Aug. 24th, 2008 08:14 am
Warnings: Post ep for The Shrine, angst, language
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Summary: "What about you and John? Rodney, I'd have to be blind not to—not to—you know."
Authors Note: You know what I say? I say fuck the haters. That's what I say. Emotions are complicated, and not everything gets to be cut and dry and neat and painless. Where would the fun in that be?
Someone's brought Rodney a tablet next time Jennifer stops by to check on him. He's cross-legged on the bed, his hair messy and his expression intent. She leans against the doorframe, biting her bottom lip in an attempt to distract herself from the swell of almost dizzying relief.
Rodney's voice, snappish, surprises her, "You're blocking my light." Jennifer startles, looking over her shoulder guiltily, and when she looks back he's blinking up at her, mouth crooked up into a half-smile. He leans back against his pillow, tapping his fingers along the side of the tablet when he continues, "Shouldn't you be sleeping? I refuse to have my primary care provider making decisions while suffering from lapses in judgment caused by exhaustion."
Jennifer tugs at the hem of her jacket, walking slowly over to his bed while protesting, "I sleep." Rodney hums, turning his attention back to the tablet when she leans her hip against the mattress.
He says, "I'd be interested in knowing when." She just stares at him, surprised, because she had managed to convince herself that he'd play off the admission he'd made while he was losing his mind, that it would never be spoken of again, the same way her near kiss with Ronon had been discarded and ignored. He looks up after a moment, blinks at her expression, and then sits up straighter, his ears staining red when he rushes into, "Oh! Oh, no, I meant—"
He cuts himself off, his expression twisting up. Then he looks down at his lap, takes a deep breath, and starts picking at the sheets before saying, "Look. Look, Jennifer, I don't— you should know that I, I tend to— that is, sometimes I say things that I—that other people wouldn't. At times when other people wouldn't. And I don't want—I'd really been hoping that things wouldn't be weird, between us. I know you don't—I know you and Ronon, I—"
When she reaches out, putting a hand on his knee, he cuts off again. His skin is warm, even through the sheets, from the fever he's running. Under her fingers she can feel his muscles jump, and he swallows heavily, tapping on the tablet again.
Suddenly, she feels insanely guilty about watching the recorded confession in the other room before she came in here. She had thought— she had been so sure that it was all she was ever going to get. The soft words and his blues eyes looking so earnest through the screen. It hadn't seemed real. It had seemed like a dream, one that she could replay over and over again.
This, though, this changes everything.
She stares down at her fingers on his leg, and thinks she should probably move them away. Instead, she slides her thumb slightly, swallowing hard before speaking, "There is no...no 'me and Ronon'. There almost was. But. But it never happened. And after this I don't..." After their arguments over what should have been done with Rodney, Ronon won't even look her in the eye. She doesn't know how to make the man understand that she could have never let Rodney just go, not while there was still a chance she could do something. A quick death is still a death. It's still unacceptable.
Rodney says, "Oh." And then, pushing his knee up just slightly against her touch, "I'm sorry?"
Jennifer laughs, surprised, looking up and meeting his gaze. He looks confused, and hopeful, and tired, and there's a bandage on his forehead where she drilled through his skull. She sobers, reaching up to brush her fingers across the edge of the medical tape. He says, staring at her, "So when are you going to write the do it yourself guide to brain surgery?"
Jennifer rolls her eyes, letting her hand drop, and he catches her wrist, fingers warm and strong curled against her skin. She says, softly, "Rodney..." and doesn't know what else she's supposed to say. There are too many words, too many half formed ideas, too many giddy little girl dreams.
He releases her, nodding, looking away. For a half-second he squeezes his eyes shut, and then he huffs out a breath, and looks determinedly down at his tablet. He says, "Seriously, go sleep. I finally got Jeannie to leave me alone for a few hours, and you have no idea how much work I have to catch up on. I'm convinced that these errors Zelenka's saying I made are actually his, and he's just trying to pass them off as mine," he's frowning, jabbing at a button harder than it probably deserves.
Her voice comes out impatient, "Rodney," but he doesn't look up at her. She squeezes his knee and he shifts away, opening his mouth. She talks over him, blurting the words that have been echoing through her mind every single time she watches the recording, "What about you and John? Rodney, I'd have to be blind not to—not to—you know," she waves a hand, helplessly.
