chelle

Atlantis

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Bridges

chelle

Title: Bridges

Author: chelle

Author's email: chelle@chelle.slashcity.org

Author's URL: http://chelle.slashcity.org/

Fandom: Atlantis

Archive: Ask first

Pairing: John/Rodney

Rating: PG

AN: Spoilers for "McKay and Mrs. Miller."

"You never told me your brother was gay."

"What?" Jeannie asked too content to raise her head and not quite following Kaleb's logic. "He isn't gay."

"His name is Meredith."

Lifting her head from Kaleb's chest, she glared down at him.

"Okay," he conceded, lifting one hand to stroke her arm. "Maybe the name doesn't make him gay, but this colonel person--"

"John."

"John. Showing you that tape. That's the kind of thing a lover would do."

"Or a good friend."

Kaleb shook his head, causing a brown curl to fall into his eyes. She'd missed his curls. "Most of the people I know make it a point to stay out of their friends' family relationships."

He had a point, but Rodney had always been drooling over women. It was the one thing that could take his mind off physics, at least for a while. "I think they're more like family than friends. John told me how many times they've saved one another's lives. That's got to make people close." The idea of Rodney saving other people's lives was surprisingly unsurprising.

"Mmmm."

It sounded like agreement, but she knew it wasn't. Kaleb just didn’t think it was worth discussing further. He was probably right. It wasn’t as though they could get an answer. "Why wouldn't he tell me?"

"John is in the American military, right? Don’t they have rules against homosexuals?"

Homosexual. Was her brother a homosexual? She tried to imagine it, then decided that Rodney and sex was something she absolutely didn't want to imagine. "I think they do." She settled back against Kaleb. She'd missed this too, the feel of his body against hers, the sound of his heartbeat, the smell of him. "Rodney got all weird when John introduced himself to me."

"How so?"

"He said, 'She's married and she's my sister.' Then he called John 'Kirk' and said something about recognizing that smile. Or maybe it was that look. If Rodney was warning him to stay away from me, then John's straight."

"Or bisexual with a thing for blue-eyed physicists," Kaleb said, squeezing her briefly.

"Mmmm." Now she was the one making the not-quite-agreement noise. "He really liked talking about Rodney. He asked all these questions, wanting to know what Rodney had been like as a kid, what our parents were like."

"Not the kind of thing most of us ask our friend's sisters."

"I think they're just really close friends."

"Okay."

"I'm glad Mer has friends who care about him. He's never really had that before."

"I'm glad too," Kaleb said, and Jeannie believed him. He was generous like that. "But I'm even more glad you're home." Rolling her onto her back, he kissed her, and Jeannie wrapped her arms around his neck. They had plenty of time left before Madison woke up, and she didn't really need to sleep.

***

Six Months Later

Jeannie glanced at her watch, and then pulled the curtain aside, looking up the street. Their plane had gotten in at 2:30. It was almost 4:00 now, but it took time to get through customs and pick up the rental car. She'd offer to meet them when Rodney had called, asking if he could visit. When she'd told Kaleb that he'd also asked if he could bring John, her husband had smirked an 'I told you so' smirk. She was a McKay. She knew how to interpret a smirk.

One of the things she loved about Kaleb was that he rarely smirked.

Then he'd had to go and smirk about this of all things.

Jeannie shook her head. Men could be seriously annoying, even the ones who didn't share her DNA.

"Still no sign of them?" Kaleb asked, coming into the living room, Madison trailing behind him. Before she could answer, they heard the distinctive sound of tires on gravel.

"They're here," Madison said, darting for the door. Sharing a look, Jeannie and Kaleb trailed after her.

John and Rodney were already out of the car. "Next time, I'm driving," John said, opening the back seat on the passenger side and taking out a green duffel.

"You don't know where you're going," Rodney answered, shooting a glare over the hood of the car.

"So you can navigate. It works for us the rest of the time." Madison chose that moment to run up to John and wrap her arms around his legs. "You must be Madison," he said. She looked up at him and nodded. "Nice to meet you. I'm John Sheppard." He held out a hand and she let go of him, stepping back just far enough to shake it.

"Can I call you uncle?"

