Then: "Rodney!" John yells, and Rodney ducks an
earthenware jug exploding crockery shards and purple wine against the
wall. A warm calm blooms in Rodney's chest as they share a bloody smile
across the room.
“I know what I said after Doranda, but it hadn't occurred to me that your faith in my abilities would grow this annoying,” Rodney muttered, wiping slime from the "holy" grotto onto his pants. Who kept their Ancient-powered religious icons in a swamp?
“You’ve ruined me for all other geniuses, McKay,” Sheppard said, clapping Rodney's shoulder.
"Well, it was disgusting, but easy enough," Rodney admitted grudgingly.
"C'mon, I'll buy you a beer." Sheppard pointed at Rodney's glistening hands. "I think they brew it from that algae."
"Hardly a recommendation," Rodney said—but
it was the thought that counted.
"Rodney, you do realize that's not really a cat, right?" John asked warily, not wanting to come between Rodney and the not-cat of MX7-G14. Lorne had tried that once already and gotten snarled at for his troubles (and not by the not-cat.)
"He's soft and friendly," Rodney said in an oddly dreamy voice, petting the furred thing sitting contentedly on his lap. "I like him."
The not-cat shot John a knowing look.
"I know you're going say I'm jealous," John said,
placing a tentative hand on Rodney's shoulder. "But, if soft and
friendly is what you want, you could pet...me?"
This was a huge waste of time.
"Where are we going?" Rodney demanded, wiping sweat and stinging sunscreen from his eyes (he'd have to readjust his formula!) It was a goddamned jungle. His clothes stuck everywhere, and those red welts were clearly symptoms of alien malaria.
"Patience, Rodney," Sheppard called from some distance ahead, just as a branch whipped Rodney's cheek.
"I'm out of that!" Rodney yelled, stopping mid-trail and resolving not to take another step.
"Will this help?" Sheppard reappeared through the dense brush. Carrying a ZPM.
"Oh, well..." Rodney shrugged.
"Here you go," Sheppard laughed, handing it over.
"I remember," Rodney says at last, eyes blinking with a clarity that hasn't been there for days now, since the drug first entered his system. His eyes follow the IV line from the back of his hand to the bottle on its stand with a grimace of distaste.
"Let me get the doc," John says, scraping his chair back to stand, but still watching, waiting for Rodney to say more, to show continued evidence that he's really back.
"Don't—not yet." Rodney reaches out to grab
John's wrist, and looks at him steadily. "Give me a minute to remember
Rodney should hate sex, but he can't. Stripped of expertise—of genius—it's a fraught and humbling reminder of his ordinary humanity, the dullness of his physical body. Want, need, and the promise of elemental pleasure simply are. There's nothing he can do about it, but sweat, stammer, try not to offend, until someone (today, maybe?) proves an exception to his rule.
John is skinnier than Rodney expected. Hairy. Strong, but hardly beefcake. Stitched cuts on his face prove uneasy reminders of an all-too-human vulnerability, and for the first time, Rodney wonders if they're not so different.
Maybe they're the same.
It was a cloudless day, calm and still. Rodney raised his binoculars and searched the endless stretch of sparkling water. He wasn't hoping, exactly...except that he was.
"Any sign of Sam?" asked a quiet voice at his side, and Rodney both startled and relaxed before he realized he'd done either.
"Not yet," Rodney replied, hoping it didn't sound
silly. They didn't get many afternoons off.
Rodney scanned the horizon again, not hopeful, but content—and
looked for a splash.
At this early hour, Rodney was usually alone. That was how he liked it. The quiet hum of machinery had always been his preferred company—uncritical, undemanding, waiting patiently for his attention, and showing appreciation by simply performing.
But he wasn't alone tonight. In what should have been the quiet peace of an empty lab, Sheppard hovered over Rodney's shoulder. He was hardly uncritical, undemanding, or patient. No, Sheppard was a shifting, dynamic presence, radiating heat and energy, wanting more from Rodney than had ever been expected before. It was incredibly annoying.
But his appreciation? Rodney closed his eyes and smiled.
He tried to think of clear blue skies, but it was all fading. The beeping of Carson's battery of monitors receding in the background with the faces of his gathered friends, already mourning. Maybe his burden was too big to release. That would figure.
At least he'd told them—as well as he was able, anyway. It seemed crazy that it had taken this to force it, but if he couldn't stick around, at least he would go now with no big regrets.
Well, except that one. Sorry, John.
But it was too late now, clear blue skies aproached, and
“Dunno why it's such a big deal," John started conversationally, handing Rodney a screwdriver. Rodney rolled his eyes—John always waited until Rodney was working in a confined space.
"They give out Nobel’s in some pretty sketchy subjects, McKay. Economics, literature...medicine. Don’t you think that fluffy stuff demeans it somehow?”
“Shut up,” Rodney gritted, sliding out from beneath the console to glare up at John, who was grinning while offering Rodney a hand.
“Seriously—peace?” John snorted, hauling Rodney to his feet, then closer.
"Peace is good," Rodney said, taking in John's uniform, and meaning it.