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[ before and after ]
How about we say goodbye now?’
What do you mean no?’
I mean I´m not saying goodbye.’
I´m saying it anyway!’
I´m not listening!’
Yeah but what if I don´t remember who you are?’
Then I´ll remind you.’
Yeah but I don´t want you to see me like that, I want you to remember me as I am, as your genius friend, not as some sh--’
You´re stuck with me Rodney, just accept it.’
No! That´s final.’
Rodney stares at John until John can´t look at him anymore and when he´s staring at the side of his neck he takes a deep breath and makes one last attempt. Then there´s something I have to say to you before it´s too late.’
John closes his eyes and his hand clenches on the can of Budweiser. Rodney, damnit--’
It´s not goodbye,’ Rodney says to John´s profile. It´s just it´s something I want you to know.’
John exhales loudly. We´re good Rodney, you don´t have to apologize for anything.’
Rodney smiles. I know.’
Because wait,’ John says, looking at him. You know? Because sometimes you can be a dick--’
Rodney snorts. I thought you said I didn´t have to apologize.’
John´s frown deepens. You don´t, but not because you don´t owe me one, because let me tell you, I can think of a handful of things off the top of my head--’
I love you,’ Rodney says, blinking after he´s said it because he´s said it a thousand times in his head and he´d meant to say it now but he hadn´t expected it to come that easily. He´d expected babbling and stuttering and hand-wringing.
John freezes, mid-word and mid-gesture. His eyes flick to Rodney´s, wide and full of some sort of combination of fear and shock. Whuh--’
For some time now,’ Rodney says, voice a little shaky and weak. Years, actually, if I´m to be honest.’
John gestures with his hands and beer spills down his pants leg, unnoticed. Rodney.’
Sorry,’ Rodney says, looking away and out at the ocean. He can´t help but think this is the perfect place for this. In it´s own way, whether John wants it to be or not this is a goodbye, and what´s a better place to say goodbye to John than the very same place he´d said goodbye to Carson.
John swallows so loudly Rodney can hear it. Oh,’ he says, breathing out quickly. You mean as a friend. As a teammate.’
No,’ Rodney says, grinning. The thing is, he´d thought this would be a heart-breaking conversation. He´d thought the day he told John he loved him he´d be devastated, but it´s liberating. It´s only liberating because he´s dying and he knows he won´t have to deal with the fall out, but still. Liberating. I mean as in court martial for you were it you saying it.’
John is silent and Rodney can picture it in his head, John blinking wide-eyed like an anime character, all wide eyes and pencil-thin mouth. Rodney.’
I know,’ he says, finally looking at him. Pole-axed doesn´t even cover it when it comes to the expression on John´s face. I just thought it was something I should say before I´m unable to.’
John looks away and takes a sip of his beer. More like a gulp. More like three. That´s a really fucked up thing to say to me,’ he says finally.
Rodney´s grin slides off his face. Well then.’
You pick now,’ John asks, sounding angry. Now, after all this time, you pick now to tell me ’ He looks at Rodney and he´s downright furious. Furious like he was when Teyla neglected to tell them she was pregnant. Now when it´s when I can´t ’
Rodney just looks at him, baffled. John.’
John shakes his head at him. Like hell that´s not a goodbye, Rodney.’
It feels like a knife sliding through his chest. Oh, so now you´re not even going to speak to me?’
John points a finger at him. No, that´s not what I´m saying, and fuck you,’ he spits out, leaning forward. That´s a deathbed confession if I ever heard one!’
Rodney starts to get angry right back. Well I´m sorry if my timing isn´t good enough for you, I suppose I should have said it in front of the entirety of the base about three years ago, over the PA system perhaps, but silly me, I thought that may be inappropriate considering your country´s closed-minded barbaric restrictions on--’
What am I supposed to do now, Rodney,’ John says, and the way his voice sounds, strained and just a little bit broken, is when it hits Rodney that´s it´s not actually anger he´s seeing but something else. I mean, what do you want me to do here?’
Rodney opens his mouth and then closes it. I don´t know.’
Because I don´t know what I´m supposed to do here, I don´t know the answer you´re expecting.’
Rodney shrugs. I don´t know.’
Because you´re not even you anymore, it´s not like you´re just sick, Rodney, your brain is fucked up.’
Rodney blinks. Are you saying you--’
John´s jaw clenches. You know what? Forget it. We´re not talking about this.’
Rodney lets out a breath. I don´t understand.’
Yeah,’ John says, looking at him, the anger gently fading from his face. That´s the point, Rodney.’
