A/N: Thanks to Sorceresscirce, Ladyeire & Ladyholder McCaffrey for lending their eyes and red pens.
Also thank you to fanarts for the lovely banner 🙂
I do not own SGA, I just enjoy playing in their sandbox.
Rodney taps his earpiece. “John?” He frowns at the slur in John’s voice. Glancing around the table, he’s relieved to see Elizabeth engrossed in conversation with Teyla and Ronon, going over their latest mission – a mission that had landed the good Colonel in sickbay. Again.
“Hi Rodney,” comes a quiet slur.
“Bloody hell!” exclaims Carson from across the table in response to a call of his own..
Rodney jerks, eyes wide as he listens to his friend berate his nurses for losing John, of all things.
Deciding caution is the better part of valor, Rodney gets up and walks to the balcony outside the briefing room. Tapping his earpiece, he whispers harshly, “John, where are you? Why aren’t you in the infirmary?”
Rodney scowls at the sulk that comes through the radio.
“Don’t be that way, Rodney,” John slurs. “Gotta stay here. They can’t know.”
Rodney blinks, confused. Waving off questions from the others, he walks away, down the stairs toward the transporters. “Who can’t know, John?”
Rodney strides into his office and grabs the portable LSD, then scours the system in an attempt to locate John. Futile effort, of course, since Atlantis obeys John even in his current inebriated state.
Sighing, he asks again, knowing he isn’t likely to get an answer he can use. “Where are you?”
Yep. Useless. Shaking his head, Rodney tries to at least find out John’s last known whereabouts. He only gets as far as the transporter by the infirmary. Grumbling, he stalks off, eyes focused on the LSD as he makes his way across Atlantis. “Why did you leave, John? You’re hurt. You need to be in the infirmary, subjecting yourself to Carson’s voodoo.”
John’s snort brings a flicker of a smile to Rodney’s lips. “Can’t know, Rodney. Mustn’t find out.”
Rodney sighs, poking at the device as he steps out of the transporter onto the corridor where John’s quarters are. Start at the obvious place first, he figures. Only, John isn’t there.
Frowning, Rodney continues to ask questions, trying to trick John into revealing where he is, but as out of it as John is, he’s stubborn and trained to not give up information.
Rodney checks the mess, the hangar bay, the training room, the chair room – every place he can think of, but no John.
Stopping dead in his tracks, Rodney growls. “John, this isn’t funny anymore. Where the hell are you?”
The sorrow in John’s voice tugs at Rodney’s heart. “‘M where I always am, b-buddy.”
For a second, Rodney wonders at John’s stutter. John doesn’t stutter. Ever. It’s almost as if he started to say one thing, then changed it to something else, though Rodney has no idea what it might have been.
Scrubbing his face, Rodney takes a moment to mull things over. John is obviously hiding. He doesn’t want anyone to know where, yet he’d called Rodney, so that has to mean he wants Rodney to find him. Right? Okay, so where was he?
A lightbulb goes off, and Rodney snaps his fingers a few times, grinning. The increasing worry for his friend eases slightly at the certainty he feels. “John?”
He smiles at the fondness he hears, slurred speech and all. “Stay where you are, okay? Don’t move.”
“Okay. You coming to find me, Rodney?”
“Yes, John, I’m on my way now.”
“Knew you would. Smartest man in two galaxies,” John mumbles.
A laugh startles from Rodney’s lips as he hurries along the corridors. When he finally arrives at the right door, he checks the LSD again to make sure. There, not three feet away on the other side of the door, is a blip, indicating someone’s there.
Scratching the back of his neck – and since when had he picked that particular tic of the Colonel’s up? – he takes a deep breath. Rodney has a feeling that, whatever John’s reasons for escaping Carson’s clutches, the next few minutes will be important.
“Right. No point standing here.” With a wave of his hand, Rodney opens the door and steps inside. He blinks as it closes behind him. No John.
Checking the LSD again, he frowns. Two feet to his left. Turning his head, he calls out, “John?”
Nothing. No sight or sound. Scowling now, he prods at the device which continues to blink steadily at him. Rodney moves closer to where the light says John is supposed to be, only to be faced with another door.
“The hell?” Rodney mutters as he opens the door. At first he sees nothing out of the ordinary. Then he glances down.
