Title: Want (1000 words)
Episode tag to: The Shrine (because all the cool kids are doing it)
Rating: PG for a few bad words.
Pairing: John and Rodney. . . kind of. Maybe. Not really. Ouch.
Summary: No lines crossed, okay? No strings attached. No harm, no foul. Rodney and John have a heart to heart. No wait, I'm lying. . .
"So," Rodney says, and John gives him a moment to go on, because if there's one thing about Rodney, it's that he goes on, and on, and on until you just want him to shut up. Except that after the last few weeks, he's never going to tell Rodney to shut up again. No, really.
But Rodney doesn't continue, and John's at the end of the page he was reading, so he can either flip the page over and find out what vicious thing is going to happen to Constantine, or he can stop pretending he's ignoring Rodney.
He makes a kind of questioning noise in his throat and looks over at Rodney quickly through his lashes, even though Rodney is staring out the window and wouldn't notice even if John gave him a blatant once-over. John can't tell if Rodney's lost in contemplation or posing as if he's contemplative. Probably both.
"What?" John says finally, annoyed that Rodney's hooked him once again. He turns the page and finds he doesn't care about the big red drooly thing with fangs. Pegasus has ruined him for pulp horror.
"How badly have I fucked things up between us?" Rodney says, speaking to the window, and John would give anything for the comic book monster to appear right now so he could shoot it. Maladjusted is his middle name.
"You haven't." John slaps the graphic novel shut and rolls over to shove it into the box under his bed where he puts things to trade. He mentally scripts out a best-case scenario — Rodney saying Oh yes I have, and John saying Give it a rest, and Rodney saying something rude about John or the military or people not as smart as he is, and John caving in and snapping Just shut the hell up, okay? And then maybe they can play Nintendo like two normal people.
But Rodney turns around and his chin is up, which means trouble, Rodney's being brave. John doesn't want Rodney to be brave. He just.
"You weren't ever going to say anything, were you?" Rodney says. He's smiling, a little, and his intonation makes it clear that this is not a question. "I don't even remember when I first thought, and then I thought I was crazy, because — But once I had the theory, I just kept seeing things that supported it."
"Aren't you supposed to not theorise ahead of your evidence?" John says, curling to sitting and winding up with his elbows on his knees and his hands on his elbows and his shoulders practically in his ears because his head is down, he's staring at his own bare feet and his mind is an absolute blank. He looks around the room, because there must be inspiration somewhere.
"Thank you, Dr Watson," Rodney whips back. He crosses his arms and then his face freezes for a moment as he realises that he's mimicking John's defensive posture. But he doesn't shake his arms loose, just pulls the chin up one more notch. "I knew, and you knew that I knew, and we had this. . . gentleman's agreement to pretend we didn't know. There was a line. There was a line and I crossed it."
John doesn't get flashbacks; he doesn't do regrets. He thinks he's just missing that piece of the soul, the way some people don't understand numbers or have no fear. But he keeps hearing Rodney call for him, ask for him, scream for him. For a handful of days, all Rodney wanted to know was where John was; all he wanted was to be with John.
For just that once (while Rodney was dying), they wanted the same thing, no arguments, no fighting. On the same wavelength. John'll be bringing his ice skates to hell, he figures, when the time comes.
John wonders if he can snag his sweatshirt without getting up, but figures he would just fall flat on the floor. He gets up, feeling jerky and unstrung, grabs it and pulls it on, kicks his feet into his sneakers.
"I'm starving," he says, which is a lie and Rodney will figure it out as soon as they get to the mess hall. He needs to tell Rodney that he understands, that Rodney was in the place of needing someone to make his out-of-control life feel normal. A friend. A best friend, even. And John's been in his own place, what he thinks of as his big dumb crush, so long that it's almost comfortable now. "I was glad," he adds, before he loses his nerve, "that I could help you. No. . . no lines crossed, okay? No strings attached. No harm, no foul." He smiles, because Rodney needs that, and slaps him on the shoulder, turning it into a shove towards the door. "Just save the Jennifer gossip for tomorrow, okay? I'm tired."
"I thought you were hungry," Rodney accuses, stalking down the corridor towards the transporter.
It's natural now to match his stride to Rodney's; unconscious, like breathing. And like breathing, so strange when sudden awareness does come. "I'm not going to sleep well on an empty stomach, now am I?"
"Huh," Rodney says. "Well. I suppose that's true."
"Maybe there'll be more of those — things." John holds his hands apart, trying to indicate the pastries that were kind of like soup, the brown ones.
"Mm," Rodney says, somehow understanding and God, there's half of why John loves him right there. Rodney walks just a bit faster, his elbow against John's arm, carelessly. "Yes. Those are good."