"Sure."

Rodney snorted. "Even four year olds."

"She's five," Jeannie said.

"That's right." Rodney snapped his fingers. "I have a present in here somewhere." He stuck his head into the backseat.

Kaleb took a step toward John, hand extended. "Kaleb Miller."

"Nice to meet you. Jeannie talked a lot about you when she was visiting us."

"Found it," Rodney called, holding up a large, rectangular box.

"He may have gone a little overboard," John said quietly.

Madison immediately walked around to the other side of the car. "Is that for me?"

"Yup," Rodney said, holding the box as though it was his.

"Can I open it?"

"How about we do that inside?" Jeannie suggested.

The box was placed in the center of the living room floor. Rodney stood next to it, looking pleased with himself. John looked amused. Madison was excited. She tugged at one of the top flaps.

"They opened it at customs," Rodney said, clearly annoyed.

"That's what took so long," John added.

Reaching into the box, Madison pulled out yet another box. "What have you got, sweetie?" Jeannie asked, kneeling beside her.

"Blocks."

"They encourage imaginative play while improving dexterity and spatial skills," Rodney said.

"Good choice," Kaleb said in an amused tone.

"I thought so."

Jeannie looked over the box. Wooden blocks in multiple shapes. It was a good choice. Of course Madison already had a set, but she wasn't going to tell Rodney that.

Madison pulled another box from inside the larger one. "What's this?"

"It's a telescope, so you can look at the stars," Rodney said.

"I can look at the stars just by looking up."

John chuckled.

"Yes, well, this lets you see them close up."

"Show me."

"Maybe later, Madison. It's still light outside and the telescope will work best in the dark." Standing, she said to her brother, "You didn't have to do this."

"Yes, I did."

Jeannie held his gaze, unsure what to say.

"There are books, too, Mommy."

A downward glance revealed a small stack of books. "The person at the bookstore said they were a little old for her, but she didn't know that Madison was a McKay. Plus, I figured you could read to her."

"It has a school bus on the cover, just like I'll be riding in the fall." Madison was holding a book out for her to see, and Jeannie accepted it from her, The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body.

"Unfortunately, most of them are about biology, but there's one on stars, and another one on planets, and one on electricity."

"He read them to make sure they were accurate," John said.

"They're a bit simplistic, but the science is sound, although they haven't changed the solar system one to reflect Pluto's new status, so you'll have to explain that to her."

"I'll be sure to explain it," Jeannie answered, unsure why she had been surprised. She should have expected something like this. It was just like her brother to go overboard and to try to turn a five-year-old into a scientist. She should probably be grateful he hadn't shown up with a chemistry set.

"I know it's early yet, but have you eaten?" Kaleb asked.

"We had peanuts on the plane," John said.

"They were too salty. You'd think with everything we've done for the Air Force they could spare a plane to fly us up here. They wouldn’t even have to supply a pilot."

"Open." Madison had carried the box of blocks over to Rodney. He frowned at her for a moment, then glanced at John.

"Madison," Jeannie said.

"Please help me open my blocks."

"Sure. I can do that." Rodney squatted down and pulled a set of keys from his pocket, but before he could start to open the box, Madison wrapped her arms around his neck.

"Thank you for my presents."

"Oh, um, you're welcome." Looking up at Jeannie, he patted Madison's back less awkwardly than Jeannie would have expected.

"I think we'll order pizza if that's okay with you," Jeannie said because it was either that or laugh at the way Rodney was trying to slice open the box with a key while Madison still had her arms around his neck..

"As long as it doesn't have tofu," Rodney said, pulling the box open.

"Rodney," John scolded.

"You don’t like tofu either."

"I'll get one with pepperoni and sausage," Jeannie said.

Rodney was busy placing a block on top of the one Madison had laid flat on the carpet. "Good."

Jeannie left to look for the phone, since it never seemed to end up back in the cradle, and when she returned, pizzas ordered, she found John, Rodney and Madison all on the floor trying to see if they could build a tower taller than Madison.

Well, Madison was building. John and Rodney were bickering.

"If the base is too narrow it'll fall over. Don’t you understand even basic engineering principles?"

