Far From Home
“Happy birthday,” said a soft, familiar voice over the phone, and Joe smiled. They kept in touch mainly through e-mail, knowing how hard it was whenever they heard the other’s voice to put down the phone. There was a reason why they hadn’t met in person (besides comicons, which didn’t count) in years. It would have been impossible for either of them to say goodbye. Birthdays were their’ one shining exception every year. One phone call.
“Thanks,” Joe replied, unable to keep from grinning.
Even without saying anything else, Joe knew that David was smiling, as well. Jason was one of his best friends, sure, and was currently keeping everyone distracted at the dinner table while Joe took the call in the hallway, but David held a place in Joe’s heart that couldn’t easily be taken out. He was like a permanent background fixture in his life that kept track of time for him, that everything else was measured by.
Finally, David asked, “How’d the shooting for SEAL go?”
Of course, David knew about that. Just like everyone else, he followed him on Instagram and Twitter…but he lurked. Never commented, never liked. Just kept track. The same way Joe did with him.
“It went great, actually. Boreanaz is a cool guy,” he added, thinking about the set. He’d heard lots of good things about him through the years, through Jewel on Stargate, who had met him quite a few times over the years through Joss Whedon, and it’d been just as cool working with him as Jewel had told him it would be. “I have to thank Jewel for dropping my name to him. Apparently, David was a big fan of Atlantis, too, and so he was excited to work with me. Gotta admit, though,” he reluctantly added, “Feels weird to be in front of a camera, again. Never thought I’d have to.”
He heard David sigh and knew he was nodding as he said, “Yeah, I get that, but with your talent, I bet it was nothing,” and Joe chuckled.
He was still baffled by how highly his friend thought of his acting ability.
For all five years on SGA, he’d fought with producers and writers, trying to get them to get the character of John Sheppard right, and he was pretty sure that he was probably one of the more ornery actors to work with, unlike David and Jason and so many others who were personable and seemed to get along with everybody, as well as one of the least experienced ones.
But even now, David was lauding him.
Joe quickly corrected him, saying, “Actually, it was a bit of a rough start, but after a while, it came back to me. How’s Bratlett doing?” he quickly asked, changing the subject, and genuinely curious about the kid that he considered to be a nephew, if not another son to him.
He could hear David light up over the phone.
“He’s doing great! God, so much energy, though! I’ve been working out, again, to try and keep up with him and the wife. He’s started hockey and just recently started bugging me about surfing lessons.” He paused, and then said after a thoughtful silence, in a light, not too serious tone, “Hey, you wanna give him some?”
Joe shrugged and replied jokingly, “You willing to come down to California?”
“Sure. Why not?”
At his answer and the serious tone in his voice, Joe froze. No. He had not just agreed to that. They had made a deal. But…god, he wanted to break it. He wanted nothing more than to see him in person again. To actually be able to touch him.
There was a long silence…and then David said, “Hey, forget I just said that. I didn’t mean--”
“You can come.”
Whoosh. And, just like that, the tension that had settled between them for years, unspoken, was broken. Joe let out his own shaky sigh, wiped a hand over his face, and then suggested, “The waves aren’t too bad in May, so I’d think it’d be best around that time. My house will be done by then, so you can stay with me.”
David answered, “Sounds good.”
A pause…and then, “How’s Jason doing? Turning your birthday into a madhouse, as per usual?”
Joe chuckled and nodded, and said, “Yeah, you know him. Aquaman is doing awesome at the box office and now he’s going back to shooting for Frontier, and so he’s feeling good, you know?” He heard a loud bellow from the other room and accompanying laughter and added, “He’s pretty damn lucky and he knows it. Not taking it for granted, let me tell you.”
David laughed as well, the sound warm to Joe’s ears, and then commented, “Hey, I took Bas to see the movie and he loved it! Mind you, I enjoyed it, too, but I just couldn’t get over the irony, you know?”
Joe snorted and nodded.
“Yeah, tell me about it. Atlantis, really? Man, the fans are gonna have a field day with this,” he mused out loud, pacing down the long hallway, and David replied, “Oh, I already looked. Some fan-writer has already started an idea for a crossover story between the two and, I gotta say, it’s not all that bad…”
“Are you lurking on one of those SGA forums, again, pretending to be a fan?”
He could hear the shrug over the phone.
“God, you really shouldn’t do that, David.”
“Why not?” he shot back, sounding offended. “These people still love the show, and it’s been dead for ten years, now! Can you really blame me for wanting to still be a part of it? You’re more popular than ever, right now, and I keep on getting followers! Speaking of, check your Instagram, right now.”
Reluctantly, Joe pulled the phone away from his ear and pulled it up. There, in a blue-tinted photograph, was a picture of Joe from David, wishing him a happy birthday. God, that guy was a dork. But he was the best kind of dork there was, so he didn’t think anything of it. He brought the phone back to his ear and said, “Lovely, David. You’ve been saving that picture for a special occasion, haven’t you?” David hummed in agreement, sounding distracted, and Joe smiled. “Thanks. It’s perfect.”
