It hadn't taken him and Radek too long to restore power but getting the computers up and back on the proper programs was time-delaying to say the least and Rodney had decided that if he was going to have to deal with kids in his lab he would need some rules. To that end he had left Radek in charge and made the small trek over to the Arts and Crafts building in hopes of finding Jeannie. He knocked on the half open door and stuck his head in.
"Hi, Mer, what's up?"
"I, uh, had a run-in with Kavanagh."
She winced, "Ouch, I'm sorry. So what happened? Oh, he didn't say anything about, you know…" She waved a hand in what would have been a vague gesture if Rodney hadn't already seen it many times. It was her 'is it too rude to just say gay?' gesture.
"What? Gay. You can say it you know."
She shrugged apologetically.
"Wait a minute. Why would he say something like that? How would he even know?"
Jeannie sighed, "Well, I don't think he really does. There was an incident and apparently John didn't want to say anything about it at lunch because he didn't know how you would react to Kavanaugh being brought up again but Aiden got into a bit of a fight this morning with him about it. Kavanagh had insinuated that you were John's newest 'boy toy' and Aiden was attempting to stand up for him, or something like that."
"Why couldn't John stand up for himself…wait, John's…" Rodney made the same vague gesture Jeannie had made only moments before.
She sighed and rolled her eyes, "Jesus Mer, you just don't do subtle at all do you? I've been practically pushing you too together since the moment you met. We all have."
"And John doesn't stand up for himself. Anyone else and he'll go above and beyond but himself? I don't think he thinks he deserves it." She looked a little sad.
"Oh." He bit his lip and shuffled his feet awkwardly for a minute.
"Yes, yes, well he tampered with some wiring he shouldn't have, almost set the place on fire, and then insulted foreign mechanical standards so I kicked him out."
"Ah, and you would be here because…?"
"Oh, yes, that. Well I was hoping I could have some of that big butcher paper so I could make a list of rules for the lab."
They started rolling out a big swath of the wide paper, "So. Ah, John is… And you were, ah…"
"What? Gay. You can say it you know."
He just glared.
"Yes. And you too would be so good together, you just don't see it yet. He was really looking forward to meeting you."
"You know he's sorry, right? He didn't mean it the way it sounded."
Rodney sighed, "Yes, well, I'm beginning to get that impression. Carson thinks I should forgive and forget."
Jeannie smirked, "He's a smart guy, that Carson."
Rodney rolled his eyes, "Yes, yes, great guy. Perfect. Can we get back to my guy?"
"You're just jealous I got there first."
"Yes, yes, hot boyfriend, blah, blah, blah. Now, you were saying?"
Jeannie was rifling through drawers and pulling out markers and the like, "just give him a chance, ok?"
"Well, I'm gonna be stuck here for a while anyways so I might as well settle for the hot gay guy that just so happens to like me. It will be such a hardship, I'm sure."
She giggled but gave him a pointed look.
He chewed his lip but answered honestly, "yes, ok, I will let him back into my good graces and promise to think about the rest. Happy?"
"You have no idea," Jeannie deadpanned.
"Good. 'Cause I need to get back to the lab and make sure none of the little rugrats have blown the place up again."
John. John is gay. John likes him. Well, Jeannie implied that John likes him, or would at least be open to the possibility. Was it really possible? That John could like him. Nobody liked him. Not really. Rodney thought hard about that bit, though, because as of yesterday he thinks he might not be totally correct on that one.
Assuming John did like him, does he like John? The answer to that had probably changed since yesterday, too. So if he gives John a blank slate then he kinda has to be willing to see how this goes, right? It's not like he has any other offers. Jeannie said John was looking forward to meeting him. Rodney isn't good at this kind of thing but if that was John's idea of making a move it probably isn't a good idea to wait for another try on John's part. That could be dangerous. But now that he had decided it was best for him to make the next move he was lost again. How the hell do most people manage to initiate relationships without killing themselves? 'Cause he was pretty sure he was well on his way to giving himself a stroke just thinking about it.
He has some serious issues.
"Rodney?" Radek poked his shoulder.
Rodney blinked, bringing the room back into focus.
"You look ill. Are you alright?"
"What? Oh, yeah. Just contemplating the way I have gone from a nonexistent love life to something out of a seventh-grader's diary."
"Ah, John is not so good with the talking thing?"
Rodney scowled, "What? No! I mean…what do you know about it?"
Radek waved away the question, "whole camp knows. What do you plan on doing?"
"What?" Rodney squeaked then stumbled on, "The whole camp? I haven't even seen him except for lunch. I didn't even know he, you know, might be inclined to like me, like that, until 20 minutes ago!"
