Pairing: McShep, established relationship
Spoilers: Series 4 and 5 in general
Summary: A little follow on to These childish things. John and Rodney are baby sitting again. Well, kind of.
This went somewhere more angsty than I thought it would but I think it was probably what I intended without knowing it.
John leaned against the wall just around the corner from where Rodney was working and settled in to listen. It wasn't really eavesdropping, not really. There was some sort of rule, upheld by the Supreme Court he was certain, which said that when one of the parties still had baby teeth and the other was McKay it was compulsory to sneakily listen to all conversations.
“Auntie Jenny says that it'll grow back in a monf,” Torren was saying.
“Yes, yes. I'm sure she's right,” Rodney answered, his voice strained. “But can you put your sock back on so I don't have to look at it?”
Ah, the black toenail. It had been a constant source of angst for Rodney since Torren had first injured himself. It wasn't Rodney's fault the boy had hurt himself, but it made him feel queasy every time Torren showed it him, and Torren, of course, insisted on showing off his 'war wounds' as often as possible.
“It doesn't hurt Uncle Rodney. Not like when I burneded my finger,” Torren explained. “That really hurt. Even Uncle Ronon would have cried then.”
“Well, Ronon isn't silly enough to try to pull an ungrounded crystal out of his door controls,” Rodney said, sounding kind rather than annoyed. John was kind of jealous because Rodney didn't use his 'talking to morons voice', the one that John got whenever he screwed up.
“I was just trying to help,” the little boy protested seriously.
“I know, but we've talked about this haven't we?” Rodney pointed out gently, something the scientists who reported to him would never have believed. “You can only help when I'm actually there, otherwise I'll have to treat to like all the idiots the SGC send me and take your tools away.”
“Uncle Ronon would have just blasted it with his gun, wouldn't he?”
“Yes he probably would have,” Rodney agreed, sounding a little aggrieved but John didn't know if it was the thought of Ronon blasting open locked doors or Torren's telling-off-avoidance change of subject.
There was silence for a while, punctuated by the sounds of Rodney pulling crystals and testing them, and John wondered if Torren was staring at his 'Uncle' with the same rapt attention he always seemed to reserve for the scientist.
“Yes,” Rodney answered, his voice wary because Torren sounded like he was going to ask one of 'those' questions.
John lived in dread of them and had developed all kinds of tactics for escaping as soon as Torren's face took on the serious expression that meant he was pondering the imponderables of the universe and expected his uncles to be able to answer his questions. Rodney, never quite as observant of people's body language, except perhaps John's, usually found himself fielding the increasingly frightening questions after turning round and finding John suddenly absent. John knew he should feel guilty about his behavior, and some part of him did, but he also knew he wasn't going to stop doing it.
“Are you and Uncle John going to get married?”
There's was a clatter that was probably Rodney dropping his tools and a choking noise like he'd inhaled something more solid than air. John hoped to god he wasn't choking to death because he'd have to rush round there and save him, and right now he was intensely glad he wasn't going to have to field this question.
“What?” Rodney finally squeaked.
“Will you and Uncle John get married? Like Uncle Ronon and Auntie Melia did?” Torren explained patiently, clearly convinced Rodney was hard of hearing or a little dense. Possibly both.
“No Torren, I don't think we will.”
John felt a stab of something in his chest. He hadn't thought about getting married, they were happy as they were, but still, the finality in Rodney's voice hurt more than he'd ever thought it could. Maybe, probably, they never would have taken that step but having it there was, well, something.
“Don't you love Uncle John?” Torren asked, sounding part confused, part aghast. John felt the same.
“Of course I love John,” Rodney snapped, before continuing in a soft, almost surprised voice. “I love him more than anything else in the world.”
John felt his eyes prickle, which was stupid. Rodney had told him he loved him to his face enough times, John had even managed to say it back on a few occasions, but hearing him tell someone else, hearing how much he obviously meant it, was something he'd never expected and it caught him unawares.
“Mom says that's when two people get married,” Torren persisted, sounding like he was getting frustrated and a little upset with Rodney's answers.
“Sometimes it not as simple as that,” Rodney explained, and continued after a long pause because Torren was probably looking at him like he was a crazy person. “Sometimes people don't want to get married, even though they love each other.”
“Maybe you should ask your mother about this,” Rodney said, his voice sounding tired and a little sad.
“She won't know why you don't want to get married though,” Torren whined, because he knew he usually got his own way when he did. At least with his uncles.
“I think she could have a good guess.”
Rodney's statement followed a snorted laugh and it dripped with something that sounded like bitter irony to John. He had no idea why Rodney sounded so sad when it was him who'd decided that they weren't going to ever get married in the first place.
“I think you should ask him,” stated Torren, certain he was right.
“If I thought for one minute he'd say yes, I'd go and do it right now.”
John couldn't catch his breath because there was a something like a black hole in his chest swallowing up all the air. How could Rodney think that? That John didn't worship the ground he walked on, that he wouldn't give up everything to be with him. How could he have been carrying round all this sadness and not given John even a hint of it?
“But he kisses you. That means he loves you. Mommy said.”
“I know,” Rodney agreed softly, lifting some of the weight in John's chest. “But he was married before and it didn't work out. I don't think he wants to risk that again.”
Oh Jesus. John thought he might be sick. Rodney was the best thing that had ever happened to him and he'd kind of assumed, without really giving it any thought at all, that Rodney knew that. He realized with a sudden, frightening clarity that the only reason he hadn't destroyed this relationship like all the others in his past was because Rodney, for some reason, was willing to accept less.
“Don't be sad Uncle Rodney,” the little boy said, his voice sounding muffled as though he was hugging him.
“I'm not Torren, I'm not. I love John very much and we're happy. We're just not going to get married.”
John took a deep breath, held it and then blew it out. He was, for once in his life, going to say what he felt even if he thought he might be sick. He kind of wished Torren wasn't there, that he could make an idiot of himself without more of an audience than Rodney, but he knew if he walked away he'd struggle to make himself say anything and then the unspoken words would eat away at what they had. He was an idiot, but not that much of an idiot.
He stepped round the corner.
The title is from this verse by Pamela Glenconner.
Bitter are the tears of a child: Sweeten them.
Deep are the thoughts of a child: Quiet them.
Sharp is the grief of a child: Take it from him.
Soft is the heart of a child: Do not harden it.