Written for McShep Match 2009. The prompt: "Swan Song."


According to Rodney, his greatest accomplishment -- his single most important crowning achievement, the one thing that was guaranteed to grant him a well-deserved place in scientific lore (not to mention earn him the Nobel Prize, if he was ever actually allowed to talk about it) -- was reaching 40,000 years into the future, and bringing John Sheppard home.

"Sheer genius," he says during the debriefing, looking smug. "Seriously. I mean, talk about a great final performance." He nudges John. "Hey. Where would you be without me, hm?"

John tries not to think about that.

John thinks that his greatest accomplishment in life would have been saving Holland.  Mitch and Dex.  Ford.

He thinks about that a lot.

There's no time to think about anything when he returns -- every moment is about finding Teyla, stopping Michael, ending a war. He's running on turbo-fueled autopilot; every second that passes feels like a battle already lost.

Under different circumstances, he might have opened the balcony doors and marveled at the sight of a wide and generous sea, turned his face to the calm wind, free of smothering sand. Or maybe taken a moment to look in a mirror, assess the changes that time travel and 40,000 years have undoubtedly wrought.

Or maybe, if he had had the time, he might have given in to the urge to stare at McKay, to take in the smooth, still-youthful lines of his face, the straightness of his spine. To clasp Rodney's shoulder, and find strength rather than frailty beneath his fingertips.

Maybe he would have; probably not.

They had been together once; only once, during the long, desperate hours of the siege. A one-off, a fluke, or at least that's what John had told himself afterwards; a moment of weakness fueled by a situation they didn't think they were going to come out of, when fireballs rained down against the shield and being not-alone was suddenly the only important thing left in the universe, way more important than rules or regs. It had been greedy and frantic, fueled by stimulants and irrational anger at a galaxy that seemed hell-bent on devouring them one way or another, and they'd barely spoken the entire time other than "God, yeah" and "yes, yes, like that" and "oh, fuck, Rodney."

Neither one of them had ever mentioned it again. John was relieved, mostly; life in Pegasus was already more than they could handle; they couldn't afford distractions. After a while, things went back to the way they'd been before, pretty much.

The new conference table is long and sleek and impeccably polished, and reminds John of his father.

"Colonel," Keller says as they settle in to wait for Woolsey. "When you were in the future and you learned all those things that were going to happen, wasn't this one of them? Woolsey taking over?"

"Well, the circumstances were different."

"Still, it is a little unsettling. I mean, maybe it's harder to change the course of events than we thought."

"I wouldn't worry about it," Rodney says, smiling at John. "I mean, the fact that Sheppard's here makes all the difference, right?"

The trouble with knowing things, future things, is that even if you try to do different things to prevent the future things from coming true, the things you end up doing could turn out to be the very things that cause the future things to happen. Or cause even worse things to happen.

Thing is, there's just no way to know… even when you know.

John thinks a lot about something Rodney had said after they'd rescued him from the jumper, under the sea.

"I didn't think you would come."

Later, Elizabeth would try to tell him that Rodney was disoriented, traumatized; he didn't know what he was saying. John isn't so sure.

The thing is, they've already lost Ford and Carson and Elizabeth, they'd barely managed to find Teyla in time, and John has seen enough of this galaxy to know that the odds are against the rest of them, too. He finds himself standing in front of Rodney's quarters, his mind racing in equal time with his clamoring heartbeat, and when Rodney opens the door, gazing at John quizzically, John says nothing at all, just pushes his way into the room, his hands already grasping for skin.

"It occurred to me," he says, between biting kisses that raise a flush of heat on Rodney's skin, "that I haven't thanked you yet."

"Thanked me for what?" Rodney gasps.

"For bringing me home."

Rodney pulls back to gaze at him, the heightened color in his cheeks at sharp odds with the chill in the room. "You know that wasn't me. I mean, yes, it was me, obviously, but it wasn't me, me."

"Yeah, well, I suppose it's all relativ…ity," John says with a smirk. Rodney groans, but it's a good-natured sound, and his hands are on John's hips, pulling him close.

They move together, kissing, until they reach the bed, and John drops down with Rodney curving sweetly beneath him. He leans on one elbow to tug off his shirt, then lowers himself onto Rodney, his hands coming to rest against Rodney's neck. Dropping his forehead against Rodney's jaw, panting harshly, he says, "Thank you. For not giving up on me."

"You're welcome," Rodney whispers.

"Good," John says. "That's—" He swallows, hard. "That's good."

"Bad puns aside," Rodney says, much later, "I do wish there were a way to tell him –"

"To tell you, you mean."

"Yes, yes, to tell me. That it worked, that is. All that work, all those must have driven me crazy, not knowing." He closes his eyes. "Strange, isn't it? Most of us wish we could find out what happens in the future, not the past."

John doesn't say it, but he thinks maybe it's all the same thing.


comments | home