Paceus (paceus) wrote in dvd_commentary,

Lovesick: Unable to Act Normally by runpunkrun, commentary by Paceus

Title: Lovesick: Unable to Act Normally
Author: runpunkrun
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Commentator: paceus

Lovesick: Unable to Act Normally

John's willing to admit his crush on Rodney might be getting a little out of hand.

"I can't believe you got us thrown in jail for being gay," Rodney says, scowling at him from the other side of their tiny grass hut. John loves it when Rodney scowls. John must have a goofy look on his face because Rodney kicks at him and scowls even harder. "And why am I here? I wasn't even sitting at the same table as you!"

I love the first sentence. The whole beginning of this fic is amazingly compact: The first two paragraphs tell us that John's got a crush on Rodney, Rodney has no idea, they've been captured by aliens, and that John's crush is kind of pathetic. None of these things feel like John consciously telling the reader what the facts are but they appear in the story, organically, where they're needed, and the story feels wonderfully natural. Rodney would rant about it exactly like this, and John would mention his crush and even admit that it's a bit out of control now that they're in jail because of it. The characterisations are believable and delicious: Rodney's ranting, John's mellow attitude (I wonder how Rodney interprets his expression -- it's obvious he's irritated by it but also ready to chalk it up to John being John instead of for example thinking that he's been hit in the head, or something equally worrying), and Rodney's furious expression feeling attractive to John (I can completely see and believe that. This is a strange pairing).

"Beats me," John says, as if he hadn't been staring after Rodney like a lovesick teenager.

This is also wonderful because the author doesn't need to show us what happened (either as a flashback or at the beginning of the story) -- these little hints are enough to feed the reader's imagination. The scene must have been really something: John being so obviously gay (and for Rodney!) that the aliens feel it's a crime, and Rodney's total obliviousness. The disparity between John's words and what he knows here is hilarious.

Their hut's not even tall enough to stand up in and Rodney slumps back against the grass wall.

I also admire the frugal description of the surroundings: I have a very clear image of the hut in my head, but the author hasn't actually told me anything about it except that it's small and it's made of grass. How did that happen? Telepathy?

"God, this is a stupid way to die."

"Teyla and Ronon will rescue us," John says. "I told 'em to bring some hedge clippers."

Just the other day I was thinking about the deus ex machina solution of Lorne's team coming to rescue SGA-1 in many fics, and how it's such a regular feature in certain type of fics that the writers comment on it either through the characters or otherwise, amused and fond, but this one is clearly not a deus ex machina fic! John told them to bring some hedge clippers.

"That's not the point! First of all, hello, hate crime. For all we know we're going to be put on a spit and roasted alive. Secondly, you're not even gay!"

I love that line: "First of all, hello, hate crime."

And here's the crux of the problem. Crazy mud-covered aliens can tell he's gay just by looking at him, but Rodney's still operating on the (false) assumption that just because John smiles at girls means he likes to fuck them.

The concise nature of this fic fills me with glee. This paragraph sounds like John, it feels even curiously familiar, and it subverts canon, comments on fanon and explains how John is actually gay by referring to canon images that we're used to, in a completely believable and convincing manner. "Can tell he's gay just by looking at him" -- yes, exactly. And how Rodney is still unaware of that fact -- well, there is some evidence that could point to that direction, but in reality it's an utterly false interpretation, although understandable. The writing is absolutely wonderful here.

John lounges against the hut's central pole. "I could be gay."

Rodney stops gnawing at the twine binding his wrists together and looks up at John.

"Your hair's kind of gay," he allows.

"See?" John says, wiggling over to Rodney's side. "Let me help you with that."

The dialogue is wonderful: I can hear exactly how John would say, "I could be gay," without any adverbs or other words to indicate it (he sounds casual but a bit defiant in my head), and I love that Rodney allows that at least a part of John could be interpreted as gay.

The mud people must not get a lot of prisoners because they bound John and Rodney with their hands in front of them. Their legs aren't tied at all and John decides the best way to work on Rodney's hands is to straddle his thighs and sit right in his lap. This has the added bonus of putting Rodney's hands deliciously close to John's crotch.

