Thanks so much for your reviews and comments! This is the second, and final, chapter in this short piece.
In fact, that was the only reason why Carson had cleared him - it was supposed to be your basic "meet the natives, trade, come back" sort of thing, but hey, weren't they all? And he'd been hoping to use the down time they'd normally have on a peaceful mission to talk to Sheppard, and to try to clear the air. But now...a projectile whizzed past him, and he pulled back, the movement exacerbating his new-formed headache.
Squinting against the light, he glanced at the 'gate, so close and yet so far. At least Ronon and Teyla had already made it through. Rodney and Sheppard had been mere steps behind them when Rodney had been tackled by one of the locals. A BIG one of the locals. He'd seen stars when his head had hit the stone floor of the temple, and he'd simply lay there, the world spinning around him as Sheppard had fought off their attackers, then dragged Rodney to safety.
"Hey," Sheppard said, peering into his eyes. "You all right?"
Rodney had a strange sense of déjà vu. Hadn't they been through all this quite recently? Then he noticed that the weapons fire had stopped, and Sheppard had a slight smile on his face. Rodney returned the smile uncertainly. "Comme-ci, comme ça," he answered, lifting a hand, palm up, and wobbling it back and forth slightly. When Sheppard frowned, he said, "Sorry."
"Sorry for what?" Sheppard said, grasping him by the elbow and pulling him to standing.
Rodney stumbled a bit, but the hand at his elbow steadied him. "Sorry for everything," Rodney said. "Sorry for Doranda, and Arcturus, and all that crap." He looked into Sheppard's eyes, blinking to clear his vision. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah," Sheppard said after a brief pause. "Me, too." He frowned, then slipped into his normal, easy smile. "We can talk about all that later. Let's get you to Carson first."
Rodney nodded and stepped towards the 'gate.
It had taken Rodney a couple of days to recover enough that Carson had let him out of the infirmary, and now he was in his room, resting. Well, supposedly resting. Technically resting, because he was sitting on his bed, and that qualified as rest, right? Even if his computer was open on the duvet, and he was playing on the message boards. At least it wasn't work.
He'd just finished explaining to Fluffy that things seemed to have gotten better between him and Sheppard since the mission. The man himself had even visited him in infirmary not once, but twice.
He laughed at one of Fluffy's responses. That girl was damn funny. He really liked her.
Her...Rodney paused, thinking for a moment. He'd assumed that Fluffy was a she, from the name. He shook his head, dispelling his doubts. After all, no self-respecting guy would call themselves "Fluffy."
Anyway, he really liked her. She was funny, and really on the ball, and totally not put off by Rodney's...Rodney-ness. And it had been great getting a woman's perspective on all of this. They were so good at that whole feelings bit.
Before he could think about it, Rodney typed, "So, you want to meet offline? Go for coffee or something? I know this really great place..." He smiled. "We could talk about MST3K."
There was no response. Oh, Jesus, Rodney thought. Crap on a cracker.
When it finally came, Rodney exhaled a breath he hadn't even realised he'd been holding.
"Okay," Fluffy wrote.
He found himself suddenly nervous. "Yeah? Great!" His hands hovered over the keyboard, fingers twitching nervously. He muttered a soft, "Um." Then he typed, "Tonight, 8pm? Mess hall?"
"See you then."
"See you," he replied. Then he said, aloud, "Good lord."
Rodney took some time getting ready. Trying on the third shirt, he realised that he was fussing over nothing. He ripped the shirt off, shrugging into his favourite blue sweater instead, the one that people told him set off his eyes, but he was wearing it because it was comfortable, damn it. It wasn't as if this was a date or anything. It was just a casual meeting between friends. He looked at himself in the mirror, pursing his lips. Oh, who was he kidding? Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was already 8:05. He ran a shaky hand through his hair, rolled his eyes, and headed out.
He stopped in the open doorway of the mess hall when he saw Sheppard there, alone at the table by the window, staring out at the sunset. Sheppard twisted slightly and gave Rodney a vague wave, then turned back to the view.
Rodney grabbed a seat by the door so he could catch whoever entered who seemed to be Fluffy-like. He should have asked her for her hair colour or something, so he'd know who to look for, but he guessed he'd been too damn nervous.
As he waited, he watched Sheppard staring out window at sunset, its light haloing him, softening his features as he sat back in the chair. Rodney could see glints of sunlight highlighting his hair, but the man was turned away, so Rodney couldn't see his eyes.
Sheppard looked good in civilian clothes, a dark shirt and pants, casual but not-too. Rodney rarely saw him so well put together, like he'd actually been paying attention to what he was wearing, trying to show off his best features. Usually the man wore those stupid track jackets and jeans. Tonight he was dressed differently, kind of date clothing.
