Title: Two Weeks to Oblivion
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Episode: The Shrine, 5.06
Author’s Notes: This was written for the episodefic_sga season 5 tagathon. I’m indebted to cesperanza for inspiring a line on Day Eleven. If you’ve read her wonderful http://cesperanza.livejournal.com/209033.html#cutid2.
you know which one.
you know which one.
Summary: Every day, Rodney slipped a little further away from John. Every day, John clung a little harder to Rodney.
Once Dr. Keller officially released Sheppard, Teyla and Ronon from the infirmary, and they finished their dinner in the mess hall, John returned to sit with Rodney. He had been worried when Rodney had passed out and slept for nine hours in the rescue jumper on the flood plain. For all of Rodney’s incredible hypochondria, and his loud complaints when inconvenienced or uncomfortable, he was healthy overall, seldom actually sick.
When he began running a fever on the planet, then dropped off into a restless but impenetrable doze, John’s imagination had gone into overdrive. Rodney had shivered violently on the floor of the ‘jumper until John had curled around him, covering them both in a blanket. The marines of the rescue mission didn’t know how convenient an excuse the cold and the scientist’s condition were for John to do what he wanted to do anyway – comfort his lover and hold him close.
As John rounded the corner and entered the infirmary, he was surprised to see Jennifer Keller sitting at Rodney’s side, finishing the fruit cup from Rodney’s tray. If he didn’t know Rodney better, he would have thought he had interrupted an intimate conversation.
He did know Rodney better.
John was not a secure man. He never asked for the female attention he got in such abundance, nor recognized it for what it was. That is, until it was too late, and a little hard to duck.
He wouldn’t have ducked a little discreet male attention. And it’s not like none of that came his way. However, he felt duty-bound to place the protection of Atlantis, and by extension, the Pegasus Galaxy, first. Getting his rocks off had to take a back seat.
He had been intrigued by Rodney from their first meeting in the Antarctic chair room, captivated by those expressive blue eyes and the attitude of certainty McKay had projected. They had picked up on each other’s vibe from the beginning, but Rodney was definitely interested in women, too. He certainly never greeted them with the queasy uneasiness that John always felt when they got too close. John fell, fast and hard, in lust with Dr. Rodney McKay.
For that first difficult year, cut off from Earth, facing new dangers and new enemies, thrust into a position of command that he had not been prepared for, John tip-toed around the attraction he felt, skirting close to the line, but never stepping over it. Atlantis could not afford any unnecessary disruptions to its too small and non-renewable military force. Rodney seemed to observe his careful dance with detached amusement. Rodney’s manner was inviting, but never insistent.
But once the Daedelus dropped them off after their post-siege Earthside debriefing, John had a late-night visitor. He opened the door of his quarters at the chime and wordlessly stepped to the side. He never got a chance to say a word. Rodney took John’s mouth possessively, all moving lips and demanding force. His strong, competent hands made short work of John’s buttons, quickly stripping him. Every time John opened his mouth to say something, Rodney would kiss him again, until all his protests had been kissed away, leaving him gasping with need and sheer lust.
“You want me, Sheppard. I know you’ve always wanted me,” Rodney growled into John’s neck.
“So much,” John breathed back, voicelessly pleading for Rodney to just do him, and do him right fucking now.
Rodney nipped and licked at John’s neck and collar bone before pushing him to his knees and unbuttoning his own BDU’s. John took Rodney’s cock in his mouth eagerly, hungrily, moaning as he worked it over with his tongue and lips. It was wide, and John’s jaw started to pop and sting very soon after he started, but he had to taste Rodney, longed to swallow him down. But Rodney wouldn’t oblige him. He pulled John to his feet long before his orgasm was imminent, kissing him passionately, then gently pushing him down on his bunk. Rodney smirked knowingly when he opened John’s night table drawer to find lube, then pulled a condom from his pants pocket.
He prepared John quickly and efficiently, John moaning brokenly with impatience, before he lifted John’s long legs over his shoulders, opened the condom with his teeth and rolled it on to his gorgeous, thick cock. He locked eyes with John, blue eyes catching hazel like a magnet. John later felt that he sold his soul to Rodney the moment Rodney got inside him. It was almost unbearably intense. John was eager and hungry for Rodney to fuck him deep and slow, hard and fast. He wanted Rodney to fill him forever.
