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Title: Keepsakes
Author: taste_is_sweet (My author page at Dreamspinner Press)
Recipient: starbuckssue
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: Approx. 11,500
Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis does not belong to me.
Author's Notes: Ms. Sue of the Stars asked for a McShep in something episode related with lots of angst and hurt/comfort and a happy ending. She also wanted Team Sheppard friendship set in Atlantis/Pegasus. This is also for the 'Theft' prompt for my hc_bingo card (which is here).

This is an AU, but definitely episode related. And I can certainly promise you Teamy friendship, McShep, angst, H/C and a happy ending. I hope it's at least close to what you wanted. :)

Summary: Rodney looked confused, then angry. "It's not a cage," he said, like she'd insulted him. "It's a habitat. They'll be a pond--fresh water--and trees, and--"

"John had very specific wishes about what should happen to him if he couldn't be cured, Rodney," Elizabeth said.


"It's too late," Carson said. He could hear the exhaustion in his own voice and something too close to grief. "I can't...it didn't work." John was already strapped down in isolation. "There's nothing I can do for him. I'm sorry."

Rodney just looked at him. His face was utterly, terrifyingly blank. Carson had seen people look like that when he told them their children were dead. "What do you mean?" Rodney asked, as if Rodney, of all people, self-proclaimed smartest one of them all, couldn't possibly know.

"It means he's gone, Rodney," Elizabeth said. She reached to touch Rodney's shoulder, and her hand shook. "It means John Sheppard is gone."

"I'm sorry," Carson said. Useless words, no matter how much he meant them.

Perna, then Ellia, now John. His mistakes, his fault, all of them.

Rodney blinked, like he somehow hadn't expected that answer. His expression didn't change, but his eyes went wet and bright, and he swallowed before he spoke again.

"You said--you said you could fix him," Rodney said. Then, loud with anger and betrayal, "you said you could fix him!"

"Rodney," Elizabeth warned, "he did everything he could." It sounded like rote, as if Elizabeth was already too caught in her own grief to truly mean it. Carson couldn't blame her.

"It wasn't good enough, was it?" Rodney spit out. He blinked again, then swiped angrily at one eye. "It's never good enough. All the fucking things you've done." He abruptly turned and stalked toward the back of the infirmary, where the isolation rooms were. "I'm going to see him," he tossed over his shoulder, as if daring Carson to think about stopping him. As if Carson would even try.

"Carson," Elizabeth said, and he could almost see her struggling to find something diplomatic and placating, still trying to be the good leader. "Rodney, he--"

"It's all right," Carson said, "I understand."

"We can't keep him there." Rodney was pacing her office. He spoke fast. His hands darted with urgency, as if this was a plan to stave off some new disaster. "He's strapped to a bed, Elizabeth!" he exclaimed, as if Carson had done it just to be cruel. Then Rodney stopped abruptly, his eyes widening. "And--and we have to feed him! What's he going to eat?"

"Rodney..." Elizabeth was standing as well. She closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. Her head ached.

What's he going to eat? Like she hadn't spent the last God knew how many hours thinking of that.

"We have to build him a habitat!" Rodney said. He sounded excited to have a tangential solution to a problem he couldn't solve. "Look." He pulled the tablet on her desk closer to him and turned it around. He bent over it, picking up her stylus. "I've uploaded some plans--"

"Rodney," Elizabeth said. She put her hand on his arm to make him look up at her. "Rodney," she repeated. She took a breath. "I don't think it's appropriate to consider building him some kind of cage."

Rodney looked confused, then angry. "It's not a cage," he said, like she'd insulted him. "It's a habitat. They'll be a pond--fresh water--and trees, and--"

"John had very specific wishes about what should happen to him if he couldn't be cured, Rodney," Elizabeth said.

Rodney gaped at her, and then his face closed into icy fury. "No," he said. "No. No, we are not going to...to put him down like he's some kind of rabid dog! How can you--"

"So we're going to keep him like a pet?" Elizabeth shot back, silencing him. "Do you really think he'd want that?" She gestured at Rodney's tablet so harshly that she hit it and nearly sent it sliding off the table. "We owe him more than a terrarium, Rodney!"

