Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Elizabeth; John/Rodney,
Warnings/Spoliers: part 3 of #15 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1, 2). General spoilers for "Michael," illusions to drabble #35
Disclaimer: Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine.
Summary: In which the boys are emotionally retarded all around.
Notes: I have been driving myself mad trying to make this chapter work. That and that alone is why this doesn't end in the cliffie I'd originally intended - but it shall have a fourth part.
The science of this should work - but I don't claim a deep understanding of transistors, so I could be completely wrong.
It may be helpful to read drabble #35 before reading this, which has some pre-"Rising" stuff about Iohannes in it, but its not nessicary.
An Ancient!John Story
At last, the meeting ends. It's hard to tell who's the most relieved about this, but it's obvious that the only one who might actually have wanted to be there is Elizabeth, and, well, she almost has as much of a thing for meetings as John does for space guns. Either way, Teyla and Carson take off fairly quickly for parts unknown, leaving John, Rodney, and Elizabeth alone on the Isolation Room balcony.
"Hey, buddy, there's something I've been meaning to show you," John says after a moment, as if he actually has just remembered something that he's been meaning to show him and isn't simply trying to avoid another argument with Elizabeth. Maybe he even does. It's always hard to tell. John hides himself very well for a man who acts like he's got nothing to hide.
"Yes, yes. Why don't we...?" Rodney gestures at the stairs and heads for them himself. "See you later, Elizabeth."
"Be careful you two."
"Always," John grins back at her before following, doing so in such a way that Rodney feels compelled to tell him when they reach the bottom of the stairs-
"You know, she thinks we're going off to have sex."
"So? What do you mean so?"
"I mean that everyone always thinks we're having sex every time we go off alone somewhere."
"Rodney," he says slowly, as if explaining the concept to a small child – albeit with a slightly more manic grin on his face than one would usually be comfortable having around young children, "they have an ongoing office pool about our sex life. Of course they think we're having sex at every possible opportunity."
"That is just wrong on so many levels."
John shrugs and offers a careless, "It doesn't hurt anyone."
"It hurts us!"
"How does it not?" That would explain the strange looks his underlings are giving him lately, during the rare moments he isn't in the clean room, trying to get the ZedPM recharger online. "And I thought you promised to shut them down this time."
"I may or may not have encouraged Carson to share fifty percent of his winnings with us if I gave him the details, as it were, regarding one of the larger pots."
"Yes, yes, brilliant plan. Completely genius. One problem though." Rodney slaps the back of his idiotic, floppy-haired head. "We'd have to tell people about our sex life to ever cash in on it."
John retaliates by flicking him on the shoulder. "They're going to find out eventually. Might as well make it work to our advantage."
"No they're not. They are not going to find out because we are never going to tell them."
"You underestimate the resolve of the Terrans on this base when it comes to that much coffee."
Rodney pauses at this. "How much coffee are we talking about here?"
"Fifty-three pounds, two ounces after Carson's share is taken out."
"That's a lot of coffee."
"My thoughts exactly," John smiles at him. It's not his usual sort of smile – the kind that seem perfectly fine and normal until you started looking too closely, after which they seem too bright, too congenial – but the softer, realer kind that he almost exclusively reserves for Rodney, the rest of their gate team, and, occasionally, Elizabeth. It's softer and somehow manages to be both incredibly dorky and an incredibly sweet at once, and is made all the sweeter by the fact that John hates coffee, and so can only be doing this for Rodney's benefit.
But still, "Did it have to be Carson?" Theoretically, he knew some people talk about their sex lives with their best friends, but Rodney has never been one of them, and the idea of Carson knowing, well, any of it, no matter how vague, makes him distinctly uncomfortable. More so, it might make the doctor compelled to share the same, and, well, no. Just no.
"Well, Zelenka banned Lorne from the black market pools after the whole when did they start seeing each other incident a while back and I figured that you'd never forgive me if I told Cadman, so it was either Teyla or Carson, and Teyla could care less about coffee."