"Is small camp. Gossip travels. Now, what are you planning to do?"
"'Gossip travels'? That's it? You haven't left the building, what are you? Psychic?"
Radek raised an eyebrow at him but didn't offer any other explanation and waited for him.
"Alright, fine. Well, I can't wait for him, 'cause god knows that turned out sooo well last time, but I'm rubbish at this kind of thing. Starting a relationship is such hard work."
"It is my experience that the good ones don't need work to start, they just come together on their own."
"Your experience? You're sixteen. What experience?"
Radek just smiled and shrugged. Rodney narrowed his eyes.
"If it is meant to happen it will, yes?"
"Oh, now that's just stupid."
Radek started walking away, "get back to work, Rodney," he said, but it sounded fond.
Rodney hadn't gotten much done the rest of the day. He also hadn't yet managed to work out what was happening with John. So, all in all, he was really quite grateful when dinner time rolled around he was able to shoo the campers out of the building and follow them to the cafeteria. Food was good. There was no chance of over-thinking about food, he could just eat.
Unfortunately he ended up squashed next to John again which, considering his inner turmoil, did nothing help him reach any well thought out conclusions about the enigma next to him.
"So where do you wanna take the first team tomorrow?" John was asking Ronon.
Rodney was only half listening but at that he had to butt in, "AT-1? What the hell kinda name is that? And what teams?" He kind of remembered something about teams on his list of campers but hadn't paid any attention as it wasn't required knowledge at the moment.
Ronon raised an eyebrow at Rodney, looked pointedly at John, and proceeded have an eating contest. With himself. At least that's what it looked like to Rodney.
"The whole camp gets divided up into teams that they have to work with and will eventually face the other camps with during challenges. The Wraith Boot Camp to the south, Genii Tech Camp to the north, and The Asuran Summer Camp to the west, but they mostly just copy whatever we do and there is a big championship at the end of the summer.
"Experience and skill move you up the ranks. The new campers start on the bottom. On AT-5. Me and Ronon, we take a team out every weekday afternoon. AT stands for Atlantis Team, and the number is their rank. AT-1 is our most experienced team."
"Oh. Who's on AT-1?"
"This year? Lorne, Cadman, Keller, Ford, Halling, and Zelenka."
"Ford? Really? But isn't he, like, 5 years younger than the rest of them?"
John laughed, "yeah. He may not look like it but he knows what he's doing, and it never hurts to have someone small and fearless on your side."
"Huh. And they all work together on challenges?"
Before Rodney could ask any more questions a loud whistle echoed around the crowded cafeteria and silence fell. The graying guy from breakfast was standing at the front of the room, he took his fingers from the corners of his mouth and smiled, waving Elizabeth to the front.
"Thank you. I'd like to say welcome to everyone, and in the case of our returning campers, welcome back. We're a bit on the small side this year but that only means we'll all get to know each other that much better.
You probably remember me from this morning but I'll introduce myself again. My name is Elizabeth and I'm the administrator directly responsible for all of you. This," she gestured toward the man, "is Jack."
"He is my boss, the general administrator for the whole camp. You'll probably see him around quite often. If you have any problems or concerns that your counselor cannot solve or you do not feel comfortable discussing with them please feel free to come to one of us. Both our offices as well as our living quarters are located just upstairs," Rodney had kind of been wondering where the non-counselors were sleeping, "though I'm sure we are much more likely to be around the camp most times. This brings me to the rest of your counselors. Would you all stand up, please?"
Rodney scrambled to stand up with the rest.
"Would you all mind telling us your names and your post here? Why don't you start Carson?"
"Alright, then. My name's Carson and I am the Healthcare Professional here, in charge of the Infirmary."
They went counter-clockwise from there, "Jeannie. I'm the Arts and Crafts instructor and the Counselor for Cabin 1."
"Sam, Head Counselor and in charge of Cabin 3."
"Ronon, Outdoors Survival, Cabin 5."
"Teyla, I'm the Sports Organizer and Trainer, as well as Counselor for Cabin 2."
"John, Outdoors Survival Lead and Counselor for Cabin 4."
Rodney had been watching the sea of increasingly familiar faces as the others introduced themselves. He noticed all the smiles, the slight waves. Aiden had practically jumped up and down waving at John, no matter that they had just seen each other. He noticed John's pleased smile as he was trying to keep a straight face for his introduction. His campers where the youngest group of boys and Rodney would rather chew off his own hand than have to deal with a bunch of 8-10 year old boys but John seemed to deal quite well with them, aside from the whole Kavanagh thing but Rodney was over holding that against him, and what was that saying about kids and animals? If someone's good with them they can't be that bad. Looks like he really is stuck with this guy for the summer.