And then it struck Rodney like a wet brick, and he actually had to physically close his eyes against the revelation. He opened them, looked at John again, then away, anywhere else, at his hands, pulling at the cuticles he'd trimmed so carefully.
Contre crisse. John...Major Sheppard was "Fluffy".
Rodney stood and pushed back his chair in a screech. He didn't look back as he left.
Rodney plunked down on his bed as soon as he got to his room, staring at his computer. The damn thing's screen was glowing in front of him, still displaying the page where he'd last left it; his conversation with Fluffy. John. His conversation with John.
With a shaking hand, he touched the mouse and refreshed the display. Nothing new. So he opened a reply box, heart rising into his throat, unsure of what to say. How in the world could he even start? He closed the box.
He'd never thought...the person had been so damn nice, so helpful. So open. So unlike Sheppard. And he'd thought that...but with JOHN? Not that there was anything WRONG with that. He ran trembling hands through his hair and let his head hang down.
And not that he'd never thought of the possibility, with a guy, but...he'd just never...well, there had been that one time, but that was in COLLEGE, and he'd been drinking. Speaking of which...Rodney reached to shelves above his bed and took down the bottle of vodka he'd won off one of the Polish scientists. Unscrewing the cap, he took a swig and gasped. He took another. The he looked down at the screen.
There was a message there, from Fluffy. "You didn't show?"
Rodney hesitated. He placed the bottle on the table beside the bed and started typing. "I realised that there was something that I needed to ask you. That I should have asked you before we met." He paused, then started again. "I'd just assumed, with your name, that you were..." and he left the rest unsaid, hitting "enter".
After a moment, "Fluffy" typed back, "Oh."
"Oh." Rodney said aloud, typing the same.
"I didn't mean to imply. Anything," Fluffy wrote. Then she sent another message. "It was my sister's pet cat's name."
Rodney smiled slightly. "My fault."
"So, would you still like to meet?"
Rodney read the message twice before he responded, "No." He hit send, and, seeing it come up on the screen, typed, "Yes." When that hit, he typed, "I mean, you'd want, still want to? That'd be all right? Because I was thinking this was sort of a date."
"Yeah," Fluffy wrote. "Yes. I would."
"Oh, okay." Rodney replied.
"Tomorrow, same time, same place?"
"Great," Rodney typed, smiling. "Good. See you then."
It was only when Fluffy logged off that Rodney fully realised what he'd just done. He'd made a date - not just with a man, but with John Sheppard. And as if that weren't bad enough, with the John Sheppard who hated him. Fabulous.
Rodney peered through the window of the mess hall door. He could see John there, at the same table he'd claimed the night before. John was staring out the window into the rain, the light around him muted to soft blues and greys. Unlike last night, when he'd appeared all cool and composed, John looked ruffled, his hands clasped tightly before him, his hair standing on end.
Rodney took a deep breath, opened the door, and let it shut behind him.
John turned to him and nodded. Rodney could read nothing in his eyes.
Rodney shifted, uncomfortable. "Hey, Fluffy."
John's eyes widened. "Rodney?"
John smiled, small at first, then a huge grin that brightened his face. "May I say that I love your name? 'Rock Hardballs,' indeed. Can I take that to mean..."
Rodney returned the smile. "That I'm a huge fan of Mystery Science Theatre?" Rodney relaxed a bit and took a step toward John's table. "Speaking of movies, you ever seen the film, "The Shop Around the Corner?"
John looked puzzled. "No."
Rodney sat down at the table, his chair right next to John's, their legs brushing. He turned slightly and leaned towards John, closing the space between them until their faces were inches apart. Looking up through his lashes, Rodney raised an eyebrow and said, "Maybe you should."
The title, "The Best Laid Plans...", comes from the saying, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry," which is a modern-English translation of something in a Robert Burns poem.
"Comme-ci, comme ça," is French. It could be used in response to an informal question like, "Comment ça va/How's it going?" It means, "Eh, not bad. So-so."
Contre crisse - A slangy Quebec French piece of profanity.
Plot synopsis for "Mystery Science Theater 3000", also known as MST3K: A television show and film in which a space traveler and his smart-ass robots watch and crack-wise about really bad movies like "The Brain that Wouldn't Die!" Sort of a cult classic.
Plot synopsis for "Shop Around the Corner": "Matuschek's" is the gift shop around the corner. Among the staff is Alfred Kralik, a likeable young man who's in love with a woman he has never met and whose name he doesn't even know (their "romance" has been conducted through a post office box). When Klara Novak comes to work as a clerk in the shop, the sparks begin to fly: she and Alfred can't stand each other. Of course, what neither knows is that Klara is the woman Alfred has been romancing through the mail!