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sga:John & Rodney are golden

mirabile_dictu in casa_mcshep

An Inland Soul to the Sea

Title: An Inland Soul to the Sea
Author: Mira
Fandom: SGA
Pairing: John/Rodney
Rating: PG-13
Length: ~3,900 words

Written for the Casa McShep Summer Fiesta

Beta by the wonderful Tex.

An Inland Soul to the Sea

The settlement had disappeared long ago; later, anthropologists took a look at it and reported that the people who had lived there had died out or moved on close to a thousand years prior. The Athosian elders knew no stories of them, nor was there anyone else on the world; all that remained were the stone foundations of the buildings that had once comprised a smallish village.

Over the years, Andy Corrigan spent some time working in the settlement; he said he found it restful. His background, he cheerfully admitted, was in cultural anthropology, not physical, but like every other old Atlantian, he enjoyed taking on new responsibilities and learning new skills; besides, as he said, "Digging's fun." McKay told him he was entering his second childhood, but Andy had learned to ignore Rodney decades earlier.

"Not a large settlement," Andy had told John, "but I think it was a significant one. The structures are among the best built I've seen in this galaxy, and the infrastructure was far ahead of Earth's at the time."

"Ancients?" John had asked, but Andy had shaken his head.

"You'd know better than I, but I saw no sign of them. Certainly the architecture isn't Ancient. Isn't like anything else I've seen in Pegasus. A small settlement of around fifty structures, winding along a road. As you know, the stargate is many kilometers from the settlement. There's a good-sized body of fresh water nearby, and the road does lead to it, but why? Why build there?" He shrugged. "A nice puzzle for my old age."

"I'm happy for you," John had said dryly, although he actually was; it was good to see his old friends enthusiastic and happy after everything they'd gone through. He was usually the one to take Andy out to the settlement so he spent a fair bit of time scuffling through the thick mulch that had settled over the beautifully cobbled road or sitting by the shore of the Lake Michigan-sized lake. The grass grew thickly there, and he could stare out over the glittering water and into the enormity of the sky. So many planets in Pegasus were thickly forested, and he understood why -- to hide from the Wraith -- but it was good to stretch out, hands folded beneath his head, and see forever.

That final morning in Atlantis, the last day, as John always thought of it, that morning John had known that he would never see Rodney again: never hear his complaints and obloquies or his surprised laughter and cheerful cursing -- he had accepted that he'd never find a time right to kiss Rodney, never share a life with him. He'd been wearing his service dress uniform; he'd even had his hair trimmed to regulation length. He remembered the look in Rodney's eyes when John had walked into the gate room and ordered the stargate opened.

"Nice threads," Rodney had murmured, but his eyes had been cold and his lips thinned and fierce. "Don't be a fucking hero."

John turned to look at him but then the stargate exploded, sparks flying like stars swirling into the gateroom. He heard Walter at the SGC shout something, but the gateroom brightened and whitened until he'd had to shut his eyes. Someone had seized him from behind, arms like bands of iron around his chest, trapping his own arms. He'd kicked back and twisted, but he'd been taken by surprise, and whoever was holding him had been too quick.

The noise in the room rose to a manic roar: people shouting, but something else, high-pitched whines, a deep groan, and the floor beneath him trembled, then rocked, and he fell back, trying to take advantage of the chaos. He fought to see, to free himself, to figure out what the hell was going on; he could hear many voices shouting: he recognized Chuck's voice, Woolsey's, and he thought he heard Lorne's as well, and thin and distant he was sure he heard Landry, but mostly he was enveloped in blind chaos: sight and vision whited out, and no matter how hard he struggled, he remained captive.