John elbowed him lightly in the side and cleared his throat. Rodney realized it was his turn and hurried say his lines, "Um, Rodney, I'm the Science instructor and Counselor for Cabin 6."
Elizabeth smiled understandingly at him, "thank you all, now I will let Jack have a word with you."
The counselors were sitting back down as Jack moved toward the front, switching places with Elizabeth.
He surveyed his audience and smirked, "who wants to play a game?"
The kids erupted into exclamations and applause.
"Ok, then, why don't you lot finish up here and we'll all meet out at the main field in half an hour. I'll explain the rules there."
The next half hour went by fast as Rodney finished the last of his meal and assisted in rounding up campers. In no time at all everyone was gathered just off the main path watching Jack as he explained the rules to those who were new or needed the reminder.
It sounded like capture the flag to Rodney, only Jack described it being played with more teams and combining a component of hide and seek. Apparently the whole camp was within limits.
"So do you want to play as teams, by cabin, or something else?" Jack asked the group as a whole.
Ford shouted out, "boys against girls!" with a challenging look at Maddie, who raised her eyebrows and smirked in a way Rodney recognized all too well from past years with Jeannie. Part 'I pity your ignorance' and part 'you are so on'. The rest of the camp cheered enthusiastically.
Jack smiled, "Alrighty then, but the numbers are a little off. Do you want any help, girls?"
There was no doubt left in Rodney's mind that they did not as they all booed and yelled.
Jeannie spoke up placating, "now, now, what if we just borrowed a couple of the counselors? Would that be alright?"
The girls nodded their begrudging agreement.
This was apparently a common problem because Carson and John immediately moved over to stand next to Jeannie.
"Ok, now that that's settled, here're your flags, pick a base, and you can start in 5 minutes. Elizabeth and I will be watching so no cheating, understood? Counselors, check your watches, the game ends at 9 regardless. Go!"
Evan, Radek, and Aiden lead the way off in the direction of the woods behind the main building. They were conversing in serious tones, Ronon listening in from just behind them. Rodney trailed near the back of the group looking on worriedly, he didn't do sports very well and he really hoped the trend of those four leading and him getting to stay out of it continued.
They made their base up against the side of the building, Rodney supposed that way they wouldn't have to watch their backs, and everyone crowded around as Evan began to lay out the plan he had worked up with Radek and Aiden's help.
As it turned out Rodney spent most of the game just following Ronon around. Not that that was in any way easy, but it did mean he wasn't on his own so he was mostly happy.
As happy as one could be while creeping through overgrown forest trying to be stealthy enough not to earn reproachful looks from Sasquatch all for the sake of something that was supposed to be fun.
He quickly learned that the counselors stayed out of the main action for the most part, though he and Ronon did 'capture' John once. And he totally had helped. Causing a distraction by tripping over a root was absolutely, completely, part of the plan.
It didn't take the girls long to mount a counterattack to free John and the other two captured girls. Amelia and Jennifer had been brought in by a group consisting of Evan, Aiden, Halling, Markham and Stackhouse. They had set up an elaborate trap to capture the girls, in the hopes of dwindling their numbers, though they only managed to capture the two. A good amount of boys were hanging around the base, Ronon and Rodney among them because they had just brought in John, when there was something that looked suspiciously like a small explosion just a little ways off into the woods.
Several of the newer boys cautiously ventured away to get a closer look but as Rodney was moving to do the same Ronon grabbed the back of his shirt.
"It's a trap. Cadman."
Rodney tried to remember who that was. He turned to Ronon with wide eyes, "Laura, she, what, was that really a bomb?!"
Ronon shrugged but glared at the trees looking for signs of activity. Right. Distraction. They were probably expecting everyone to go running toward the big bang.
Ronon had them all in an outward facing semi-circle, only one of them keeping a close watch on the 'prisoners', on the lookout for movement. Every now and then Rodney would spot a face or a limb but they all stayed well away and never attempted to near the base any more than they already were.
About the time Rodney was starting to wonder whether an attack was ever really going to happen Evan trampled out from the foliage and asked sharply, "Hey, what happened to the prisoners?"
They spent a good five minutes trying to figure out how the 'prisoners' had escaped right under their noses and disappeared along with their guard before someone looked up and noticed the paper with big sharpie letters taped to the window on the second floor above their heads.
It said 'that was too easy, boys.'