I love the word "deliciously," especially in this context.

I try to gather my thoughts and say something here, but the mental image of John straddling Rodney's hips is kind of making my brain shut down. Anyway, I really like John's point of view here, how he decides that a straightforward, sitting-in-Rodney's-lap approach is the best: the reader thinks that wait, this isn't something he'd usually do, and Rodney certainly notices, but the patient lovesick party himself is either unaware that he did anything unusual (I really like this interpretation, and it echoes the beginning when John was "willing to admit his crush on Rodney might be getting a little out of hand," meaning that he's a little bit in denial about how much this crush is affecting his actions) or has chosen to actually do something about the crush without telling the reader. As with John's line "I could be gay" the brilliance lies in the way the reader has many possibilities how to interpret John's motivation, and without the story being too vague, too.

"Um, Colonel?" says Rodney.

John runs his fingers over Rodney's bonds. "Yeah?"

"You're, sitting in my lap?"

"Looks like it."

"Oh," says Rodney. "That's a little gay, right?"

I really like the dialogue, especially how organic it seems: how it goes from speculation of John's gay features to Rodney's bonds and right back.

"Little bit," John says, accidentally brushing his fingers over the front of Rodney's pants. Rodney arches into the touch and his eyes go big and surprised.

The pacing is really good: I like that there's some dialogue before Rodney says "That's gay," and that John lets him reach the conclusion himself before upping the ante. I love John's line "Little bit." The understating and casual tone really meshes well with my understanding of the character. I love the ironic accidentally. And the whole "John touching Rodney through his pants" deal is obviously lovely. I love how fast things happen in the story (for Rodney, anyway): we go from Rodney who has no idea to Rodney who gets a clue (the description "his eyes go big and surprised" is a wonderful description of someone getting a clue) in the space of half a screen. I love that John can't (or won't, anymore) keep his hands off Rodney, and that Rodney has nothing against it: it's actually not explicitly mentioned what John thinks of Rodney's preferences, but apparently he believes that Rodney wouldn't object to being touched. In this sense the story operates cleverly my assumptions about fanon: I can assume that Rodney is attracted to John but thinks he's straight, and I've read enough stories that use the premise to practically make it my personal canon.

"In my defense --" Rodney says, but John kisses him before he can finish. Rodney, always one to belabor a point, abruptly turns over a new leaf and kisses him back without complaint. They kiss with their mouths open, wet and hungry. Their tongues slide together. Their eyes stay open.

"Oh," Rodney says again.

Omg, this is so hot. I love that Rodney is "always one to belabour a point" but that he doesn't this time, and the description of the kiss is amazing. I really like the words "wet" and "hungry," the sentence "Their tongues slide together" is incredibly sexy, and the three last sentences in the paragraph together create a feeling that John is having a really good time, even though it's not elaborated. I usually wish writers would tell how the characters feel instead of just telling about what happens but that doesn't apply here at all: especially the short sentences "Their tongues slide together. Their eyes stay open" communicate how John feels without going into the specifics (which is pretty impressive, in my opinion!). Perhaps it works because the short sentences convey a feeling of not being able to say anything more, and not being able to string two sentences together. Rodney seems to have the same problem, except that he can't even form words anymore. (I don't blame him! In these conditions, who could?)

John rocks against him, twists their fingers together and uses them to rub Rodney through his pants, to learn the length and size of his cock. Rodney's hard and big and John's never felt so gay in his life. Rodney moans into his mouth and then suddenly everything gets a lot brighter. John squints up at the blinding sun and tries to make sense of what's happening.

I really like this paragraph. The writing is just excellent: I really like the description of John twisting their fingers together (it's new, and it takes into account their current position), and the next sentence with two ands and no commas and two clauses that don't seem to have a lot in common is wonderful. "Rodney's hard and big" may not sound very unique, but combined with "and John's never felt so gay in his life" it's marvellous: I really like the way the latter describes how John is feeling without saying "John is turned on" or anything like that, and yet it reads like "John is incredibly turned on" without a doubt.

