~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.
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.