"And if we use all the blocks on the bottom, it won't go high enough."

"Not everything is about size you know," Rodney said.

"So you keep telling me," John answered.

Kaleb smirked at her from the couch.

"I ordered one veggie and one meat pizza," Jeannie said, choosing to ignore her husband.

Handing Madison his block, John reached into his back pocket. "Hey, let us get that."

Jeannie shook her head. "You're guests."

"Speaking of which, we can still stay in a hotel. We don't want to put you out or anything," Rodney said, looking up from the blocks.

"Don’t be an idiot. Of course you're staying here."

"We should warn you that we only have one guest room," Kaleb said. Sometimes he was about as subtle as her brother.

"I don’t mind sleeping on the couch," John answered.

Jeannie gave her husband a triumphant smile.

***

"They seem pretty married to me," Kaleb said as they picked up the dishes.

The way John and her brother had poked and prodded one another all through dinner had been disturbingly reminiscent of their parents, but Jeannie wasn't going to mention that. "John's sleeping on the couch."

"What if he doesn't stay there?"

She hit Kaleb with the dishtowel. Because the possibility of her brother having sex, any kind of sex, in her guest room wasn't one she was willing to think about.

***

The couch was empty when she got up in the morning. Kaleb was already in the kitchen, sipping his coffee, but he wisely didn't say a word.

She had just finished pouring herself a cup when she heard the front door open. She started for the hall, but John appeared in the doorway, dripping sweat, dressed in black sweats and t-shirt. "Hey," he said.

"Good morning."

"I didn't wake you when I left, did I?"

Jeannie shook her head. "Would you like some coffee?"

"Sure, black's fine." Jeannie walked over to the counter, John following. "Our supply of cream and sugar can be a little iffy sometimes. At one point it looked like we were going to run out of coffee, mainly because Rodney was drinking an entire pot all by himself every day."

She handed him the full mug, watching as he took a sip. "That sounds like Rodney."

"This is good."

"One thing the McKays can do is make coffee."

"Just don't ask them to cook," Kaleb said from the table.

Carrying his coffee to the table, John took the seat across from Kaleb's. "I don't get that. Cooking is just applied chemistry."

"But there's an art to it."

"True," John said with a nod.

"Maybe we just have more important things to think about than food," Jeannie said, sitting and picking up her coffee.

Kaleb and John both laughed. "There aren't many things Rodney likes more than food," John said.

"Same with Jeannie." Kaleb gave her a sideways glance. "Well, there are a few things."

"I'm sure there are," John said, the low tone of his voice making Jeannie flush. "It seems like a really nice neighborhood," he added in a more normal tone, tactfully if not subtly changing the subject.

"It is. We were lucky to get this place when we did," Kaleb said.

John nodded as though he really cared about such mundane things as housing markets. Given where he lived, she found that hard to believe. "Did you go down to the park?" Jeannie asked. "It's a great place for running."

Kaleb looked at her with an expression that clearly said "how would you know."

"I always see people running there," she added.

"I did. I'm going to take Rodney there when he gets up."

"You're going to take him running?"

"Yup."

"Rodney? My brother? The guy who thinks all houses should be one story because climbing stairs is an unnecessary waste of energy?"

"Yup, that guy."

"How in the world did you get him to go running?"

"I had to point a gun at him the first couple of times." He said it in a perfectly matter-of-fact way, and Jeannie suspected it was the expression on her face which made him add, "I'm kidding."

She wasn't sure about that.

"Sometimes with what we do, we have to run for our lives, and Rodney was smart enough to realize that if his life might depend on his ability to run he should probably practice."

"A fact you demonstrated by pointing a gun at me," Rodney said from the doorway.

"The safety was on," John said to Jeannie.

Rodney went straight to the coffee pot and helped himself to a cup. "You need more coffee," he said, taking the empty seat at the table.

"Don’t drink too much. We're going running."

"I'm on vacation."

"Which is the perfect time to catch up on those things you usually neglect, like running."

"Fine, Colonel Sadist, I'll go running with you."

Jeannie watched this exchange with growing amazement. Her brother had just agreed to go running. For just a fleeting moment she wondered if he was from another universe.