So that was how they had lost five of their number and their captives without even seeing their attackers. At least they didn't get the boy's flag. Rodney really wished they had, at least this would be over with.
The counter-counterattack gained the boys back some of their people and earned themselves a few new captives but was, all things considered, a big disappointment.
The sun was getting particularly low in the horizon when he lost Ronon. He didn't know how but the guy seemed to have the ability to vanish into thin air. That was the only explanation; Rodney was most definitely paying attention this time. Rodney was making his way back to the relative safety of the base when he heard John yell, "Now!" And Maddie dropped from the trees onto him while four other giggling girls swarmed him.
When Rodney could see past all the hair flying in front of his eyes he looked up from his position on his back to see John's smiling face framed by the pinkish sky.
"Alrighty, let's get him back to the base, eh?"
He sputtered indignantly at John while eager little hands reached out to help him to his feet then steer him through the forest.
"Was that really necessary? I'm covered with dirt and, Yuck! Oh, god there was a caterpillar in my hair! I'm gonna get some strange bug-borne disease and die a slow horrible death and it will be all your fault." He flicked the bug at John.
John flapped his hands frantically and jumped out of the way, "don't do that! God." He shivered.
Rodney laughed, "you're afraid of bugs? You practically live outside."
John glared, "I had a bad experience."
Rodney snorted, "I'm sure. What happened?"
"I had. A bad. Experience."
But they were back at the base and Rodney let John off with just rolling his eyes as the girls pushed him toward the group of boys who were being held 'captive'.
John gave him a big smile and a wave as he trotted off after the group of girls again.
Rodney glanced around, there were about twelve other boys in 'jail'. He grumbled to Carson, who was sitting with some of the girls watching their captives, as he sat with them, "great, this is what my life has come to, playing prisoner in a game of Capture the Flag that is being taken way to seriously."
He was still in 'jail' when they heard Jack's whistle blow in the distance. Rodney looked at his watch, "thank god. Nine o'clock everyone, game's over, lets go."
Everyone made their way slowly back to the field, despite the startling ferocity of the game everyone was instantly laughing and joking with each other again. Rodney stomped over to where Jeannie, Carson, and John were standing.
"Whoever decided that children should play outdoors needs to be shot. I think I'm getting a rash from the grass, for god's sake. And you, don't look at me like that," he scowled at John's smirk.
"You had fun."
"Fun? Of all the possible things in all the world that could be considered fun I can assure you this evening was nowhere near being on the list."
Jack was dismissing the campers, telling them that lights out was in an hour and that they had all better be tucked in or else. Nobody bothered to ask "or else what?" The sandy-haired guy from breakfast was waiting at the edge of the field and wandered over to Jack as he shooed the kids back to their cabins.
"John, why don't you show Rodney the lake, Carson and I will make sure the kids behave."
"That's not nec…"
"Yeah, sounds great, Rodney?"
Stupid meddling sisters and their stupid overly helpful not-quite-boyfriends. Not that Rodney was opposed to spending time with John he just really wanted to not be outside anymore playing buffet to a ravenous horde of mosquitoes. He voiced his opinion on the latter.
"I can take care of that," John said, and of course he could. They waved good-bye to Jeannie and Carson and Rodney followed John back toward the main building. They turned down the path to the activities cabins.
"Ah, where're we going?"
"Just getting some supplies. Here."
John opened the door to the Outdoors Survival Cabin and picked through a few piles of stuff in the dark.
"Here, spray this on."
Rodney took the can of bug spray and stepped outside to dowse himself. When he came back he was already complaining vocally about the smell. John just smirked some more and tucked a blanket under his arm.
Rodney continued to follow John as he lead the way down a small path, taking a short cut rather than go all the way back through camp. Then he suddenly stood aside and Rodney looked up to see a crystal clear little lake surrounded by trees and reflecting the sky as it shifted quickly from deep purple to a star studded blue-black.
"Wow," he breathed.
"Yeah, it's really something, huh," John replied, just as quietly.
They made their way to a tiny beach just barely big enough for John to lay out the blanket and for them to sit back on it, side by side.
"So, ah, how'd you end up here?"
John raised an eyebrow.
"At Atlantis, I mean. It's not like they offer this job to just anyone, right, so what makes you so special. Not that, well, you know…" he trailed off pleadingly.
John chuckled, "yeah, I know. I don't really know how I ended up here. I was always on the move, did just about everything, and then one spring I was working as a tour guide for a whitewater rafting company and someone there knew Elizabeth and one thing lead to another and suddenly I had a job offer."
"Always on the move?"
"Yeah. It's just easier not to stay in one place to long, you know?"
