helpwess called me sometime last week, and I told her about a thought I had had. You know, about Rodney. Rodney and a small piece of fanon re: John and pop culture.
These things just happen, okay? And I didn't have anyone beta it, because I worried they might forsake me forever.
we don't need roads
John poked his head into Rodney's lab a little nervously. The mission hadn't been dangerous, but it had certainly been pretty miserable— mostly because the Aun-ral villagers had refused to let Rodney enter their demesne. And when Rodney had furiously demanded a reason, the village elder had gestured to Rodney's head with an imperious wave.
"Your hair," the man pronounced. "Not enough."
John had expected angry tirades and protestations, but Rodney's face had gone blank and unreadable, and then he had turned and just started walking away.
"McKay!" John had called after him, embarrassed on Rodney's behalf.
"I'll see you back at the gate," Rodney had tossed over his shoulder, and all in all, John wasn't surprised to see Rodney listlessly poking at his laptop six hours later.
"Hey, McKay," John finally said, sauntering in to lean against the lab bench. "What are you doing?"
Rodney shrugged. "Double checking the work they did on the stabilization software while we were gone."
"Right. Well, if you aren't too busy, Ronon and Teyla said they might join me for a movie tonight. You in?"
Rodney looked up at him, his expression slightly less glum. "Huh, that might be kind of fun."
Encouraged by Rodney's almost-smile, John figured he hadn't been all that upset after all. And okay, it was an old joke, but John went for it anyway. "Yeah, I was thinking Back to the Future. Whaddya think?"
John never saw a lot of things coming, not just people trying to make out with him. But this— Rodney's expression falling, twisting into one of genuine hurt, just for a second— that was really unexpected.
"That's really funny, Colonel," Rodney said, his voice low and miserable. "You three have fun." And then he went back to work, ignoring all of John's come on, I was just kidding's and stop being such a drama queen's.
Finally, John gave up, almost as pissed at himself as he was at Rodney, because really— what the hell had just happened?
It was a few months later when another one of Jeannie's bizarre care packages arrived on the Daedalus. They tended to be one part candy, one part science and one part sisterly insults. Rodney was paging through some of the physics journals when John found an envelope full of old snapshots. "What are these?" he asked, but Rodney just rolled his eyes.
"Neighborhood kids, some ridiculous family reunion pictures. I didn't bother to look through all of them— she just sends them because she's worried I'll forget what normal, non-alien-fighting people look like."
John grinned, then started looking for adolescent Rodney in earnest, although he wasn't having much luck. It looked like a lot of awkward shots of fashion-challenged aunts and a bunch of kids in a snow fort— the kind of pictures which are really only mildly interesting if you know the people in them.
And then, at the bottom of the pile, John found a picture that seemed— oddly familiar, somehow.
It was a teenage Rodney, all right— cheekbones and big blue eyes under curly hair. But he didn't look like the science nerd John had seen in other batches from Jeannie's seemingly endless supply of photos. Rodney was dressed in a puffy orange vest and blue jeans, and he was holding— of all things— a skateboard. He was grinning at the camera, and standing beside an older guy— skinny, with a labcoat and a mop of fluffy white hair.
John had another hit of déjâ vu, and then he flipped the picture over.
In faded blue ink was the inscription:
For a second, John almost started to crow about Rodney being a complete fucking hypocrite, because what— it was okay for him and his friend to dress up as characters from Back to the Future, but John wasn't allowed to like the damn movie?
But then John remembered something— he had seen that movie three times in the theatre. And it had come out in 1985.
For a second, he figured he was just having a run of the mill nervous breakdown, and that was fine. But before handing himself over to Heightmeyer, he decided to try one thing.
"What?" Rodney answered, still scribbling in the margins of the journal he was holding.
And then he froze, his breath hitching. "Did you just say—"
John handed over the picture. Rodney looked down at it, his face exhausted and miserable.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" John hissed.
And then Rodney threw up.
John helped Rodney clean up, because, okay, maybe there was a more tactful way to ask someone about his obviously upsetting (though cinematically lucrative) past.
But when Rodney was finally settled with a glass of water and some aspirin, John put a hand on his arm and said, "McKay. Seriously."
Rodney sighed. "Jeannie had trouble saying Meredith."