***

Rodney and Madison had gotten out every set of blocks she owned and were combining them in an effort to build a bridge across the foyer. Jeannie stood in the doorway between the dining room and the foyer, watching.

"No, no it won't work if you put it there," Rodney said.

Madison ignored him, placing the red rectangle on its side on the floor. "I like it here."

"It won't be stable and it'll just fall over."

Picking up another block she placed it between the red block and a blue one.

"Fine, but don't blame me when it comes tumbling over."

Hearing footsteps behind her, she turned to find John approaching. "I opted out of this one," he said in a conspiratorial tone, looking past her at Rodney and Madison.

"Wise move." The red block fell over. "I think I'll start dinner."

"Want some help?"

"Sure, since we all know how good we McKays are in the kitchen." She started for the kitchen, John following.

"To be fair, I've never actually seen Rodney try to cook in a kitchen, but he roasts a sorry wiener."

Jeannie laughed, opening the fridge and pulling out a head of lettuce and a bell pepper. "I promise not to roast a single wiener." She turned and John was there, taking the vegetables from her.

"I can chop."

"How about you chop the pepper, I wash the lettuce."

"Works for me."

Going to the counter, she pulled the cutting board from beneath the sink and handed it to John. He selected a knife from the collection on the counter. Confident he could handle the pepper on his own, she turned on the tap and began washing the lettuce.

"I don’t think he's doing too badly with Madison," John said.

"I'm amazed he's trying." She shook the lettuce, trying to get some of the water off. Kaleb always used the salad spinner, but as far as Jeannie could tell it didn't actually dry anything.

"The stuff you said to him back on Atlantis had a big impact. He wants to be a good brother and a good uncle."

"He's definitely changed."

"Living with the constant threat of violent death has a way of clarifying things."

She was sure it did, but less sure that was the whole reason for the change. "I think you're good for him. And not just because you get him to go running."

"Well, thank you," John said glancing at her and then slicing through the pepper.

Jeannie watched him cut it smoothly into rings. "Having someone makes a difference, you know."

He stopped cutting, pausing before turning toward her. "You think… we're not…"

Feeling herself starting to flush, she cursed Kaleb under her breath. "Oh. Sorry. I just… You seem so close… I just assumed."

"Nope." John turned back to the pepper. After a couple of slices he looked over at her. "I can understand why you thought that. We are pretty close."

Grateful for the understanding, Jeannie said, "You really seem to care about him."

"Yeah, well, you know your brother. Someone would have to strip and tie him to the bed before he'd catch on." He stopped slicing. "I just said that out loud, didn't I?"

"Yes."

Giving her a pained glance, he looked back the pepper. There wasn't anything left to slice.

"Maybe you should try it," Jeannie suggested, putting down the lettuce she still hadn't torn into pieces. "Or you could just tell him how you feel."

"I'm not so good with the feelings thing."

"Neither is he." She moved to his side, and began collecting the pepper slices, even though she hadn't gotten down the salad bowl. "What have you got to lose?"

"The closest friend I've ever had."

"Do you really think that would happen?"

"It might."

His face had closed off and Jeannie could recognize when it was time to change the subject. "How are you at tearing lettuce?"

"Better than I am at roasting wieners."

Jeannie laughed.

John pointed at her. "That was not innuendo."

Rodney came bursting into the kitchen before she could answer. "Your daughter is never going to be an engineer."

"I'll try to contain my disappointment," Jeannie said.

He huffed and then frowned at her. "Are you planning to do something with those peppers?"

She looked down at her hands, still full of bell pepper slices.

"We're making a salad," John said. "And you get to tear up the lettuce."

"Why? Is it too taxing for you?"

"I sliced the peppers." John said it like a two-year-old announcing he had successfully used the potty.

"And we're all very proud of you." Rodney's tone was sarcastic, but he was moving past Jeannie to the counter where the lettuce sat, still dripping slightly. "Where do you keep your salad spinner?"

"It doesn't work, you know."

"Of course it works. It's basic physics."

Sighing, Jeannie pointed at the cabinet to his right, barely managing to keep from dropping a pepper slice.