"How is it you can be so up front about sex but turn heel at the first mention of feelings?"
And, just like that, things are exactly back to where they were five days ago, when he was asking John to move in with him. Only this time they're standing in the middle of an otherwise deserted hall, and their only saving grace might be that this time Rodney's looking straight into his eyes this time when he speaks, so that he actually catches the emotion that flickers there before John can paper it over with something else.
And it's not anger or annoyance or any of the number of other things Rodney had been more or less prepared for. It's genuine panic.
This more than anything is what prompts him to reach out and put his hands on John's hips. He's not sure why he does it, only that it seems to be the thing to do, and, well, Rodney hasn't got any better ideas with how to deal with this than that.
It does however appear to be the right thing to do, as Rodney can feel the tension in John's body drain out of him at the touch. And then John's stepping forward, so much so they couldn't get any closer without serious removal of clothing, and touching their foreheads together in a way that's both completely chaste and impossibly desperate.
They stay like that for a long while, just holding each other like their lives depend on it in the middle of a hallway really anyone could walk down any second. It breaks every unspoken rule they've made for themselves, but they need this more than they need their stupid rules and, besides, those have been crumbling for a while now. Who cares if anyone finds out about them? Everyone already knows anyway and if it's proof they want, well, Rodney's just glad there's still proof to be had.
He knew, logically, from everything John said at Cadman's promotion ceremony, that things weren't over between them. Not yet. Not by a long-shot. But, God, it's one thing to know something in the head and another thing entirely to know it in the heart.
(There are times when Rodney wonders if that's not the most important thing he's learned since coming to the Pegasus galaxy, to include everything he's learned about Zero Point Modules and the recharging thereof.)
Eventually John even speaks up, saying, "I don't want to mess this up," with such definitiveness that it's clear he believes that's an actual, genuine possibility – as if anything he could do at this point could send Rodney running. But, again, the head and the heart are entirely two separate organs, and human physiology was patterned off of Ancient.
John's dark chuckles are warm puffs against his cheek. "I am, historically, terrible at relationships."
"Maybe just a little."
John laughs even harder at that, like he's making a joke instead of, well, basically admitting that he's about a thousand times better with people than Rodney will ever be when he's not even human, but before he can say anything else, the Colonel's comm goes off.
They're standing close enough that Rodney can hear a tinny voice coming over the radio, but not close enough that he can actually make out what's being said on the other end, only that John promises whoever is on the other end that he'll be right there.
"It's Sergeant Anderson and Doctor Losev again," he says after he's tapped the channel off, stepping away with a flattering reluctance.
"Seriously? That's got to be like the third time this month they've gotten into it."
"I'm thinking about just locking them in a room together and not letting them out until they kill each other or make out."
Rodney snorts, but there's no real malice to it. He feels a little much like he's been broken and only haphazardly taped back together to have any real malice left in him. "Tell me how that works out."
"Yeah," John breathes, running a hand through his hair. "Look I'll... I'll track you down as soon I've sorted them out, okay?"
"Yeah," he echoes. "I should get back to the clean room anyway. We finally figured out what the deal was with the transistors and... Well, I'll tell you about it later."
"Hey there buddy," John says precisely seventy-two minutes later, carrying a mug in each hand. He sets them both on the workbench next to where Rodney's currently removing an IGB transistor from a very delicate and sensitive device, and Rodney can't even bring himself to snap at John for breaking clean room standards again because presumably one of the cups contains coffee, which he's been craving with an addict's desperation for half-an-hour now but been unable to get because it's a very sensitive piece of equipment he's pulling apart and he'd rather not be without a fluxgate magnetometer for the month or so it would take get a replacement from Earth, should something unfortunate happen.
"You are a godsend," he breathes, taking the coffee and downing half of it in one go, taste buds and expensive lab equipment be damned. He's more likely to make a mistake do to caffeine withdrawal at this point than fry the circuitry with coffee anyway, so it all for the best anyway.
