Happy Birthday anyway hon!
Title: Hegira - Part One
Word Count: 2,308
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue, no offense, no money.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine
Summary: “Yes you did,” John said in a low voice, staring out the front window. “You were all caught up in the excitement of rescuing someone and now, weeks later, you’ve realised that maybe you know nothing about me.”
At the beginning of all things, there is only you and me
He was sleeping.
Rodney was propped up on one elbow, watching John from his own bed. That was John’s rule. Apart from their fevered lovemaking, they never shared the same bed. He supposed he could understand. When John was asleep, it was obvious he was something other than human. Most of the time they both indulged in selective denial, but they couldn't in this one thing.
John lay on his side, one fist in front of his face, the other resting just under his chin. His legs were curled so his knees almost touched his neck. There was no rhythmic rise and fall of his shoulders, no small sleep sounds. There wasn't even the slightest ticking beneath the pale skin of his neck that would betray a pulse beneath. Lying on the bed, he resembled a child's doll, cast aside after a long day at play.
Rodney got up from his own small, cramped motel bed that smelled faintly of other people’s sweat. He dropped into the only chair in the motel room and picked up a battered science journal four years out of date he had been trying to skim. After re-reading the same paragraph three times he put it back down and looked at John again.
John didn't know that sometimes Rodney watched like this.
Rodney supposed what he did was closer to study. He assumed John would never know. During the daylight hours, John would not wake for anything, even if Rodney went to his bed and shook him. There were a couple of times they had had to vacate the places they had been staying in quickly and with no forewarning. Rodney had tried to rouse John the first time. He had learned to simply scoop John into his arms and do the best he could after that.
It wasn’t hard considering John was nothing but a lean veneer of muscle stretched over bone, and lighter still than he probably should have been for all that.
Rodney was no closer to knowing exactly what John was. During the day, left to his own devices and thoughts, he worried that this was because some small part of him didn’t really want to know. Being with John was made easier with ignorance. Everything became muted and unimportant and the world lost its colour when he wasn't in it. Rodney knew it was corny but he couldn't explain it better. Nothing in his life made sense any longer, except John’s place in it, and the fierce need to protect what and who John was.
He stood, crossed to John’s bed and sank down on it. He moved a hand underneath the single, scratchy sheet and brushed fingers over John’s chest. Underneath the smattering of hair, it was smooth and perfect... and cold. Almost like marble. He moved his hand and splayed his fingers slightly off-centre where he should have been able to feel the steady thump of a heartbeat and the rhythmic rise and fall of the chest beneath his palm.
There was nothing.
Rodney lost count of the number of times he had thought John wouldn't wake up in the morning, but he always did. Goose flesh rose on Rodney’s arm and he realised that touching John was leeching the warmth from his skin.
The only thing he was sure of was that John seemed unchangeable. John sometimes cut his skin or his hair, saying that he wanted to try something different, give himself character. The cuts healed fast, the hair grew back even faster. The first time John had shaved his head and had woken up the next day with the same damn cowlick, he hadn’t said a word, simply stalked into the bathroom and slammed the door and hadn’t emerged for three hours.
The sun had gone down while he was lost in thought and when Rodney looked at John again, green eyes were slitted open, searching Rodney’s face, trying to capture a stray thought.
"You sleep like the dead," Rodney deadpanned.
"Very funny," John sighed.
Rodney had had a good job, but curiosity had always been his downfall. He’d been subcontracting for a slightly sinister sounding acronym, the NID, when he’d learned that there was a project he wasn’t involved in.
When he’d asked, his employers had assured him that it was strictly medical and he should just stick to the technology they brought to him, but Rodney didn’t strictly buy that. All the confidentiality agreements in the world wouldn’t stop him dreaming of the papers he would one day write and the Nobels he would win, and Rodney wasn’t about to let some medical experiment they were conducting at the same time dwarf his achievements.
The reality hadn’t seemed to be as exciting as he had built up in his mind. When he started digging, at first it looked as if the other project was a kind of performance enhancing drug, probably Rodney supposed, in an attempt to breed a new kind of super-soldier. That’s how those things usually went. There had been a falling out with the lead researcher who had resigned and that had effectively stalled the project.
Rodney had stopped looking because it had all seemed so boring and he had figured that what with the new device he had been given that those that handed it over claimed would be an anti-gravity device when he could figure out how to get it working properly and then backwards engineer it, he would soon be running his own research department and no other project would come close.
Of course, once you opened Pandora’s Box, it was a bitch to get closed again.
What he lacked in skill, he made up for in gusto.
This, at least, was what Rodney told himself about John’s over-enthusiastic rendition of ‘Ninety-Nine Red Balloons’. He supposed it probably didn’t help that John didn’t speak a word of German, the language the eighties tune’s real vocalist was singing in. The two fugitives had scraped enough money together to purchase a beat-up Volvo from a small garage. Rodney suspected that the car might die just outside the city limits.
John had bare feet propped up on the dashboard in front of him and he was thoroughly enjoying the ride, or at least looked like he was. Rodney sometimes forgot that John had spent at least three years in a tiny room, the outside of which he only saw when they were either testing him or operating on him.
