He's not sure why he always winds up in Rodney's trailer. He'd get more rest in his own trailer, but whenever they have a break together, he follows Rodney across the lot and through the door.
He usually spends the time trying not to watch Rodney's mouth as he talks about everything and nothing. He has to force himself to look away any time Rodney bends over in front of him -- Rodney's ass is fantastic, and more than once on set John's been glad of the autopsy table hiding his interest from the cameras.
Today Rodney is in full-on rant mode about an email Jeannie sent him earlier -- something about fans, which can go either way with Rodney. Usually Rodney loves the fans, and goes out of his way to sign autographs and let them take pictures, but when they do things like tattooing his face on their ass, Rodney gets a little bent out of shape -- and John can definitely see why. This isn't quite as bad as what happened the day Jeannie sent Rodney that photo, but something in the email has gotten Rodney going. His cheeks are splotchy with color and the more he talks, the less coherent he gets. John interrupts before Rodney can swallow his tongue.
"You know she just emails you that crap to mess with your head, right?"
"Mess with my... What the fuck ever, Sheppard. You haven't even read what she sent, so how would you know? And anyway, it doesn't change the fact that these slash people are weird!"
"A lot of people fit that description. What makes these fans so special?"
Rodney turns an alarming shade of red before he answers. "They seem to think that you and I are gay. For each other."
John's stomach flips and he can literally feel the color leach out of his face. He aims for casual, but his voice sounds funny when he asks, "What do you mean?"
"They think Detective Flanigan wants to bend Doc Hewlett over a lab bench and have his wicked way with him. What do you think I mean?"
Oh. Rodney meant their characters. John sags against the thin cushions of the built-in couch, and says, "That's old news, Rodney. People have been talking about that since first season."
"First season?" Wow, John didn't even know Rodney's voice could do that -- he sounds like a strangled cat. "It's been going on that long and no one even thought to tell me?"
"Um...we all thought you knew?"
"And none of you ever thought to ask me how I'd feel about this kind of thing?"
John has no idea what the others think, but he'd never had any intention of telling Rodney, mostly because he knew Rodney would take everything all out of proportion. And of course while he's been thinking of a way to answer, Rodney's jumped to the wrong conclusions.
"Oh, I see. You all think I'm some kind of homophobic asshole? You figured I'd be all weird about it or something, and then we wouldn't be able to work together."
"What? No. We-- I don't think that. It just...never came up, is all."
Rodney looks relieved for a second or two, and then he asks, "But we're not gay! Why do you think people are seeing the ho yay?"
"Hello? Clearly there's something there for people to be talking about it."
John has managed to keep his mouth shut for three seasons, so he's not about to talk about it now. "People see what they want to see -- there doesn't have to be anything there. And where did you hear the word 'ho yay'?"
"Jeannie may have mentioned it when I called her this morning about her email. She also told me about slash goggles."
John's stomach flips again, but he doesn't have a chance to say anything because someone is knocking at the door, saying they're needed on set.
+ + +
The next time they're in Rodney's trailer, John's expecting Rodney to want to talk about Flanigan and Hewlett's big gay love affair, but Rodney is in a froth about a review that referred to him a "one-note hack" and John spends their entire forty-five minute break assuring him he's not a hack.
John waits for The Conversation -- and yes, that's exactly how he thinks of it, capital letters and all -- but it never comes. When a few days have passed with nothing from Rodney on the subject, John decides he should say something. Even though John had denied it, Rodney was being a homophobic asshole that morning, and it's been bothering him.
"So. Heard from Jeannie lately?"
Rodney barely looks up from the sandwich he's in the process of demolishing as he swallows and says, "What? All out of starlets to date? If only I'd known you before she met the sociology major, you could have had your chance."
"What are you talking about? I don't want to date your sister, Rodney." John pauses for a moment, then says, "I was just wondering if she's sent you any more emails about the slash fans."
"No, she hasn't." Rodney does look up then, meeting John's eyes. "Why are you asking?"
"I, uh... It's just." He takes a deep breath, and continues, "You were out of line that day."
Rodney's mouth slants down, but he doesn't say anything.
"I don't think you're a homophobe, but some of what you said was pretty fucked up, and I think we should talk about it."
"I'm sorry! I know I freaked out a bit, but how was I supposed to react? I've never had to deal with this, and I'm just..." Rodney put his elbow on the table and leaned forward, dropping his head against his hand. "I never even thought about how it would sound, you know?"
"What the hell am I supposed to think when you act squeamish because someone is writing gay fiction about a character you're playing? How do you think that makes me feel, knowing gay people freak you out that much?"
"What? They don't -- I was just...surprised that anyone would think that about us."
"Oh, because gay people are so different from everyone else? Or is it that you're worried about how other people will think of you if someone speculates you might be gay?"
"No. And what do you mean 'how it makes you feel'?" Rodney looks confused now, but John thinks maybe he's finally getting it. He's still not sure if telling Rodney is a good idea or not, but he's tired of lying.
"I'm gay, Rodney."
For a moment, Rodney looks like someone sucker punched him. Then he snaps his fingers, points at John, and says "You date women."
"No, Rodney." John can't believe Rodney is really this oblivious. "I sometimes go to an event with a woman. Think about it -- have you ever seen the same one twice?"
"Isn't that kind of, I don't know, unfair to them?"
John snorts -- he should have known Rodney would focus on that part. "I look at it as a mutually beneficial arrangement. They get to go to a red carpet event and be seen, and I get to keep my private life private. It's win-win situation, and every last one of them has been fine with it."
When Rodney doesn't say anything, John says, "I know you've been around Hollywood long enough to know what a beard is."
"It's not that. I just need time to think about this."
"What is there to think about, Rodney? I'm still the same person as I was before. The only difference is now you know that I prefer men."
The silence stretches out between them. He watches Rodney, sees the way his face shifts and how he's not looking at John, and thinks he may have made a mistake.
When Rodney finally speaks, it's so quiet John almost misses it."Why didn't you tell me?"
Because I don't want that to be the thing people think of first when they think about me. Because it's not the beginning and end of who I am, and when people know, it's all they focus on. Because I'm so much more than that.... John could say all of this, and more, and he knows Rodney still wouldn't understand.
Instead he shrugs and says, "I just didn't think it was that big a deal, is all."
"Oh. Um...okay. Thanks for telling me now, and uh. For the record, gay people don't freak me out. I was just -- what Jeannie wrote, I wasn't expecting that, and I may have said some things...." Rodney trailed off, looking sheepish. "I'm sorry, for what I said."
"Thanks, Rodney." John gets up from the table then, and puts their plates in the trash can under the sink.
"So, we're cool?"
Rodney snorts and says, "No, you're cool, I'm fine."
+ + +
They're still friendly, if a bit more careful when discussing certain subjects, and John still spends more time in Rodney's trailer than his own. John is hyper-aware of Rodney's reactions, even though he doesn't let himself look as much as he did before. He's determined that this isn't going to change things more than it already has.
After a few months, when things seem to be normal again, John starts to let himself enjoy the shape of Rodney's mouth as he talks again....
+ + +
John hates conventions.
He hates how exposed he feels, like everyone there feels they have the fight to know all of the personal details of his life. He knows it's all part of the job, knew he'd have almost no privacy, but that doesn't change how he feels. The worst part isn't the Q and A sessions, or even the autograph lines so long he can't feel his fingers at the end. No, the worst part is the photo ops -- there's always the fan who asks for something wacky like a picture with a stuffed iguana, or with him holding some handwritten sign that's so cryptic as to make no sense at all, and there's always at least one girl who is a little too handsy.
He's learned to get through it, mostly by insisting that his onstage time be shared with Teyla, Ronon or Rodney. In a pinch, he'll take Evan and Radek, or Elizabeth, but after that first disastrous con, when a fan launched herself at him from five stairs up, he refused to go it alone.
Answering really detailed questions about things like what kind of gun Flanigan carries is easier when he knows Ronon is getting the same question. Hell, the kid loves talking about the stunts they do, and once he gets started, all John has to do is smile and nod in the right places. Teyla gets a lot of questions about Torren and making the change from dancer to actress; John loves that since he doesn't have kids and likely never will.
Being onstage with just Rodney is a little harder -- he expects John to pull his own weight, and John is terrified one of the less socialized girls will ask about the gay thing. It hasn't happened to them, yet, but he knows it's just a matter of time.
They're in Minneapolis when it finally happens.
"Hi, my name is Ashlee, and I wanted to ask John and Rodney if the directors tell you guys to play up the gay vibe between your characters or if it's something you've decided to do on your own?"
The day's been great so far; he's onstage with Teyla, Ronon and Rodney. The other three have been fielding most of the questions, and Teyla in particular has been deflecting anything too personal, so John's feeling relaxed and somewhat happy, and the question takes him by surprise.
Every camera in the place is flashing, and all John can think is that he can always look at the pictures online to confirm if he looks as shocked as he thinks he does. He has no idea what to say.
Rodney, on the other hand, seems to have no problem at all answering the question.
"Well, no one's said anything to us per se, but every year when they renew us, the producers tell us to keep up the good work and to keep on doing whatever it is we're doing that makes the show so great. I agree that Detective Flanigan and Doc Hewlett have great chemistry, and I'm always pleased when John and I have a scene together."
The audience goes crazy as Rodney turns to John, expectant, and all John can do is stare. What the hell happened to the man who was freaked out by the ho yay?
When John just keeps staring, Rodney asks, "John? How do you feel about the subtext on the show?"
"Uh..." He drops the mike to his chest and looks to Teyla for help, but Teyla just smirks. He knew getting drunk with her had been a bad idea -- she could pry a secret out of a bank vault, which means she knows all about his obsession with Rodney's ass.
"I, uh, just follow the script. Rodney and I are friends off-camera, so maybe that's what it is?"
John hopes that's enough; when the next fan steps up to the mike with a question for Ronon, he relaxes enough to chance a look at Rodney. Rodney is looking right at him, with a slight frown pulling the corner of his mouth down. He looks away before he meets Rodney's eyes.
+ + +
They're both distracted for the rest of the Q and A, and John practically bolts off the stage when their time is up. He plans on locking himself in his room for the rest of the day, but of course, Rodney derails that.
"John, open the door."
"What part of 'do not disturb' do you not understand, Rodney?
"The part where you need to open the door before someone comes along and thinks we're having some kind of lovers' spat."
John yanked the door open and pulled Rodney in by the front of his shirt. "The fuck, Rodney? Are you trying to give people more to speculate about?"
"I knew it! You're in here stewing over what that girl said in the panel." Smug has never been a good look on Rodney, and John turns back into the room to stop himself from kissing that smug smile right off Rodney's face.
"Wait -- I was right?" John can hear Rodney cross the room, so he's not surprised when he feels Rodney's hand on his shoulder. When Rodney reaches around him to grasp his arm and turn him, John resists for a moment, then gives in. They're standing too close, and John thinks Rodney must not realize it, and then Rodney kisses him, a soft press of lips, close-mouthed and almost chaste.
For a long moment John thinks about pushing Rodney away, but then he tips his head the tiniest bit and they're really kissing, and God yes it's every bit as good as John had hoped it would be.
When they pull apart, John rests his forehead against Rodney's, saying, "I've wanted that for a while now."
Rodney stiffens under John's hands, and says, "How long is a while?"
John shrugs and mumbles an answer.
"What was that, John?"
John huffs and takes a step back. "I said 'since first season'."
"That long? I, uh, thought maybe since we talked earlier this year. I didn't know." He lets out a nervous sounding laugh, and says, "I went back and watched the show. I wanted to see if the fans were right, you know? And they are. Flanigan does look at Hewlett like he wants to fuck him. It's been that way from the beginning, and I thought it was just an acting choice, that you were doing it as part of the character."
Rodney stops and takes a deep breath. "And then I caught you, looking at me like Flanigan looks at Hewlett, and I just. I want that -- I want to know you're looking at me like that and meaning it."
John steps back, one, two, three steps, and he looks at Rodney, really looks. He's flushed, his mouth red and swollen from kissing, eyes wide and locked on John, and he's so god damned sure and John panics a little, because he's never been able to get it right when it comes to this kind of thing, but he wants to so badly. He's tired of taking random girls to awards shows and dinners; he wants someone -- Rodney, he wants Rodney -- to be the one he shares that kind of stuff with. At the end of the day, he wants more than a handshake and a kiss on the cheek. He wants someone to come home to....
Rodney closes the space between them, and John just stands there as Rodney leans in and brushes a soft kiss over the corner of his mouth, and asks, "Do you mean it?" before he trails feather light kisses along John's jaw.
John does mean it, has for a while, and he knows he will for as long as Rodney will have him. So he turns into Rodney's kisses, whispering 'yes, yes, yes' until Rodney laughs and says, "Kiss now, talk later."
And really, who is John to argue with logic like that?