Rodney groaned with pleasure as he began to fuck John rhythmically, lighting John up with ecstasy. “Come for me, baby,” Rodney finally said in a deep, un-Rodney-like voice, as he took John’s dick firmly in hand. John came like a freight train, hauling Rodney’s orgasm from him at the same time.
They lay for a long time in a sloppy heap, John’s nude body curled into Rodney’s clothed one. John had never come quite like that.
“Well,” said Rodney with a smug half smile. “That’s got to be the most prolonged bout of foreplay ever, considering it’s been going on for over a year.” John had no answer for that, and simply kissed Rodney again.
Rodney didn’t stay long that night. In fact, Rodney never stayed long any night. Rodney tended to call John “Sheppard” or “Colonel” in the bedroom, just like usual, except near the moment of orgasm, when he was more likely to call John “baby” than to call him “John.” John had long since stopped feeling pained about it. McKay was a force of nature. John didn’t try to bend nature to his will. He just battened down the hatches or got the hell out of the way.
Rodney came to John’s quarters most nights, so John was shocked and sick at heart when he saw the engagement ring Rodney had bought for Katie Brown. He had made the mistake of starting to think that what he and Rodney had had for two years was love. Evidently, it was just fucking.
He put up a brave front, stammering lame encouragement, but he was meanly glad when the proposal had gone so disastrously wrong, laughing with Ronon about McKay’s belief that the “outbreak” had been genuine, and that he had been infected. That night, Rodney got no answer when he rang John’s bell, and found the door locked against him.
It stayed locked for weeks. John was determined to put the whole “Rodney situation” behind him. It was clear that they wanted different things from the relationship. Rodney didn’t love him and probably never would.
Then suddenly, Rodney had taken to calling him “John” most of the time. Hearing Rodney’s voice speak his name made John feel tender. His resolve weakened, finally breaking completely the night he got back from his Dad’s funeral. Rodney stayed with him all night long, rubbing his shoulders and listening to John talk and talk and talk about his family (just stuff…not FEELINGS for God’s Sake).
John woke in Rodney’s arms.
John unlocked his door.
John stopped worrying about whether or not Rodney loved him.
And now, Rodney was smiling and flirting with Keller, cozily, over a fruit cup.
Keller, whom Rodney had loved enough to marry, in another lifetime.
Rodney was released from the infirmary the next day, fever gone and all signs of viral infection gone.
He was happy to be out of bed, apparently. He was cheerful with his staff and jocular with everyone. It was vaguely creepy. It seemed like he was channeling Rod, his better-nicer-cooler alternate self that had come to Atlantis once. He even happily e-mailed Jeannie for help the moment Radek suggested it. For the most part, everyone shrugged it off.
At the senior staff meeting that afternoon, they discussed Woolsey’s new policy of sending a MALP through the ‘gate in advance of missions. Rodney seemed puzzled.
“When did this come up?” He asked.
“Yesterday, McKay. Don’t you remember? I mentioned it to you in the infirmary.”
“Oh! Oh, yes, of course,” Rodney replied, but John knew, from the shadowed look on his face, that Rodney didn’t remember. “Well, I’m usually all in favor of due caution, Mr. Woolsey, but don’t you think that’s going to get old fast?”
“I dislike losing people, Dr. McKay. I would much prefer inconveniencing ourselves somewhat to losing any more. I would have thought yesterday’s events would have made the necessity of instituting this policy readily apparent.”
“Yesterday? Losing people?” Rodney asked, clearly bewildered. The rest of them turned to stare at him, and he looked back, confused. “What?”
“Rodney,” Teyla began gently, “do you not remember the flooded valley and the loss of Dr. Nichols and his research team?” Rodney jumped in his seat, surprise and disgusted realization hitting him broadside.
“Of course I…” But Woolsey interrupted him.
“Dr. Keller, it seems that Dr. McKay might be having problems with his memory. Did anything show up on the scans you took? Maybe you should take another look at him.”
Rodney was too troubled to raise any objection.
