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[ figure you out ]
by kHo

** warning for self-indulgence, overly sappy friendship piece

When John was in training he learned how to go from full on stage three deep sleep to alert with a 9mm tucked in his hand, safety off, finger on the trigger, in 2.3 seconds. He knows that because he timed it. Or, rather, Gaines had. He´d been the one to wake John up by putting his socks on.

It´s always worse on nights like this, so that means it takes John 2.3 seconds from the time the chair squeaks until the time he´s training the sights of the 9mm right between Rodney´s eyes. Rodney doesn´t even blink.

“Rodney,’ John says, breathless, heart pounding, because another 0.7 seconds and he could have blown Rodney´s head off. “Jesus.’

The lights came up when he woke and out of the corner of his eye John can see Rodney watching him flopping back down on the bed, his expression unreadable. John lets out a loud grumbling sigh, reaching down to rub at the gauze wrapped around his shoulder.

“I figured it out,’ he says when John´s settled back into a normal breathing pattern, put the gun back away, and turned his attention to him again. He leans over, propping his chin on his fist, and doesn´t say anything else.

John rolls his eyes. “Figured what out? How to get yourself killed by having no common courtesy?’ He glares at Rodney and tries to tell his heart to stop skitter-skipping around in his chest. “It´s called knocking. Also, it´s called waiting until morning. Christ, what time is it?’

“Three,’ Rodney says, voice flat and calm, eyebrows scrunching together in a contemplative sort of way. “No, I´ve figured out why you do it.’

John throws an arm over his eyes, chewing on his lip for a minute to quell the urge to reach behind him, grab his pillow, and beat Rodney senseless with it. “Why I do what?’

“Why you keep making me watch you walk away knowing that I might never see you again.’

John freezes. Every inch of him freezes, even the air in his lungs. He should have expected this, he really should have. He had actually, a long time ago, but the talk had never come, he´d always been able to avoid it, and he´d gotten lazy. He´d thought Rodney had decided to just let this be one of the many things they never say to each other. He really should have known better.

Moving his arm he turns his head to look at Rodney and tells himself that he needs to look him in the eyes for this. He owes him that much. “Rodney.’

“You didn´t even know her,’ Rodney says, tilting his head to the side, and his tone isn´t accusatory. It´s not even insulting. It´s just curiosity. “I mean. You hadn´t even met her.’

John looks away then, because he´d expected yelling. He´d expected Rodney to rant and rave and pull his hair out and say god damn you, John, what the hell are you doing, why the fuck do you do this, you have to stop doing this, I hate you. He´d expected that, not this calm acceptance.

“I´m okay, Rodney. It went straight through. Clean wound. I´m fine.’

Rodney shakes his head then, lips pursing. “That was dumb luck. That was an incompetent shooter, and Ronon having the reflexes of a cat.’

John nods because he has to agree with that. If Ronon hadn´t brought his arm down on the native´s hand at that exact moment, the bullet would have gone in John´s head. Just like if John hadn´t stepped in front of that woman, it would have gone in hers.

“He does sort of resemble a cat sometimes,’ John muses, eyes darting to look at Rodney quickly before looking back up at the ceiling. “He´s got a certain feline grace, like a panther or--’

“At first I thought it was typical American machismo,’ Rodney says, cutting John off like he wasn´t even talking, and at least that´s normal. “I thought it was Man´s Man things. It won´t happen to me. It doesn´t matter what I do. I´m invincible. I´ll never die.’

John watches him and waits for him to continue. When he doesn´t John pulls the covers off of himself and sits up, reaching up to rub at his face. “Listen--’

“But that´s not it. Because you´re not stupid.’ Rodney nods, and there´s a small smile on his face as his head tilts to the side. “You like to pretend you are, and hell, it suits you well enough. You get away with a lot from that aw shucks, I´m just simple folk routine.’

John´s eyebrow raises. “Okay, I don´t play it quite that dumb do I?’ When Rodney doesn´t laugh John loses his smile, leaning forward and touching his hand to Rodney´s arm. “Seriously, Rodney. I´m okay.’

But Rodney just continues again like John hasn´t spoken at all. “And then I thought it was some hero complex thing. You wanted to be John Wayne of the Pegasus Galaxy. Go down in the history books as the man who died serving not only his country but his universe.’

Rodney´s eyes turn hard when John almost cracks another joke and John shuts his mouth.

“But that doesn´t fit either, does it? Because you might feign that aw shucks routine some of the time, but you don´t when it comes to that. You never want anyone´s gratitude.’ Rodney shakes his head and John clenches his hands into fists by his side and doesn´t even notice it. “Nothing makes you more uncomfortable than someone saying thank you for something that really warrants it. You´d just as soon come in here and read War and Peace than sit there and listen to Atlantis as a whole extol your wondrous courage.’

John rolls his neck in an arc, listening to it crack and pop. He must have really jarred it when he´d hit the ground this morning. “Rodney, look, it´s been a long day--’

“Not finished,’ Rodney says sharply, causing John´s head to jerk up so he can look at him. “So if you´ll just shut up and let me talk, we´ll be done here soon.’

John holds up his hands and tries on a smile. “All right.’

“I thought for about two seconds that maybe you had a death wish,’ Rodney says, laughing and shaking his head. “But that´s not it. Your survival instincts are fully intact. As evidenced by the Beretta I just had pointed at my nose.’

John opens his mouth to apologize for that again but Rodney´s eyes silence him again. Instead he just shrugs it at him.

“But today it finally hit me.’ Rodney nods then, looking vaguely nauseated and satisfied at the same time. “It finally dawned on me what it was that made you always be the first in line at the Kill-Me Corral.’

“The Kill-Me Cor--’

“You don´t value your own life over any one else´s,’ Rodney says. “You don´t think you deserve to live any more than anyone else does. And not just your own people, but everyone. Anyone.’

The joke dies in his throat a horrible death, complete with a spasming trachea and almost choking, because Rodney´s always been brilliant but he´s never been that good at figuring people out. He should have seen it coming though, because John stopped being “people’ to Rodney a long time ago.

“You think you´re expendable,’ Rodney says, and his voice has that wondering tone to it, like this is just something he can´t even wrap his head around. Like the way a kid´s voice sounds when he asks his Momma why people would want to fly planes into buildings.

John´s eyes fall closed and he wishes for the first time since he was a kid that he could literally crawl under the blanket and it would be true that if he couldn´t see Rodney then Rodney couldn´t see him. “Rodney…’

“No. Because I know you´re not going to admit it. Or explain it to me.’ John opens his eyes again to see Rodney shaking his head at him. “And I guess it doesn´t really matter why. Abusive parents. Absent parents. Foster child thrown around in a system that´s been drowning since it´s inception. Whatever.’

John frowns in confusion. “I wasn´t adopted.’

Rodney just raises his hand. “So I guess I´ll just have to beat this into your head. You´re not.’ He shakes his head and leans forward, locking his eyes with John´s. “You are not expendable.’

John feels like he just might never breathe again. “Rodn--’

“You are more important than most of the people on this expedition, John. You need to not die.’ Rodney reaches over and grabs John´s hand in his and jerks on it, like he can sense John retreating into his head, and let´s be honest. He´s gotten to know John better in the past three years than most anyone has in his whole life. He probably can read John´s mind by now. “We need you not to die.’

John shakes his head. “Rodney, stop. Stop. Just. Don´t.’

“I don´t give a shit if I´m making you uncomfortable,’ Rodney says, and it´s the most fierce John´s ever heard his voice. “I could honestly not care less. You can hate me for this, you can never speak to me again for this, but I´m getting this through your thick fucking skull!’

“Why,’ John spits out, getting angry now. “Why? Why am I so important? Why am I so goddamned vital?’

Rodney glares at him, and it actually looks like for this moment, this one moment in time, Rodney actually hates him. “Fine, you need me to put it like this? I will.’ He leans forward and a hand comes up to the back of John´s neck, forcing him to look Rodney directly in the eyes. “If you die, all of us die. If you die, you´re killing all of us.’

John´s mouth falls open on that, because that is so patently unfair he can´t even wrap his head around it. “Fuck you.’

“That´s fine,’ Rodney says with a sharp nod, backing off, letting his hand drop from John´s neck. “Curse me all you want but it doesn´t change the fact that you are one of the guys standing between this whole expedition and death, and we need you alive.’

John clenches his jaw. “It also doesn´t change the fact that I´m the one that woke the Wraith up to begin with. It doesn´t change the fact that I´m the goddamned reason Sumner died to begin with, Rodney!’

“Really,’ Rodney says, no sympathy at all in his voice. No kindness at all. “Did you create the iratus bug?’

John blinks, shaking his head. “What?’

“Because it seems like to me, that this is just what the Wraith do. So, ya know, if they hadn´t woken now, they just would have woken later.’

John rolls his eyes up at the ceiling. “Rodney--’

“No, fine, I get it. You need to blame yourself for things you had no control over, fine, whatever.’ Rodney waves his hand and his other hand tightens on John´s arm. “But the fact still remains that we need you here.’

“I´m not planning on leaving, Rodney!’

“No,’ Rodney says, shaking his head. “No, but you´re more than ready and willing to put yourself in the position of our very on personal kamikaze.’

John clenches his jaw again. “I do what´s necessary.’

“No,’ Rodney shouts, eyes flashing. “No, you don´t, because you don´t need to be the one to go. You need to be the one that comes up with the plan, and then you need to be the one that stays here to come up with the god damned back up plan if it doesn´t fucking work!’

John jerks his arm away and reaches up to wipe at his face because he´s so exhausted his eyes are starting to swim with it. “God, do we really have to do this now?’

