22 February 2006 @ 01:56 am
SGA: Metamorphosis (PG-13), McKay/Sheppard.  
Gaul says he’s changed, Peter says he’s sorry, and John says nothing at all.



John is leaning in the doorway to his lab. His eyes are weighted and his smile is forced, balanced, too perfect to be genuine and he doesn’t need this now—he doesn’t know what else he’s supposed to do, what more can possibly be expected. Should he throw a party? Find a Hallmark card for this oh-so-special occasion?

Heard you went on a suicide mission. Congratulations on not being dead. Please don’t do it again.

Sincerely yours,

Rodney McKay.


He’s sure they probably have one. Hallmark thinks of everything.

“You saved the city,” John tells him, still leaning and looking sexy and alive and Rodney’s head is pounding—he can feel his pulse beating in his forehead and everything in his vision is fading but him. “Shouldn’t you be celebrating?”

“It’s a stay of execution,” Rodney snaps, pushing the keys on his laptop with more force than necessary. “Nothing more. The Wraith will be back.”

“Then we’ll fight them again,” John says.

That’s what he’s afraid of. He came here to learn, not to war. He came here to figure out the mysteries with the closest people he had to friends—not watch them die, one by one. “That’s easy for you to say,” Rodney says.

“What does that mean?” John asks, irritatingly calm. “You think this isn’t hard for me?”

“I need sleep,” Rodney says, and he’s practically vibrating now. He’s still running on adrenaline and stimulants and caffeine and he’s losing it, he’s half-gone, he knows if he stays he’ll say something he’ll regret and never be able to take back. He’s said too much already.

He pushes past John and heads to his quarters. People are crying and screaming and yelling in the halls, hugging each other and laughing and staring at the sky in awe.

It rains for seven days straight. Rodney thinks, how appropriate.

-----

He doesn’t dream about the Wraith.

He hears people talking about nightmares throughout the city; talking about age and hands and unbelievable cold but he’s never had that, his mind doesn’t go there. He doesn’t know what it’s like and he’s not trying to figure it out for once, because he really doesn’t want to know. It’s not the Wraith that haunt him.

He falls on his bed and covers his eyes. The rain is pounding against the windows because they’ve brought the shield down for now; no reason to waste power for convenience and it’s a little like Earth anyway, a little like home. When he falls asleep he dreams of all the people he’s not, he sees a short straw and its salvation even if he doesn’t know it. He sees the people around him go down as he struggles to stay on his feet.

He sees a small dot on a screen, moving inch-by-inch, closer to the end.

They talk to him, some of them. They say things. Things they really said and things they never had a chance to or never would. Mostly though, it goes like this:

Gaul says he’s changed, Peter says he’s sorry, and John says nothing at all.

-----

He never realized that he liked Ford. He’s not one that makes friends easy and Ford had been more of an extra gun than anything, the annoyingly happy kid that liked things that went boom and couldn’t guess a prime number to save his life.

He leaves a big gaping hole in Rodney and he doesn’t know why. He sees pieces missing in Teyla and John too, and John says they don’t need a replacement, that they’re fine just the three of them. Ford will be back, John says, but none of them really believe him.

John only believes it because he has to. Guilt is a dangerous thing but John is good at walking under it; he knows necessity from mistakes and he keeps going.

“We’ll find him,” John says. “I don’t care how long it takes.”

Rodney believes that much at least. John Sheppard will search every world if he has to, and then he’ll move onto the next galaxy if it yields no results. John scares him sometimes. Sometimes he sees nothing but the big picture, and sometimes he can’t see past the people right in front of him. It’s dangerous.

“He could be anywhere,” Rodney says.

“Not anywhere,” John says back, calmly. “Somewhere we’ve already been. There’s only so many addresses we know. There’s only so many places for him to go that won’t get him killed on sight.”

That was true enough, Rodney thinks. He could go to the edge of the universe and it wouldn’t be far enough from this, it wouldn’t take him near enough away.

“We will be with you, of course,” Teyla says solemnly. “Aiden will not be forgotten.”

“What she said,” Rodney says. He ignores the glares they give him, the censure or maybe the hurt. It’s not like he didn’t like the kid.

