It's that weird time of the year when Winter hasn't quite let go of Pennsylvania, but Spring's trying like crazy to get in on the fun. So John's ditched the blazer he'd put on that morning and shoved the sleeves of his button down up to the elbows and finds that he's still humming that damn song Room 12 learned that morning in Music class (tell me, little fishy, how deep is the sea? How deep is the sea?) as he digs his key out of his pocket to open the door. And part of his brain must still be back in his lesson about Angel Island (sorry, Ben, not actual angels, well's it's sort of a metaphor, Peter, no, Jenna, that won't be on the test, yes, p-h-o-r, sometimes p's sound like an f, it's one thing that can stand for something else, Amanda, anyway) because he's already dumped keys, pile of papers, backpack, and pointless blazer in the hall before he's noticed how warm it is in the apartment. And that smell, cloyingly clean and oh, oh no. He didn't.
But John can hear the sound of Rodney's steps towards the hall even though they are still muffled by the kitchen door and the muddled--no, puddled, Christ--noises solidify into Rodney's head slowly peeking around the opening door, embarrassed indignation in every spot of color flushing his face, in the line of drying soap suds along the line of his jaw. Oh, he did, John thinks with something close to pity.
"Washing machine?" John guesses.
The tightening of Rodney's shoulders is his answer. Rodney steps through the door towards John, and past him John can see the damage--a clear half-inch of soapy water spreading through the kitchen and determinedly making an effort to soak the hallway carpet, ripples from the filled sink still cascading periodically over the edge of the counter and down, down, down to the floor and everywhere the sharp scent of soap.
"It's nice to see that the kitchen and the laundry room share the same pipes, after all," Johns says, which might have been innocent enough but then Rodney is just... off and running.
"I've tried calling your landlord three times already, but he must still be on vacation and seriously, whoever leaves for the weekend and doesn't have a cell phone clearly needs to be reported to the Better Landlords Bureau, or something, and then I almost called Lorne, for God's sake, because I figured someone who runs his own construction company would know how to make sense of the rat warren of piping that you have in this house, couldn't you have rented some place that didn't look like it was going to fall over at a moment's notice, but then I know I never would have heard the end of it, every damn softball beer night he'd bring it up, and I swear, who'd have thought that one load of laundry would have made our entire house explode and this is why I leave the household chores to you, my brain is clearly more suited to abstract concepts like gravity and acceleration and did I say I'm sorry? I'm sorry."
This ramble lasts long enough for John to pick his way across the kitchen (squish) and to the doorway of the laundry (squishsquish) to see that yeah, there's the culprit: a small pile of wet clothes huddled sadly on top of the washing machine. And it's not even Rodney's laundry, it's their laundry: John can see the curl of fabric that must be one of Rodney's t-shirts, and a tangle that could be one of the horrendous purple socks that Madison had given "Uncle John" last Christmas, and only the flannel blanket that John uses to keep warm while grading papers in the living room is quite that color plaid.
Something that's mostly the hilarity that's ready to burst out of his mouth in big brays of laughter grabs John by the throat and he has to swallow, hard. He knows Rodney would probably be amused about forgetting that the sink had backed up the night before and that John had promised to call the plumber from school, and somewhere in Rodney's email inbox was definitely one that said "R- Plumber at 4. Chinese for dinner? Don't work too hard, J", but the other part of him knows to simply walk (squishsquish) over to Rodney, smooth a hand across his shoulders (feeling them drop a little lower in response) and say, "I'll get the towels from upstairs."
"Franklin's hiding under the bed," Rodney says as some kind of response, which makes John grin, and he's at the stairs when Rodney says, with all the pauses that his rant had been missing, "I just... wanted to do something... nice... for you. You always…" Here he flaps a hand wordlessly, and John feels something else clench his throat, not laughter but joy, a wave of happiness and amazement and an undercurrent of how do I have this? How am I so lucky that I get this?
"You do." John ducks his head, feeling shy and scared and a little bit vulnerable. "For me. I mean, you do nice things for me. A lot."
Rodney's smile is equally shy, but then John can't take it any longer and blurts out, "You have something on your chin!" and then Rodney throws the wet dishtowel he's holding and John has to run for the stairs, pretending not to hear dire threats of further catastrophe as he buries his laughter in the pile of bath towels, in the clean soap-scent of home.