***

The next day passed much like the first one had, except without the embarrassing personal conversations, much to Jeannie's relief. Rodney insisted on taking them out to dinner, claiming he needed to eat meat before he started suffering from a protein deficiency.

Kaleb, being the better man, didn't point out that beans were protein. Instead he just calmly bundled them all into the car and drove to the restaurant. Sometimes she really loved him.

"Uncle John and I built a bridge that went all the way across the foyer," Madison said as soon as they were seated, drawing a glare from Rodney.

"That's great, sweetie," Kaleb answered.

"Mommy made us take it down because it was in the way of the door. And Uncle Rodney got mad because I made the bridge with Uncle John instead of him, but then I saw them kissing so I don’t think he's mad anymore."

Eyebrows rising almost to her hairline, Jeannie turned to look at her brother.

"You said you wouldn't tell." Rodney was leaning across the table, his face bright pink.

"Sorry," Madison said, shoulders slumping as she slunk down in her chair.

"It's okay, Madison." John nudged Rodney with his elbow. "Right, Rodney."

She expected Rodney to turn his glare on John. Instead he said, "Right. What's a little humiliation amongst family?"

Looking at John, she watched his face crumble slightly before being replaced by an expressionless mask. "That's the spirit," he said lightly making Jeannie want to strangle her brother.

"Professor Stevens finally got his parrot to talk," Kaleb said to Madison, giving Jeannie a brief glance.

"Really? What did it say?"

"The dog ate my paper."

"It did not," Jeannie said.

"It did."

"Why would it say that?" Madison asked.

Only half listening to Kaleb's answer, Jeannie looked at Rodney and John, both sitting there with crossed arms, neither looking at the other. Maybe the advice she'd given John hadn't been so great after all. Maybe she should have stayed out of it.

Sighing, she turned her attention back to Madison.

***

Rodney had disappeared into the guest room as soon as they'd gotten back from dinner, claiming he needed to work, and John had volunteered to read Madison a good-night story, both of them successfully managing to avoid both her and each other.

She hated to admit it, but she was relieved.

"Guess John took your advice," Kaleb said as they were getting ready for bed.

"For all the good it did him."

"I'm sure they'll work it out."

Jeannie slid into bed next to him. "How can you be sure?"

"Because I'm a romantic, and true love always wins in the end."

"What about Romeo and Juliet?"

"Ah, but John and Rodney aren't teenagers."

Jeannie snorted. "I'm not so sure about that."

"They'll be fine, hon. Just give them a little time."

"I hope you're right."

Kaleb kissed her and turned out the light. "If there's one thing we lowly students of literature understand it's the human heart."

"So what does the right ventricle do again? I forget."

"It sends blood to the lungs through the pulmonary artery."

"Biology isn't a real science, you know," Jeannie said, snuggling against him.

"Your brother is a bad influence."

Not really disagreeing, Jeannie closed her eyes.

***

John had gone for a run. Madison was playing with her blocks, and Jeannie finally had her brother all to herself. "So, kissing," Jeannie said, turning to lean her back against the counter and looking at Rodney seated at the table reading the newspaper. Something he had never bothered to do before.

"Yes, yes, fine, he kissed me." Rodney lowered the paper to the table.

"What did you do?"

"I kissed him back. What was I supposed to do?" Rodney wasn't waving his hands about and he looked genuinely upset.

"You don't have feelings for him," she said quietly, her heart sinking as she thought of how hurt John must be.

"No, no I do. Of course I do. He's… he's…"

"The best friend you've ever had," she suggested.

Rodney nodded. "Plus, he's…" The hands came into play, and it wasn’t hard for Jeannie to figure out what they were saying.

"Really hot?"

"And he kisses well. Really well. Really, really well. I mean--"

She raised her hand, cutting him off. "I get the picture. So what's the problem?"

"Me. I'm not good at relationships. What if I mess it up?"

Jeannie could relate to that. "It's not like we had good role models."

"Exactly."

She wanted to tell him that it didn't matter, but there was something in his manner that didn't invite further conversation.