Rodney’s eyes ticked to John, off the road he was driving down for a few moments, and regarded him briefly. He was slouched down low in the seat with his arms behind his head and his feet tapping along to the music. The day was relatively cool but John insisted on the car windows being all the way down.
Rodney could understand.
How can he be a killer?
The thought rose unbidden and Rodney nearly lost his grip on the wheel. He tore his gaze away from John and focused back on the road before him, wondering just where the idea had come from. How, he wondered, did his subconscious look at the seemingly relaxed man across from him and even suspect for a second that it was a possibility.
The fact remained that it was a possibility.
He had always known, somewhere in the depths of his mind that perhaps he was getting a little over his head when he’d made the decision he had. He only had the vaguest detail gleaned from the files he was able to get into about John and the whole project. On the way out of the underground complex that Rodney had been working in and John had been held in, there were a couple of times where they’d met resistance and John had dealt with it, pushing Rodney around a corner or through a door or one time onto an elevator so he had never actually seen what happened.
Did he have a trigger?
What Rodney knew about medical experimentation on soldiers he'd only really picked up from the movies and this had all seemed another stratosphere beyond whatever he’d seen in Universal Soldier.
The song drew to a close and John looked across at Rodney with a disappointed grunt. Something slow and monotonous came on the radio that he couldn’t even pretend to know the words to. He folded his arms across his chest and slumped further down in the seat, his feet creeping higher on the dash. He reached a hand across to curl his fingers in the hair at the nape of Rodney’s neck, breaking him out of his reverie and making him flinch sideways. John pulled his hand away as if scalded and regarded Rodney with hurt eyes.
“Sorry. I was miles away,” Rodney mumbled in way of apology but he could see from the look on John’s face that he didn’t really buy it.
“That’s not it. You’ve had time to dwell on something and that’s always bad, because you’ve realised it’s something that bothers you,” John accused gently, having experienced the very same thing with Rodney before. Rodney pulled the car over to the side of the road and cut the engine.
“Uh oh, this is more serious than I thought,” John opined, half-joking. The tremble in his voice betrayed his worry, however.
“Do you remember what they did to you? What they were doing it for?” he asked. John blinked at him in surprise, completely lost for words. Rodney knew that he should have checked his second-thoughts at the door when deciding to make off with the NID’s primary experiment, but he was only human and his doubts and guilt had a way of creeping up on him all at once.
“We’ve been through this. What do you think I haven’t told you?” John prompted.
“I never got even a hint while at the NID of another of… you. That’s weird right? I guess it took me a while to process it, what with everything that’s been happening. It kinda just caught up with me.” He’d dropped his eyes to his lap where his hands were twining nervously. John reached forward and gripped his chin in his hand and forced his eyes to meet John’s.
“Are you scared of me Rodney? Because if you are, then we have a big problem.”
“You were human once, weren’t you? With a family and a life and everything?”
“Ofcourse, I –“ John’s confirmation died on his lips. “I don’t know,” he admitted shakily.
“You’ve never said… how it happened. I don’t know what you are, or what you were. I don’t even know how old you really are. I guess I took a lot on faith and it’s finally hit me that faith isn’t enough sometimes.”
“I’m not sure what you want me to say here, Rodney,” John said, his tone tired. He scrubbed and hand over his face and rolled his head on his neck.
“Maybe there’ll be a time when you can’t…control what you’re doing. We don’t know what being out of that place will do to you. Maybe there were drugs you needed to take or something else to keep you functioning.”
John grinned wryly. “I’m not a robot, I’m a person. I don’t need anything to keep me functioning.”
“You were a person,” Rodney blurted and then coloured a deep red to the roots of his hair. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-“
“Yes you did,” John said in a low voice, staring out the front window. “You were all caught up in the excitement of rescuing someone and now, weeks later, you’ve realised that maybe you know nothing about me.”
Rodney blinked for a second and then clapped John on the shoulder. “No I don’t, but someone does!” he crowed triumphantly, wrenching the car key so hard that he almost snapped it off in the ignition and then swinging the Volvo in a wide arc across four lanes of traffic and a divider, sparks flying as the belly of the car scraped concrete.
“Rodney, what?” John demanded, holding onto the door strap and looking at Rodney with wide eyes as a passing motorist bleated their horn loud and long.
“The lead researcher, the man on your project for two and a half years before he left. I need a phone.”
The man in the aviator sunglasses sighed heavily when a package turned up on his doorstep. It was a single A4 sized standard yellow envelope with nothing printed or written on it. They were always so careful.
He reached into his front jeans pocket and pulled free a Swiss army knife, flicking open the smallest blade and sliding it between the lip of the envelope and the bottom. Inside there was a stack of pages bound together with a bulldog clip, a couple of photographs and what looked like a staff badge.
He looked at the staff badge for a second, running his hand over the name printed on the surface.
The man walked back inside his cabin, stretching as he crossed his living room until his shoulders popped. He’d been looking forward to a quiet weekend of fishing which was now shot. Instead, he moved over to an alcove under the staircase leading to a decking on his roof, and pulled a large trunk out. He flipped it open with his foot and then leaned down to pull out a couple of blankets and some sweaters. He pushed down on the bottom of the trunk when it was revealed and there was a dull click.
He pulled the false bottom out and set it aside and then looked back into the trunk.
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