Jennifer ran the usual scans, plus did extra neurological testing, but was unable to discern any physical reasons for Rodney’s apparent memory loss. At Rodney’s suggestion, she made a video recording of Rodney reciting his name, his position, plus other things that he would “know like the back of his hand,” including pi to 12 digits. The doctor did not think that there was any reason for great concern, being pretty sure that the memory loss was a side effect of Rodney being a bit “fuzzy” after his recovery from his virus. By the time the testing was completed, John and Rodney were equally reassured.
Eager to put the bizarre day behind them, they adjourned to John’s quarters to watch a movie. Matt Damon ran around
“Mmm, baby. Yeah, that’s it. That’s it, baby. Ohhhhhhh,” Rodney groaned as he came. John rested his cheek on Rodney’s belly as he caught his breath, brushing his stubble against the soft skin there. “OK, Colonel. Turnabout is fair play,” Rodney said as he reached for John’s cock.
It wasn’t until Rodney had left an hour later that John realized.
Rodney hadn’t called him John.
Not even once.
At breakfast the next morning, Rodney acted like nothing had happened. As they dug in to their eggs and bacon, John asked him what time he was recording his “memory video” for Dr. Keller.
Rodney had no idea what he was talking about.
But, once the recording was complete, he had lunch with Dr. Keller.
That evening, the team ate popcorn and watched as Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler went on “50 First Dates.” No one laughed.
Rodney and John jerked each other off, hot, fast, and nasty against the wall in John’s quarters after Ronon and Teyla left.
Rodney saluted sardonically with a cavalier, “As you were, Colonel,” before he left.
John stared at his freaked-out reflection in the bathroom mirror for a long, long time.
McKay met the team for lunch, which was not unusual.
He had selected orange jell-o, which was.
“Rodney? What are you doing?” John asked, incredulously.
“What do you mean?” Rodney asked, biting into his tuna salad sandwich with his usual zeal. The team exchanged a puzzled glance.
“Orange jell-o, Rodney.
“Of course I remember!” But his voice lacked its usual snap. In fact, he looked very troubled. “I always remember. How could I have made such a mistake? I’ve had this allergy my whole life. My whole life.”
His face took on an expression of dismissive unconcern, but his eyes remained troubled. “I must have been preoccupied. I doubt there’s enough citrus in this stuff to do me in, what with all the artificial flavorings and all. But, I can’t be too careful.” He slid the gelatin over to Ronon, snagging one of Ronon’s rolls in exchange. Lunch conversation was subdued after that, Rodney’s “mistake” casting a pall.
Every day, Rodney had to be reminded to meet Dr. Keller for his recording appointment. Every day, small bits of what he called his “schtick” slipped away or were interrupted by longer and longer pauses. Pi stubbornly stayed twelve digits, however, rolling off Rodney’s tongue the way John’s first name used to: “three point one four one five nine two three five six five eight nine.”
“Ya wanna watch a movie with me, tonight, Rodney?”
“I’ll have you know that I have a date, Major. The lovely Dr. Keller and I are having dinner and watching a film in my quarters.”
“A FILM, Rodney?” Sheppard raised an eyebrow, trying to ignore that Rodney had gotten his rank wrong.
“Eat your heart out, Kirk,” Rodney smirked, and John died a little more inside.
The parasite finally showed itself on the scans. It was the size of a peanut, with microscopic tendrils already lacing around Rodney’s brain stem. It was inoperable before Jennifer ever saw it.
“Three point four one five nine two three five six five eight nine.”
Keller looked like she wanted to cry in the conference room after she explained to Rodney’s team and Mr. Woolsey what her scans showed.
John did cry, alone in his quarters.
John was coming to pick Rodney up from the infirmary when he heard it.
“Jennifer, there's something I wanted to, um ... while I remember, while I still can; there's something I wanted to say before, um ...”
“I…I…I love you. I’ve loved you for some time now. OK. Where was I? Oh – pi – three point one four one five nine two three five six five eight nine.”
John decided to skip picking Rodney up. He’d let Dr. Jennifer fucking KELLER walk Rodney to dinner.
John grabbed a beer and headed for the South Pier.