"You know, kids can struggle with "th" sounds. And "Meredi" just turns into Marty. And that was what people called me.
"And McKay became McFly because..."
Rodney smiled wanly. "Doc started calling me that after he saw me doing jumps on my skateboard."
John needed a second. "You. On a skateboard."
Rodney nodded slightly.
"And so— okay, you're telling me that as a teenager you actually traveled back in time— in a Delorean with a flux capacitor— and almost made out with your mom?"
"Fuck you," Rodney said, suddenly furious. "No, I did not. They thought the mom thing would be so cute for the movie, no matter that my mom would hardly look at me for two years because she didn't believe that it hadn't come from me. The "flux capacitor" was typical Hollywood bullshit to help them cover up the fact that I was all but hauled off to Gitmo for having any part in it, for getting into something I could hardly understand at the time and then not having the decency to properly forget the details. I can't believe Jeannie even still has that photo, because I thought the CIA had done a more thorough job of destroying all the evidence." He was starting to turn hysterical, and John grabbed both his hands, trying to calm him down.
"Whoa, buddy, okay, I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
"You don't understand," Rodney ground out. "Bad enough the government found out— but when they figured out that I was the same kid who had built a nuclear bomb in grade six, do you think they were willing to believe that time travel in a stupid looking car was just another accident? God, the things they did to me-- the things they did to him—"
John swallowed. "Who?"
"Dr. Emmett Brown," Rodney answered, his voice shaking. "You don't think we really had further adventures in the wild west together, do you? That was a greedy studio capitalizing on a money-making franchise. There was no "Biff," no stupid old timey school dance where I sand songs with a cool band. Just me and Doc, trying to do science. We never dared to interact with a single person in the past— we knew better. Of course we knew better— but try telling an anonymous government interrogator that. Try telling those people you were in it for the physics."
“I get it, I get it. But Rodney—why was the CIA involved in the first place? I mean, it can’t be so easy to get jurisdiction in Canada—"
Rodney smiled humorlessly. "Right, they pay a lot of attention to those sorts of rules when they think terrorists are destroying the time-space continuum. I don't know if Canada even bothered to object, to tell you the truth. Probably thought it wouldn't be polite."
Rodney slumped back against the pillows of his bed. "Yeah."
At first, when Rodney had started to explain, John had definitely felt the urge to run around the base shouting, "MY BEST FRIEND IS MARTY MCFLY," just like old times. But looking at Rodney's defeated expression, his trembling hands, John felt kind of like a total asshole.
"Coming here— it's the first time I've been out from under their microscope since I was a teenager. They couldn't very well keep me from coming— not when they had been exploiting me for my theories of interstellar travel ever since they discovered there was no way of keeping me from coming up with them. Plus— well."
John frowned at Rodney's flushed cheeks. "What?"
"They never really let me have friends, so that's nice."
"Let you have friends? How could they keep you from making—"
Rodney shuddered. "I'd rather not talk about it, if you don't mind."
John had never seen that sort of dark terror in Rodney's eyes, and he hated it already. "Well, yeah, friends are great. Ronon, Teyla, Elizabeth— they all care about you a lot."
Rodney looked at him for a second. "You don't put yourself on that list?"
John shrugged, unsure. "Not exactly."
Rodney pulled his hand out of John's grasp, his eyes going cold. "Well then, it's a good thing I told you all my secrets, wouldn't want to waste those on someone who's actually a friend—"
"Rodney, no," John said, shifting closer. "That isn't what I meant."
"Then what did you mean?"
Rodney had told John everything, and it would be totally chickenshit not to do the same in return. "Well— just— this." He leaned in, wrapping his hands around Rodney's shoulders and finally, finally, tasting his mouth. He felt his own breath coming quicker as he pressed against Rodney's solid body, smelled his skin, bit at his tongue. "This," he gasped out, shuddering when Rodney kissed him back.
It was perfect, perfect— but then Rodney pulled back, his expression unsure. "This isn't because I'm...him?"
John shook his head and smiled fondly, running his knuckles up Rodney's side. "Nah. Michael J. Fox never did much for me. You, on the other hand—" he cut himself off by brushing his mouth against Rodney's fluttering pulse.
And if there was a part of his brain shouting MY BOYFRIEND IS MARTY MCFLY, then maybe Rodney didn't have to know about that right away.