John cants his head to one side and appears to consider this for a moment before deciding, "Try to remember that next time we fight," is the appropriate response.
Rodney's head snaps up, coffee momentarily forgotten. "We weren't fighting. You were being an emotionally-retarded idiot, but we weren't fighting."
"Tomayto, tomahto," he says, which is somewhat hilarious coming from an Ancient whose language doesn't have a word for the fruit. Then, far more earnestly, "I don't like it when we fight."
"We weren't fighting."
"Felt like it to me," John shrugs, considering a nearby stool with his back to Rodney. After a moment, he appears to decide it's too much work to walk the few feet to retrieve it and elects to sit on the workbench itself, brushing parts of the magnetometer's insides aside to clear enough space.
"Fighting implies argument. This was..." he waves the mug in his hand about idly, searching for the right word, "I dunno what you'd call it. Failure of trade negotiations, maybe." He shrugs himself before going back to the IGB transistor. "It's not like I'm going to dump you if you say no."
He finishes disconnecting the IGBT and replacing it with one of the MOSFE transistors they'd originally slated for the the ZedPM recharger before he realizes that John's not said anything in over five minutes.
"Holy shit," Rodney exclaims, looking up to see the other man staring intensely at his shoes, "someone actually did that to you? No, wait, better question: who was stupid enough to dump you in the first place, whatever the reason?"
This, at least, coaxes a bit of a smile from John, even though that hadn't been Rodney's intention. Even so, the Colonel doesn't answer right away, just continues to swing his feet back and forth for a few moments before saying, "I don't really want to talk about it."
"Well, I'm not sure I really want to hear about you being with someone else either, but we're just going to keep having these awkward conversations until you let me know what subjects to avoid for the future."
John gives him a small, thankful sort of smile this time – the kind that can only be called a smile by virtue of not being a frown. "It's not so much the talking about Nicolaa part I mean – though I can see why you wouldn't want to hear about her. I don't know if I'd want to hear about your past amatores either. It's more..." his eyes drop to his shoes again, "it's easier, not talking about Before."
"Easier," Rodney repeats flatly.
"You don't have to pretend."
The Ancient snorts, as if this is the most ridiculous thing he's ever heard, right up there with pre-Copernican cosmology and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But at least he's admitting that he's pretending now. That's more than Rodney had been able to get out of him six months ago.
"Seriously, John. You can't possibly still think we're going to turn on you and string you up from the Gate the moment you let your inner alien out. I mean, it's been nearly two years. You've got to know us better than that by now."
"You're the aliens here, not me."
"Yes, yes," Rodney says, dismissing the subject with a wave of his hands. "So you keep saying. But it's kinda hard to remember when the most non-human thing you ever do it slip a few words of Ancient into a sentence now and then, and, really, with the number of non-native English speakers on Atlantis, it's not that unusual. Usually I have a more difficult time making sense of what Zelenka's saying, and we're from the same planet. Thus my understandable forgetfulness."
"It's called a translation matrix for a reason," John drawls, tapping two fingers on his temple.
"I'm not saying you have to start talking it tongues or anything."
"Only that you want me to talk about Before."
Rolling his eyes, "Not in an anthropological sense. God. Like I'd ever ask you to do that to yourself. Just..." He glances at the pieces of the magnetometer spread about the table. "I don't want to mess this up either."
"So how do you propose we do that?"
"You're asking me?"
"You are the only one else in the room, Rodney."
"No, seriously, if you'd any idea of my track record with relationships, you'd not be asking me that. We'd be better off asking Ronon what he thinks we should do." Knowing Ronon, it would involve knives. Or sticks. Or guns. But most likely knives and those he feels can only make things worse.
John laughs – softly and honestly, in a sort of way Rodney's come to interpret as do you even listen to the things that come out of your mouth."Ronon's actually not that bad when it comes to advice about these things."
"You talked to him about this?"
"You talked to Teyla."