"We owe him more than a bullet between the eyes, Elizabeth!" Rodney shouted. "We owe him everything! How can you just stand there and tell me the only solution here is for him to die?"

"There is no solution here!" Elizabeth was shouting too, now. She was furious, but not at Rodney. Rodney was just a convenient excuse. "There is no solution! John is dead! To all intents and purposes, Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard is gone! That..." She swallowed, and damn her, she was fighting back tears. "That thing in the infirmary isn't John. It isn't even human anymore, and we both know it."

She took a breath, forcing herself to be calm. One of them had to be calm. "John wanted us to...to not take any heroic measures, if it came to this." She swallowed again, but made sure her expression was steel. "This is the kindest thing we can do for him."

Rodney stared at her for a moment, his jaw working like he was fighting with himself about what to say. "Fine, then," he spit at last. "Fine. Go ahead and kill him. Kill whatever bit of John might be left. Who are you going to order to do it?"

She could practically feel the blood draining from her face, sucking her fury down with it. "I haven't considered that yet," she said, and was privately amazed her voice held so steady. She hadn't thought about it at all, she realized. "I was...I was assuming the infirmary--"

Rodney snorted. Anger was familiar territory for him and now he knew he had the upper hand. Elizabeth tried not to resent him for it. "Which one of them are you going to force to break the Hippocratic Oath, Elizabeth? Carson? Marie? Keller?" he went on as if he was really considering it. "She's pretty new, maybe she doesn't know John well enough to mind deliberately poisoning him..." He snapped his fingers, all innocence. "Or, I know! Ronon! There's no way he would feel any residual loyalty--"

"STOP!" Elizabeth's voice was so loud that she startled herself; Rodney shut up like she'd slapped him. "Don't you dare imply this is easy for me," she said. "I look at that creature in isolation and I see the exact same man you do. But it's not that man anymore, and we have no right to prolong that existence directly against John's wishes."

"John's not here anymore, Elizabeth," Rodney said. "His wishes are no longer relevant." He blinked at his own words and his eyes went liquid again, as if he'd only just understood what that meant. "We're the ones he left behind. And...and I don't know about you, but I'm not prepared to go down there and kill a living creature just for the sake of...a dead man's request. Even if it's just an animal now, don't we owe it better than that?"

Elizabeth sighed. She put her palms on her desk and looked down at the space between her hands. She hated how relieved she was, how eager to go back on her word if it meant no blood on her hands. "All right," she said finally, looking up. "All right. We'll do it your way. Show me your plans."

It showed just how upset Rodney was that he didn't even look smug. But when he started flipping through the screen pages of note after note, explaining them all in minute detail, he was so adept and eager that for a moment Elizabeth could pretend that nothing had changed.

She hated how happy that made her, too.

It should have taken more than a month's work to build the habitat, but Rodney got so many volunteers that it was finished in ten days. They adapted one of the largest of the city's abandoned labs, one that was airy and open with lots of light. Rodney made sure they added a pond, and rocks and living trees to climb on and soft sand and a dark and humid cave. The biologists gathered native plant species from the Iratus bugs' planet by the dozen.

They also added bars along one end, made of extremely strong metal. And a force shield, just in case. Rodney argued that the shield was ridiculous paranoia, but this was one place where Elizabeth wouldn't back down. She insisted that they might need it. This wasn't John; they couldn't predict how this new life form would react.

As if Rodney needed reminding.

John had been kept in one of the Wraith cells while the habitat was being built, with the force shield on. Rodney hated it but he reluctantly agreed that there was nowhere else to put him. He visited John whenever he could, but unless he was eating, John just stayed huddled and miserable in the middle of the cell and wouldn't even look at him. Rodney was sure it was because John didn't understand why Rodney wouldn't get him out; not because, like Carson insisted, that John couldn't register his presence through the shield. After all, John still had his eyes. Even if they were crayon yellow and split in the middle like a Wraith's.

The day the habitat was finally finished, Ronon stunned John and they moved him from the cell to the habitat as quickly as possible. Even then, John woke up just as the Marines were hurriedly locking the door behind them.

