Warnings: Language, discussion of sex, AU
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Summary: John finds a class that he really needs to attend, taught by Rodney. They both learn a lot.
Author's Note: Written for Sweet Charity, for you! I hope you enjoy it! Beta work completed by my girl, butterfly.
The only reason they're in the bookstore in the first place is because Teyla's grouchy American Literature teacher had waited until the last moment to hand out the lists of books required for his class. The list is huge, daunting even, and seeing as the books are all needed by the end of the week, there's no way for Teyla to get them online.
So, they're at the bookstore. John isn't completely sure how he got snagged into going along. Evan and Teyla aren't really ignoring him, per se, and fuck knows they've always made sure not to treat him like a third wheel. John still thinks he could probably have found something better to do with his afternoon.
It takes them a little over an hour to find all the books, and, by then, Evan's decided that they're all getting coffee, which John figures is only fair as far as payment goes. It might even salvage the trip. He orders his first and wanders over to check out the notice board by the stir sticks, spoons, sugar, and cinnamon.
John's still looking wistfully at the advertisement for an old crotch rocket that's selling for a few hundred more than he can spare when Teyla and Evan bring over the coffee. There's a brief silence between them as they work on the serious business of doctoring up their drinks.
John is just taking the first drink of his coffee when Evan snorts ruefully beside him and pushes aside a bright pink flier, tapping the advertisement beneath it and deadpanning, "Well, I think we just found John's weekend plans."
For a beat John just stares at the flier, forgetting to swallow his coffee, which is scalding the fuck out of his tongue. The flier is just plain white paper, black print, nothing fancy or attention grabbing. It doesn't need to be. The text is enough to grab all kinds of attention on its own.
Teyla says, "Breathe, John," and he swallows his coffee, coughing a little bit on it. He can feel his ears burning, can easily picture how red they must be, and fights down the blush with limited success. On John's other side, Evan is trying to disguise the fact that he's snickering into his hand.
John looks at the flier again, almost against his will. He's distantly surprised that the bookstore even allowed it to be put up, because ‘Cunts for Fags' isn't really anywhere close to the kind of language he'd always thought of as appropriate for a family store. Then again, maybe the managers just hadn't noticed, or something. John reaches out, and pulls the pink flier back over it.
Evan nudges John in the shoulder, sipping at his coffee and grinning when he says, "Come on, that's just the kind of thing you need. Remember Larry?"
Well, there's no way John's going to be able to stop the blushing now. Larry isn't someone he's likely to ever forget. John resists the urge to slap his hands up over his face, trying to shove down the memories of slightly awkward flirting, fumbling kisses, and his complete and utter freak-out when he'd finally managed to get Larry's pants open.
John still doesn't know what the hell possessed him to tell any of his friends about the botched hook-up. Now, Teyla is rolling her eyes at them, shaking her head, and gesturing towards the door. John is more than happy to flee the bookstore.
Who advertises a class explaining the world of transsexual sex in a bookstore? John shakes his head, puts the entire situation out of his mind, and is grateful when they manage to spend the rest of their afternoon without discussing it at all.
Of course, he should have known he was getting off too easy. Teyla waits until Evan's gone home and then comes to stand beside John in their kitchen. John carefully sets down the Chinese leftovers that he'd been planning to nuke, because Teyla has her considering expression firmly in place. The jut of her jaw promises a conversation that's going to make John uncomfortable and probably spoil his appetite.
Teyla says, "It would not be a horrible idea," and John just raises an eyebrow at her, figuring that going for innocent and unsure what she's talking about will be his best bet. Teyla stares back, and after a moment John sighs, rolling his eyes and fiddling with the takeout containers.
"Look, it's just that—it was just one time, okay? It's not a big deal." Now Teyla's raising her eyebrows and she does it much better than John. He flushes under the scrutiny, grumbling, "Oh, come on, the flier was probably a joke, anyway."
