Atlantis slash


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Atlantis kageygirl


Title: Vigil

Author: kageygirl

E-mail: kageygirl@gmail.com

URL: http://www.kageygirl.com

Feedback: LiveJournal

Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Rating: G

Season/spoilers: Season 1, 1.15 "Before I Sleep"

John rested a hand next to Rodney's head, on the coarse infirmary towel that Rodney was using as a pillow. He wanted to run that hand over Rodney's head, feel his hair tickling his palm, let Rodney's warmth ward off the chill of the infirmary, but he didn't. John didn't want to wake him.

He had the impression that he was being watched, and he turned his head to look at Elizabeth, holding her own vigil across the room. She nodded gently, giving him a brief smile. He watched her check the monitors, as if to confirm that the other Elizabeth was really asleep, then she made her way quietly over to stand beside him.

He knew he should move his hand, play it off with a casual smirk and a dismissive remark, but he couldn't do it. Not now; not in the deep pit of the night, with Atlantis sleeping around them. Not after everything the other Elizabeth had told them. It was a time for truth.

So John left his hand resting next to Rodney's head, and didn't try to school his expression into impassive lines. He was almost certain Elizabeth knew more than she gave away, anyway, about all of them. She just inclined her head as she joined him. John kept his voice low, and it came out gravelly. "He died."

"I know." Elizabeth brushed her fingers over the very edge of Rodney's makeshift bed, staring down at him with a touch of sadness. She spoke to John, keeping her voice equally soft, but her eyes were on Rodney. "You all did." She shook her head. "They all did. It's a lot to take in."

John picked at a loose thread trailing from the terrycloth towel. "That really freaked him out, hearing about it."

"He's not the only one." John looked up sharply, but Elizabeth had crossed her arms tightly over her chest, and she was still looking at Rodney. She gave a smile, but it came out a little fragile. "He died trying to save a lot of other people. And at the time, I—she—probably never thought…"

Elizabeth drew herself up straight and took a deep breath. John just watched as the armor went up. She looked at John, and the steel in her eyes was softened by the fondness he heard in her voice. "I know better, now."

"Me, too." He'd been told about Rodney stepping between Elizabeth and Kolya's gun, seen Rodney walk into an energy-sucking cloud of darkness, watched him fire on a near-indestructible ten-thousand-year-old Wraith with just a 9mm.

Elizabeth glanced back at Rodney, and her expression turned rueful. "I'm not sure we give him enough credit."

"He doesn't want it."

Now she looked at him quizzically, and John tried to find the words to explain. "That's just not who he thinks he is. He's all over the science stuff, and he'll be the first to tell you how smart he is, at great length. But I think, somewhere along the line, he just decided that…" John frowned. "That intelligence is all he has to offer." He sighed. "So he doesn't want the credit for anything else. He doesn't believe it."

Elizabeth gave him a level stare. "You know that's not all he has to offer." It wasn't a question.

John wanted to take offense at that, but he got defensive about Rodney, too, even though he tried not to show it. "Of course I know that. But he doesn't know that. So he doesn't quite trust it when someone tells him he did a good job at something that's not about his brain."

Her face was troubled, and her fingers clenched and unclenched where they wrapped around her arms. She must have been tired, too, to be telegraphing her distress so strongly. "So what do you do about that?"

"Tell him anyway, sometimes." John smoothed the nap of the towel down, then reluctantly pulled his hand away, before the restlessness in his fingers escaped his tenuous control. "He told me that Dr. Gaul said he'd changed. But he hasn't." John looked at Elizabeth seriously, nodding at the bed behind them, where the other Elizabeth lay sleeping. "From what she told us, he hasn't changed. It was their first day here, and already he was—" a hero, he wanted to say, but that seemed too melodramatic, too trite. He cleared his throat softly. "The kind of guy who'd stay behind to try to save other people, even if most of them were strangers. Who really would work right up until the end to get them out, though he was terrified, though he knew he was going to die."

Now Elizabeth frowned at him in confusion. "But you don't tell him he's done well." John raised his eyebrows, and she repeated back to him what he'd said in the briefing room. "'But ultimately failing'?"

John scratched the back of his head and winced, because he realized how bad that looked. "It's kind of complicated." She waited patiently while he gathered his thoughts again. "Rodney expects that kind of treatment. He understands that, knows how to deal with it. Hell, he pushes for it, sometimes."

He looked down at Rodney, arms folded over his chest. Guarded, even in his sleep. Except when he wasn't—and thinking of Rodney in his unguarded moments made John's throat a little tight again. "Sometimes, when he fixates on something, it's…easier, to push back. Get him mad. Challenge him, so that he thinks, instead of reacting." Get him back on solid footing, he didn't say.

"Easier for whom?" Her voice was hushed, and when he looked at her again, there was something in her eyes that made him desperately uncomfortable—something far too intuitive. John couldn't take that kind of scrutiny, not right now, not when he was already feeling raw and exposed. Not when he kept remembering Rodney trying to bluster about dying well, in a hollow voice, with that stunned distance in his eyes that meant he was conjuring horrible visions in his mind.

Not when John was conjuring his own horrible visions—of Rodney, watching the water pour into the gateroom. Drowning in the shocking cold of the deep ocean. That disturbed him more than the thought of his own death in the same ocean, ten millennia earlier.

He shook his head, looking away from Elizabeth's knowing gaze, recognizing he was taking the easy way out even as he did so. He didn't answer her question, because she didn't really need him to. "And if I were to stop treating him like that, he'd stop trusting me entirely. He'd never believe me when I did tell him how well he's done."

Elizabeth chuckled softly. "I'd say 'complicated' is an understatement," she murmured drily, and John had to smirk at that.

They shared a companionable silence. After a moment, Elizabeth squeezed his arm gently, then dropped her hand. "Carry on, Major," she said, and he heard the double meaning under the casual dismissal. He looked her in the eye and nodded.

She left him alone, then, drifting back to the other bed to stand watch over herself.

John laid his hand down on the towel again, knowing he shouldn't be doing this, that this was dangerous, that he was taking a frightening chance. It was late, very late. Too late for John to hide himself. If Rodney woke up right now, he'd look up at John, and he'd see what Elizabeth had seen. And then…

Complicated, John thought. Difficult, contrary, unpredictable, mercurial. Rodney could be any and all of those, at any given time. It was part of what made him so damn compelling.

It also meant that John couldn't guess how Rodney would react. And the risk from that made him draw his hand back, made him deliberately push himself away from the bed, made him walk over to the chairs he'd set up near Elizabeth and her counterpart.

Maybe in the morning, he'd find his courage. Maybe in the clear light of day, he'd be able to look at Rodney, and not hear the phantom echoes of water pouring into the room, threatening to drag John down into airless depths, cold and dark and alone.