John snapped alert, sniffing noisily with his mouth open while his head darted right and left like a bird. He inspected the trees, still sniffing, climbed on the rocks then gave them an experimental taste. He did the same thing with the sand, then shook his head and spit like an affronted cat. One of the Marines who had moved John sniggered at that. Rodney glared so hard at the man that he left the room.

John kept tasting and sniffing, oblivious, and pretty soon his skin darkened from pale blue-grey to a deep navy blue.

"He must be getting warm," Carson said. He looked worriedly at Rodney. "You're quite sure the temperature's within the parameters I specified?"

Rodney rolled his eyes, which he never took off John. "Yes, Carson. I did manage to remember to make sure the temperature stays within three degrees of twenty Celsius at all times. It's like Goldilocks' wet dream in there. If Goldilocks was...well..." He was going to say, if Goldilocks were like John, but that wasn't really John, and the joke stopped being funny.

John wasn't there anymore. Rodney knew that, even though he was still using his name. Everyone was. They couldn't manage not to.

Carson looked away. He'd been doing that a lot, lately. Rodney wished he felt worse about it.

In the habitat, John apparently finished his inspection of the area nearest the door and crawled off, still sniffing like mad and occasionally tasting things. 'Crawl' wasn't really the right word for it, because John had never stopped being bipedal, though he readily dropped into a kind of commando-crawl to get closer to the more interesting-smelling things before straightening again. He was completely naked now so everyone got what would be a nicely humiliating view of his dick and ass if John gave a shit about things like that anymore. But after the sniggering Marine left, no one else even breathed in a way that could be attributed to amusement. Rodney sure as hell didn't feel like laughing.

Rodney did smile, although there wasn't really any joy in it. It was just that regardless of Carson's squawking about temperature, Rodney was privately certain that John's darker hue was because he was happy. At least as happy as the genetic mess he'd become could ever get.

Actually, that was pretty much exactly how Rodney felt, too: as happy as he could get anymore, considering how much of a mess he was inside.

He'd take it, he thought. It was better than nothing.

"It's not that I have to be in my lab all the time, you realize, much as I'm sure the incompetent clowns who laughingly call themselves 'scientists' wish that I were constantly available to save them from themselves. Not that they'd ever dare admit it," Rodney said, then finished chewing and swallowed the large forkful of pancakes with a loud gulp. "These are delicious, by the way. The cook--what's her name? Gesundheit? Gonzales? Goodwin?" He realized he was waiting for John to supply the surname and hastily took another big bite. "Well, I'm sure you'd know her, anyway. She's really outdone herself. I just hope she didn't add orange oil or something, to get them tasting like this. It'd be a terrible blow to science to find me dead next to you with my throat like an inner tube and my grey, swollen tongue sticking out." Rodney grimaced. "Now that's a great image." He looked at his food, a little concerned he might be right, then shrugged and cut himself another piece. "I'm sure I would've died by now."

John was stretched out on his stomach over the largest rock at the front of his habitat, so near to the bars that he could touch them if the force shield were off. He was directly under the giant sunlamp, and Rodney felt warm and sleepy just looking at him. The only part of John that had moved in the last ten minutes was his eyes, which flicked unerringly from Rodney's plate to his mouth, following his hands. It was a little unnerving, if Rodney were being honest. He kept checking for syrup on his chin.

And while he was being honest, Rodney could admit he wasn't sure why he'd decided to eat breakfast down here this morning, instead of in the mess with Teyla and Ronon, or in his lab where all the idiots were at least within shouting distance. It wasn't like he hadn't visited John once a day since he was moved here. It was just that...

It was just that Rodney didn't know what it was. Except, okay, maybe he did.

"Right. The lab. Well, like I said, it's not that I have to be there. So I decided that for once I'd forgo the latest addition to the doubtless gaping ulcer in my stomach and eat breakfast here." He shrugged, feeling ridiculous that he couldn't meet John's eyes when he knew that John couldn't understand anything he said. "I just...got used to it, seeing your ridiculous floppy hair across the table every morning. And hearing your awful donkey laugh when you found something unaccountably hilarious. Not that you laugh anymore. Still have the hair, though. Which is weird, considering you're scaly everywhere else."