One of the most important elements in this story is the flow of the writing, and unfortunately my commentary breaks it all the time: for the biggest impact it should be read at once, to properly experience the breathless pacing of "Rodney complaining" turning into "John sitting in Rodney's lap" turning into "making out that will make something catch fire if you're not careful."

For example, let's compare Rodney's lines at the beginning of the fic and here. Near the beginning, he says: "That's not the point! First of all, hello, hate crime. For all we know we're going to be put on a spit and roasted alive. Secondly, you're not even gay!" Here, he says: "Um, Colonel?" and "In my defense --" and also "Oh" a lot. The difference is striking.

One of my favourite things in fics is to try to see what's happening from someone else's point of view -- that's why I love John's point of view in this story, because there's a chance that he's not the most reliable person to tell what has happened (he thinks the crush thing is getting "a little out of hand" when he's been thrown into jail because of it -- I know, I know, hate crime, but still, unless the aliens have the most remarkable gaydars ever, there must have been something in his behaviour that may not have been most appropriate for a team leader and an Air Force Colonel), and on the other hand, the story offers the possibility of several interpretations also because the characters don't agree what has happened: Rodney doesn't think John's gay at all while the aliens think he's an Abomination. It's very friendly for the reader, welcoming different interpretations.

Anyway, my point is that I really enjoy trying to construct this story from Rodney's point of view. Assuming that he's been nursing a crush on John as well, this must be blowing his mind: one moment John is lounging in his usual, sexy-but-utterly-unavailable way, the next he's sitting in Rodney's lap and putting his hands in places Rodney wouldn't have dreamed about (well, actually, he probably would, but he wouldn't have thought it would actually happen) and they're kissing. I'd imagine John's enthusiasm is a surprise for Rodney, and that he can barely even believe this is happening, except that the physical evidence is difficult to cast aside. That's what I think about when the fic says, "Rodney moans into his mouth." And after that, Ronon's interruption is quite bitter.

Ronon's ripped the roof off their little hut and is peering in at them. "You guys need a minute?"

"Do we have a minute?" John asks.

I know how he feels.

"Oh my god," Rodney says. "Do you never learn? Your unrelenting horndoggery is what got us into this trouble in the first place!" He tips John off his lap and stands up. "Well?" he says, shoving his bound hands at Ronon.

Rodney, on the other hand, may have been receiving a handjob through his pants but his priorities haven't wavered: safety first. I really like his voice in this story, and "unrelenting horndoggery" is a hilarious expression.

Ronon raises an eyebrow, but produces one of his knives and slices through the twine. John's next, but when they climb out of the hut, they find the village deserted.

"Oh, we totally had a minute," John complains.


They head back to the gate, Teyla on their six and Ronon scouting ahead.

I have to admire the economical writing here: the story is just 700 words long but it doesn't feel like it -- the aliens, for example, have barely been described but still I feel as if they're real and there. The balance between telling too much and not telling enough is well maintained. It's always wonderful to see how a writer uses the reader's imagination so that not every detail needs to be dwelled on. Here, for example, I have a pretty good idea what the surroundings look like and how long the distance to the gate is, even though none of that has been mentioned.

"So, it comes to my attention that I may have been slightly wrong about you," Rodney says.

"I like cock," John says. "Wanna make out later?"

This is a delightful exchange.

Rodney trips on a tree root and John catches him by the arm, maybe he's got this crush thing under control after all.

Rodney's reaction is hilarious (although so is John's line, to be fair), and I love the last sentence. (I have to say, though, my inner beta would remove that comma at once and replace it with a period or a semi-colon. Punctuation matters!)

All in all, this story is just incredible. I've read it probably a dozen times already, and I'm always delighted by the characterisations, the dialogue, John's point of view, and the undeniable force of attraction between John and Rodney.

Tags: commenter:paceus, fandom:stargate atlantis, fic author:runpunkrun

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