They must be pretty dumb to think Rodney couldn't hear them.
"That Rodney thinks he's so smart but he's such a know it all!"
"Yeah, he's so weird! He doesn't even have any friends!"
"I don't want to be his friend!"
The group dissolved into giggles, a bit too pleased with their joint discrimination. Rodney pulled his lunch box closer to him, giving the passing kids nasty glares. If no one wanted to be his friend then he would make sure it was by choice. A few simpletons weren’t going to take his dignity away from him.
Besides, he was smart enough to move ahead faster than these slackers could even hope. He'd never have to see them again if he worked hard enough. Finally, he’d be able to shine among real talented, mature people. High school, he could already picture it! It was only a matter of time before he’d leave them all behind.
Rodney wasn't sure if these scientists realized he could understand Russian. Maybe they just didn't care. He’d been with them long enough to figure it was probably the latter.
"Wish they'd kept him in America."
"This is by far the worst thing the Stargate Command has ever done to us."
Well, Rodney highly doubted that. Extremists. Now on the other hand, this is the worst thing the Stargate Command has ever done to him. So what, he makes a couple of snide comments in the heat of the moment and they ship him off to this ice box? They just uprooted his life with a single command!
Not that there was much to uproot. No family, and definitely no friends. They didn’t even have to make up a cover story. Rodney had no life outside of his work, so he made it really easy for them to take everything away from him. Send him to the coldest, loneliest place he'd ever known. Ironic, considering he was constantly working around other people. Not that people ever really made him feel very comfortable.
It didn't really matter to him much. Not anymore. He understood where and when he was wanted, which was scarce. Worked out for him, since he's never had much of a use for people. But really, the least they could do is talk quieter. Or when he wasn't in the same room as them, less than three feet away. At least the bureaucrats back at the SCG had let him take his cat with him.
There was something refreshing about a fresh start. Well, mostly fresh.
New galaxy, new opportunities, new people. But old rumors and familiar faces still surfaced. At this point Rodney was a pro at ignoring them.
Everyone had their theory about why he was so "bitter". Why he was so grumpy all the time, why he never ate with anyone else, why he was so obsessed with his work. The most popular one floating around was that he had "mommy and daddy issues". How original. He didn't care. Why should he care what they decided his great problem in life was? No one took the time to get to know him or ask him themselves, not that he really wanted them to.
Like he said, he was perfectly content as is.
Perfectly content until a certain fly boy sat across from him in the mess hall.
"Can I help you?" Rodney glowered over at him.
Major Sheppard sat, digging into his chicken with zeal, not paying Rodney any attention. Until the silence drew out, making him look up and around with confusion. His gaze landed on Rodney’s irritable one, suddenly realizing Rodney’s interrogation was directed at him.
"Not unless you have an extra pudding, no," He said slowly, drawing out his vowels way longer than he needed to. And yet still not understanding what exactly Rodney was getting at.
"Even if I did have one, it wouldn't go to you, O Oblivious One."
"Ouch, I thought we were supposed to be a team."
To his credit, he managed to look truly offended. But Rodney had been down this road before, the old "pretend we're friends but oh ha ha ha Rodney really fell for it!". He wasn't as naïve as he'd been back then.
"Look, just quit while you're ahead. I don't want any part of," he waved his hands in irritation at the intruder, "whatever you're trying to do."
"We're a team now whether you like it or not, so expect to see a lot more of me."
Rodney squinted at him.
"Is that a threat?"
John shrugged and stood with a stretch.
"Now that, that depends on how you want to take it.”
His face settled into a glare.
A threat, then.
Rodney had to admit it didn't take as long as he would've liked to warm up to John. He was funny, suave, and challenged Rodney in ways he didn't know he needed to be challenged. And with John came Teyla and Ford. They weren't quite as comfortable as John, and they didn't seem to like Rodney as much, but he never caught them saying anything bad behind his back. For the first time in his life he had some semblance of friends. Yet, he couldn't get comfortable. He was still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
No one liked hanging around Rodney for fun. Rodney didn't even like hanging around Rodney for fun. But John...John would just show up in his quarters and drag him off to "movie night” or "team meetings", which was like what he imagined a so called sleepover to be. Why would he go out of his way to include Rodney? It didn't make sense, and Rodney didn't like that he couldn't figure it out.
He had to put an end to it.
"Why are you doing this?" Rodney snapped, as his door slid open to reveal, shocker, John Sheppard.
John's eyebrows knit together, and he leaned against the door frame.
"What am I doing?"
It drove him absolutely nuts about how collected John could be, especially with him! Everybody on base had a hell of a time working with Rodney. Zelenka resorted to cursing in Czech, Carson locked him out of the infirmary, and he got on Elizabeth’s nerves constantly!
"This!" Rodney threw his hands up in exasperation. "All of this! Why do you keep insisting that I come to your, your movie nights and your so called team meetings where nothing important ever happens, or making us all sit together at lunch! Why do any of it?"
