Challenge: Number 13 Duel
Summary: John sends Rodney a love letter of sorts...
Author's notes: When pollitt asked me to do the latest artword challenge, I was honored and stoked to be playing in the same sandbox with her. Of course, I came up with an idea that I thought would never ever be able to be rendered artistically. Of course, as is often the case with pollitt, she rose to the challenge and totally blew me away with her implementation of my idea. So this story wouldn't be possible without her because her artwork *is* the story which I kinda think was the point of this challenge. Also when you finish the main story, go check out her deleted scenes and extras. They are pretty damn awesome too.
Art Notes: Thank you to maverick4oz for the playing in the sandbox with me. She has awesome ideas, and I love brainstorming with her and, for this challenge, working with her-- from her idea for the central image for the story to her words and my art coming together to form a whole.
A note about the images: Links to the pictures will open up in a new tab/window. Deleted scenes and bloopers can be found here.
After they got Teyla back safe, sound and with baby Torren in tow, John knew he should report in detail what he had learned from the other Rodney. The Rodney who'd given up his life, given up his life's work, to bring John home. He knew he should casually mention to Rodney that he and Keller had found each other, had even gotten married. But he knew he wouldn't do it. It's not that he didn't begrudge Rodney what happiness he could find. It was just that he knew that the other McKay and the other Keller only got together because they were all that was left of Atlantis. Okay, maybe that wasn't the only reason, but it was the only reason that John could live with. Besides that Rodney had never given up on John, so there was no way in hell he was giving up on his Rodney.
They didn't do hearts and flowers. And the closest either one of them ever got to a declaration of feelings was a stumble and stammer of words that were quickly silenced with fingers and lips. But that didn't mean that they didn't love each other. They were just really bad with talking about it.
That wasn't entirely true, he and Rodney had always spoken the same language, it just didn't involve words.
Which got him to thinking -- neither one of them was a jewelry kind of guy either. If the ugly ring Rodney had picked out for Katie was any indication, that wasn't going to change any time soon. Of course that was something that John didn't like to think about. Rodney proposing, declaring himself to someone who wasn't John.
That was the thing that finally prompted John make his move. Or maybe Rodney made it. He wasn't really clear on that one. One minute they were yelling at each other, as they tended to do after near death and other disasters, and the next Rodney had him pushed up against a wall and was silencing him with a firm and agile tongue. And John... Well he was giving as good as he got.
And from there, there wasn't talk of other women or men. It was quick brushes of hands as they left the mess, a lingering slide of fingers across the small of his back when Rodney left staff meetings for the labs. It was sitting by each other's side in the infirmary waiting for Teyla, Ronon or another team member to wake up, or holding each other close when they didn't. And it was crawling into the same (tiny) bed together at least six nights out of seven. It was waking up to Rodney grumbling about stubble burn and how John's razor sharp hair had attacked him in the middle of the night. It was Rodney's smile against his neck as he said goodnight and shut down into sleep quicker than John had thought possible.
So jewelry wasn't the way to mark their -- okay he could say it, at least to himself -- relationship. So no flowers or jewelry or the like. And chocolate would be lost on McKay, although John would admit to a fondness for the taste of chocolate on Rodney's tongue, more sweet than bitter, just like Rodney himself.
It wasn't until Lorne caught him making paper airplanes in his office when he should have been checking the latest batch of supply requisitions that the idea came to him. He had been folding paper since he was six. He'd broken his leg in a riding accident and his mom had brought a supply of brightly colored paper to his hospital room. They had sat there for hours folding planes, horses, dragons, and more and more complex polyhedra as the weeks went on. Even after he left the hospital he was hooked. He found a sense of peace in how math could be molded and shaped into something you could see and touch. It just made perfect sense to him.
And instinctively, he knew Rodney would get it as well. So he mapped out a plan. It'd been a while since he'd folded anything more complex than a paper airplane, but it came back to him like riding a bike. He started out simple with one his old time favorites, a flick football. He'd gotten into a lot of trouble in school thanks to that one. But there was a pleasure in the way his hands remembered the correct folds. And when he'd flicked it across his office, its flight was almost as perfect as a Doug Flutie pass. Happy with his first attempt, he picked it up off the floor and stuffed it in the pocket of his BDUs. He knew that Rodney probably wouldn't appreciate it, but he was pretty sure Ronon would. Plus, it's kind of like a talisman now, a promise of what he was building for Rodney.
And if he found himself rubbing his thumb across the tight folds of paper in his pocket the next time Rodney ended up in the infirmary, no one is the wiser.
It takes a while for John to figure out how exactly he's going to implement his plan. In the end he decides on a three-prong attack with each polyhedra a bit more complex then the one before. John leaves the first one on Rodney's desk. A simple cube folded from scraps of calculus formulas. On the surface it could mean anything and have been left by anyone. He even takes a little pleasure in listening to Rodney rant about how he needs to give the science department more to do if they have time to slack off and play with paper instead of doing their job. He bites his tongue instead of pointing out that while Rodney is in full rant mode, he still brought the cube back to his room and set in on the little shelf next to his desk.