He locked his door when he got back to his quarters.
But Rodney didn’t come by.
Keller had moved the recording sessions to the observation room, so that Woolsey and the senior staff could observe in real time. To John’s relief, there were no more heartfelt declarations of love. To his dismay, there were more and more fits of temper as more bits of the stuff Rodney “knew like the back of his hand” disappeared from his memory.
“Three point one four one five nine two three five six five eight nine. My first doctorate was in astrophysics. My second doctorate was in…was in…SHIT! I can’t do this!!! I can’t remember any more!!!” A flimsy table holding the few non-ancient Earth-made instruments Keller used for Rodney’s neurological exam crashed to the floor with a hearty assist from Rodney.
John bit his lip savagely to prevent the tears he saw in Teyla and Ronon’s eyes from springing to his own.
For the first time, he went to Rodney’s room after lights out. Rodney let him in, of course. But when John moved to take Rodney in his arms, he recoiled with such a look of shock that John fled the room to hide his own tears.
At lunch that day, Rodney had a bite of lime jell-o halfway to his mouth before anyone stopped him. The senior staff decided that the team needed to “Rodney-sit” during his waking hours to make sure he didn’t inadvertently make another disastrous mistake. Teyla or Ronon picked him up at his quarters at 0700 and stayed with him until noon, Sheppard took the afternoons, and the team generally spent the evenings together until Rodney was asleep, with either Sheppard or Ronon making sure all bedtime necessities were attended to, accompanied by Rodney’s complaints about being “treated like an idiot.”
John didn’t allow himself to think of what Rodney’s former regular bedtime routine had included. He was depressed enough without thinking about what “might have been” or what “used to be.”
He was definitely depressed enough.
It was clear that Rodney’s brilliance in the lab had declined to the point where Rodney was doing carefully double-checked busy-work. Radek, bless him, had treated Rodney with the utmost respect and skillfully carried on the illusion that Rodney’s contributions were valuable. The rest of his staff shrank back in embarrassment, to the point where routine repairs and nasty maintenance jobs were deemed far preferable to staying in the lab with Rodney, even if Radek was there, too.
Rodney didn’t seem to notice.
“Three point one four one five nine two three five six five eight nine.”
As Rodney saw people he recognized, he would repeat their full names several times, concentrating, as if trying to memorize the names of strangers at a party in an attempt to be polite.
“Good morning, Major John Sheppard.”
“Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, buddy.” Rodney soundlessly repeated the syllables. “Tell you what Rodney. You usually just call me John. OK? John?”
“OK,” said Rodney, with a smile before repeating, “Okay, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard. John. John.”
Teyla came to the table, sharing an Athosian embrace with Rodney, as had become her custom. John wondered if she was wishing her memories could be transferred to Rodney by osmosis. “Good morning, Teyla Emmagen.”
That day, pi had twelve digits only with fits and starts, hesitations and temper. He got it out, but not before berating himself for forgetting it half a dozen times.
And Rodney’s eyes started looking vague and helpless.
Keller had tried all the conventional forms of radiation treatment by this time, and was researching tirelessly for a more exotic cure. By this time, they knew it was called “the Second Childhood” in Pegasus, and they had heard of the Shrine of Tallus, though no real details about it.
That night, Ronon had “tuck-in McKay” duty.
And Rodney came banging on his door in a blind panic in the middle of the night. Rodney’s cries of “John! John! John!” sent him rocketing from his bed to open the door.
“I thought you were asleep!”
“I was ... I got so scared. I was sure that…” He lowered his hands then stared at John with anguish. “…by morning what was left of my mind was gonna be gone.”
All John wanted to do was hold Rodney tight, but he knew his lover didn’t remember him that way. It was time to play the buddy, the pal, the best friend.
The “beers on the pier” seemed normal, not because John and Rodney had often shared beers there, but because the conversation was almost normal. With the awful exception of Rodney’s attempt to say “Good-bye,” it had a good balance of their trademark sarcastic wit and serious “best friend” bucking up. John could almost believe that Rodney was going to get better when Rodney popped out with “You’re a good friend, Arthur.”
Laughing felt good. Better than sex.