Then he was dragged, half-carried, really, out of the gateroom, down the main corridor, and into a transporter. At last he could hear, though he was still blind, and his head was ringing: what the hell had that been? His own shout, though, he could finally hear, and he realized he was swearing more than Rodney ever had, shouting to be let go. More hands seized him, preventing him from kicking, and now he really was being carried, manhandled in a dizzying swing -- hell, they were trying to disorient him, turning him in wild circles. He could hear them panting; thank god, his hearing was returning, but none of them spoke. They turned him so he was face down, parallel to the floor. Someone jammed what felt like a sack over his head, and then they began to run. "Fuckers!" he bellowed. "Let me go, goddammit, you chickenshit cowards, where's McKay, Rodney! Rodney!."

Suddenly he was seated upright and belted in -- in a puddlejumper, he knew that smell, those seats, the jumper's voice. He could hear feet pounding; the jumper was filling with people, all silent, all breathing hard, and he began to suspect. He sat back, trembling from his exertion, sweat pooling under his arms and at his waist, his temples throbbing and his throat sore from shouting. Though he felt nothing, he knew when the jumper lifted, but how he knew it was Rodney piloting, that was never clear.

They hadn't gagged him, but the hood remained, hot and oppressive. He sat quietly, trying to think. He felt a nearly imperceptible hitch and knew the drive pods had been extended. Someone entered a gate address; he could hear them thump the glyphs, and then low conversation. He would eat his blindfold if that wasn't Ronon's low growl, and of course. Ronon had seized him. He realized that he'd known all along, that he'd recognized the tickle of Ronon's beard at the back of his neck, and the vague scent of spice and dust that Ronon's clothes carried. He listened harder. Surely that was Rodney, a tiny squeak of irritation and worry, and he suddenly knew that Teyla sat next to him, was watching him. She'd be the one to reveal herself first. He wondered where Torren and Kanaan were; he wondered who else had known.

After a few minutes, when the soft noises disappeared, he said, "Teyla? It's hard to breathe in here."

"Shit," he heard Rodney say, but Ronon laughed, a big long laugh of relief, and Teyla's face was smiling when she gently removed the hood.

"I apologize, John," she said earnestly.

"That's all right. Just take me back."

"I don't think so," Rodney snapped, and the jumper swerved.

"Eyes on the road," Michelle Simpson said.

John looked around. The jumper was crammed with people and supplies. Through the windshield, he saw two other jumpers paralleling them. "Where are we going?" he asked, striving to sound relaxed. "And when do we go back?"

"Shut up, I'm trying to fly," Rodney muttered. Ronon bent and said something into Rodney's ear, and then Rodney tapped his radio and murmured into it. A stargate spun into brilliance, its blue light shimmering against the palette of star-spattered space.

"Rodney," John said again, but then they were through that other gate, John experiencing the familiar stretched taffy feeling of icy non-being-ness taking his breath. The sky on this side of the stargate was full of unknown constellations, more stars than dark, he thought, but then another stargate flared and one-two-three, they were through, the third jumper hanging back to shepherd Rodney's through.

The next stargate was planet-side, and John saw Rodney's shoulders relax as they skimmed over the tops of the trees.

"Are you wearing sunblock?" Rodney asked every single time. "Of course not. Why do I even ask. Here, no, wait, let me." He hovered over John, carefully smearing his pseudo-tropical scented sunblock over John's forehead (which was not getting higher), cheekbones, and nose. "Suicidal in every possible way," he muttered, settling beside John, oofing a bit when his bad knee gave out at the last millimeter. "Damn."

John didn't bother to reply; he just sighed and, when Rodney was finally arranged in a satisfactory position, nudged him with his elbow.

"Yes, yes," Rodney said. "Lovely day, happy to be here, who thought we'd make it, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. We should number our conversations so we can just call out "fifteen!" or "three!" and know what would have been said."

"Not a bad idea," John murmured; Rodney's low-level irritability was a kind of cosmic background radiation to John's life by now, and he wouldn't know where he was without it. "Two-point-seven K," he added.

Rodney sniffed. "Showing off again," he said. "That's conversation twenty-three, I believe, and no, I'm nothing like a blackbody; I do not emit radiation at all frequencies."