John lifts his head from his knees, which he’s hugging to his chest, the hospital gown barely covering him. He looks miserable. Some of his cuts have opened again, his pupils are completely blown, and his eyes are glassy. Rodney guesses that the cocktail of medication they put him on is only partially to blame for their current situation.
Crouching in front of his friend, he places a gentle hand on John’s knee.
John stares at Rodney with a look that Rodney doesn’t recall ever seeing on his face before – one he isn’t sure he can name. “You came.”
Rodney nods. “Of course I did. What did you think I’d do with you running off God knows where? Thank you, by the way, for the grand tour of Atlantis trying to find your scrawny ass.”
John ducks his chin, and Rodney swears he sees the tips of those pointy ears turn red as John mumbles an uncharacteristic, “Sorry.”
Rodney huffs, moving to sit next to his friend on the floor. Glancing around, he snorts. “And really, John? Out of all the places to hide in the city, you pick my closet?”
Rodney’s eyes widen suddenly. He whips his head around to stare open-mouthed at his friend.
John’s words echo in his mind: “I’m where I always am. They can’t know. Mustn’t find out.”
John – his best friend – is gay. And no one knows. Except for Rodney. Because John wanted him to find out.
It takes Rodney a full five minutes before he regains his speech. Even then, he only barely manages a quiet, “John?”
This time, Rodney interprets the look in John’s eyes as longing, fear, and pain all mixed together. Tentatively, Rodney lifts his hand, pausing briefly before gently laying it against John’s cheek.
The prickling of his stubble is unfamiliar but not unwelcome. The mingled joy and trepidation in John’s eyes are another story.
Taking a steadying breath, Rodney whispers, “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
Rodney doesn’t have much room to talk, but then again, he hasn’t really come out one way or the other. He’s always been too busy to really worry about that sort of thing. And as far as Rodney was concerned, his first real best friend trumped anything else he might or might not feel.
“They can’t find out,” John rasps, looking unhappier than Rodney has ever seen him.
“Who? The military? John, we’re in a different galaxy. On an international mission.”
John shakes his head, closing his eyes. “It’s not just them, Rodney. Not just my job. It’s….”
Rodney is startled at the tears leaking from John’s eyes. Without thinking, he wraps his arms around John, pulling him close and coaxing John’s head onto his shoulder.
John shivers, burrowing into Rodney’s warmth. His voice is raw, barely audible. “I can’t lose Atlantis, Rodney, but even if I did … I…. They can’t know. I married Nancy so they wouldn’t find out.”
They sit quietly for a while. Rodney’s thoughts run a mile a minute, putting the pieces together as only Rodney can. With a sigh, he hugs John tighter to him. “Your family would disown you,” he states softly.
John nods, a choked noise escaping him. Rodney aches for him, in part for the fact John has spent his life in the closet under fear of discovery and rejection, and also because he knows that a sober John would rather die than ever show himself as vulnerable as he is now.
John chants under his breath. “Can’t find out. Can’t. Can’t. Mustn’t let them.”
“Shh, John. It’s okay. Your secret is safe with me. Hush now.”
Before he can stop himself, Rodney plants a soft kiss on the top of John’s head. They both freeze for a moment, then John slowly lifts his face in wonder.
The sudden lump in his throat prevents him from answering, so he settles for a nod.
A tender smile dawns on John’s face as trembling fingers trail along Rodney’s jaw. “Smartest man in two galaxies,” John murmurs as he slowly leans in, giving Rodney plenty of time to stop or move away.
He doesn’t, and soon their lips meet in a gentle, probing kiss. Rodney’s heart skips several beats, and his brain seems to short-circuit for a moment – and he can’t even bring himself to care.
Eventually, he does pull away, albeit reluctantly. Smiling softly, he traces his thumb along John’s lower lip.
John’s eyes search his with uncertainty and hope. “Rodney?”
Brushing another kiss against John’s lips, he sighs. “Let’s get you back to the infirmary. You’re bleeding.”
John’s face crumples slightly as he gapes for a moment, then nods, resigned.
Rodney presses his lips to John’s forehead. “We’ll talk more once you’re not on whatever potions they have you on now, okay? I think this is a conversation best had with all cylinders firing.”
John closes his eyes briefly, then nods. “Okay, buddy. Later.”
Rodney smiles as, for the first time, he understands and hears the ‘baby’ in ‘buddy’.
“Later,” he promises, helping John to his feet. “Definitely.”