"Listen," he said, standing and taking an awkward step toward her before stopping. "While we're on the subject, there's something I wanted to tell you. I don't really know how to say it, but… I'm sorry I was such an ass when you got married. It wasn't just that you were giving up science. I was afraid your life would turn out like Mom's did and that you'd end up resenting your child the way she resented me." He dropped his gaze from her face to the floor, his shoulders hunching.

Feeling her throat get tight, Jeannie took a step toward him. Then another. She wanted to say that their mother hadn't resented him, the unwanted pregnancy that had led to a disastrous marriage. Placing her hand on his arm, she said, "John loves you."

Rodney's head came up. "Did he tell you that?"

"It's obvious."

"It is?"

"Yes, just like it's obvious that you love him."

Rodney gave her the barest of nods.

She squeezed his arm. "Trust that. Trust him. Trust yourself."

"I don't even know what to say." He looked as helpless as he sounded.

"How about the truth? Tell him how you feel."

"The truth. Right." He drew in a breath, straightening visibly. "I can do that."

"Of course you can. You're a brave man," she said with a reassuring smile.

"I think you're confusing me with that other brother, the one from another universe."

"He wasn't the one who walked into a life-sucking cloud."

"That was…" He started then stopped. "Wait a minute, how do you know about that?"

"John. We exchanged a few stories."

"Ah, yes, when you were telling him about the bed-wetting." The warmth faded from Rodney's expression.

"He never teased you about it, did he?" Jeannie asked, not letting go of his arm.

"Just the once."

"What about Ronon and Teyla?"

"No." He almost sounded annoyed that they hadn't.

"They're your friends, Mer. They care about you."

"Of course they're my friends. I know they're my friends."

Before she could reply, they heard the front door open. Rodney's eyes widened in panic, even before John appeared in the doorway.

"Hey, what's up?" John asked as he stepped into the room. Catching sight of her hand on Rodney's arm, he added, "Something wrong?"

Rodney turned to face him. "I love you. I'm really bad at relationships."

It was the first time Jeannie had ever seen someone stop mid-stride. "Um, okay," John said slowly.

Spinning back to face her, Rodney said, "You said I should tell him how I feel."

"I meant when you were alone." Really, didn't the man have any common sense?

"Rodney." Rodney turned to face him, and John placed a hand on the back of his neck, drawing him into a kiss.

Jeannie knew she should look away, but she couldn't help but smile at the two of them, her idiot brother and the man who loved him.

"I feel the same way," John whispered.

"Oh."

Glancing out the window at the bright sunshine, Jeannie decided she should give them a little privacy. "I think I'll take Madison to the park. We'll be gone for a couple of hours."

"You don't have to do that," Rodney said.

"It's good for children to play outside."

Rodney frowned at her. He'd never been fond of the outside.

"I'm going to get Madison. Enjoy your afternoon."

"We will." John was grinning widely, looking ridiculously happy.

She was sure they would.

***

John had showered when they got back, and the bed in the guest room was made, more neatly than it had been that morning. Jeannie glanced in when she walked by. She couldn’t help it.

There was no obvious sign that anything had changed. Except Rodney was glowing, and he kept looking at John with an expression that bordered on adoration.

It was embarrassing.

Naturally Kaleb noticed almost as soon as he walked through the door, and he spent all of dinner glancing at Rodney and John, then at her, clearly finding the entire situation highly entertaining.

Jeannie couldn't wait for the evening to end. Maybe she could put Madison to bed a little early.

She dragged out Madison's bath and good-night story for as long as she could. Then ventured back out into the living room where the three men were supposedly watching a movie.

Rodney was stretching elaborately. "I'm kind of beat. I think I'll turn in."

"Me too," John said, standing.

Kaleb stood as well. "You'll need the couch."

"That's okay. I can bunk with Rodney."

Rodney was next to John, nodding. "It's a double bed. They're made for two." He held up two fingers. "Double. Two."

"I'm sure he knows what double means, Rodney," John said.

"Right, of course. Anyway, we're just going to go to bed." Rodney pointed toward the hallway with both hands. "And sleep. Soundly. In the double bed."

Kaleb looked over at her, his lips pressed into a thin line. If he laughed, she was going to kill him. "Well, um, good-night then," he said, managing to keep the amusement mostly out of his voice.