It’s not like he doesn’t miss him just as much. He’s just not going to feel guilty. Ford never appears in his dreams, and Rodney wants to keep it that way. John takes up enough space for them both.

-----

“You still aren’t really talking to me,” John says. “Or anyone, I think. Heightmeyer says you haven’t been to see her.”

“What business is that of yours?” Rodney asks, snappishly. John has no right to confront him on this. John Sheppard has never been to a therapist a day in his life, Rodney is sure of that much. John’s therapy is letting Teyla knock him on his ass or turning around and knocking him on his.

“You’re on my team,” John says. “That makes it my business, but honestly?—maybe I just miss it.”

“You miss me talking to my therapist?” Rodney asks distractedly. It doesn’t make much sense, but John’s mind works in mysterious ways.

John glares at him, and Rodney wonders what he’s said now—because he can’t do anything right since the city was saved. The Wraith were gone and things should be better, but he’s falling apart and there’s no quick fix for him. He doesn’t come with high powered shields.

John pushes past him, knocking into his shoulder and jarring him. “I miss you talking to me,” he snaps, and then he’s gone.

-----

Teyla is distant with him the next day. She always knows when he’s been stupid. He knows John hasn’t said anything to her, she just knows. It’s creepy.

“Okay,” Rodney snaps. “Just say it.”

Teyla glances at him coolly. “Say what?”

“What you’re obviously dying to say!” he yells.

“I have nothing to say to you,” Teyla tells him, and Rodney wonders how women do that—raised in another galaxy and she can replicate perfectly the tone his mother used every time one of his experiments blew up the living room.

“I’m allowed to freak out a little!” Rodney shouted at her. “People are dying.”

“I know all about people dying,” Teyla snaps. “I’ve lived with it every day of my life.”

“I haven’t,” Rodney said. “I don’t know how.”

Teyla sighs and seems to thaw slightly. “You just do,” she says.

“Wow. What a stunning revelation,” he snaps. “You should write books.”

Teyla had been going easy on him. After that, she slams one of the sticks against the back of his knees and sends him tumbling onto his back. He can’t really blame her.

She leans over him, arms crossed and still standing. “You’re not the only one here that’s allowed to suffer,” she tells him.

“Ow,” Rodney says, wincing. “That’s going to bruise, you Amazon.”

Teyla drops the sticks on the ground beside him and walks out without another word.

People have been doing that a lot lately.

-----

“It’s been brought to my attention that I’ve been acting like an idiot,” Rodney says.

John doesn’t look up from War and Peace. It’s not a good sign. Rodney is bad enough at apologies without the extra complications of the person not accepting it.

He crosses his arms. “Are you even going to look at me?”

“I’m just waiting for the punch line,” John says, and flips the page.

“You almost died,” Rodney snaps at him. “Ford is god knows where and Peter is dead, Gaul is dead, a bunch of other people I never had the time to know are dead and I don’t know how I’m supposed to react to that, I really don’t.”

“You just keep going, Rodney,” John says quietly, as he sets the book aside.

“What is with you and Teyla?” he says. “Did you take a class, or something? How to give completely superfluous advice?”

“If this is an apology,” John says coolly, “you suck at it.”

“It’s not,” Rodney says quickly. “I’ve changed my mind. You were the one that nearly got blown up. You should be apologizing to me!”

“I was trying to save the city,” John says. “Excuse me for not wanting everyone to die, you included.”

“But you don’t matter, right? Just another name, rank and serial number that the military can afford to lose.” Rodney stepped forward, watching John with wide eyes. “How could you do that?”

“You would have done the same thing,” John says, eyes alight with this conviction that makes Rodney’s heart ache, because he doesn’t deserve that kind of faith.

“No,” he says, tightly, “I really wouldn’t have.”

“It was the only option,” John says, quieter. “I’m sorry if it upset you.”

“Upset me?” he yells. “Are you kidding me with this? Did you miss what I said before? You almost died.”

“Wasn’t the first time,” John says. “And you might recall you’ve been in similar situations yourself.”

“No,” Rodney snaps. “No, I haven’t. When there’s going to be explosions I’m generally running in the opposite direction.”

John sits up straighter on his bed, lifting himself on his knees, staring Rodney down. “I don’t know what you want from me,” he says. “I can’t change who I am.”