“Anytime, Joe,” he finally responded, and then exclaimed, “Ooh! This is the post I told you about…listen to this: “I just saw Aquaman and now have a crossover involving the Ancients and Atlantis and it all works out so well not just because of Jason Momoa, but also because of the ad libbed line on that pier scene by David Hewlett where calls Sheppard “Arthur”!! I really wish I had footage of the show on my laptop and footage from the trailer, so I could splice some stuff together to make it look like Rodney McKay is a best friend of Arthur Curry”…” David paused, and Joe could see him scrolling down the post in his minds’ eye, and then David continued reading. “Ah! Here we go… “I like the idea that Ronon’s people are descendants of the Ancients, who are also Atlanteans descendants!!” See, Joe? These people are good…and I’m pretty sure I recognize this particular online handle. Huh. Weird.”
Joe, still disturbed by the fact that David liked to stalk his own fan forums, said, “Then it’s probably a stalker. Leave it alone, will ya?”
He made a noncommittal noise and Joe rolled his eyes.
“Look, I’m just trying to keep you from getting some weird fanboy or fangirl from trying to convince you that you’re some sort of god, okay? You’ve got enough of an ego as it is,” Joe drawled, glancing back down the hallway at hearing more laughter and table banging coming from the other room.
David replied, “Ah, it’s not that big of a deal. Our fans are a lot more sane and settled compared to fans of other shows, you know…”
Joe just shrugged and said, “Yeah, fine.” There was a long pause, and then he said, “I’m serious about that offer, by the way. For you to come down? I’d love to teach the kid,” he said softly, sincerity ringing in his tone. “Bas takes after all of your good qualities, you know.”
“Yeah, right! He’s got every bad habit of mine, with all the heart of his mother, I tell you.”
Joe smiled to himself and defended David, saying, “Hey, you’ve got one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. Don’t sell yourself so short.” He reached the end of the hallway and glanced out the small round window in the swinging door that lead into the main part of the restaurant. Large crowd, he thought to himself. Glad he wasn’t in it. He quickly added, trying not to think about what he was saying, “It’ll be nice to see you again. I’ve missed you.”
There. It was out there. Hanging between them, while Joe waited with baited breath, wondering if David was going to pick it up.
“I’ve missed you, too, Joe.”
Suddenly, it’s like he was breathing for the first time, and it felt as if an invisible weight had been lifted from him. He felt light and free and he couldn’t stop a soft laugh from bubbling to the surface and breaking out, and he heard David doing the same thing and it was like he could see color all over again.
“I know it’s stupid to say, but it’s damn good to hear you say it and be able to say it, too,” said David, breaking the silence. “We usually end our calls with that stupid thing that we did for McKay and Sheppard in the show. The whole, no goodbyes thing? Always a see you later, never talking about feelings thing…”
“Yeah. Nice to know we both still feel the same way.”
“I’ve always felt that way about you, Joe,” he said over the line, and something in Joe’s chest caught at the tone in his voice. He could hear the dual meaning and it made his heart ache just a little bit more. Yeah. He knew exactly how David felt because he felt the same way and always had, but they could never do a damn thing about it. It was a punch to the gut, to be honest, to be reminded in just seven words why they didn’t meet up anymore. Why they still shouldn’t.
He didn’t care.
“Can’t wait to see you.”
A long pause…and then…
They were both silent for a long time, and then David finally broke it by saying unexpectedly, “I love you, Joe,” in a voice that he could barely hear. Once more, it felt like his heartbeat took a misstep, and he swallowed back the feeling of tears, knowing that they were useless.
He then breathed out, “You, too,” and he felt that he’d just finished the end of a long race. It may not have been the exact words that David was hoping for, Joe knew, but that was as close as he’d let himself come to those words in years.
“So…see you in May?”
“Yeah, David. See you in May.”
“Happy birthday, Joe.”
They hung up. He stared at his phone for a while after, not immediately eager to head back to the restaurant’s kitchen, feeling like he’d somehow discovered something brand new about his and David’s relationship that they’d never acknowledged. Whatever it was…damn. It was kinda awesome. Finally, he went back to the kitchen. He then drank a bit more than he needed to, which meant that when he later stumbled onto Jason’s private plane, he felt slightly sick to his stomach.
Jason let him sleep it off on the flight back, but before he let him off the next morning, he clapped him firmly on the shoulder and asked, “Hey, you reach David last night?”
“Yeah, I did.” He took a long sip of the Hawaiian coffee Jason gave him and then added, “He sounds good. Wife and son are doing great, and he’s bringing Sebastian down in May for some private surfing lessons from me.”
“No shit, really? Damn, it’s about time you spent some more time with him!” the burly man exclaimed. “I mean, you guys maybe spend time together at a comicon every now and then, but most of the time it’s like you barely remember that you two were inseparable for five years.” That felt like a stab to the gut. “I’d love to get the three of us together, again, man. Any chance of me joining you for that surfing lesson?”
Joe shook his head and grinned.
“Nope. Don’t even think about it, Chewy.” Wow. He hadn’t called him that nickname in years. “I kinda wanna spend some time with an old friend for a while.”
Jason grinned back at him.
Yeah, Joe thought to himself as he got off the plane and pulled out the skateboard tucked into his backpack, putting it on the ground and then kicking off after a few steps. He really was looking forward to it. Not only teaching the kid, which he knew would be a blast, but being able to spend time with David…god, he’d missed him. Whenever he got the chance to hear his voice it was like a piece of him was sliding back into place.
Since he’d lost his house in the fire, he’d really been thinking about what a home really was. He had come to the conclusion over the past couple months that home was the people you surrounded yourself with. And David was the biggest part of that to him, he finally realized.
He couldn’t wait until May.