Teyla shakes her head, reaching into her pocket and sliding a little folded piece of paper across the counter to John. He hadn't seen her pull off one of the pieces of contact information earlier, but Teyla can go all ninja when she wants to. She doesn't say a word when she leaves the kitchen.
John stares down at the e-mail address on the little white slip of paper. He fully intends to brush it into the trashcan and just forget about it. Instead, he sticks it into his back pocket. Just for a little while.
By the end of the night, he's signed up in the class.
John spends the next three days trying to forget about the class, just so he can miss it and not have to worry about it. But it hangs around his brain. He wonders more about vaginas and clits more than he can ever remember doing in the past.
Friday rolls around slowly, but it still feels like it arrived far too quickly when the time finally comes. John sighs, stalls around the apartment as long as he possibly can, and then goes. Luckily, the building on campus where they're holding the event is within walking distance of the apartment.
John ends up hesitating again outside the doors to the building. There are a few other people ambling around, and that, oddly enough, makes John feel better. He ends up squaring up his shoulders, climbing up the steps to the entrance, and pushing through the doors. Of course, it's less dramatic than it seems like it should be, mostly because then he has to find the room reserved for the class.
By the time he finally arrives at his final destination, he's about ready to just go back home again. John pushes the door open, grateful that the hinges don't squeak, and eases into the room. It's comfortingly class-room-y. Between the uncomfortable looking chairs, the fluorescent lights, and the white painted cinder block walls, it could be any classroom on campus.
A few people in the room look up at him when he enters, but not everybody. There's a bigger crowd than John had been expecting, though the room isn't full. A few of the people John knows, and he isn't sure what protocol is for things like this. He nods greetings to them, in any case, and they nod back, which is good, he supposes.
There's also a table set up off to one side with cookies and sodas set up on it. John stares at it for a moment, because it's not exactly something he had expected. Then he shrugs, takes some cookies and a Coke, and goes to find a chair. There's an air conditioning vent over the back row and John eyes it suspiciously for a beat before shrugging, and sitting under it. He can move if he gets too cold.
John had timed his arrival as carefully as he could and he's relieved to see that there's barely a minute left before the scheduled starting time. John tucks into his cookies, wondering how this is all going to go down, and looks up when the door opens again.
At first, John thinks the newcomer is just there for the class. The guy is about John's age, with windblown blond curls and a big cardboard box in his arms. The box looks like it's seen better days and John pushes down the urge to go help the guy with it. His assistance isn't needed, in any case. The guy drops the box down onto the desk in the front of the room, wipes his hands together, turns to look out over the gathered crowd, and scowls at all of them impressively.
Then the man is saying, "Alright, sit down and shut up. My name is Rodney McKay, and tonight I'm going to see what I can do to educate you morons before you further fuck up your sex lives and mine." Someone towards the front of the room starts to say something, and Rodney snaps his fingers, continuing without even looking in the direction of the interruption, "Did I say I was taking questions now? No, no I did not. Sit down. Shut up. Try to keep up."
John finds himself smiling, and has no clue why.
The class isn't nearly as awkward as John had thought it might be. Or, at least, he thinks it isn't. He's not paying as much attention as he should. He's slouching down in the chair a little bit, far more comfortable than he should be, watching Rodney gesticulate with a dry erase marker, still talking.
Rodney's been talking since the class started. He's been drawing, as well, and John's eyes briefly drift to the white board. On some level, John's aware that he's learning things that he'd only had a vague, shapeless understanding of before.
Unfortunately, John's finding himself far more fascinated by the shape of Rodney's mouth than the words that are coming out of it. A detailed description of female ejaculation just isn't managing to hold it's own against the way Rodney moves his hands.
John hadn't even managed to pay that much attention to the models that had shown up earlier. He had been distantly surprised by how different vaginas could look, but he'd kept fixating back on Rodney, who had, unfortunately, remained completely dressed.
It isn't until someone besides Rodney says something that John realizes that they've made it to the Q&A portion of the program. It's jarring to hear someone else talking, and John finds himself frowning in the man's general direction wishing he would shut up. It's odd.