“That makes two of us,” Rodney says. This time, he’s the one to leave the room.

-----

Who knew Ford would turn out to be the glue that had held them together? Or maybe that wasn’t so much it as it was that they couldn’t really function with any given piece out of place. Maybe they just needed time, but god knows Rodney couldn’t see how that would help.

So far, it has only gotten worse.

Elizabeth has noticed. She’s holding off on sending them on missions again, saying there’s discrepancies in who should be assigned where. He’s pretty sure she just doesn’t trust them right now; he knows he wouldn’t.

He wanders the city looking for either of them, only to have Carson tell him they’ve gone to the mainland. Without him. Without even asking. He should probably be more surprised.

Most of the lab techs duck for cover when he enters the room, all but Kavanaugh, sitting sullen at a corner desk and Zelenka, standing with pursed lips in the middle of the room. “You need more sleep,” he tells him.

Rodney glares at him. “I need to work. I need to focus my mind.”

“You scare everyone off,” Zelenka tells him, bluntly. “You look like psychotic maniac. Go sleep.”

Zelenka grabs him by the shoulders and pushes him out the doors. Rodney only lets him get away with it because he’s not really in the mood to be in there anyway. The labs used to be comforting, but he can’t seem to think right anymore. Everything that was black and white is grey, and he isn’t sure of anything.

He crawls into his bed the moment he reaches his quarters and passes out on the bed.

This time, when he dreams, John says all kinds of things.

-----

“Am I not part of the team anymore, or something?” Rodney snaps the minute John gets back.

John looks at him sulkily and rests his hands on his P90. “Teyla needed a ride. It has nothing to do with you.”

“Apparently,” he snaps.

Teyla slips out of the back of the puddle-jumper, takes one glance at them, and heads straight for the door. She’s gone before either of them can think of an excuse to keep her there. Rodney doesn’t know when they started needing a referee.

“You should have asked me,” Rodney says. “You should have at least told me, said goodbye, something.”

John grins at him. It’s bright and startling and sets Rodney on edge. “Goodbye,” he says sweetly.

John moves to leave and Rodney blocks him—for the first time since they met, Rodney thinks he could hit him. He knows he probably deserves it more. “I’m trying to fix…whatever it is that’s wrong,” he says. “You’re not even trying.”

“I was trying,” John says. “You blew me off.”

“So this is punishment?” Rodney snaps. “What, is this high school?”

“You’ve changed, Rodney,” John tells him, shaking his head, and suddenly Rodney is back there and its Gaul across from him now, three times as old as he should be with the muzzle of a gun smashed against a mat of grey hair.

“So I’ve been told,” he says, and his voice breaks.

John frowns and steps closer. “Hey, we’re going to be okay,” he says, after a moment. “I promise next time I go to the mainland I’ll invite you.”

Rodney nods, blinking back emotion and clenching his fists. “Okay,” he says. “Yeah. Okay, thanks.”

John grins again, and this time Rodney feels his heart stop, because it’s the first time he’s seen John light up like that since Everett showed him those huge guns.

-----

Teyla is infinitely easier to make up with than John. He doesn’t have to apologize, or talk about anything, she just lets him slip right back in where he used to fit with a sly smile and a glint in her eyes because again, she already knows that he’s being less stupid now and should be forgiven.

He really doesn’t know how she knows things like that. He can’t figure out if it’s because she’s alien, has some Wraith DNA, or just because she’s a woman. Quite possibly its just because she’s Teyla.

“You haven’t been to spar with me for awhile,” she says, grinning.

“I don’t enjoy getting beat up as much as Sheppard does,” he says.

She laughs at him. “Well, you’re welcome anytime.”

Rodney smiles slightly. “Thanks,” he says, and means ‘not a chance in hell’ and ‘not ever again’—but he doesn’t actually have to say any of that, Teyla knows.

She’s still laughing as she walks away.

-----

He slips into John’s quarters at twenty to one, and sits down on his bed. John groans irritably and tries to push him off. “What?” he says. “Are we in mortal danger?”

“No,” Rodney says. “Not quite.”