The mistake most rookies make when it comes to paper folding is thinking that the figures are made from just one sheet of paper. In fact, for most shapes it takes several pieces of paper carefully knitted together. So for his second one, he goes a bit more complex. He blatantly steals one of Rodney's astrophysics journals -- one Rodney's already had the pleasure of marking up with his bright red marker of course -- and separates the pages. John enjoys the process of folding the various pieces needed to complete the polyhedra and lining them up in a row. He has six of them made before he realizes they bear a striking resemblance to old school Earth Replicators. The kid in him wants to play with them, but the havoc that the Pegasus versions played on Atlantis sends a chill down his spine. Instead of abandoning them, he decides they also look an awful lot like a bay full for F-302s.
And if he ruins a few crashing them into each other while making falsetto "Zhoom" noises, there's no one around to call him on it.
When he has assembled all the pieces, he decides to write his declaration along its planes using the language of math. He's surprised he remembers the formula so readily because really who'd have thought love could be written out in a simple mathematical proof. The "happy ending problem" is a bit harder to map out, but John's pretty sure Rodney will get it. He settles for writing out a simple formula and a series of drawings. He strokes his thumb across Love's Equation as he drops the octahedron into Rodney pack after their next mission. He knows Rodney will find it when he goes digging for his leftover MRE.
From the start, he's known what the last object he'd make for Rodney would be--an icosahedron, nicknamed "Spikey" due to its resemblance to the spiked end of a medieval mace. In the greater scheme of mathematics, it's not the most complex polyhedra but it's been John's favorite figure to assemble since he first began folding. It's a monster to put together (and Rodney almost catches him more than once), but once it's done, it's pretty damn impressive. He sneaks into Rodney's room while Rodney's at the lab and sets Spikey down on his hypoallergenic pillow. And while it's not chocolate, John's pretty sure Rodney will know who's responsible for this turndown service. Deciding to let Spikey mostly speak for itself, he just writes three words from Shephard's Conjecture across one of the corners of a spike in the form of a question.
He's lying on his bed with his comic book in hand when Rodney storms into his room. "You know it took me a while to figure it out--which sort of pissed me off because you know, genius here--but I get it now." He shoves John's feet off the bed, twisting John around until he's in a sitting position before he flops down beside him.
John plays dumb. "Get what?"
Rodney pokes John's shoulder with his finger. "Your cryptic folds of paper with their secret messages." He smiles wide and pushes John down onto the bed before climbing on top of him. "Quite ingenious actually. I mean love and happy endings wrapped up and folded into polyhedra."
John doesn't know why, but he feels shy all of a sudden. He closes his eyes and then opens them to look into Rodney's. "Most mathematicians would argue whether or not my designs fit the polyhedron criteria."
Rodney nods in agreement then cups John's face in his hands. "Just like most people don't have a clear cut answer for Shephard's Conjecture, but that's not the point of this exercise is it?"
John can feel Rodney's breath warm against his face. He takes a deep breath and goes for it. "What's the point then?"
"The answer is yes."
John smiles. "Yeah?"
"Yes, you fool," Rodney says before covering John's mouth with his own in a kiss that John could only call reverent.
They don't talk about it again, just fall into bed wrapped tight around each other.
John smiles when he finds the badly folded square inside his boot when he shakes it out the next morning -- two tours in Afghanistan and being turned into a bug make a guy a little cautious before slipping on his boots. He carefully examines the cube and then looks over at Rodney still asleep in his bed. He feels something akin to giddy as he realizes that Rodney made it for him, even though it's obviously a skill Rodney hasn't mastered yet. His fingers automatically go to smooth down the flap on the far side before he realizes something is sticking out of it. He pulls out and unfolds the paper, his fingers suddenly unsteady and his mouth dry.
If John needed proof that Rodney felt the same way, he's holding it right there in the palm of his hand. And that knowledge makes him bold. He carefully sets the cube down onto his bedside table and slides back into bed beside Rodney. He molds himself along Rodney's back and smiles when Rodney scootches closer to him. Rubbing his nose behind Rodney's ear, he nuzzles his hair waking him up.
"What?" Rodney grumbles as he turns in John arms so he's facing him.
They might not need words to explain this thing between them, but John realizes sometimes it's pretty damn great to hear them. "I love you."
Rodney's eyes go wide and then he's smiling more bright than the Atlantis sun and John can't help but smile back. It's then that he understands the answer was always there right in front of him. Love was written on the planes of Rodney's face, the curl of his hand, and in the bends and folds of Rodney's body. It's there in the way their bodies fit together in perfect tandem, two pieces of the same puzzle. He pulls Rodney to him and holds him tight.
John's found his happy ending and there's no way in hell he's ever going to let it go.
- All of the polyhedra (or Sonobes) were folded by pollitt (and it *is* addicting), filmed, and then processed with Photoshop.
- The polyhedra shapes were: a cube (6 pieces of paper), an octahedron (12 pieces of paper), and the Spikey is a stellated icosahedron (30 pieces of paper).
- The astrophysics article that John used was an article pollitt found about white dwarfs.
- The mathematical equations were found at Wolfram MathWorld--Love's Equation, Happy End Problem, and Shephard's Conjecture.