“And if that means that you have to send someone else on a suicide mission, then I´m sorry, but that´s what it means,’ Rodney says, because he´s just the foremost expert on ignoring everything John says if it doesn´t help his cause.

“Why are you doing this,’ John yells, his heart thudding in his chest and breath coming in gulps, and he hasn´t hyperventilated since he was a teenager but he´s pretty sure he´s close right now. “Why are you doing this to me? Leave me alone, Rodney! I know, okay?! I´m sorry I scared you. I´m sorry that you keep having to see me walk away knowing that you might not see me come back, but that´s true of every person here and--’

Rodney rolls his eyes. “Yes, but--’

But it´s John´s turn to plow through, so he just cuts him off with a hand over Rodney´s mouth and his face so close he can feel the breath coming out of his nose. “And I know it´s not the same because they´re not putting themselves purposefully in the way of danger, but I can´t. I can´t do it, Rodney, I can´t sit there and order someone to their death just because I´m the one that ended up in command!’

He fades off and watches Rodney, tries to catch his breath, slow his heartbeat, and watches as tears build up in Rodney´s eyes, feels his heart trip and breath catch and the lump form in his own throat because it´s too god damned late and he can´t do this right now, not here, not like this, not with Rodney.

Rodney´s opening his mouth as soon as John´s hand slips off and John closes his eyes and actually wishes for a minor emergency to save him from this.

“Fine,’ Rodney says, and his voice is choked off and a whisper and it tears John to shreds. “Fine, don´t do it for Atlantis. Forget everything I said. Fuck it,’ he says, leaning forward and grabbing at John´s shirt with both his hands, yanking on it for John to open his eyes but he won´t. “Do it for me. Do it for me, because I can´t do this without you. I can´t.’

John can feel the room spinning around him, the floor dropping out from underneath him, and the lump isn´t going anywhere any time soon, the panic building to the point of suffocation. “Stop.’

“No,’ Rodney says, and he´s grabbing John´s shirt so tightly there are going to be red marks from where it rubbed at his neck. “No, John, I mean it. I can´t. I need you. Me, I do!’

“Why,’ John asks, and he doesn´t even know why he´s doing it, doesn´t even know why he´s asking, because he already knows the answer. He already knows, because it´s the same reason he can´t ever lose Rodney.

“In case it´s never dawned on you, John, but you´re my best fucking friend,’ Rodney hisses at him, grabbing at his face and forcing his chin up. “And I don´t mean best friend of the moment, I don´t even mean best friend that I´ve got right now, I mean, the best friend I´ve ever had. Ever.’

John sighs, closing his eyes. “And I feel the same about you, but--’

“Yes, I know that,’ Rodney says, and it´s not him being smug, it´s not him being conceited, it´s just a bone deep knowledge, and John gets that because he´s got it too. “If you die, you take a huge part of me with you.’ Rodney pauses them an takes a shuddering breath, blinking quickly and John shakes his head no, because he can´t, he can´t sit here and watch this. Rodney gets it under control though, takes another breath and nods and tries to smile. “A huge part. Gone.’

And if John were the type of man to say things, he´d be saying them right now. He´d be saying I love you, Rodney. He´d be saying that he´s always believed in soulmates and sometimes that means sex and sometimes that means marriage but sometimes it doesn´t and Rodney´s his. He´d be saying that he feels like his life would´ve never been complete if he´d never flown O´Neal to McMurdo and it´s got nothing to do with worm holes and other galaxies and flying with the stars.

Instead he just reaches forward and grabs Rodney´s face in his hands and presses his forehead to Rodney´s. “I know,’ he says instead, closing his eyes and just breathing in the feel of Rodney right here in front of him. Knows that he doesn´t have to say it for Rodney to know it, because Rodney reads him better than he reads himself sometimes.

“So the next time you think you´re expendable, you think about me,’ Rodney whispers, his fingers relaxing in John´s shirt but not letting go. “You think about what you´ll be doing to me, okay?’

“Okay,’ John says back, smiling, because leave it to Rodney to make it sound like he´s just being selfish when he´s being anything but.

“And the next time you go off and get yourself almost killed you better actually do it because if you come back I´m going to kill you with my own two hands.’

John starts laughing and Rodney joins him and then he´s got armfuls of Rodney and it´s the warmest place in two galaxies and it´s the most loved he´s ever felt. “Okay, Rodney, I promise. The next time I go on a suicide mission, I´ll actually die.’

Rodney´s hand lands square on his chest hard enough to almost knock the wind out of him, but it just makes him laugh harder. “You really have to stop scaring me,’ Rodney says. “I´m two seconds away from tying you up in one of the labs we don´t use.’

John lays his hand on Rodney´s shoulder and squeezes. “Yeah. Might actually be a welcome vacation.’

All feedback much appreciated!
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