John simply watched Rodney explode. Watched him pace around the room waving his hands wildly in frustration. The slightest hint of a smile could only be detected if Rodney looked right at him, which he avoided as much as he could.
"Nobody wants me around that much, not to watch movies with, not to grab a cold one, and especially not for a team! I mean, why didn’t you choose Zelenka or one of the more agreeable scientists, they're way better team material and more pleasant to work with out in the field, I know that much!”
The half smirk fell from John’s face, and he stood up straighter in the doorway. He took a hesitant step into the room as Rodney continued ranting on.
“You don’t think I know everybody in this city would rather get scooped up by a dart than work with me? No, I’ve heard it all, in English, in Russian, definitely in Czech too, and it’s all the same - I don’t need anyone to spell it out for me, and you…”
As suddenly as his rant began, it ended just the same. There was silence as Rodney practically shut down, dropping onto the edge of his bed. John watched him from the doorway, as he wrapped his arms around his middle, practically folding in on himself. He spoke in an impossibly quiet voice, so quiet John almost missed it.
“No one like you should want to put up with me. I just don’t understand what you could possibly be getting out of this."
He sounded tired. Tired from fighting. Tired from keeping his walls up. Tired from wondering if someone could actually want him. Just, tired.
He heard John's boots clomp against the floor as he crossed the room. The bed dipped next to Rodney.
No, he wasn't going turn. He didn't want to know what John was thinking. He was always right about these kinds of things and he just couldn’t. Not with John. Oddly enough, John didn't look at him when he sat down. Or make a move to say anything. Instead, he tapped his fingers restlessly on the bed frame and jogged his leg, like he had too many thoughts bouncing around and couldn't get them all out. As annoying as it was, at least he wasn’t talking. It just so happened that Rodney was a fan of not talking.
Nope, that was a bold faced lie. As the silence drew out, John’s constant moving got more and more irritating. Finally, Rodney couldn’t take it anymore.
“Just spit it out already!” Rodney snapped, throwing his hands up in exasperation.
Confusion was clear as day on John’s face.
“I don’t know, whatever you want to say!”
“Well I don’t know what I want to say, what do you want me to say?”
Rodney dragged a hand down his face, resisting the urge to scream. At this point, he was starting to believe John was actually this dumb. He took a measured breath to explain himself, but John beat him to it.
“Let me guess,” John began, interrupting Rodney’s irritated train of thought, “you want me to tell you that you were right, that I’m only pretending to like being around you and that I’m just like everyone else.”
“See, was that so hard?” Rodney folded his arms across his chest in a huff.
He wished he had a stronger bond with Atlantis, he could picture her waking up to shove John out into the corridor. Probably slamming the door for emphasis. But unfortunately, his bond with Atlantis was just like his bond with any human. Practically nonexistent.
It was still a pleasant daydream.
“Well, you’re wrong.”
Rodney’s head whipped back just in time to see John shrug nonchalantly. He squinted.
“I’m never wrong. Especially about things like this.”
“This time you are.”
In a huff, Rodney folded his arms across his chest. None of this made sense. If this was still a charade, then John was a sick, sadistic bastard. But, as pessimistic as he was, he didn’t think John could… would keep it up for this long. He was just as lost as he was when this whole thing began. John looked over at him, a mix between disappointment and exasperation on his face.
“Listen, I’m sorry no one ever took the time to try to know you,” John started, voice soft in the silence.Rodney scowled.
With a good natured eye roll, John reached over and took one of Rodney’s hands in his own. The scowl fell off of Rodney’s face.
look forward to hanging out and getting to know the real you, and believe it or not, I genuinely like you, Rodney."
It wasn't anything big, and it didn't have to be. John's eyes were so sincere, so caring as he spoke, that Rodney didn't know how he could've missed it. The silence drew out longer than what's probably considered a normal amount of time following something like that, and a look of realization dawned on John's face, along with a bit of a blush.
"I mean, well, we all do," He let go of Rodney's hand to awkwardly scratch his neck, and continued, "Me, Teyla, Ford, we all do, I didn't mean to imply...I mean not that, I just-"
He cut himself off, the red on his cheeks turning a couple shades darker. Rodney folded his arms across his chest, barely suppressing a smirk."I'm not good at this, okay?" John lamented, throwing his hands in the air.
With an eye roll, Rodney stood up. A smile spread across his face, and it was the first carefree smile he'd ever given someone in a long time.
"You're plenty good at this," he assured with a smile, offering John a hand to stand up. "Do you want to go grab lunch?"John grinned back, his eyes twinkling almost mischievously, and reached up to take it.
John pressed his lips into a thin line out of irritation, but mostly to keep from laughing. He smirked and snatched Rodney's hand back to pull himself up.
"Hey, I'm just asking!"
"I never said 'love'."
"Yeah, but you implied it."
They glared at each other for a bit, before cracking into a grin.
"So, lunch for four?"
John still had Rodney's hand, and didn't seem too inclined to give it back.
"You know, I think I'm good with it just being for two."