Well,’ Rodney says, drawing his feet up to stand. I suppose the consolation here is that it´s likely I won´t remember the humiliation of this moment tomorrow.’
John looks up at him. What do you want, Rodney? Do you want me to say I feel the same way? Because it´s not like I can do anything about it now.’ He pauses, locking eyes with Rodney. And you won´t remember it tomorrow.’
Rodney looks back at him. Do you?’
John looks away. We´ll discuss then when you´re fixed.’
And if that never happens, John,’ he asks, rolling his eyes. What then?’
John shakes his head. That won´t happen. You´re going to be fine.’
Rodney shakes his head. You´re in denial.’
John snorts, once again concentrating on the ocean. Believe it or not, you´re not the first person to say that to me.’
By the time Rodney makes it back to the tower he´s forgotten the conversation ever happened. Lorne finds him wandering around the halls confused and walks him back to his room and Rodney forgets his name three times.
After Rodney gets over his anger and being faced with the humiliation of having to go through the process of forgetting himself again and before Jennifer figures out the device John pulls him to a corner of the cave, hidden from the rest of the group and doesn´t let go of the front of Rodney´s jacket until Rodney meets his eyes.
Do you remember?’
Rodney takes a deep breath. Remember what?’
The pier,’ John says, voice hushed and urgent. Do you remember the talk we had?’
Rodney looks away. I remember everything, up to and including after I was invaded by memory stealing bugs.’
John´s hand is rough on his chin as he turns Rodney´s face to look at him. Yes,’ he says, just barely audible. Do you understand me?’
Rodney frowns. Was there a question?’
John glares at him. Yes, Rodney,’ he says, leaning closer. I feel the same.’
John kisses him then, full mouthed and hot and that kind of desperate that makes his knees go week and then he´s pulling away before Rodney can even wrap his mind around it enough to kiss him back.
By the time Rodney realizes what´s just happened Jennifer and Jeannie are yelling something about odd readings and Teyla is calling Rodney´s name to come help them figure it out.
John doesn´t come see Rodney while he´s in the medical bay even once. He´s there for three days-- because Keller is paranoid, and also very good-- and every day Jennifer looks at her watch and frowns, looking towards the door. Colonel Sheppard still hasn´t come by?’
No,’ Rodney says, and he should be angry, he should be furious, except he´s not. Mostly he´s amused, because this is so John. It is so John go bury his head in the sand and try to forget that in a moment of weakness he´d told Rodney he loved him too.
When he gets out there, when he´s standing in front of John´s door, his amusement gives way to apprehension and therefore, because he´s Rodney, anger. Because what if John hadn´t meant it? What if it had been one final thing he could do to make Rodney happy before he died?
John opens the door before Rodney can even knock. Oh,’ he says, blinking dumbly at him. I was just going to meet Teyla. Workout. Sticks. With the.’ He makes a slicing motion through the air. Thwap-thwap.’
Rodney crosses his arms over his chest. Yes, I´m familiar with the art of stick-fighting, Colonel, I´ve only been here for five years.’
John grins. Yes, and you´ve only actually attempted it once, with Ronon, and when you got your ass handed to you you never showed up again.’
Rodney nods tersely. Did you mean it?’
John frowns. Mean what?’
What you said,’ Rodney says impatiently, waving his hand around animated. That you loved--’
Jesus,’ John hisses, reaching out quickly and grabbing Rodney´s arm. Could you wait for a--’ He drags Rodney into his room, the door sliding shut quickly behind them. Just. Not in front of everyone?’
John sighs, leaning against the wall. Rodney.’
Because if you just said it because I was dying, then fine. It´s shitty, but fine. I get it. But it´s even shittier for you to ignore me and avoid me--’
I meant it,’ John says quietly. And I haven´t been by to see you because I suck. It´s as simple as that.’
Rodney blinks at him. You suck?’
John nods. I suck.’
Rodney rolls his eyes. You suck.’
Yeah,’ John says, stepping forward and reaching up to touch the scar mark on Rodney's forehead. At dealing with things. Anything that's important. Not good at it.’
Oh,’ Rodney says, watching John's face as John's hand falls from his forehead to Rodney's shoulder. And I'm.’
Yeah,’ John says, and then he kisses him again, grip tight on Rodney's shoulder but lips soft and slow, the way they weren't on the planet, taking his time. This time Rodney gets to respond, his own hand reaching out to grab John's shirt and pulling him forward, deepening the kiss and finally tasting the way John's lips taste.
So you meant it,’ Rodney finally asks, leaning back to look into John's eyes.
Yeah,’ John says, grinning. Now can you stop talking so we can finally--’
Rodney's lips are on John's before he can even finish the sentence.