He didn't but, "sure, so why did you come back, then?"
John bit his lip and shrugged, "I guess it's the closest I have to a home."
"Oh," was about all Rodney could think of in response to that, "but, ah, what about your parents? I mean, if you don't want to talk about it, and I understand not liking your parents, really, but at least I have Jeannie. I mean family's something, right?"
John grimaced, "not when they've disowned you."
"What? They disowned you? What did you do? Oh my god, you're not one of those child psychopaths, are you? Where they send you away to some mental institution but can't keep you after you turn eighteen."
John laughed, "relax Rodney, I'm not about to murder you or anything."
"Oh, yes, well. Then what…?"
There was a long silence where Rodney feared he may have asked too much but John heaved a huge sigh and nodded, "Ok, yeah," he said to himself.
His face was blank and he didn't look at Rodney when he spoke, "I guess it all started with Nancy. I think we were going out for, like, three years at the time. It was one of those things where you're in the same crowd and people just seem to think you belong together so you go along with it, you know?"
"Well, we hadn't really done anything, I mean, her dad was strict and kinda religious and she was just one of those girls who just doesn't consider sex as anything you do if you don't have to, you know. She was kinda uptight, I guess. But anyway, there was also this boy who lived next door. He was a few years older than me and one day he came by and one thing lead to another and, ah, she walked in on me trying to give my first blow job."
Rodney sucked in a breath, "wow."
"Yeah, that didn't go over too well."
"How old were you?"
"Yeah, I know. Anyway, she made a big fuss and everyone found out. Her dad petitioned the school to have me thrown out. It was one of those fancy private ones, you know, and he had a lot of power there so they just went along with what he wanted. And my dad tried to kick me out. I actually think he was more disappointed in me for ruining the family reputation than with my turning out gay. My mom made him let me stay, though. But after the school kicked me out I got my GED right away, I could have graduated so much earlier if my dad had let me, anyway."
"You only have a GED? No offence, but I thought they only hired really smart people here."
"You didn't let me finish. I couldn't stand it there anymore so I moved out, went to school. It took longer than it should have to get my degree 'cause I moved three times, but by the time I was eighteen I had a degree in Applied Mathematics from MIT. Then I enlisted in the Air Force. I had always wanted to fly and I think I thought that maybe my dad would be proud if I did this. Just before I had to leave for basic my mom died, breast cancer, so I went home for the funeral. Big mistake. That's when my dad decided I was too much trouble and disowned me. Maybe it was the whole living back in the closet thing or maybe I just couldn't handle the military after that, but the Air Force didn't last long. Less than a year later and I was gone. I haven't been in one place for more than a few months since then, it's been almost five years since I had a 'home'. Not until Atlantis, that is."
"What do you do during the rest of the year?"
"Well, me and Ronon hop from one job to another. Mostly tour guides. Anything outdoors, really. I still keep a pilot's license so we get to do some really cool things. We've even visited Teyla a few times. Her family owns a big studio, Athos, where they teach yoga and martial arts type things. They're great. Let us stay whenever we want to."
"He's someone to have around, you know? And we do well together."
"Huh. Did you two ever…" Rodney waved a hand.
"What? God, no. Not that he's not good looking, but he's so not my type. And besides, he's totally straight."
"What about you."
"I'm not straight."
He struggled for breath, "no, sorry, not, that's not what I meant."
"How'd you end up here?"
"I think you know most of that, right."
"Sure, I guess, but why'd you come?"
Rodney shrugged, "I guess I just wanted to try something different. Not be the same looser geek shut-in for the rest of my life. I don't usually take chances with people but Jeannie has always been able to make me do things I wouldn't normally do. Don't ever tell her I said this but she's usually right about this kind of thing. Don't get me wrong, advancing the field of physics as we know it is fascinating, but, well…"
"I guess I was hoping to find something here. God, that sounds so stupid."
"No. I'm glad you came."
Rodney looked at John, this wanderer who had found a home here. He wanted that so badly. Not just the feeling of rightness while he was holed up in a lab somewhere, a home. With family. John had found that here, maybe he could too. Maybe Jeannie was right and John was meant to be a part of it. He could totally do this. Like Radek said, just let it happen, right?
Rodney leaned closer, John's eyes opened in surprise but he inched forward.
"I think I am, too," Rodney whispered over John's lips before closing the distance.
A/N: This was written for the experience of setting up a 'verse and as an 'End of the Summer' challenge on LJ, it has purposely been left wide open so that anyone can write one-shots for the summer. I will most likely have some myself. Please feel free to join in.