John didn’t know how long he’d been standing there, staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, when Rodney said, “I wish I could fix those, too.”
Only part of Rodney was visible in the mirror, but John didn’t turn to look at him properly. He didn’t pretend not to understand what Rodney was talking about, either.
The Ancient healing device had fixed the muscle and nerve damage that had kept John off the active-duty list, but it wasn’t calibrated for the more delicate work needed to repair existing scar tissue. Rodney and Radek had studied the device for weeks, but they didn’t want to risk breaking it if they took it apart and put it back together, and John had insisted that they didn’t try.
“You let me fly again, Rodney,” said John, now. “I don’t need anything else.”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t want to give it to you.” Rodney frowned, thoughtfully. “Maybe if I just reprogrammed the Ancient healing device and—”
“No,” interrupted John. He crossed the bathroom to pull Rodney in for a tight hug. “Don’t you dare. Don’t you ever…”
“Okay, okay,” said Rodney, resting tentative hands on John’s bare shoulders. “It was just a thought. But this is bothering you.”
“Not that much,” John said, softly, pulling away to look at him. “Does it bother you? That I’m not quite as handsome as I used to be?”
“Please,” the scientist scoffed. “The perceived drop in your overall attractiveness is negligible, at best. A few scars do nothing to distract from that hair and that swagger.”
“What about my hair?” John said, automatically, then frowned. “Wait, ‘swagger’?”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about, with your hips, all sleek and…” Rodney tried to demonstrate, more like a drunken bellydancer than anything John recognized.
The colonel laughed, hands on Rodney’s hips to still them. More seriously, he said, “I wasn’t in here angsting or freaking out or whatever you thought I was doing. I was just looking.”
“Looking?” Rodney repeated.
“I didn’t, before,” said John, struggling for the words. “I just…”
But Rodney nodded. “There was only that tiny mirror in the bathroom at the cabin, and you didn’t shave the whole time we were on Earth. I thought you were just going for that rugged mountain man look, what with all the plaid flannel, but I get it, now.”
John smiled, using the hands still on Rodney’s hips to pull him closer. “You always look at me,” he said. “Me me.”
“Of course I do,” Rodney snapped. “You know I’ve always been more attracted to your brain than ridiculous good looks.” He paused. “Although…”
The colonel froze. “What?”
“Your left ear was just a little bit pointier than your right,” said Rodney, tracing the ragged cartilage of John’s left ear with the very tip of his finger. “It was cute.”
John leaned into the touch – Rodney had never been hesitant to look at him, to touch him, from the moment he’d hauled John back through the gate, bloody and broken, up to right now.
Then, Rodney’s last sentence registered.
“Cute!?” John spluttered.
Rodney kissed him, laughing. And when he pushed Rodney up against the counter a few minutes later, John caught sight of his reflection out of the corner of his eye – and grinned.