"Yes, well- Wait. Did she tell you that? Why would she tell you that?"
"I have my ways." He swings his legs back and forth with a little more enthusiasm, "Teyla have anything helpful to say?"
"Only that I should give you time. Ronon?"
"Only that our courtship would've been considered unnecessarily long on Sateda. And that, if I'm not going to make an honest man out of you, I might as well make you a dishonest one."
Rodney's very glad he's finished his coffee, because otherwise he'd be sputtering it all over the magnetometer's exposed circuitry. "What?"
"It works better in the original Satedan."
"My version leaves fewer bruises," John informs him, looking inexplicably smug.
"You know what else leaves fewer bruises? Not sparing with Ronon in the first place."
"I'm getting better."
"At hiding your bruises, maybe," he mutters darkly, picking up a screwdriver and beginning to piece the magnetometer back together.
"I'm hurt that you'd even think that."
"Yes, well, I'm hurt that you walked out on me while I was trying to have a serious conversation with you and then avoided me for five days, so I guess we're even."
"What was I supposed to do, Rodney?"
"Well, I don't know how it worked on Ancient Lantea," Rodney says heatedly, "but on Earth when someone asks you a question, generally you're expected to answer it."
"And say what exactly?"
"I don't know. That's why I asked. Contrary to popular belief, I don't just talk for the sake of hearing my own voice."
"I-" John begins. Then pauses. Then pauses some more until Rodney has to actually look over and check to make sure John's not slunk out of the room, because he's got the sneaking about thing down pat and 'Lantis will do anything – anything – for him, including helping him make a clean break from a conversation he's fairly certain the city wants them to have. John's still there, but obviously not planning on continuing any time soon if the way he's staring into his tea cup is any indication.
"You don't want to, do you?"
Rodney tries to be kind about it. He really does. But he can't help the way the words come out, quiet and hurt and entirely too vulnerable for his liking. But he's never been able to hide anything – at least, not anything that actually matters.
John recoils at this. The movement sloshes more than a little tea onto his pants, but the Ancient doesn't seem to notice. "It's not that," he ventures, the words coming haltingly, as if he's dragging them (kicking and screaming) out somewhere deep and hidden inside of him, somewhere John doesn't let even himself see, as if the very act of acknowledging its existence would steal from him everything that makes him John or Iohannes or whatever the hell he thinks of himself as. "It's just... I don't want to mess this up."
"I think we've established that, yes."
The glare this earns him is half-hearted at best. "And, well, you said it yourself. It's been weeks since either one of us has been able to stay the entire night."
"All the more reason we should share quarters."
"But don't you think we should like... I dunno practice or something?"
"Practice," Rodney repeats, baffled.
"Y'know," he says, swinging his feet more anxiously now, "like maybe rack up more than a handful of nights here and there before we dive in and, y'know, start talking about things like paint swatches."
"You talk paint swatches with Atlantis already."
"Yeah, but that's just 'Lantis. She likes paint and stained glass windows and hacking into the SGC's servers every time we dial Terra-"
"She does?" John had never told him that. Plus, weird, even for a city-wide artificial intelligence.
"Some people collect stamps. She collects data. Mission reports and online encyclopaedia entries, mostly, but some pretty bizarre stuff too."
Rodney decides he doesn't want to know what an Ancient, who apparently talks openly about their sex life with their closest friends, might consider bizarre. Though it does make him wonder, "Is that why there are all sorts of new MPEG-4 files on the shared server after every dial in? 'Cause I thought that was just Jackson trying to butter us up for the day he finally gets O'Neill to let him come and annoy us."
"Yeah, that's her."
"That is... very odd."
"It keeps her happy," he says in a way that makes Rodney's stomach clench – not out of fear of what might happen if the city were ever to become unhappy, but of all the things John would do to keep that from ever happening. Then, somewhat less haltingly than before, "I'd be happy too if we could have a few more dry runs before giving the whole moving in thing a go. I just really don't want this to mess things up between us."