Jeannie had been sent for, to meet the Daedelus at a gate near the edge of the Milky Way for a quick hyperspace jump to a gate near the edge of Pegasus.
Keller was still trying things on Rodney, now confined to the infirmary, but Ronon and Teyla apparently had a Pegasus answer to the Second Childhood.
Well, a partial answer.
Correction: a desperation measure, guaranteed to give Rodney his mind back for one glorious day before his unavoidable and quick death. John wasn’t sure if he agreed with Ronon and Teyla that it was a blessing, but he also wasn’t sure if he agreed with Keller that it would be torture.
He had an awful feeling that Rodney would agree with Keller.
He just knew what he wanted.
He wanted Rodney back, for however long, on whatever terms. He was a selfish bastard.
He had seen enough weird stuff in Pegasus to convince him that the Shrine of Tallus couldn’t be complete crap. He was a little irritated with Woolsey and Keller, neither of whom knew Ronon and Teyla, much less Pegasus as well as him. They also had less invested in McKay, regardless of any days-old declarations of love that might have been made. To John, this was a team matter.
Rodney was his.
He hoped Jeannie, with her next-of kin authority would be receptive to their arguments.
He, Ronon and Teyla started making plans.
They met in the infirmary after breakfast to see if they could get Rodney to understand well enough to consent to the procedure.
It started well enough. He knew the team (“Ronon Dex,” “Hi, John!”), and he immediately trusted the team, even if he maybe didn’t completely “get” what they were asking him to decide.
Then Keller had to butt in and make sure he remembered to be scared out of his wits about the WRAITH. She had him mumbling “one four one five nine two three…” before the conversation came to its ignominious end.
As Teyla and Keller left the infirmary, arguing about the Shrine, Ronon following, John sidled up to Rodney, taking his hand. “Hey, buddy. How you doin’?”
“John. Hi, John. You’re John. My friend. My best buddy.”
“Yeah, that’s right, buddy,” John said around a prickly lump in his throat.
“I love you, John.”
Like Richard Woolsey with his father, John felt like he had just had a precious moment of absolute clarity. Rodney’s eyes were clear, lacking the vague, distressed look they usually wore. John leaned in and kissed him firmly, with his lips closed and his arms securely around Rodney’s back. “I love you, too, Rodney.”
Glancing up, he saw Keller watching them, with a stricken look on her face.
John wasn’t quite noble enough to feel bad for her.
John spent all of every day either in the infirmary with Rodney or watching Rodney from the observation room. Every time he came into the room, he was greeted with “John! Hi, John. You’re my friend John. I love you, John.,” much as Ronon was greeted with a musical, “Ronon Dex.”
Dr. Keller he now greeted with, “Hello. You’re that girl. You take my picture.”
Keller continued to try things that didn’t work, losing sleep and becoming more and more discouraged, as the day she would have to face Jeannie McKay Miller, followed inevitably, it now seemed, by the death of the man that had declared his love for her only a week previous.
The man that now couldn’t seem to place her except as someone he saw most of every day. For all the bitter sweetness of the childlike joy with which Rodney greeted John, he was not yet in Jennifer’s place. He was not “that girl.”
But, he knew the day was coming. And he still wasn’t ready to say good-bye.
Keller was in the middle of taping Rodney when the Daedelus signaled Atlantis to coordinate Jeannie’s gating in. John was in the control room when Rodney realized John had left. When Jennifer commed him, he could hear Rodney calling, “John? Where are you, John?”
He knew he owed it to Jeannie to be with her while she was brought up to date. He sent Ronon and Teyla to help Jennifer calm Rodney in the meantime. All of them together were nearly as effective as John by himself.
Watching Rodney’s fast decline was as painful on video as it was in real life, and he wanted to hug Jeannie when she accused, “Why didn’t you tell me my brother was this far gone?” But he knew that McKays preferred facts to displays of comfort and affection. Too well he knew.
He devoted the day to making sure Jeannie got all her facts.
The next day, they left for Tallus.
The door chimed, late at night. Jeannie had gone back to Kaleb and
“You love me, Sheppard. I know you’ve always loved me,” Rodney whispered into John’s neck.
“So much,” John breathed back.