John snorted, but said nothing more. It was an especially nice day, warm but not hot, and he knew Rodney had packed the fried faux-chicken for their lunch. He loved that stuff.

They lay in silence for a while, and John dropped off into a light doze, waking when Rodney shook him. "Wha --?"

"Just wanted to make sure you hadn't died. Makes me nervous when you go all still like that. Not that you were ever especially chatty," he added thoughtfully.

John scowled at him, but made himself comfortable again. "Don't poke. I'm trying to relax."

"You didn't used to tell me not to poke you," Rodney said, leering at John, who shook his head and laughed and spread his arms.

"Okay, okay: poke away," he invited. Rodney leaned over to kiss him; John grabbed his shoulders, making Rodney squeak, and they both laughed as they rolled on the grass beneath the galaxy's bluest sky.

When they lay back, still gasping, Rodney's face red from exertion and laughter, John remembered how hard he had fought against this. As Evan would say, what a maroon, and he had been. He'd come within a breath of missing this: all these years here, in this place, with these people, with Rodney. "Remember that last day?" he said, and out of context as it was, Rodney understood.

"You jerk," he said without rancor. "What were you thinking? No, don't tell me: duty first; service before self; Ad Astra Per Ardua --"

"That's the Royal Air Force's," John pointed out, but Rodney continued over him, "Above all; to fly, fight and win, in air, space and cyberspace. Which is ridiculous. Cyberspace, Jesus."

"Your point?"

"You brought it up," Rodney said sourly. "You know that's not my favorite topic of conversation."

John knew. Nor was it his, but some days, some glorious sunny days when Rodney's presence in his life was impossibly present . . . on those days he couldn't imagine life other than this. On those days, he felt safe remembering the beginning of all this, and the end of their earlier life. He shrugged.

"I'm hungry," Rodney announced, and they sat up, not without some effort. Reaching for the woven basket he'd brought, Rodney leaned near John, who slid his arms around Rodney's shoulders. Rodney turned his head and kissed him, silent for once, a kiss of familiar sweetness. John knew he was privileged to see a Rodney that few others knew, this Rodney in his arms, kissing through his laughter. He returned Rodney's kiss and then let him slip away. The smell of the fried faux chicken made John's stomach growl; Rodney grinned at him, and licked his lips.

When they finally piled out of the three jumpers set down in a large meadow cresting a hill, John watched as they braced themselves. Rodney's chin was up, Ronon's arms crossed, Evan narrow-eyed, Stackhouse almost at attention as they ranged around him. Kanaan, carrying Torren, had met them, coming from one of the other jumpers, and a few other Athosians had been there as well, including Jinto and his friend Tagan, plus Tagan's elderly uncle who always refused to speak to John. He was amazed to see him here.

Much of Rodney's science team had come, too: most of the engineers and physicists, two anthropologists, a linguist, a materials specialist, and Leo Parrish and Lia Kiang from Botany. Two of the civilian cooks were there, and somewhat to John's surprise, a number of Marines, including Marine Gunner Wayman, Chief Warrant Petty Officer Sleiman, Sergeant Major Midori, Lance Corporal Groff, Staff Sergeant Lisbon, and Corporals Thibodeau and Nerl. These were men that John had fought with, and many had been with him since the first year of the expedition. All the Marines looked a bit nervous, but they stood proudly. Lorne stood in front of them, with Stackhouse at his side.

John tried to count how many were here, but he lost track at thirty -- the civilians were milling around, and he realized some had been waiting here, that not all of them had been in the three jumpers. He let the silence grow but before he could address them, Rodney said, "We take it as read that you're pissed, that you think you ought to go back. Take it as read that we disagree, that we're staying here, and that if you want to go back, you'll have to figure out how. I'm starving, and I know for a fact that most of these people have been up all night preparing." He clapped his hands sharply. "Get to work!" he roared. "By which I mean let's eat!"