"Good-night," John answered, taking Rodney by the arm and steering him toward the door. He said a second good-night to Jeannie as they passed her.

"Sleep well," she answered.

"Oh, we will," Rodney said. They were in the hallway, when she heard an "ouch" followed by "that's my arm you're squeezing."

"Can you at least try to be subtle?" she heard John say.

"Like Jeannie doesn't know. She did everything but tie us together."

The bedroom door closed, blocking John's response.

"Well." Kaleb was standing there, arms crossed, eyes dancing. "Looks like I was right."

She tried to glare at him, but her heart wasn't in it. "Not before this afternoon you weren't."

"What happened this afternoon?"

Sitting on the couch, she tucked her legs up under her. Kaleb sat next to her. "Mer admitted that he loves John. John admitted that he feels the same way. Madison and I went to the park."

"Probably a wise choice."

That's what Jeannie thought.

"Wait, they confessed their undying love in front of you?"

"My brother has never been known for his people skills or his timing."

"That must've been interesting."

Jeannie shifted so she was resting her head on her husband's shoulder. "That's one word for it."

He slid an arm around her. "You realize your brother is having sex in our guest room. With his new boyfriend. And probably enjoying it immensely judging by the way he looked tonight."

"I know." As long as he was happy, she was okay with him having sex in her house. Mostly. "He was kind of glowy, wasn't he?"

Kaleb squeezed her. "You used to look like that."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did."

"When?"

"When we were first together."

"And I thought Meredith had an ego."

Kaleb ignored the barb. "You looked a little like that when you were pregnant, too. Except it was a different kind of glow."

Jeannie slid her hand across his chest. "Maybe if you try your best, you can make me glow tonight."

"I think I can manage that."

Then Kaleb was kissing her and Jeannie stopped caring what her brother was doing.

***

"I wish you could stay longer."

"Us too," John said, holding out his hand to Kaleb, and then squatting to hug Madison, who didn't seem inclined to let go.

"Listen," Rodney said, taking John's place and offering Kaleb his hand, "I wanted to tell you that I think Jeannie made a good choice. She says she's happy, and, well, she looks happy, so--"

"Thank you," Kaleb said, shaking his hand.

"You're welcome. And thank you for having us. It was fun."

"Yes, we heard."

"Kaleb." Jeannie slapped her husband's arm and then reached for her brother, who had turned a disturbing shade of red. "Thank you for coming," she said, hugging him tightly.

"I think I'm the one who should be saying 'thank you.'"

She nodded.

"How are you?" he asked softly. "You happy?"

"I am. You?"

"I'm pretty happy."

She chuckled into his shoulder.

"Just don’t be surprised if I call or write for advice from time to time."

"You'll be fine. Just be honest, and remember to listen to what he has to say, and don't get so caught up in your work that you don't pay attention."

"Honest, listen, pay attention. I can do that."

"Of course you can."

He let go and she smiled up at him, her eyes feeling a little full. Before the moment could get awkward John stepped into the breach, hugging her almost as tightly as Rodney had. "Thank you for everything," he said.

"You're welcome."

They broke apart just as Madison said, "Maybe you can get Uncle John to teach you how to build bridges."

"Yes, well, I'll add that to my To Do List, shall I?"

Rodney was holding her in his arms, and Madison nodded solemnly at him. "And if you do it right maybe he'll kiss you."

"Right." Rodney hugged her awkwardly and handed her to Kaleb.

"All set?" John asked, walking around to the driver's side of the car.

"I thought I was driving."

"You're navigating."

"I always have to navigate."

"That's because you're good at navigating."

"And I'm not good at driving?" Rodney opened the passenger side door and was part way into the car when he climbed back out again. He closed the space between them in two easy strides. "I'm proud of you. I know I never said it, but I always was, and I always will be."

Jeannie wrapped her arms his shoulders before she could start to cry. "I'm proud of you too."

John started the car and Rodney let her go. This time he climbed into the seat, waving as John backed the car down the driveway.

Jeannie waved back.

From beside her Kaleb said, "I was right."

Jeannie decided it wasn't worth arguing about. "So," she said to Madison, "care to teach me how to build a bridge?"