Rodney took a very large gulp of his coffee. John watched him drink it.

John didn't do much of anything anymore, as far as anyone could tell. The surveillance videos, when anyone bothered to watch them, pretty much only ever showed him lying on the rocks or hiding in his cave. He swam sometimes: a strange hybrid of a proper crawl stroke and something a beetle might use to keep from drowning. But John never made any noise, and he never laughed or smiled. Not that Rodney was still hoping he might, in some stupid, wistful part of him. Really. Just like he knew it meant nothing that John had ambled over from wherever he'd been when Rodney sat down. He'd probably just wanted the sunlamp.

John was very catlike in that regard, wanting all the warm spots. Rodney could appreciate that.

Rodney sighed. "Lying down on a warm rock's really appealing right now, let me tell you. Caldwell's got a real bug up--I mean bee in his ear, sorry--about changing the Gate team protocols, so no one stays with the same people for more than a few months. He doesn't want to create a situation where anyone might choose their team over the city in a crisis, or even choose one team member over another." Rodney snorted. "As if any of us would be that unprofessional." He took another gulp of coffee. "Caldwell's not so bad, I suppose," he said, looking down at the plate in his lap. "I mean, he can't tell his ass from a hole in the ground, but you have to expect that from the majority of military personnel. Present company excluded, naturally." Rodney filled in John's drawled repeat of 'naturally' in his head. The real, dark blue John didn't move.

Rodney sighed, then took another drink of coffee. It was getting low.

"I mean, much as I hate to say it, he's had a lot of good ideas since he took over. Don't get me wrong, they're not better than what you would've come up with," he added to make sure he didn't hurt John's feelings. "It's just that I was expecting him to be a walking disaster with a ramrod up his ass. So it's been a pleasant surprise to find out he's just got a ramrod up his ass, but without the disaster part."

Rodney smirked a little, then took the last bite of his pancakes and finished his coffee. John watched his hands, then his mouth.

"So, uh, Ronon told me he caught a New Athos deer-type animal for you. They'll bring it down later once Gupta's made sure it doesn't have space-distemper or anything. Bet you'll enjoy eating it." They'd discovered very quickly that John ate like a Wraith, except that he used both hands. They'd also found out that he could survive quite readily on live animals. That had been a tremendous relief, because capturing Wraith was difficult.

John only needed nourishment about once a week, maybe once every two weeks if the animal was big enough. Ronon always brought back the largest animals he could find, and Rodney was extremely thankful for that. It was very hard to tell when John was hungry. The only real sign was when he turned pale from a lack of energy, and at that point he was likely starving. Rodney hated the idea of John going hungry and having no way to let anyone know.

Rodney looked at John to verify that John's color really was the nice vibrant dark blue that meant he was comfortable and happy. In case it had changed in the last five minutes.

John was looking right back, and his color was the darkest blue Rodney had ever seen on him, almost blue-black.

"Oh. Uh, hi," Rodney said. He smiled nervously, and then felt stupid for feeling nervous. It was just the intensity of John's gaze, which was only amplified by the slit pupils and the dark, dark blue skin around them. He wondered if this was what John's prey felt like.

Rodney had become disturbingly accustomed to feeling like prey since he'd come to the Pegasus galaxy, but it never got any more appealing. He didn't even know for sure that John didn't just see him as prey, like the Wraith did. Maybe that was why John came over all the time: not because he wanted the company or even the nice warm rocks, but because he was waiting for his opportunity to strike.

"Well, that's depressing," Rodney said, still looking at John. "You're not really hoping you can eat me, are you?"

John didn't smile anymore, and of course he didn't reply. but he did give Rodney a long, slow blink, like a friendly cat.

Of course a blink didn't answer Rodney's question, but it made him feel weirdly better anyway.

Rodney didn't realize he'd left his coffee mug behind until two hours later, when he was in his lab and Zelenka had demanded Rodney stop taking his mug and Rodney couldn't find his own to refill it. But when Rodney returned to the habitat, the mug wasn't there.

"Well, damn it," Rodney muttered. He'd liked that mug. He just hoped that it'd been found by one of his sycophantic minions so he'd get it back.

He waited a little while for John before he left, just to say hi. But John was apparently swimming or sleeping on a different rock or in his cave or whatever, because he never came out.

Rodney tried to remind himself that he shouldn't be disappointed.

Rodney carefully put down his coffee and muffin, positioned the pillow on the floor in exactly the right spot and then plopped down onto it with a happy sigh. He slipped the pillow behind his head, wriggled a bit to get perfectly comfortable, then picked up his laptop, flipped it open and set it on his crossed legs.

"That's better," he said to himself. It was nice and quiet down in the habitat room, as opposed to the constant excited din of the labs.

Rodney had never thought he'd miss going through the Gate this much. But it hadn't felt...right, being on anyone else's team. And he had years' worth of work to catch up on, so he figured he was just as useful staying in the city.

But he'd readily admit that he'd liked how quiet it was, on the barely-inhabited planets. And he missed being alone with his team. Sometimes he felt like he barely got to see them anymore.

The other part of why he kept coming down here was John. Rodney knew about denial, thank you very much, despite Heightmeyer giving him her big, concerned doe eyes about it all the damn time. Rodney wasn't deluded enough to think that John would suddenly appear one day with pink skin and hazel eyes and his usual smirk like nothing had ever happened.

But John--this John, and Rodney damn well knew the difference--always came over as soon as Rodney sat down. Rodney had lived with cats. He remembered how they would follow him around from room to room, even if they didn't want petting. He remembered that they got lonely.

Rodney did, however, realize that John wasn't catlike enough to be lonely. And God knew Ronon and Teyla visited him as often as Rodney did whenever they were in the city. And Major Lorne came by too, and even Elizabeth, though she never stayed long. Even Caldwell visited from time to time. Rodney found it really funny how badly John's blank stare obviously unnerved him.

But still. Maybe John appreciated the company, somewhere in that insect-lizard brain of his. And it was quiet down there anyway.

Rodney scowled at himself for getting maudlin, then picked up his muffin and took a big bite. He washed it down with some coffee and saw John appear out of nowhere and nearly spit everything onto the keyboard.

"Jesus Christ!" he exclaimed when he could speak without choking himself. "Must you do that every. Single. Time? Are you trying to kill me? My heart almost exploded!"

John just blinked slowly at him with his normal inscrutable-lizard gaze, then settled onto his usual place on the rocks and lay down on his stomach. Rodney had no idea if John kept scaring him on purpose, or even recognized Rodney's reaction.

Sometimes Rodney thought he'd give all his PhDs to know what, if anything, was going on behind those stark yellow eyes.

"You'll miss me when I'm dead, you know," Rodney said, taking a sip of his coffee.

John said nothing, like he always did. One day Rodney was sure he'd stop waiting for John to speak again.

His mood a little soured, Rodney put his coffee down and began working. "Lorne's team brought back something interesting from PX-431. You know, the one we visited with the big animals that looked like cows but were actually dogs? Yeah, that one. Well, the energy reading from that temple building turned out to actually mean something for once. Here, look."

Rodney twisted his laptop screen so John could look at it. Of course John never responded to anything on the screen, but Rodney had stopped feeling foolish for essentially conversing with himself weeks ago. It didn't hurt anyone for him to...pretend that John could interact with him. And what Heightmeyer didn't know would hurt even less. And if Chuck or whoever laughed at him over the video feed, well, good for them. Rodney had always treated his pets like they understood him, rather than just cooing at them like they were demented babies.

"Not that I think of you as a pet in any way, shape or form," he said quickly to John, as if John could somehow read his mind. "I think of you as, well, you." Rodney sighed. "Which I guess is the problem."

He looked at John. John looked back.

"You're not really in there anymore, are you?" Rodney said softly. When he blinked there were tears on his cheeks, but he didn't bother to wipe them away. John didn't care if he cried. "I know I should accept that you're gone. Heightmeyer keeps saying I should." He snorted a damp laugh. "Hell, Teyla says I should, and she's always right. But..." He swallowed. "I can't. I don't want to. I keep telling myself I'm not going to come down here anymore, and then I...I just can't do it. You're--"

He took a breath. "You were my best friend. And, well, that's it."

This time he did wipe his eyes. "Sorry about that." Rodney briskly rubbed his palms together. "All right. Let's get to work."

His radio clicked on.

"Damn it, Zelenka, what now?" Rodney demanded, then smacked his palm over his face as he heard Radek's answer. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me. Fine. Yes, I'll be right there." Rodney cut the connection. "Fucking hell!" he snapped his laptop shut and heaved himself to his feet. "I have to go," he explained to John, who'd lifted his head when Rodney stood up. "Either Atlantis thinks that there's a fire in the Southern pier, or there really is a fire in the Southern pier, but either way it's a shit-storm in the making. They're sending a jumper out now to check, but whatever's going on, they obviously can't handle it by themselves."

John pulled himself up to his knees and elbows, as if he were preparing to launch into that bizarre crawling thing of his.

"Don't worry about it. It's nothing that can affect you," Rodney said. He picked up his half-empty mug of coffee, certain that he'd need it, and then began to walk to the door. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he said to John over his shoulder, as if it would make a difference.

He made a mental note to come back for the pillows, only to promptly forget it when the pier fire turned out to be completely real. And hours later, when he staggered back to the habitat room exhausted and covered in soot and ash, both of the pillows were gone.

"John's stealing stuff," Rodney said to Ronon and Teyla. "Look."

He'd called them to his quarters and now they were all sitting on the floor in front of his bed, crowded close around his little laptop screen on his lap like they were doing something illicit. Rodney clicked on the downloaded camera feed, and the screen filled with the view of the habitat room. The disturbingly prison-like bars stretched from floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall, their uniform surface broken only by the reinforced metal of the door to get in. No one used it except to deliver John's meals-on-hooves. Between the bars and the doorway to the habitat room was the space where Rodney liked to sit. The two pillows he'd been using before the fire were right where he'd left them near the bars.

John was up on his rocks, the way Rodney had last seen him as he'd gone out the door. John was perfectly still, as if he'd been carved out of the stone he was crouched on. Nothing moved except the occasional random flicker of the force shield.

"Don't see anything," Ronon said.

"Wait for it," Rodney said.

They waited. Four minutes went by, ticking steadily in the upper corner of the screen. Then suddenly John went from complete stillness to such quick movement it was as if he'd teleported off the rocks to the bars of the cage. He sat on his haunches, looking through the bars at the pillows. His expression was just as blank as it'd been for the more than three months since he'd succumbed to the retrovirus, but his focus was unmistakable.

"I didn't realize he was so aware," Teyla said quietly.

"He looks like Sheppard, like that," Ronon said.

For a moment Rodney's chest was too tight to speak. "Yeah, well, he's not," he managed thickly. "But, ah, watch this."

On the screen, John hunkered down until he was on his elbows and knees, and then edged closer to the bars until his nose was almost touching the force shield. Then he lay flat on his stomach and slowly stuck his arm through the bars at the bottom of the cage where they met the floor and the wall.

"What's he doing?" Ronon said. Both he and Teyla leaned closer to the screen.

"There's a tiny gap there, in that portion of the force shield," Rodney explained, voice hushed. "I have no idea how he found it--maybe it sounds different to him. Or smells different, or something."

While they watched, John pressed his upper body right against the bars, stretching his arm out as far as he could. Arcs of light danced over his head and shoulders and even though Rodney had seen this before, he couldn't help his noise of horrified sympathy at the involuntary ripples in the muscles of John's arm.

"That must hurt," Teyla said.

"Yeah." Rodney swallowed.

"Maybe he can't feel it?" Ronon asked them.

"Maybe," Rodney said. It was impossible to tell by John's face if he was in pain. But his extended arm shook more and more noticeably as he groped for the pillows.

"How long does this continue?" Teyla looked at Rodney with her eyes widened in horror. "He's damaging himself!"

"There!" Ronon pointed at the screen, where John finally stabbed his claws into the first pillow. All three of them exhaled in relief as he snatched it up and yanked it through the bars. One of the seams popped, but John didn't react to the tufts of stuffing that spilled out. He just shoved the pillow aside and began the whole torturous procedure over again.

"All right," Rodney said on a whoosh of air when John had finally pulled the second pillow through the bars. "Now, watch this."

"He's pale," Teyla said. John was resting, panting with his mouth open.

"Yeah." Ronon nodded. "It must've hurt, if he looks like that."

"It might've just been the exertion," Rodney said hopefully. He wasn't surprised that Ronon and Teyla had made the same observations about John's color changes that he had. "He'll go blue again in a minute."

They watched silently while John's color slowly darkened from blue-grey back to dark blue. Then just as suddenly as he'd moved before, John snatched up both pillows and sprang to his feet, crushing the pillows against his chest. He walked awkwardly, like a dog balanced on its hind legs, but he was still incredibly fast. In the space of a blink he'd vanished into the depths of his habitat, leaving the rest of the video to spool out as if he'd never been there.

"So, that's it," Rodney said unnecessarily. He slapped the laptop shut and then looked at Teyla and Ronon. "I'm almost certain he took one of my coffee mugs as well. But I still don't know if it means anything."

"You mean, you don't know if some part of John may have been restored to us," Teyla said carefully. Rodney could see the same wary hope in her eyes.

"I dunno," Ronon said. "I had a cherru when I was a kid. It did the same thing. Took anything it could pick up and hid it under my bed."

"I had a similar companion," Teyla said. She smiled briefly at the memory. "But we have no reason to believe that John's motivation is so...basic."

Rodney sighed gustily, running his fingers through his hair. "But we don't have reason to think it isn't basic, either. For all we know, he just grabs whatever's in reach and hoards it in the back of his cave. Or dumps it in his pond."

"'Stuff wasn't in reach," Ronon said. "He worked damn hard for it."

Rodney nodded slowly, thinking. Then he jerked his head up and snapped his fingers. "An experiment! We'll run an experiment!" He looked at Teyla. "Teyla, what do you have that you wouldn't mind John taking?"

"I have many things he may have," Teyla said seriously. "But to what end, if he merely takes everything near to him?"

"But what if he doesn't?" Rodney asked them. "What if he only takes things from the three of us? Or just me?"

"Rodney." Teyla put her small hand on his, her lovely face suffused with sympathy. "We all want to believe that John still exists somewhere in that creature's mind. But that doesn't make it true."

Ronon shrugged. "My cherru only slept on my bed. I raised her, so I was her favorite of all my brothers and sisters. But she was still just a cherru."

"John's not a cherru, whatever the hell that is." Rodney snapped. He yanked his hand away from Teyla, glaring at her and Ronon. "God, you both sound like Elizabeth! Or Heightmeyer! Why is everyone so unwilling to believe that John might still be alive?"

Teyla met his glare with the same, implacable sympathy. "Sometimes hope is more damaging than acceptance."

"He was a warrior, and he died fighting the Wraith," Ronon said.

Rodney shoved his laptop off his lap and stood. "John's not a damn cherru." He began pacing, furious. "He's not just some stupid animal that... You saw him in the video! He knew what he was doing! He--" Rodney's traitorous eyes started welling again, and he swallowed convulsively then turned away from his friends, burying his face in his hands.

He heard Teyla's light footsteps before she put her arms around him. He was angry enough to push her away, but not stupid enough to reject the comfort. He leaned into her embrace instead. A moment later, one of Ronon's thick arms wrapped around Rodney as well.

"We miss him too, Rodney," Teyla said. "Very much."

"Yeah," Ronon said.

Rodney nodded because it hurt to speak. But he untangled his arms so he could hug his friends back.

( Keepsakes - Part Two of Two )


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 21st, 2012 04:43 am (UTC)
SGA Newsletter - December 20, 2012
User neevebrody referenced to your post from SGA Newsletter - December 20, 2012 saying: [...] : Keepsakes (Part 1 of 2) (McKay/Sheppard, PG13) [...]
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