Rodney sat up in bed, sheets pooled in his lap, and contemplated the sleeping form beside him. The hour was late, and it was mostly dark save for just a bit of moonlight giving items in the room not swathed in shadow a silvery sheen.
It had been weeks, but things were still wrong between Rodney and John. They still went on missions together, ate together, slept together, but there was a distance between them that Rodney couldn’t quantify or breach, an invisible chasm bridged by the appearance of normalcy. But it was all for show. Rodney could feel it.
He’d lost everything that mattered after Doranda.
Elizabeth was deferring to Radek more than she ever had in the past, and the Marines were always eye-balling him like he might be a suicide bomber. The science staff had been more understanding, at least. They knew what it was like to get so caught up in the work that nothing else registered.
Rodney stared at John’s pointy elf ear, his head the only part of him not covered by the bedsheets, and felt an overwhelming sense of loss that made tears prickle at his eyes. He’d had something great and he screwed it up, and he couldn’t keep pretending everything was fine when it wasn’t.
“Thinking too loud,” John muttered.
“Oh. Sorry.” Rodney slid out of bed and hunted around for his clothes.
“What are you doing? It’s the middle of the night.” John sat up and scrubbed his hands over his face. The cowlicks always gave him epic bedhead. “Come back to bed.”
“What’s the point?” Rodney asked, sighing. He held his shirt in one hand. “We both know it’s over.”
John’s eyes gleamed in the moonlight, but the shadows made it hard for Rodney to get a good read of his expression. He could’ve turned on the lights with just a thought, but this type of conversation was better had in the dark.
“What’s over?” There was a wariness to the question that told Rodney they were already on the same page.
“This. Us. You and me.” Rodney gestured between them with his free hand. “I’ve done everything I know how to win back your trust, but I don’t think I can.”
“I’m not blaming you. I know how bad it was, what I did. I know I went too far.”
Collins had died. Most of a galaxy had been blown up, and Rodney knew they’d never be sure if it was really uninhabited or not; intelligent life didn’t always present as bi-pedal and carbon-based, they’d learned that early on. The scope of the destruction Rodney had wrought was staggering, but a part of him felt he’d make the same choice to try and fix Arcturus if he had to do it over again. Beating back the Wraith was always the priority.
John was right not to trust him.
“So that’s it? Things hit a rough patch and you bail?”
Rodney bristled at the criticism. “Have you ever heard the phrase ‘beating a dead horse’?”
John got out of bed and went to stand by the window. He was still naked – Rodney didn’t feel comfortable sleeping without at least his boxers on – and the sight of his tight ass bathed in moonlight was almost enough to get Rodney to change his mind. But good sex couldn’t save a doomed relationship. Something else he’d had to learn the hard way.
"It's not you," John said.
“What’s not me?” Rodney had to fight the urge to move closer. If he touched John now he wasn’t sure he’d be strong enough to leave.
“You just…You make me so crazy! I want to believe you can do anything, fix anything, but you’re not a god, Rodney. And I can’t trust myself not to get blinded by your brilliance at the cost of our lives.” John rested his forehead on the window, arms wrapped around himself.
Rodney dropped his shirt back on the floor. He’d never heard John talk like that before. He was normally very reticent, especially about what was going on in that spiky head of his.
“That sounds like it’s still about me.”
“Everything is about you. That’s the problem.”
Rodney nodded. Elizabeth had called him selfish, told him to give his ego a rest. “I don’t know how to be anything else, John. I can’t be the person everyone else wants me to be.”
That would always be his biggest failure. He was confident in his work. Over-confident, maybe, depending on the situation. But the work was something he understood on the deepest possible level. He was comfortable there. People were harder to understand, harder to anticipate, which was why he never really bothered cultivating close relationships. At least not until he traveled across a galaxy. And still he couldn’t get it right.
“You’re not listening,” John said, and he sounded frustrated. “You never…You’re my fixed point.”
He turned to look at Rodney, desperation clear on his face, and suddenly Rodney understood what John was trying to say. Maybe he couldn’t fix everything – and that was only a maybe – but there was one thing he could. The most important thing.
Rodney walked across the room with deliberation. He got right up into John’s personal space, cupped John’s face in his hands, and kissed him. It was apology and absolution, a promise made, and when John wrapped his arms around Rodney and pulled him close, it was the only declaration either of them needed.
“I can’t be what everyone wants,” Rodney murmured, his forehead pressed against John’s. “I’m just a man, John. The smartest man, of course, but still just a man. Maybe I can be what you need.”
John huffed out a laugh and pressed a kiss to Rodney’s temple. “I’ll try to remember that. If you try and trust my judgement when I tell you something’s a lost cause.”
“I’ll try,” Rodney replied honestly. “I really will.”
John led him back to bed and they curled up together, arms and legs in a tangle. Rodney knew there was still work to be done, repairs to be made, but things felt different now. Better.
It was hard admitting he had limitations, but he wasn’t going to be responsible for more lives lost. He had to work smarter, had to see the whole picture instead of just the individual pieces of it.
He had to trust John to keep him from making the same mistakes.
“Go to sleep,” John said softly.
Rodney closed his eyes, ready to start fresh in the morning, and fell asleep wrapped in John’s arms.