Summary: Rodney wants to set a few things straight. Maybe.
Pairing: Rodney McKay/John Sheppard
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Up to The Shrine.
Original story: And I Say, It's Alright by thedeadparrot
Notes: Thanks so much to my beloved beta, evaporate. You're the best ever.
"I always thought it would be me losing you," Rodney says, toying with the can of beer in his hands.
He can still feel the grip of the dream that woke him. The flashes of knives and John and that miserable storm come whenever he closes his eyes. In these dreams, he doesn't just almost lose the city or John and he doesn't almost die at the hands of a madman. They usually happen after thunderstorms, but he's been having this one ever since getting his death sentence.
The easy laughter between them is gone and the minutes continue slipping away as they sit on the pier, looking over the water.
The night is cool, but clear. It's the sort of night that would be perfect for watching fireflies. He wonders if he and Jeannie used to do that sort of thing when they were kids and hates that he can't remember, even though it's a completely useless memory. He's forgotten far more important things. But not everything meaningful is gone, not yet.
The fog is disappearing slowly, but Atlantis is beautiful and alive (and so is John.) He feels at peace and it's a strange, nice feeling he doesn't have very often.
"It's…" Rodney stops when the words he wants never seem sufficient.
John smiles like he knows, maybe because he knows. "Yeah. Isn't it?"
Their fingers just barely touch, but Rodney feels closer to John in that moment than he's ever been before.
John doesn't say anything and something in Rodney tells him not to be surprised. He may be losing himself by the second, everything fading far too fast for him to quantify, but everything about John still feels reassuringly solid.
The quiet comes back again and the urge to fill the silence hits him hard. Rodney's never been good with silence, but aside from scientific theory and the dredges of pop culture, he's not that great with talking either. There are so many things he's never said. So many things John doesn't want him to say, because voicing it all will make it permanent, make it far too real.
He can remember the times they used to stand side by side on the balconies, watching the weather, the sun, the rain, the clouds.
"I'm busy, very busy preventing my incompetent staff from killing everyone. I don't see what's so important that you needed to drag me out here," Rodney grouses, even if he doesn't mind at all.
"Look," John says, pointing out at the sky. A beautiful, full rainbow paints the sky and Rodney can't help the awe he feels despite how ridiculous it seems.
Rodney does look and he smiles before he catches himself. "Did you activate an ancient device I'm not aware of?"
John looks at him quizzically. "No…"
"Because I do believe somehow you've turned into a thirteen year old girl when I wasn't looking."
"Shut up, Rodney, Christ," he replies, but the words are light and John closes in on him. Then, all he can feel is the sun and the rain and John's lips against his.
His attempts to say goodbye are being thwarted by John's stubbornness, but those aren't the only words running through his mind. It makes his skin itch, this desire to say something to John, so badly that he finds the words stumbling out between his lips.
"You know, John, it wasn't ever you," he says hurriedly. "I…nights like these are good."
John looks up at him, face puzzled as if he can't quite decide if he knows—or wants to know—to what Rodney is referring.
It takes more than a moment for even Rodney's brain to catch up with his mouth. He wants John to know it was the storms and the knife and the thought he was as good as gone, that it was never something John did or said, but he doesn't know how; too many years keeping it all locked up make it impossible.
"It's not that I like to spend a lot of time thinking about things like this. It's a passing thing, you know, and it's not really even that important, now that I think about it. I guess I don't know why I think about it all. My mind," he taps the side of his head, "makes odd schemas. I used to always think about waffles any time someone discussed subatomic particles. Funny little story that started when I was in the college cafeteria and—"
"What the hell are you talking about, Rodney?" John asks, ending his rather painful rambling.
"Um," he hedges, knowing that he can totally blame it on the way his brain is dissolving, but something stops him. John's not looking at him, but Rodney knows he has John's full attention.
John takes another sip of his beer and sighs. "Rodney," he says with that whine that always brings Rodney to his knees.
"Some people have rightly suggested that I avoid uncomfortable situations whenever possible."
"Rodney, if that were true, you'd never talk to ninety percent of the population."
"Well, I'm sure ninety percent of the population doesn't deserve to talk to me. You know, due to the rampant stupidity. Not that I can say that anymore. Heh. Even I wouldn't talk to me now."
"This reeks of a tangent, Rodney."
"Yes, yes," Rodney says, wondering how to say this right, doubting he could even if his mind weren't disintegrating. " I always thought it would be me losing you."
"You said that already," John says quietly, but the anger in his voice is audible. He knows it's not him, not per se, but he still feels like it's his fault.
Rodney gives him a sheepish grin. "Due to circumstances, it's understandable, isn't it? Not that I don't tend to ramble when I'm nervous—not that I am nervous—normally. It's just that there are times when things need to be said, even though it's not entirely easy to do. I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore."
The rain starts to fall a little while after that. It's not one of those downpours that will never ever not make him cringe, but the sort that makes everything smell better, alive. It's late, the air is getting colder, and their beer is long forgotten, but neither of them can will themselves to move. It just makes his death seem more inevitable because there won't be many more chances to sit here with John, to say what he wants to say.
"What's it with you and water, Rodney?" John asks, his voice low, sad. Rodney knows the question's rhetorical, probably not even meant for him to hear, but suddenly it punches him in the gut because, in ways Rodney doesn't want him to, John understands.
Rodney places the beer can to the side. "It's the same for me."
With that, John looks up at him, finally, and Rodney waits. John never broadcasts much of anything, but he understands more about Rodney than he'll ever see fit to mention out loud.
When Rodney finally makes it to the mess, he finds John's sitting at an empty table, frowning at his plate. The storm outside rages, has been all day long, and he can hear yet another rumble of thunder.
He pauses in the doorway. It's not that he's been avoiding John so much as he's been avoiding every stupid emotion that tends to well up in him.
John looks up, then, and sees him standing there. There's a sad sort of expression in his eyes, as if he thinks he's done something wrong but can't figure out exactly what it was.
It kills Rodney to know he put it there. He grabs a snack and heads over, despite the uneasiness in his gut. He sits across from John, offers a pathetic excuse for a smile, and eats without saying a word.
A few moments later, John sighs, gets to his feet, and leaves, his fingers just barely flitting over Rodney's shoulder.
Later, he's back in the lab, deliberately not thinking of sleep or any of his dreams, which will undoubtedly follow, and focuses on how to make it up to John tomorrow. When he closes his eyes briefly, he sees, hears muddied kisses and smiles and laughter.
It occurs to him that there was a reason he never attempted to talk about this when he had his mind, but it's too late now. He can tell the moment John gets it because he can see the shadow that passes over John's eyes whenever he thinks of Kolya.
"Rodney," John says, but a thousand silent words follow. John doesn't need to say them aloud for Rodney to hear them.
He ducks his head down, nods, and awkwardly gesticulates until he gives up finding the words to match his thoughts.
"John," he says, and hopes John can hear him as well as he heard John. The steady rain patters against the ocean, against Atlantis, and it calms him, like it always has.
It's then that John leans over and kisses him for the first time in ages. At first, it reminds him of rainbows and showers and sunny days, but then it changes into something different. If John's silence says a thousand words, then this kiss says a million, things he doubts he'll ever be able to forget, no matter what's eating his brain. Rodney understands, now, why John stopped him from saying it before, because neither of them will ever be ready for goodbye.