"I don't see why it would, but," he sighs, "yeah, you're probably right."
John sounds so startled by this answer that Rodney pokes him with the screwdriver. Lightly. More or less. "Well, you do have a point. It probably is better to spend more than a handful of full nights together before moving it in case you have any irredeemable habits I don't yet know about. Like leaving wet towels in the middle of the floor or hogging all the covers."
"That's good to know."
"Oh, and not pulling this cold shoulder crap again might help things. I'd rather have you yelling at me than pretending I don't exist."
"That's good to know too."
"Teyla also thinks moving in together meant something different to you guys," he adds, examining his work on the circuit board. All the connections appear sound. The new transistor shouldn't make too much of a difference to the magnetometer's systems and might even improve its sensitivity, but it's still a pain in the ass to have to do.
He's managed to trade out seventeen of the twenty-four IGB transistors they'll need to make the ZedPM recharger functional this way, but that still means he has seven more to go. That's another two days of switching out transistors from other equipment, two more to install them in the ZedPM recharger itself, and then at least thirty-six hours of simulations. With any luck, the Wraith won't try to destroy the city before then.
"It didn't. Not really. It just wasn't that common, that's all. I mean, sometimes couples with small children would do it, but mostly when people did it was 'cause they were siblings, or parent and child, or... well, that's mostly it, really."
Rodney's pretty sure the exact expression for what he's feeling now is like a heel. "So when I asked you to move in, you thought...?" He has no idea how children might work with them, but they've come across plenty enough orphans in the Pegasus galaxy for that to be an option, along with surrogacy and attempting to get the Ancient extra-uterine incubators back online again. It's... well, it's a daunting thought. And, more than anything else, one he knows they're not ready for, if they ever will be.
"No. Not really." John gives him a sheepish look. "But it brought back some unpleasant memories."
"Care to elaborate?" he asks stupidly, too distracted by the idea of trying to raise a child to really consider his question.
"I told you about the woman I was with Before right? Nicolaa?"
Something clenches in Rodney's stomach – though it does send all thoughts of children running from his head. "Vaguely, yeah."
"We were together for a while. Five and a half years, actually, but we'd been close long before we ever got together. Since she was born, really. Anyway, things got to the point where she wanted us to have a baby, which was just a ridiculous idea in so many ways, and we got into such a huge fight over it I ended up leaving Atlantis."
"You left Atlantis? You love Atlantis." The idea of John leaving is like... is like John suddenly proclaiming himself a god à la the Ori or the laws of gravity deciding to take a holiday. It is equally parts absurd and impossible, even for the Pegasus galaxy.
"Tirianus needed a pastor, and 'Lantis understood. She loves kids, but even she knew that having one with the way the War was going then was insane."
"God, John. I'd no idea..."
"You'd no way of knowing," he shrugs, as if this revelation means nothing at all – as if it will mean nothing at all if he tells himself that often enough. "So, what are you doing anyway? Ever figure out what the deal with the transistra was?"
Rodney tells himself he only agrees to the abrupt change of subject because he's pushed his luck with John's emotional constipation enough for one day. But it's a weak lie at best. He'd do anything not to talk about children or ex-girlfriends right then.
So he explains that the original designs he'd drawn up for the ZedPM recharger had called for a superconductor material being brought in from Earth and that, with the yttrium-based compound they'd found in one of the Ancient labs, the ZedPM recharger could operate at higher temperature than they'd originally planed. While this is great for several reasons, the MOSFE transistors the Daedalus had brought them for the project just can't operate at those temperatures, so he's been switching out the MOSFETs with the IGBTs from devices they already have on base. Those should be better able to handle the higher temperatures and, therefore, not strain the cooling system so much, giving them a means of recharging their dead ZedPMs in as little as five days.
And if the thought crosses his mind that he's glad Nicolaa's dead, if only so she's not able to hurt John any more? Well, Rodney chooses not to examine it too closely.
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