Luckily, Rodney answers. John turns his attention back to the front of the room. Rodney is sitting on the edge of the desk now, drumming his hands on the side of the pressed wood. John has no idea what the question was, but Rodney answers it thoroughly. John's smiling again. He wishes he could stop himself from doing that.
The class ends up running over, but John finds he doesn't care at all. Apparently, neither does anyone else, because they just keep asking questions. John is working up to one of his own, when a man two seats in front of him says, loud and cocksure, "What's your number?"
John glares at the back of the man's ponytail, muscles in his legs tensing as he fights the urge to stand. Before he can do a thing, Rodney is rolling his eyes, tone completely dismissive when he says, "Believe me, the only use you'd have for it would be selling it to telemarketers. Now, I think we're done here."
John badly wants to protest, but can't think of how. The classroom clears out, and by the time John gets to the front of the room, Rodney is already gone. John goes home.
John fully intends to just forget about the entire thing. He probably didn't learn nearly as much as he should have, and that's embarrassing all on its own. Unfortunately, Teyla and Evan want a full recap of the night, and John has no choice but to sit around and indulge their curiosity.
John's surprised to find himself saying, when he's run out of things to tell them, "But I think I need to go back, just to make sure I really understood everything." Teyla blinks at him, looking as surprised as John feels, and then looks at Evan over John's head.
John can't read what they're thinking, but that's okay. He has a feeling he wouldn't like it if he knew. Besides, he's more concerned with figuring out why the hell he wants to go back and put himself through that again.
The next class isn't for two weeks. John does his best to talk himself out of going back during the waiting period, and utterly fails. He also looks for Rodney around town, but can't find a sign of the other man anywhere. It's frustrating.
The first time John went to the class, he'd worn his baggy jeans and an old hoodie. He'd wanted to be anonymous, and unseen if at all possible. This time, he finds himself frowning into the mirror and messing with his hair, and has to go sit on his hands out on the couch. Teyla, thankfully, doesn't say a word about his bizarre behavior.
John still ends up leaving early, unable to sit still any longer. The air is a little cooler than it had been last time, though it's still warm. This time, John knows where he's going, and doesn't linger outside the building with the others. His heart is racing by the time he gets to the classroom.
Rodney isn't there, of course. He hadn't gotten there early last time. John doesn't know why he was thinking that maybe that wouldn't be the case this time. John shakes his head, grabs some cookies to keep himself occupied, and sits towards the front of the room this time, without really intending to.
The crowd is slightly larger this time, or at least John thinks so. It's hard to tell, and he's not really that concerned with the other people. He's bouncing one leg, brushing away chocolate chip cookie crumbs, when the clock finally ticks over onto starting time and the door opens.
Rodney's gotten himself a new box over the last two weeks, the cardboard not beat all to hell anymore. John still wants to help him carry it. He stays sitting, watching Rodney drop the box onto the desk, mouth twitching up when Rodney goes into his spiel.
Rodney's halfway through his introduction when he scans the room and his gaze pauses on John. John feels the hairs on the back of his neck raise, looking at pale blue eyes, feeling a thrum through his bones. For a beat, Rodney's mouth just hangs open, as they look at one another.
And then it's over. Rodney picks up smoothly, looking past John. John spends the rest of the class hard, wondering what the hell he thinks he's doing, and watching Rodney. He doesn't really think he gets anymore out of the instruction than he did the first time.
He'll just have to come back again.
John is trying to remember if he has anything planned for the next class date, moving slowly towards the door, when Rodney cuts in front of him, arms crossed, blocking John's forward progress. John freezes, staring at the man, feeling his stomach do odd, twisting things. He manages to choke out, "Hi."
For a beat, Rodney just stares at John, eyes narrowed, mouth twisted down in one corner. Then he's saying, voice sharp, "You've been here before. You were here last time. You sat in the back and daydreamed the entire time. What are you doing here?" There's naked accusation in Rodney's tone, and John blinks in surprise.