Rodney left the others to grab John's arm and drag him away from what he was beginning to realize was more than a campsite: it was the start of a settlement. "Here's the deal," he said, his eyes snapping. "No fucking way are you going back. Consider yourself a prisoner if you like. But I will never believe that you want to go back, not to Earth, not to some trumped-up court martial so you can take the fall for the IOA's idiocy. So right here, right now, get mad, yell at me, whatever, but you leave those people alone." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, toward the people on the hill. "Because we're staying. We made up our minds."

John took a deep breath, trying to process everything. He turned in a slow circle surveying the land. The settlement on the hill looked over miles and miles of rolling grassland. In the distance, he saw the glint of what was probably a lake but maybe was an arm of an ocean. To his right, nearly behind the prominence on which he stood, he thought he saw the beginnings of a forest. He took another breath, consciously relaxing his shoulders, and smelled something wonderful. He looked at Rodney.

"Lamb," Rodney said. "Well, the sheep-like things the Gysyt raise. We're having a barbecue to celebrate."

"Celebrate," John repeated. He felt removed from himself, from the situation. "If we stay, we won't ever be able to go back, you know."

"Not for a long while," Rodney agreed.

John rubbed the back of his neck. "I should probably deck you."

"I was afraid of that," Rodney said, his mouth drooping. "I was kind of hoping you'd understand why we did this."

"Because you're crazy?"

"Because we love you." Rodney turned bright red and his mouth thinned, but he stood as solidly as a bull, ready to defend himself and the decision John's friends had made for him. "You know, the way a friend loves, uh, another friend." He narrowed his eyes. "So what are you going to do?"

John looked out over the land again. The sun was low to the horizon here; though it had been morning in Atlantis, it was late afternoon here, and long golden rays stretched across the land, glinting off the waist-high grasses that rolled like waves around Atlantis. The air smelled fresh, and he somehow knew that it was late summer here and that tomorrow would be hot but that in a few weeks the weather would change and the first portents of fall would arrive. "Tell me what you plan," he finally said, his voice softer than he'd meant it to be.

Rodney swallowed. "Um. To build a home here. There's a soil specialist with us; she says the land is, uh, good for growing things. Parrish and Kiang had seeds and stuff. There are medical staff including Marie. We have supplies to build places to live and eat and we even have equipment for a couple of labs, so I, I mean we, can continue our research into energy production and resource management. There's water -- fresh water not too far away, but we also sunk a well; there's already running water."

In a firmer voice, Rodney said, "We're going to do things right this time. Without the fucking IOA sticking their noses into everything we do, hoovering up any discoveries we make for their own scientists." He sounded bitter, and John wondered if he'd been told everything when the charges against him had been read. "Fuck them," Rodney said heavily. "Just fuck them."

After a moment, John asked, "And Jeannie? Madison?"

Rodney glared at him. "Jeannie understands." He started to say more but stopped. "She understands," he repeated.

John took another deep breath; the air was perfume, the scent of freedom and opportunity and hope, but he turned to Rodney, put his hands on Rodney's bunched shoulders. "Thank you," he said, "but you know we can't do this. We have to go back."

Rodney jerked away from him, his eyes wild, and for a moment John thought he might hit him, or worse, cry. "And fuck you, too, Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard. You're stuck with us. You can help, or you can hinder, but you can never go back." He stomped away, walking away from the settlement, deep in the grasses, his hands shoved into his pockets, head down.

For a long time, John watched Rodney walk away. He was glad to be alone. He needed time to come to grips with what his people had done for him. He knew without a doubt that the right thing would be to return to Atlantis and to turn himself in, to face the many charges against him. When he realized that Rodney had disappeared around the face of the hill, John turned and looked back and up at the settlement. He saw what he hadn't let himself see before: it had been there a while. This was no sudden decision. Someone -- probably many of them -- had planned for this for a long time.

A breeze rushed down the hill, striking him in the face, and he smelled again the lamb roasting, and bread baking. He heard a child laugh, and heard Tagan's uncle singing, his voice deep and ragged. John laughed when he realized that he was singing the Marines' Hymn.