Rodney goes still, so thoroughly that for a half-second Jennifer thinks he's not breathing. His voice is oddly flat, "There is no 'me and John'."
Jennifer feels a sharp spike of anger, more that he thinks he has to lie to her than anything else, and it comes through in her words, "I'm not an idiot, okay? I see the way he— the way he looks at you. God, Rodney. He's only human around you. And it's not— he's the one you screamed for. When it got bad. So don't tell me that there's—"
Rodney jerks his head up, fast enough to startle her. His mouth is flat and tight, and his cheeks are flushed with either fever or emotion. When he speaks, he's gritting the words out, "There is no 'me and John'. There can never be a 'me and John'." There's a stain of bitterness and hurt, under the flatness of the words.
She stares at him, wide-eyed, before blurting without thought, "Oh my God. But you love him."
Rodney flinches, his hands balled into fists, and then he deflates all at once. He says, picking at the sheets again. "I—yes. I suspect I probably always, you know, will. He's—well," Rodney shrugs, one side of his mouth twisted up, all bittersweet emotion shining through, "But we burned that bridge a long time ago. There's— some things you can't go back to."
For a long moment he looks so sad that it hurts, reminding her too much of the way he'd been towards the end, where anything could set him off and have him sobbing. She suppresses a shiver, and he says, staring into the middle-distance, "I've always been selfish about wanting more than I can have, but this? This thing with John? I gave up on that a long time ago."
Jennifer says, the words just there, "I won't—I can't be your second choice, Rodney, I'm not going to—"
He startles again, cutting her off with a tilt of his head to the side that is impatient, just enough to be comfortingly familiar. He sounds slightly confused, "Why would you...? Oh. Oh, is that what—no. No, you know, I think poor Katie might have been my rebound, but," he waves a hand, leaving the sentence unfinished.
There's this swell of hope in Jennifer's chest that she's struggling to push down. Because the recording had been a dream, a beautiful, shiny thing that she'd told herself she couldn't have. And now it's close enough to touch, Rodney's capable hands and the stubbled line of his jaw. She makes herself push down the tangled emotions, swallows, says, "How do you— how do you know?" and she hates, just a little bit, how needy she sounds.
Rodney stares at her hard for a long moment, and then he leans forward, resting one hand on the mattress in front of his legs, right beside her hand. He says, "I know that if John came in here right now and told me— and told me that he could do it now. That all my health problems weren't an issue anymore, that he'd decided to give the Air Force a big fuck you, that he was willing to admit he was gay..."
Rodney pauses, sucks in a deep breath, and shifts his gaze to some point over her shoulder. His voice is louder, clearer, when he speaks again, "I know I'd tell him no. He was right the first time. Him and I, we— we just can't. I'd tell him no, and I'd," he drops his gaze again, then balls one hand up into a fist, and grits out, "I'd still want you to have my fruit cup." His voice is choked, and he coughs on a laugh, "If I had a fruit cup. I'd want my hypothetical fruit cup to be yours."
Jennifer hears herself say, "Oh," soft and so happily surprised she can barely stand it. She moves her hand to the side, brushing his knuckles with her fingers. He looks up at her again, expression guarded and contained. She repeats, "Oh," and brushes his messy hair back from his face, his skin warm and his mouth soft and sure against hers when she kisses him.
Ronon finds John outside the infirmary when he goes to check on Rodney. John is half-slumped against the wall by the door, staring sightlessly down at the floor, his face ashen, one hand braced on his thigh, one pressed over his stomach.
Ronon speeds up, bracing a hand on the other man's shoulder when he reaches John. John doesn't so much as twitch, standing like he's been frozen in place. Ronon feels a sharp jag of fear, because they just finished getting Rodney back, they can't go through this again, and says, low and tight, "Hold on, hold on, I'll get Keller—"
John's laughter, sharp and bitter, cuts off any other words Ronon might have had. All at once John is sliding down to the ground, pressing one hand over his mouth and laughing until it changes to something that sounds more like choking, his eyes squeezed shut tight.
Ronon sits beside him, one hand on John's shoulder, waiting it out.
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