All John can think of in reply is, "What?"
Rodney makes an impatient sound, grabbing John's arm and pulling him to the side. It's only then that John realizes they'd kind of been blocking the door. People start clearing out now that the path is open, but John doesn't really notice.
Rodney is saying, "Why are you here? You've been twice, and shown absolutely no sign of paying attention to what's going on. So what is it? Are you bored? Hungry? Oh, God, is that it? You can have the cookies. You don't have to stay and listen afterward."
John opens his mouth, then closes it, opens it again. Rodney looks slightly concerned now, which is disorienting all on its own. Finally, John manages, "No. Look, uh, I didn't mean to—" he shrugs, and then realizes that's not really helpful at all. He tries again, "I meant to listen. Really. I want to, uh, know."
Around them, the room is empty, the door swinging shut behind the last person. John hooks his thumbs into his pockets and tries not to look incredibly pleased. He has a feeling that he isn't completely succeeding, but it's the best that he can do.
Rodney is staring at him hard, "You meant to listen. What are you, learning disabled? Deaf? I can let you see the outline if that would help, though personally I think it lacks something that the hands-on method gives—"
"I'd like the hands-on method," the words are out before John can stop them. He bites his tongue hard, but, of course, it's too late. Rodney blinks up at him, without an immediate response. For a moment it's so quiet that John can hear the clock ticking above them. He wonders if he should try to take it back.
Then Rodney is tilting his head to the side, looking John up and down. A blush stains across Rodney's cheeks after a moment, and John sucks in a breath, his heart rate speeding up, warmth flooding down into his stomach.
When Rodney looks back up, his expression is contemplative and he's still blushing a little bit. Rodney says, "How about coffee? We don't want to overwhelm you with too much information all at once."
Inside, John feels like jumping up and down and cheering. He manages to restrain himself, nodding instead, grinning wide, "Yeah, coffee sounds good." Rodney smiles at him then, crooked and wide, and it's the first time John's seen that, but he'd like to see it a lot more often.
They leave the cardboard box on the desk.
They end up at a coffee place John's never been to. It's tucked in between a tiny little shoe store and a comic book shop. John can't see any sign on the building to indicate that they sell coffee, but Rodney heads right there, pushing through the door without any hesitation at all.
Inside, it smells like roasted coffee, chocolate, and old, dry wood. The lights in here are dim, and every chair in the place is mismatched. John blinks, trying to allow his vision to adjust, and opens his eyes to find Rodney already over by the counter, talking to an older woman. She has her white hair tied up in a bun and she's wearing an apron. John shakes his head, and makes his way over to Rodney as quickly as he can while trying not to look like he's hurrying.
There's no menu anywhere, and when the woman asks what John wants, he panics and says he'll just have what Rodney's having. That gets him identical doubtful looks, which John attempts to shrug off. Five minutes later, sipping the coffee, he understands the doubtful looks.
Rodney laughs at him, takes the coffee out of John's hands, and goes back to the counter. He comes back with another cup, and John's old one, keeping it for himself and handing the new one over. John eyes the coffee doubtfully, asking, "What is it?"
Rodney rolls his eyes, drinking his coffee like it isn't strong enough to kill an elephant, grumbling, "Just drink it," and John finds himself obeying. It's delicious. Sweet and heavy at the same time, with an aftertaste of mint that makes John stare down at the cup in surprise.
For a moment they drink their coffee in silence, and then John works up enough courage to blurt, "So you're—I mean. You were a girl?" John can't stop himself from looking below Rodney's belt, aware that it's crude, and that somewhere behind him there's a little old woman with white hair probably looking on and shaking her head in disbelief.
Probably much like Rodney is doing. Rodney is all scorn, waspish when he says, "What are you, twelve years old? I've always been a man. I have a vagina. Is that a problem for you?" Rodney's chin jerks up, and he's frowning again, gaze sharp and challenging.
"Uh, no, no," but it is, kind of, a little bit. It had been with Larry, which is really John's only experience with the matter so far, so maybe that's what he has to go with. But he'd really like it not to be a problem with Rodney. John swallows hard, "I mean, I don't know how this works. That's what—I mean, the class, that's what it's for, right?"
Rodney is staring at John hard, arms crossed, his two cups of coffee steaming by his elbow. Then Rodney sighs, reaching up to rub at his forehead with one hand, looking tired suddenly. He says, "Look, maybe you should go."
John feels something in his stomach twist, ache, blurting, "No, wait, I—wait. Tell me what I'm supposed to do here." He really doesn't want to fuck this up. And, okay, so he doesn't have the best track record with this, but he knows a hell of a lot more about this than he had, and he can learn more.
Rodney looks to the side, his voice cutting, "I have. Twice. It's not my fault that you didn't listen." He stands up stiffly, taking both of his coffees with him. John jerks up to his feet as well, almost getting tangled up with his chair.
Rodney is already most of the way to the door, and John hurries after him, grabbing him right before he can step out into the street. John says, tense, "Look, I'm kind of new to this, okay? Can you cut me a break? I catch on quick." And he wonders why the hell he's even trying this hard. He should just let this go.
For a long time Rodney just stares forward, a muscle in his jaw moving. And, okay, so he has a vagina. But John hasn't once thought of Rodney as a woman, and maybe that should tell him everything he needs to know. He's attracted to Rodney. Really, really, attracted to Rodney. And that's certainly never happened with a woman.
That doesn't mean that John knows exactly how to deal with this. He doesn't, and he should, and maybe he should be more than a little ashamed of himself for that. But he's trying, and he'll attend as many of the classes as he has to, if that's what it takes. John thinks that maybe he should be saying some of these things out loud, but he can't force the words through his throat.
Finally Rodney sighs, twisting to look at John and taking a long drink of his coffee. He says, "I don't need someone constantly asking if I'm not sure I'm really a girl. I know what I am, and if you're not capable of dealing with that then I—"
John doesn't know exactly how he ends up kissing Rodney. He's pretty sure he'd intended to listen to what Rodney was saying, and then reply to it in an intelligent manner. Instead, he's got a hand on Rodney's shoulder, feeling Rodney talk against his mouth for a long moment.
As far as first kisses go, it's not the best John's ever given. He pulls back slowly after a moment, feeling tingles in his fingers and toes. Rodney is staring at him, blue eyes huge, lips slightly parted. John wants to say something witty or moving or deep. Instead he licks his lips, tasting Rodney's ridiculously strong coffee on them.
Rodney's gaze drops to John's mouth, and that's nice in all kinds of ways. John starts to lean in again, but Rodney twists to the side, setting his coffees on the table beside them and pulling a little scrap of paper out of his pocket. Rodney might be the only person that John's ever met that carries a pencil stub around in his back pocket.
Then Rodney is pushing the paper into John's hand, looking up and saying, "Look, I have to get my stuff cleared out of the room now, and, and I think you need to, you know, think about what you want to do here. So you can call me, if you decide this is what you want to do."
That's all John gets. Rodney is out the door and gone the next instant, coffees taken with him, his number folded up in John's hand. John stands right there for a long time, staring at the wrinkled up paper, before he manages to make himself open it up.
Rodney's handwriting is sharp and jagged, and all the numbers are there. John refolds it, keeping it curled against his palm when he picks up his curiously minty coffee and leaves. It seems like it takes a long time to walk home. John has a lot to think about.
John stares at Rodney's number for a day, and then he calls. He knows it probably means he looks desperate, or something, but he doesn't like the thought of Rodney thinking he's not going to call. So he just picks up the phone and does it, and fuck what anyone thinks about it.
Rodney answers on the third ring, sounding like he just rolled out of bed even though it's six in the evening. John clears his throat and manages, "Hey. It's John. Uh, from the coffee shop?" And then he winces, feeling like an idiot, because it's only been a day. Likely, Rodney hasn't managed to forget him already.
For a long moment, the other side of the line is mostly silent. John can hear Rodney breathing, but that's it. He holds his breath, shifting his weight uncomfortably and waiting, praying, hoping. He's sure, suddenly, that this is going to go horribly wrong.
And then Rodney clears his throat and says, "John? Really?" and there's this tone of something in his voice that makes John bounce up and down on his toes, grinning huge because no one's there to see him acting like an idiot. "I didn't think you'd—I mean, uh, what's up?"
John takes a deep breath, and goes for it.
It doesn't take John long to realize that Rodney's insanely busy. Besides working on his Masters, he's working two jobs and various side projects. He really had been sleeping when John called, just off his shift at work, and John feels really guilty about waking him. There's nothing to be done about it.
They finally manage to set up a date a week later, in the middle of the day. It fits nicely between John's classes, and even if it didn't, he'd just skip. He really wants to see Rodney again, and he doesn't really care that much about missing some classes.
John manages to annoy the hell out of Teyla for the next week, until she packs a bag and disappears to Evan's place for a few nights. John proceeds to drive himself crazy and feels like he's about to jitter right out of his skin by the time he finally makes it to Rodney's apartment building.
It's older than John's, and not in the best condition. It's beautiful though. John manages to stop himself from taking the steps two at a time, not even winded by the time he gets up to the third floor. His palms are sweaty, though, and his heart is beating fast.
John pats at his hair for a moment outside Rodney's door and then gets his shit together and just knocks. He has to work hard to not bounce up and down all over again, wondering what the hell is wrong with him. He's not sure that a date has ever had him quite this wound up.
There's a muffled crash from inside, then the door swings open and John blinks in surprise. The man on the other side is most definitely not Rodney. For one thing, he's about a foot taller than Rodney. And much, much, bigger. And darker. And with a lot more hair.
The giant in Rodney's apartment rumbles, "You must be John. Rodney's not back from work yet. Come in," it doesn't sound like John's being given an option. He follows the giant into the apartment, vaguely remembering something Rodney had said about a roommate but completely unable to recall the man's name.
The giant is already in the kitchen, standing in front of the stove and looking intently down at whatever it is he's cooking. John hesitates by the kitchen table, wondering if he should take his shoes off or go into the living room or what. He's about to ask when the man clears his throat and says, "He's a good guy."
John blinks, startled, and asks, "Rodney?"
That gets a nod, while the man sprinkles some garlic pepper into the pan of sizzling beef. He goes on without looking up, "He's dealt with a lot of assholes and shit-heads, and I'm tired of it." The man looks up then, narrowing his eyes at John and scowling very impressively, "So if you fit that description, get the fuck out of here right now."
For a long moment all John can do is stare. Then he manages to shake his head, trying to figure out how to put his thoughts into words and not really managing it. The best he can do is, "No. That's—I want to stay." He figures that pretty much covers everything.
The big man stares hard at John some more, and then smiles, stepping forward and offering out his hand. He says, "I'm Ronon. I'll fuck you up if you hurt him," and John believes it, struggling to keep his face expressionless when Ronon grabs his hand and squeezes it so hard John can feel the bones shifting around.
It's a relief when the door slams open, and an even bigger relief when Rodney storms into the room. He's wearing a wrinkled shirt and dirty jeans, grease under his fingernails. Rodney looks at John and Ronon for a long moment, before rolling his eyes and declaring, "Give me two and a half minutes and then we're out of here. I'm starving. Ronon, don't break his hand."
Ronon releases John with another toothy grin and John is startled by how right this all feels, how comfortable and good. He thinks that he can do this, that he wants to do this, that he will do this. He might not know completely how to handle everything about the relationship yet, but he has complete faith that Rodney will. And John is more than happy to learn.
For this, it's worth it.
::back to index::