Taking a deep breath, John straightened his shoulders and climbed the slope back to the settlement. As he crested the hill, he saw some people pause to watch him. He schooled his face into neutrality, or hoped he did, and continued into the midst of them. He saw Lorne conferring with Teyla; Ronon nudged Lorne and they looked John's way. He sighed and headed toward them.

"John," Teyla greeted him. She stepped forward, her hands reaching for his shoulders. He hesitated, and he saw the hurt flash across her face. This was Teyla, perhaps his closest friend, certainly his oldest friend in this galaxy. Behind her stood Ronon, the most loyal friend John had ever known. And next to him, Evan Lorne, a good man with a good heart who always wanted the best for his people.

The silence spilled around them, rippling out. John stared into Teyla's eyes and remembered that he had trusted her before his own commanding officer, that somehow he had known he could trust her. He could trust her, he thought, and obediently bent his head to rest his forehead gently against hers. He heard a murmur of satisfaction radiate around them. "John," she whispered.

When he finally raised his head, he glimpsed Rodney standing with arms crossed at the far edge of the crowd, watching him with quiet approval.

John licked his fingers clean, then saw that Rodney was watching him, a satisfied smile curling his lips. John made a show of sucking his forefinger and thumb clean, making Rodney laugh and tug at him. They lay together, hidden beneath the tall grasses; it was late spring and the tassels were green and heavy with seed, so the reeds swayed elegantly in the breeze. He found it hypnotic to watch. He moved closer to Rodney, who rested his head against John's shoulder, and they sighed simultaneously, making them both chuckle.

As John drowsed, he could hear the water lapping at the shore. The lake was large enough to have tides, and he knew the tide was going out, so they could dig for clams later. The Marines had built a long pier out into the water; when it was warmer, they'd run down the pier and leap in for a swim, even Rodney. But the water wasn't warm enough for that yet, so maybe after a nap, John would walk out to the end and drop in a line, spend an hour watching it bob while Rodney groused about the hardness of the planks under his ass and stole kisses from John until he could coax him home.

Tomorrow, Torren, Madison, Jinto, Nari, and Rianna would leave for the twice annual trading missing to Athos. They'd come back with stories as well as food and supplies, but there would be no stories of Atlantis. When John and the others had disappeared, the IOC and SGC had decided against any further presence in Pegasus. That hadn't stopped a few others from joining them; where there was a will and the smartest people in two galaxies, there was a way. Daniel Jackson and General Jack O'Neill (ret.) had joined them, along with the Millers and, to everyone's surprise, Radek's oldest nephew, a rising star in astrophysics. How they had found their way through the thousands of stargates and millions of planets to this place, John never asked. An underground railroad of sorts, he assumed.

He had no regret. He had Rodney, warm and sleepy in his arms; a fishing pole and maybe some fish waiting for him; a small but comfortable home to return to at the end of the day; more friends than he ever imagined; youngsters who called him uncle. Also a few warrants out for his arrest, he'd learned from O'Neill, but as Rodney had said so many years before, fuck them.

No, this wasn't Atlantis; he'd never have Atlantis again. He'd never live in a floating, flying city, nor feel its strength beneath him. But he had enough. He had more than enough. He had a home and a family.

Plus he knew tomorrow was Rodney's birthday. He couldn't wait to celebrate another year on this world with him.

"Shut up; you're thinking too loud," Rodney grumbled, stirring. John kissed the top of his head, smiled, and closed his eyes.

Exultation is the going
Of an inland soul to sea, --
Past the houses, past the headlands,
Into deep eternity!

Bred as we, among the mountains,
Can the sailor understand
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?

--Emily Dickinson


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This is the way it will be. This is perfect! The way the series should have ended!

Edited at 2009-06-27 02:34 am (UTC)
The way the series should have ended!

We are in complete agreement! *sigh* Why didn't it? