John is cute, but he's also kind of scary. For Mari.
Most people think that Sheppard's a nice guy, and it works because he wants to be a nice guy, he's got all the component parts and the requisite screws it takes to assemble the set.
He's like -- if Rodney's really going to build a metaphor out of it he'd say that Sheppard is Optimus Prime, who could be a really nifty robot most of the time but occasionally, when the situation went to shit, would turn himself into a truck because nifty robots didn't carry a lot of cargo space in their manly metal chests.
(Or maybe it doesn't work that way at all, but that was what had impressed itself into his youthful yet already massive brain, and it's not like he's going to be sharing the metaphor with anyone to defend it against.) It must be pretty demeaning to be a truck after being used to arms and legs and glowing eyes the size of umbrellas, but Optimus Prime was always ready to take one for the team.
He'd been as blind as the rest in the beginning, and yes, yes, such things happened occasionally, moving along now: he saw the flyboy image and the slow grin and the messy hair and thought hot, potty-trained voice-activated remote control, whee!/, until they started going off-world together, after which he was too busy having ecstasies over the latest piece of Ancient flim-flam or checking for alien mosquito bites or running for his life to care that his team leader was a fucking /homicidal maniac when the switch was pressed.
It's the truck that most people don't see until just before it runs them down into pancake.
So he's not completely surprised when Kusanagi, who blushes every time Sheppard pays a visit to the labs and fumbles over her words when addressing him, who'd drawn what looked suspiciously like a heart in her planner when assigned to this mission ("The pen wobbled!" she'd snapped, cracking Rodney over the knuckles with the leather binding and a very steady hand), takes one look at Sheppard's blood-splattered BDU as he leaps through the door of the puddlejumper saying "C'mon, buckle up, leaving now," and turns aside to gag.
Unsurprised doesn't mean /sympathy/. "Oh, I'm sorry, was the part where you escaped from the crazy natives with life and limbs intact too terribly traumatic?"
"Lay off, McKay," Sheppard says from in front, sounding only halfway there, eyes on the diagnostics screens and the other half navigating outside the jumper. "It's her first field trip. We can't all follow your shining example from the start."
The distraction must be what's diverting Sheppard from the fact that it's not the brush with sudden death that has Kusanagi desperately covering her mouth like she can't be responsible for what comes out of it next. Just him, hero of Atlantis, gunning down half a dozen men in the first second of defense and augmenting the number almost exponentially in the following skirmish, casually lethal in the way that Rodney's come to grow used to in his years in Pegasus.
Sheppard's never been slow to sense criticism. It was a while before Rodney learned to catch the signs, but now he knows that Sheppard always knows and simply ignores.
But Sheppard has his hands full with getting them back home in glorious defeat at the moment, and it would be nice, great, super fantastic if that meant he could overlook a critic for once; what it actually means is that when Sheppard turns back, flushed with the high of being alive to turn back, Kusanagi's reaction catches him by surprise and for one half-second something flashes across his face that makes Rodney want to be even meaner than his default setting.
Then it's over, and he's doing his broadest drawl and funniest eyebrow-lift. "Dr. Kusanagi, I hope you don't get the idea that all our trips end this way -- ask Teyla if you don't believe me."
"Colonel Sheppard is correct," says Teyla with the smile that says she'll play along for now if you act cute enough and maybe make tea for her later. "Many missions go by where the inhabitants are armed only with farming implements, and we are allowed to escape to the jumper at a much more leisurely pace."
"Dodging pitchforks is fun," Ronon agrees.
"Hello, am I the only one who remembers the poison-tipped prongs of doom? Pure, unreliable luck that that cow happened to be crossing the road just as that demonic weapon of destruction flew straight at my very valuable -- "
"Ignore McKay," Sheppard cuts in with a wink, "you know how he is." Which is just ungrateful, not to mention plain stupid, because ignoring prophetic warnings is pretty much the best way to ensure dying a painful and incestuous death, but hey, he just works here. "We owe you a nice, peaceful trip to Xanadu, where they've been cultivating vineyards since the beginning of time but haven't come across the idea of private property yet." His smile says that only elderly Asgard spinsters are immune to its charm.
Pharmaceutical drones would be lining up to distill John Sheppard's voice into essence and bottling it up to sell if they only had an inkling, Rodney thinks; it's just a matter of time before Carson takes a crack at it. He's better than the Horse Whisperer (and there were three hours of his life he'd never get back, much thanks to the vaguely-hot redhead from SGC Accounting who'd left him for a pretzel vendor at the end of the week), which Kusanagi proves by going from shivering to hesitant to doubtful of her own memory, and by the time they leave the jumper she'd probably chew out anyone who suggested that Colonel Sheppard might be a little too accomplished at violence for his own good.
She won't forget entirely. She might blush a little less when Sheppard drops by in the future, might stop being so pathetically lovelorn over the doodles of suprisingly obscene block people he leaves on the whiteboard, but the issue's been glossed over for now and she won't expose it again if she doesn't have to. Won't want to.
This is how it works for Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, Intergalactic Hero and World-class Conman, and the ease with which he pulls it off might be insulting if you didn't realize that it's the genuine good-guy bedrock that does the trick, turns it from a trick into an acceptable coping mechanism.
Sometimes Rodney has mock-conversations in his head:
"I get the military thing, I do," he'll say, walking in spirals and waving his hands, "not that the institution's made it difficult to forget or anything with the uniforms and the unhealthy postures and the constant security blanket of deadly weaponry -- but you're just too good at it. You're not any more bloodthirsty than the rest of your minions when the situation calls for it, but you're more effective than they are, you're really terribly effective, and sometimes that's not as reassuring as it should be."
"You're gonna give me a swelled head if you keep going," imaginary Sheppard notes, leaning his forearms on the back of an ergonomically correct Ancient armchair and cocking a smile at Rodney, like Rodney's his own portable and high-resolution Football Channel.
"And that's part of my point! You should have a swelled head! It should be a pregnant cantaloupe by now!" This being imaginary Sheppard, he doesn't have to keep quite as tight a rein on the ego as he does for the authentic version. "The ATA gene thing, the not-stupid thing, the whole middled-aged yet still inexplicably attractive to alien species thing -- "
"Hey," says Sheppard,
" -- the killing like breathing thing, the impossibility of keeping you in check if you ever do decide to go evil -- you can't blame people for feeling like a stampede of geese just ran over their graves when they figure it out."
And Sheppard will be so very patient: "I don't," and Rodney will growl, and he'll think about whether it had been Sheppard's matter-of-fact practicality that smothered the innocence in Ford, if Ford had learned his lessons of ruthlessness and necessity from a teacher closer than the Wraith, and most of all he'll think about whether real Sheppard thinks about these things, too.
Because, in the end, Sheppard will hide and obfuscate but he's not sorry for being good at what he does any more than a jungle cat apologizes for its teeth and claws, and if the people come to realize that, no amount of skillful cajoling will open their hearts to him again.
So Rodney knows better than to mess with the system, and he only has these conversations inside his head. He knows that Sheppard wouldn't thank him for bringing it into the open.
He knows that their current team's been off-world together for over fifty missions by now -- Teyla who'd been propositioned by John the Bug and never flinched when Sheppard's shoulder brushed hers on the trip to the cave, Ronon who still runs Sheppard into the ground every morning, and then, hanging at the back to let the intrepid warriors do their stuff, there's him.
He needs both hands to count off the number of times he's seen Sheppard do something that would've made him furious and sick if he'd seen it broadcasted on CNN, back on Earth. He'd be railing against the barbarism of the compromises people make to their humanity for the sake of, what, establishing the superiority of humanity?, and he knows this: if the cat really does wriggle free of the bag one day, he'll be one of the three people in this city who'll eat with Sheppard and walk with him and look at him the same way they've done every day for the past two years, and it won't be a compromise at all.
One day he'll make sure that Sheppard knows it, too.