavored, and very, very soft. Their breath steams out around them, mingles and drifts away on the light breeze.

"Wow," John says after a moment. "I never do see these things coming."

The smile she gives him is hesitant, and a little shy. "Are you ...?" And she makes a flappy hand motion, with the hand that's not holding a half-full, rapidly cooling cup of coffee.

"That was a good 'wow'," John assures her, and leans forward to try it again.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2010 03:29 am (UTC)
I was trepidatious, coming to read this, but you sold me. SOLID John voice, my god, it was like having a voice over on the dang show with how in character he was. But what tipped it for me? Keller. Wow. she was perfect.

I'm not sure I see the appeal of the pairing, but written like this, I'd definitely be willing to explore the possibility. Well done!

and I didn't even read who the author was until after, and if I had, I wouldn't have been so cautious in the approach. You're ALWAYS good with John. always. *facepalm*

Edited at 2010-01-05 03:31 am (UTC)
Jan. 5th, 2010 03:36 am (UTC)
Thank you very much; what an awesome compliment. :) I admit it's a very rare pairing and not one that I was sure I could write, but after I thought of it, I had to give it a try; I liked the challenge of doing it in a way that was fair to both characters and their respective relationships with Rodney. And I do love writing John's inner voice - I also very rarely get to write oblivious!John, since I don't do romance very much, and it was fun. :D

I'm glad you took a chance on it!
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
Aw dang it, you made me "buy" this pairing! Really lovely, thanks!
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:33 am (UTC)
Thank you! That's delightful to hear. :)
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:30 am (UTC)
Very, very nice! I really like John taking care of his extended team, and the mention of Kanaan and Torren. "Rodney's girl" and Keller's flappy hand motion are such John observations.

But I think what I love best is your description of the new planet, the city drifting on ocean currents to warmer waters, the shield breaking up icebergs. If that was a metaphor, nicely done :)
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:34 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I really enjoyed writing the John-voice here.

It wasn't meant to be a metaphor (though it works nicely as one!), but the image of the city surrounded by icebergs was where this all began for me.
Jan. 5th, 2010 11:51 am (UTC)
Aww, that was sweet. Secretly, I've always been fascinated by John/Keller. I've never seen it done as anything but überfluff or as something dark and manipulative before though, so this more mature look at how it could happen made for a nice change.

I love the fact that Rodney opted to stay behind. Ever since Brainstorm that's seemed as a likely outcome to me, but I don't think I've ever read any stories where he's made that choice before, or at least not any stories where he left but Keller stayed.

And John would absolutely flail and think "Rodney's girl!". :D
Jan. 5th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)

I like writing John and Keller together, not necessarily as a couple - I think because we got so little interaction between them in canon that it's wide-open, interesting territory to explore.

I, too, think it's likely for Rodney to stay behind on Earth. In contemplating post-S5 possibilities, I've toyed around with a number of possible ways that might happen, and the outcomes. It's always been pretty clear, in canon if not in fanon, that Rodney doesn't really like going out in the field and isn't particularly good at it - unlike Daniel in SG1, who was always a field kind of guy from the beginning, even when he wasn't good at it. So it makes sense to me that Rodney would eventually opt for a lab job.
Jan. 5th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Ooh nice! Way to turn the cliche Keller-stays-on-Earth plot inside-out :D

And I really like the way you've been exploring aspects of Rodney's character lately that fanon likes to handwave away. I was just saying to wneleh the other day that with quite a few people moving away from SGA it makes me feel like I have the room to write the kinds of stories I've always wanted to, and it looks like I'm not the only one!
Jan. 7th, 2010 10:07 am (UTC)
Awesome! I would love to see these different ideas of yours too, ariadne.
Jan. 7th, 2010 10:56 am (UTC)
I've got a few things on the go - the second part of my Ford/Lorne AU should be up next week with any luck :-)
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:12 am (UTC)
Awesome! You are boldness. ~:
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:03 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! :) Yeah ... I kinda liked doing that. :D

... and thank you! One of the things I love about fanfic is playing with different what-ifs. I think a closed canon is actually more exciting than an open canon for that; all of my major fandoms prior to this one were closed-canon, and most of my stories were of the "... and THEN what happend?" variety. I think there is a tremendous amount of territory yet to explore!
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:13 am (UTC)
Yes! And I'm finding it more exciting now that SGA fandom is a bit smaller - like there's *room* for me to write!
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this because I think it could work. I'm often astonished by people who think there are 'issues and tension' that need to be worked out between John and Jennifer. If you watch "The Seed" in the scenes before Keller is turned into a Hive-thingy, Johns shows real concern about her well being...all their scenes together always have good chemistry.

Anyhow, the John voice was spot-on and Keller going on her tipy toes to kiss him was very sweet.
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:04 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm delighted that you liked it ... and, yeah, I think so too; I never saw any sign of genuine tension or hostility between them in canon. The only times they disagreed was over specific actions (Keller trying to keep John in the infirmary in S&R, for example), but there always seemed to be mutual respect and liking.
Jan. 7th, 2010 10:05 am (UTC)
This was terrific. I never would have thought of this pairing, but I really believed it. Both were totally IC, and she's team, and what a sweet kiss, with both of them deserving happiness and each other. Awesome! A good wow.

I loved the image of Atlantis as an icebreaker, too. You maybe should have named this that. ~:
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:00 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! For some reason I like the interactions between these two, maybe because we got so little of it in canon, so it's a blank slate. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

... and I hope you don't mind if I steal your idea for the title? I had a horrible time figuring out what to call this, and yours is SO much better than mine! *steals, renames* :D
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:10 am (UTC)
Oh, cool! It was right there in your lovely story, not my idea at all.

Yeah, I want to go back now and look at the few interactions they did have.
Jan. 14th, 2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
All of this is just too lovely - I can't get enough of it! What a fabulous dynamic for them, complete with all the background details too: John's thoughts about Lorne, and I don't think I've ever seen a fic before in which Rodney decided to stay on Earth but both Jennifer and John went back to Pegasus. It's all so plausible here. Love it!
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )