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Steady State (Finding Your Equilibrium Remix)

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On Rodney's desk in his cluttered study, he has a model of a space shuttle, in the back corner next to the MIT mug that holds his stray pens and pencils. The paint of the left wing of the shuttle is chipped from where Rodney dropped it as he was unpacking boxes his freshman year of college, but other than that and the slight fading of the colors, it looks exactly the same as it did when Rodney first made it. He was twelve at the time, and he still remembers sitting at his kitchen table, a jar of paint in hand, sticky summer sweat on his palms, the fan blowing cool air onto the back of his neck.

John sometimes plays with it when he's annoying Rodney as Rodney's trying to work, swooping it back and forth like he's a five year old with a toy airplane. Every time he does, he asks when they're going to do their space episode, the episode where they get to talk about stars and black holes and galaxies. They're three seasons in, and they still haven't done one, even though one of Rodney's Ph.D.s is in astrophysics. Sure, they've touched on light years when talking about the speed of light, planetary motion when discussing gravity, telescopes when showing off lenses, but Rodney demands a re-write every single time Zelenka hands him a new draft of the potential script. It always feels wrong somehow, focusing too heavily in one area or not enough in another, and if Rodney's going to be teaching children (all those potential astrophysicists out there) about the vast, impossibly beautiful universe, he wants to do it right.


On the windowsill in Rodney's bedroom, he has a basil plant, the one the episode used to help demonstrate photosynthesis. It had been early on in the first season, when Rodney had just moved in, and Teyla, his producer, had practically shoved it into his hands. She'd insisted (in the nicest way possible) that his apartment could use some more life, and Rodney had grudgingly agreed and taken the plant home with him.

The plant has become much happier since John moved in. Its leaves had begun to brown at the edges, the buds not looking so hot. But John's become the one who waters it every week, checks to make sure it gets enough sun. John does a lot more gardening than Rodney thought he would. On the weekends, he helps Ms. Brown, who lives on the floor below them, with her flowers in the backyard, getting sweaty and dirty as he pulls weeds and works in the compost from their kitchen into the soil. He really seems to enjoy it, and some Sundays, Rodney will wake up at two in the afternoon to find a daffodil or sunflower in an Erlenmeyer flask on the kitchen table, almost too bright and too cheerful compared to the dull colors of the rest of the room.


Pinned to the corkboard in the kitchen is: a gentle reminder from Elizabeth that Rodney needs to finish his grant proposal for the NSF so that they can get more funding; an outdated copy of Rodney's weekly shopping list; a cut-out newspaper article profiling Rodney and the show. There's a grainy black and white picture that accompanies the piece of Rodney by himself -- lab coat on, beaker in hand -- but the article is mostly praise for John and the way he "brings a youthful enthusiasm to the proceedings, a wonderful counterpoint to McKay's less welcoming attitude."

John stuck it up there the first week he moved in, and he still won't let Rodney throw the article out. It was one of those things, like the dirty socks in his living room, the half-drunk carton of milk in his refrigerator , that made Rodney wonder early on if this co-habitation thing was ever going to work, if he could handle the rest of his life being like this.

These days, though, Rodney just rolls his eyes when he walks by and plots ways to get rid of it without John noticing. (His favorite idea involves a blowtorch, a box of toothpicks, and a visit from his sister, who was quite the pyromaniac back in the day.)


On his dresser, Rodney has a picture of him, Ronon, John, and Teyla deep in a conversation on set. Ronon's their director, the only one, because (a) they have no money and (b) he's the only director who hasn't quit over 'professional differences' within the first three days. Also, the kids love him, crowding around him when he first shows up on set, which makes Rodney sulky and jealous more often than not. But when he gets in one of those moods, Rodney usually tries to comes up with really cool experiments to impress the kids, which just makes John roll his eyes and smirk and say he's glad something good comes out of Rodney's moods.