“What then? Rodney, it’s the middle of the night.” John sits up, turning the lights on with a wince and rubbing at his eyes with one hand. “We’re not all on your schedule.”

“I don’t want to lose you,” Rodney says, and he can practically see the words hanging there, in the air, in Sheppard’s stunned expression, in the uncomfortably long silence that follows. This is why caffeine was illegal on one out of five planets they visited. It messed with your head. It made you say things you shouldn’t.

Forget alcohol, give him six cups of coffee and Rodney was your best friend.

John sighs, and falls back on his bed. “I can’t say you won’t,” he says, but Rodney knows he isn’t really his to lose, anyway.

Rodney closes his eyes. “The worst thing, the absolute worst thing, was watching that screen and knowing you were getting closer, that you were going to do it—because I knew you would do it. I knew you wouldn’t back out, I knew you wouldn’t be talked back.”

“Rodney—” John starts, but Rodney reaches out and grips his arm, stalling him.

“And the worst part was, at that moment, I think I would have traded the lives of everyone in the city and all of Atlantis just to have you back.” Rodney didn’t look at John; he didn’t want to see what was there.

“Rodney,” John says again, and his voice is thick and soft and broken.

Rodney finally looks at him and John’s expression is worried and distant and pained and he probably should have walked away, probably should have left and pretended none of this had happened but he surges forward instead, placing his hands on John’s neck and kissing him desperately.

John places his own hands on the sides of his face and pushes him back, placing their foreheads together instead and closing his eyes. “This is a bad idea,” he says.

“Why?” Rodney asks. “We’re on borrowed time here.”

“That’s why,” John says, and he’s shaking. “I can’t promise you that if it comes up again, I won’t do exactly the same thing.”

“I know you will,” Rodney says. “I wouldn’t be this brave if I didn’t, but I can’t live like I have been these last few weeks. I can’t be that person.”

He can see a hundred more arguments in John’s eyes when he opens them again, countless reasons why they should end this before it starts and never look back, never think about it or dream about it or tempt fate again—but he doesn’t say any of them.

He kisses him instead, and by then, there’s really no turning back.
 
 
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Amalthiaamothea on February 26th, 2006 - 08:31 am
I'm really glad you created this community to host your fics. :) I really love your stories and now they are all in one easy to find location. thanks. :) btw...really loved this fic.
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Layton Colt: atlantislaytoncolt on February 26th, 2006 - 09:20 am
Thank you! I knew I had to do something when I was losing track of my own fics. ;-)
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darkmoon711: Captivate Medarkmoon711 on March 2nd, 2006 - 06:47 am
::cries:: OMG! That truly broke me. I'm sitting here crying because how well done you've written them. I'm glad you gave links to a bunch of your fics. Because as I'm reading them, I never know if I'm going to laugh or cry. It's a wonderful feeling to know that your writing can do that. It was beautiful.
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Layton Colt: benlaytoncolt on March 4th, 2006 - 12:33 am
Thank you so much! :-)
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Doctor Science: SGA sense of wonder by darthfoxmecurtin on March 11th, 2006 - 12:57 am
I just found this when I tracked down "Grapevine" for a re-read. One of the best "loosing Ford" teamfics going. I hope the newsletter has you on their radar now, so your stories will get more of the traffic they deserve. *friends like whoa*
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Layton Colt: silly fangirllaytoncolt on March 11th, 2006 - 06:39 am
Thank you! I just love trying to deal with the fallouts we never really get to see on the show. ;-)
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What, does he wanna date me or kill me?krysalys on March 16th, 2006 - 02:10 am
Damn
Heartbreak city. And yet... they so obviously need the comfort and love the other has to offer.
----}-@
Krys
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Layton Colt: rodneylaytoncolt on March 16th, 2006 - 11:52 pm
Re: Damn
Thank you. :-)
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linaerys on April 3rd, 2006 - 09:10 pm
I love this. Rodney's bullheadedness, his lack of nightmares, the fact that nothing really gets resolved in this fic. It all works perfectly.
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Layton Colt: sheplaytoncolt on April 3rd, 2006 - 10:39 pm
Thank you! :-)
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(Anonymous) on December 23rd, 2010 - 12:12 pm
SGA: Metamorphosis
Absolutely beautiful.
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