Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Summary: There are worse things John could be caught doing, especially at night.
Notes: This is all crysothemis's fault (even though I really should have been working on something else). It's also completely self-indulgent angst.
Some nights, when John walks into his quarters, he calls out, "Hi Honey, I'm home." He says it with self-deprecation as the lights flicker on to reveal the emptiness; it's clearly a joke. The general consensus is that he's saying it to the city.
Everyone knows he does it, thanks to the Atlantis gossip mill: a couple of years ago, he'd returned from the mainland ahead of schedule, walked into his quarters thinking about how much he wanted a shower, and accidentally said it to Sergeant Azfal and Dr Uduchuku who were half-way through cleaning up the remains of an infestation of wire-eating bugs Lorne's team had inadvertently picked up on P4D-101. They'd both stared at him for a moment, elbow deep in a nest of bug carcasses, and then Azfal had said, "You're home early!" and Uduchuku said, "This isn't what it looks like!" and John had paused, raised an eyebrow at the dead bugs in his sheets and drawled, "There are some things a man should never have to see," before turning and walking off to spend the night in the barracks.
So the legend was born.
After that, he'd been caught a few times by people walking past in the corridor. He can usually hear them snickering until the doors snap shut, cutting them off. He doesn't really care -- it's good for a commanding officer to be seen to have a few little quirks.
There are worse things John could be caught doing, especially at night.
(Nights his team are in the infirmary and he is not.)
Some nights, Keller kicks him out; but usually John forces himself to go before that happens (even though Rodney looks small and pale against the bedsheets, his IV drip, drip, dripping like a countdown to the worst case scenario). Those nights, the distance to his quarters stretches out like the rubber corridors of nightmares, and the silence feels like a weight on John's chest.
"Hi honey," he calls, just to break the silence, already unbuttoning his shirt as he steps inside his quarters. The doors slide shut behind him, and he thinks, lock and privacy, and it's like permission, like a time-out. No one can see him now. "I'm home," he murmurs, one hand paused on his buttons, the other resting against the wall. The panel glows where he touches it.
"You're late," a cranky voice doesn't say. No one is sitting on the couch, wearing just a ratty pair of boxers and snapping closed the lid of a laptop. No one ever has.
John nods in acknowledgement, and wearily finishes unbuttoning his shirt. He pulls it off and drops it into the laundry. "You really need to stop pulling this crap, Rodney. It makes me tetchy."
There's no answer, of course, but John runs his hand over the back of his neck, up into his hair, and scrubs at his scalp. He sighs into the touch and feels a little better. He skins out of the rest of his clothes and goes to have a shower.
The water is warm and patters against his body like fingers; the soap smells familiar -- the standard issue they all use -- and when he closes his eyes he can hear the echoes of breathing.
Afterwards, he crawls into bed, barely dry and still naked -- a rare luxury -- and wedges the pillow longways between him and the wall, so that it stops up the draft that always finds its way under the blankets. He rolls half onto it, because there's not enough room in the bed otherwise; drapes his arm over it. Buries his face in it. Breathes.
"You're an idiot," Rodney doesn't say, not resting his hand on John's nape.
"Yeah," John agrees as he slides into sleep.
He doesn't say back, But I'm your idiot.