In the picture, Rodney is glaring at John, arms folded across his chest, but he's leaning forward as well, leaning towards John. Ronon looks bored, and Teyla looks amused, but they all look comfortable, pleased with themselves. It was taken early on in season two, right when John first joined the show, right when they were beginning to find their feet (and when Rodney's feeling particularly honest, he'll admit that there was a reason both those things happened at the same time).

Elizabeth gave John the picture as a present for surviving an entire season at their end-of-season cast party, and he must have been the one who put it on Rodney's dresser while Rodney wasn't paying attention. One day it wasn't there, and then, sometime later, it was. Rodney isn't as bothered by that as he thought he'd be.


On Rodney's bookshelf there is: the entire Dune series (the only ones that count, anyway); Carl Sagan's Cosmos; some book about aviation he's never read; copies of some truly atrocious freshman physics textbooks; the DVD version of Wrath of Khan (which is not supposed to be there, but Rodney's never quite gotten around to moving it, and besides, he knows exactly where it is); an old shoe box full of cards and letters from some of the kids who watch the show. Rodney's not sure why he's kept them all, but he really can't look at the sloppily written words, the awkward drawings in crayon and throw them out. It'd be like kicking a puppy, except worse. So whenever he gets handed a stack of them from Teyla, he brings them home with him, reads each and every one, and shoves them into the shoebox so John can read them later.

Some of the cards are so bland and unenthusiastic, Rodney's positive they must have been the result of some mandatory classroom learning experiment. And some of them display such huge misunderstandings of scientific fact that Rodney despairs of teaching these kids anything. But a few of them have a spark, signs of a truly great scientist peeking out, the potential for greatness if twelve years of schooling doesn't beat it out of them first. Those are the best ones, the ones that make it worth it, and Rodney always writes back to those kids, fumbling over the right words to tell them exactly how amazing they could one day be.


Next to the front door, there's usually a pair of black rain boots with bright red soles right next to the untouched runners that Rodney's sister bought him for Christmas. John still wears the boots to and from work, and he still gets strange looks on the street as he walks the five blocks between Rodney's apartment and the studio. He never seems to mind, though, and Rodney doesn't think he'll ever understand that, because he always wants to shrivel up in shame.

On one of the few days that John had to stay late to be chewed out by Elizabeth, a storm came on fast, the sky going dark, the rain splattering against the windows. Rodney had made it back to the apartment in time, but John hadn't. John was still at the studio, being yelled at for running towards the oil fire in order to help out one of the cameramen while the fire department was on its way. It was still one of the stupidest things Rodney's ever experienced, and he's had to listen to grad students giving thesis proposals. Elizabeth had agreed and sent everyone else home early.

And so Rodney had paced the length of the apartment fifteen times and downed two-and-a-half cups of coffee before John finally showed up in the doorway. He looked like a drowned rat. His normally untameable hair was plastered to his forehead, and his pants were soaked all the way through. "Hey," he said.

Rodney had taken one look at him and shooed him into the nearest chair, leaning over to help him out of his boots one at a time. They were wet and covered in sand and mud from where John must have taken the shortcut through the Grodins' backyard. The dirt and inevitable germs he was getting all over his hands made Rodney grumble a little, but there was something about the feel of rubber, the smell of baby powder, that recalled the sense memory of the very first time he'd ever done this for John. Almost as if he were in that green room again, feeling like an idiot, feeling like John was an idiot, realizing that he had truly disastrously developed a foot fetish.

"Guess it was a good thing that I was preparing for that flood after all," John said, still dripping water on the floor, and Rodney thought of the basil plant in the windowsill, the book on airplanes on his bookcase, the picture of them on his dresser, all the ways he'd become used to having John around. He thought of the episode being with John always made him want to write, about black holes and stars and galaxies.

He pressed his dry lips against John's clammy ones and clutched John's soaking wet hair with his dirty, germ-infested hands and muttered, "Yeah, yeah, fine," against John's mouth and thought that yeah, maybe he was okay with it being just like this for the rest of his life.

 

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