After failing to hit the writing track the entire week, I slid in under the wire with a brief sprint. Shin splints! Shin splints! Ow! God, I amuse myself. Ha ha ha ha! *death*
intensification, increase in seriousness, worsening symptoms
Many things about Rodney irritated John. Rodney had a habit of gnawing on the ends of his fingernails and spitting out little chewed-off slivers that was fairly disgusting, even by average guy standards. And he did this anywhere. The only thing that kept John from one day losing it and shooting Rodney was that Teyla never paid it any mind, and then Ronon showed up and joined the team and carved his own nails with a ten-inch knife at the mess table, which redistributed John's irritation. Also he had to admit that Rodney only worried at his nails when distracted--in the normal course of things, he carried nail clippers in his pack, and his grooming was a more elaborate but tidy and socially acceptable display.
He chewed excessively when he ate certain foods--meats and stringy vegetables--and John suspected him of keeping mental tally, either by number of chews, or length of time. One day at lunch, driven by a need to know, he watched Rodney's jaw, counting each set of mechanical movements per bite. Twenty-five per piece of meat, every time.
"What?" Rodney said when he caught John's eye, speaking mid-chew with his current bite tucked into the right side of his cheek.
Rodney didn't even exert the muscles of his face to express disbelief. "My cat wears that same look when it's plotting vengeance on my favorite sneakers."
"Your sneakers are safe." John toyed with his green beans and watched as Rodney neatly cut another piece of chicken and stabbed it into his mouth with perfect aim. He used his fork and knife in the British way, which meant he never had to put them down, and he always cut his meat as he went, which seemed unnatural to John.
"You chew your meat a lot," he heard himself say, violating the unspoken rule of never commenting on the peculiarities of friends.
Not that Rodney took offense. He violated unspoken rules left and right, and usually didn't seem to mind being violated himself. That characteristic went on the pro side of John's Rodney scorecard.
"Yes, you see, I'm planning to be remembered as the brilliant scientist who won his third Nobel at age eighty-five, and not the scientist with great promise who choked to death on reconstituted chicken." Rodney punctuated his statement with Chin Lift Number Five as he mentioned the Nobel.
(One night, bored, John had made a list of Rodney's chin lifts:
- My brain is mightier than your puny ability to comprehend.
- I dare you to say what I just goaded you to say.
- Shut up, I'm having a thought.
- I'm so smug at this moment that I'm about to levitate.
- I believe in myself completely, and with good reason.
- I believe in myself completely, except for this doubt I'm having.
- Lofty matters require my attention, and your puerile wit will not distract me.
- I'm not looking at Teyla's breasts, I'm not looking at Teyla's breasts.
- I just made a remark so tactless that even I'm aware of it, but I'll pretend I'm not.
- I must admit you're not a total moron.
- I'm nervous right now. Please don't hit me.
- This thug is provoking my fear response so I'm going to snap at him with terrified bravado until he shoots me and then John will have to shoot him and drag my bloody, inconvenient carcass to the gate because I'm a lunatic with a death wish.
- I've done a terrible thing. Please forgive me so that we can get back to mocking each other.)
"I know. I checked your first-aid certifications before I joined the team."
"Oh you did, did you?" John notched himself straighter in his chair by a few vertebrae. "You spend a lot of time hacking into classified service records?"
"Please. You think I'm going to entrust my life to someone without knowing their qualifications? What? You looked through mine."
"I'm entitled to, Rodney." Outrage flushed across John's skin, heating the back of his neck and the tips of his ears. He realized he'd made a fist around his fork, and smacked it down on his tray, telling himself it was just the *criminal* unauthorized access of his jacket and the invasion of privacy that pissed him off, and not any kind of hurt feelings about Rodney's initial distrust.
"And I'm entitled to protect myself," Rodney said with a pained frown, as if he didn't understand John's anger. But really, he just didn't want to. For a scientist, he dwelled an awful lot in willful ignorance, sweeping aside anything he preferred not to accept.
"Who else's files have you read?" John stared him down with grim steadiness until Rodney shifted in his chair, an admission of guilt and discomfort.
"Just the people in my department. And anyone assigned to our missions. I mean, some of these people are flying jumpers. Beckett, of course. Most of the nurses. Elizabeth. Um. Kate--Doctor Heightmeyer."
"So basically, everyone."
Guilt was even more apparent now. "Yes," Rodney admitted, not meeting John's eyes. He'd given up on his lunch and was just sitting, shoulders set in a dejected slump, hands doing uneasy twitching things on the table. "You know I'm one of the sysadmins. I have the requisite security clearance."
"With access to classified data granted on a need-to-know basis according to emergency protocols," John said, keeping his tone and gaze even. He managed to grind out the entire reply without pausing for breath. Sometimes it was risky to take a breath around Rodney. Give the man an opening, and you might never get another word in.
"I suppose if I say I needed to know--right, right, don't go there," Rodney said quickly as John's eyes narrowed.
"We apparently need to have a little talk about something called the honor system."
"I thought that's what we were doing now."
John gave him a dangerous look and leaned forward. "No, this talk will take place tomorrow morning on the south roadway during our ten-mile run. Or," he went on reasonably, "we can have it in Elizabeth's office."
"Oh, that's just--blatant blackmail!" Dismay and temper wavered in Rodney's face like an uncertain needle.
"We'll continue our talks on a daily basis for the next month."
Rodney set his mouth, obviously unhappy, and studied John as if trying to determine how serious he was. "Fine," he said at last, sighing a surrender with more grace than John had expected. "Such are the wages of sin."
Knowing this was Rodney's version of an apology, John let the matter rest at that, and picked up his fork to resume examination of his beans. "That's a very healthy attitude." He used a condescending tone, because he could, and enjoyed seeing Rodney twitch and bite back some remark that John would have shot down with a single look.
And then Rodney went off to irritate someone else with his nail-biting and chewing and security violations, leaving John immediately restless and bored. Rising to put his tray in the wash stack, he wondered if Rodney's own first-aid qualifications were up-to-date. It wouldn't hurt to check, maybe refresh his memory on Rodney's most recent CTT scores, start planning some drills--recon, laying ambushes, biohazard response, marksmanship, general fieldcraft.
He left the mess smiling.