John can get used to most things. His whole adult life has been an exercise in adapting to change, and too often not for the better. So he tells himself that he can get used to the hastily averted curious stares and the barely concealed – sometimes not concealed at all – smiles that that are currently following him around. He doesn't like them, but he can get used to them. He's done it before, after all.
He asked Nancy once, right after they got engaged, just why all the women they knew seemed to suddenly be smiling so much.
Nancy had eyed him uncertainly for a moment, almost as if she were wondering whether he was joking. "They're happy for us," she said at last, as though it was obvious.
John had shaken his head. "No, that's not it. They seem so… They keep looking at me!" He wasn't imagining it. They did keep looking at him, more than at Nancy, which he didn't get at all. Weren't weddings meant to be all about the bride? Apparently, nobody had bothered to tell Nancy's friends that.
Nancy smiled then, and that smile was even more unnerving than all the others. "Of course they're looking at you. They always have. But they can't have you. You're mine." She laughed happily and wriggled in to make space for herself under his arm, resting her head against his shoulder.
John squirmed, and tried very hard not to feel like a prize pig at the county fair.
"No, it's different now. Since we made the announcement, it's different."
Nancy looked up at him, no longer smiling. "This is really getting to you, isn't it?"
Nancy kept looking at him, eyebrows raised now.
"Yeah, maybe. I just don't get it," John admitted, sounding maybe just a little sullen now. How did she always end up making him feel like she was the adult and he was the child?
Nancy's face took on a thoughtful look then. It was a look he'd already learned to be wary of. "I guess…" she said slowly, "I guess it's just that women like seeing men in love, even if they're in love with someone else. It makes you seem more…" And then she stopped, and wouldn't go on, no matter how hard John tried to get the rest of it out of her.
He hasn't thought of that time of his life in years; he tries very hard not to think about Nancy at all. But now people – women– keep staring at him in just the same way as they did then, and smiling not-so-secret smiles. It's mostly the female scientists, but more than once he finds himself casting a suspicious eye at the carefully bland expressions on the faces of some of his female officers.
The only thing as bad as the random smiles from women passing him in the corridors is the smirks on the faces of his own friends. Ronon's wicked grin isn't something he can stand for long. It just gets wider when John starts eyeing the nearest escape route from their table in the mess, or makes some excuse to cut short their latest sparring session at the gym. John privately admits to being a coward, and flees.
He lets out a deep breath when he makes it back to his quarters without further incident, closing his eyes for a long, quiet moment as he hears the doors shush together behind him. He's more relieved than he cares to admit at finally having the first day behind him. He takes a step toward the bed and curses as his feet tangle in something lying on the floor. He staggers and just barely stops himself from ending up sprawled on his ass. The traffic hazard turns out to be a pair of blue boxers, faded and threadbare, but not his own. He tosses them into the laundry chute as he passes it on his way across the room.
He can get used to this, too. It's nothing like living with Nancy, at least so far. It's got that much in its favour.
John flops down on the bed and grabs a comic book from the pile on the nightstand. Some people might call them graphic novels. In fact, some people do call them graphic novels, and at the top of their voices, but they'll always be comic books to him.
It's nearing midnight when the doors open again and Rodney walks in: late, but nothing like as late as John's known him to work on plenty of other nights. Some of those nights went on for days.
John looks up over the top of his comic book, and suddenly he doesn't know what to say. Which is ridiculous, because it's only Rodney, after all. Rodney, who's walked in through those doors without bothering to knock dozens, even hundreds, of times over the past six years. Once, not so long ago, it would have been easy. Once, John would have said something without having to spend a second's thought on it first, most probably something ironic about Rodney getting home early.
"You're home early," he says, but the comment isn't ironic, as it would have been even less than a year ago. Maybe even less than a week ago. Because Rodney is early, at least by his own unique standards, and this… As of today, this is Rodney's home.
Rodney's standing in the middle of the room, shoulders tensed, his stance radiating uncertainty and self-consciousness. "Yeah, I finished the… thing. That I was working on. And so I thought…" His voice trails off, and he rubs the palm of his hand awkwardly against his ear.
"Good," John says, and, in his second less than heroic act of the day, ducks back behind his comic.
"I'll just be…" Rodney waves a hand in the direction of the bathroom, still apparently incapable of forming a complete sentence.
John hunches even further behind his paper shield and concentrates very hard on not noticing Rodney walking past. This is probably why he's genuinely surprised when the mattress dips beside him, and suddenly Rodney's face is where the comic book just was, bare inches from John's face.
"This is really, really stupid," Rodney declares.
John eyes him warily.
"I'm anything but stupid," Rodney begins.
"Yeah, I think I got that, sometime before we left Earth the first time. Before we even left Antarctica," John adds, for absolute accuracy. Six years with Rodney on his team have left their mark on him.
Rodney ignores him. "And you're not stupid either, all pretences to the contrary."
"Yes," John says carefully, and tries hard not to make it obvious that he's inching toward the edge of the bed. "I mean no. Maybe. What?"
Rodney just looks at him. With his eyebrows raised and arms folded like that, he's the picture of determination.
"So?" John tries.
"So, I didn't do this just so we could stand here with half a room between us and attempt to make excruciating small talk as though we don't know each other at all."
"Hey, it wasn't that bad!" John says, feeling suddenly indignant. He'd managed an entire sentence at least.
"Excruciating," Rodney says firmly. And then he leans in and captures John's lips in a kiss before John can say another word.
John's always been defenceless in the face of Rodney's kisses, right since the very first, totally unexpected one happened last year. They're strong and uncompromising, just like the rest of Rodney, and they leave John feeling helpless. He never thought until then that there was such a thing as feeling helpless in a good way. But he does, always, the instant their lips meet. Helpless to stop himself, or Rodney, even in the days when the rules said he never should have let it happen in the first place. Helpless to bring himself to care about doing anything but matching Rodney, kiss for kiss, of letting the desperate hunger for taste and touch and the sheer overwhelming want take them over until there's nothing else left.
It never takes them long to reach that point.
Rodney draws back, panting a little, leaving John sprawled back against the pillows. Rodney's a little red in the face, and there's a tuft of hair sticking up on top of his head like a tiny bird's crest. Rodney isn't conventionally good-looking. John knows that Rodney's painfully aware of that fact. And yet, looking at him now, taking in all the mundane, ordinary little details that go with all the rest that makes up the man, John finds himself feeling helpless once again.
Mine. The word echoes in his head, but it's not Nancy's voice saying it. Not this time.
"What?" Rodney says. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Just some ketchup on your face," John says hastily. He rubs at an imaginary spot on Rodney's chin, and that somehow turns into a long, possessive stroke along Rodney's jaw that ends with John's hand cupping the side of Rodney's face. He can't hold back the small, satisfied noise that sounds deep in his throat as Rodney leans into the caress.
Mine, John thinks again as he takes Rodney's face between both hands and draws him in for the next round of kisses. He hopes with every fibre of his being that he never gets used to this.