Beating the Spread

by Domenika Marzione

Sometimes Rodney thinks that he's in the Matrix. How else to explain this weird déjà vu with a constructed reality? There are times when he is so sure that he's had the same conversation before that he says as much and then has to remind himself that while he probably did, it was with a figment of his imagination or a fog person and thus doesn't really count. He doesn't apologize because the mental midgets he's surrounded by undoubtedly have done something else that deserves berating.

The rest of the time, he imagines that they never escaped the time dilation field Sheppard got himself stuck in -- or that instead of it parting so that they could pass through, it expanded to swallow all of Pegasus. For how else to explain why everything around him, including people and their expectations of him, is years out of date, left behind in time like a bug trapped in amber?

He wants to ask Sheppard if this is what it felt like when they brought him back home with his bushy beard and devouring eyes. But when he calls, Sheppard either doesn't want to talk about Atlantis at all or he's got Rodney remembering all of the adventures they had as a team, the ones where nobody got hurt, lost, or scared. It always surprises Rodney how many there are of those, since by himself he remembers spending most of his time Pegasus in fear for his life.

Sheppard is two states and a long distance phone call away (when he isn't off-world) and it feels farther than he's been from the man in years. Maybe because it is. They've been living out of each other's pockets for so long that the distance feels unbridgeable, even with them both well-equipped with phones and email. That they occasionally went days without seeing each other in Atlantis -- Sheppard playing kindergarten copy in Little Tripoli or himself doing the same in the labs -- is irrelevant.

At least Sheppard has Lorne, companion in disassociation and fellow pupil of the immersion method of humbling that has seen them go from the top of their chain of command to the middle of another that is less amenable to their methods and quirks. Rodney knows that Lorne is having no better of a time of it than Sheppard. Not that he's asked, but Sheppard tells him anyway on the assumption that he'd like to know, and so he knows of the bewildered look that Lorne wears because nothing is as he remembers it being. Sheppard doesn't describe it like that, of course, but Rodney knows what it is because it was written on his own face for his entire stay at the SGC, may still be on his face for all he knows. It is the reason he is in Nevada instead of Colorado, the reason he didn't bother to either fight or barter when the assignment to Air Force Flight Test Center, Detachment 3 came down. It's why he left Cheyenne Mountain as soon as he could get a flight.

They're right when they say that you should be careful for what you wish for. Or at least they should tell you to mark the expiration date on your wishes with indelible ink.

Five years ago, when he was freezing his testes off in Siberia, he would have killed for this posting with its funding and its equipment and its responsibility. Five years later and the SGC, trapped in their amber, still think it's the prize he most wants -- Sam Carter is so happy for him that she hugs him, her glee unrelated the fact that he'll be a fourteen hour drive away. He is the prodigal son the SGC never realized that it wanted and they offer this plum to him as a consolation for losing Atlantis, not imagining that he might want something else.

He doesn't know if he wants something else, but he might have appreciated the chance to decide on his own. He doesn't complain because who is he going to complain to? Sheppard (and Lorne) have both been dumped unceremoniously on to SG teams, married off before the pyre was cold on what they'd left behind.

Lorne's team is at least on this planet, although they might as well not be. Rodney ran into Sergeant Reletti on his first day in Nevada. Apparently they had marched all of the marines from the stargate to waiting C-130s so as to hide them in Area 51 while they got debriefed and then given their new assignments. Reletti had wanted to know if he'd be seeing Lorne (probably) or Safir (probably not, unless Carson was feeling especially prankish). It shocked Rodney a little that Reletti just accepted as a simple fact that he himself probably would never see either man again. But it made sense. For two hundred-plus marines, their space days were over and so were their best chances to see people they'd never have met otherwise.

Sheppard does not speak about how much he misses Teyla and Ronon, about how he feels like he failed them. He doesn't have to because Rodney feels the same. Occasionally Sheppard will make vague references, comparisons between the battle against the Ori and the one they left against the Wraith, but never will he say it out loud that he misses the way things were, with its chaos and privation and wonder.

Rodney has no such trouble voicing his thoughts.

He dreams of Atlantis, of smelling sea air, of the way his lab bench had finally, finally been exactly as he'd liked it and how he'd come up with the perfect mix of music to work by. And then he wakes and the endless varieties of really good coffee available to him don't make up for the fact that his desk chair has no lumbar support, his assistant puts things away every night, Groom Lake doesn't smell like the sea, and he has to start all over on the music mix because Queen's "'39" just makes him completely maudlin now.

He hasn't considered leaving the Stargate Program. He knows he'd be bored shitless working in conventional fields, frustrated to the point of probable homicide by the fact that he knows certain immutable laws aren't really true but he's got no way to prove it to anyone without at least SCI security clearance. And while the reminders of what he's lost are like ripping off a scab every single day, they are also beacons of hope that the Ancients will let them back in one day and that he'll be among the first to return.

You can't go home again. He knows this and he gets told as much every day. But three years in Pegasus have given Rodney enough willingness to bet the long shot and that maybe, just maybe, you can.

feed me on LJ?


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28 January, 2007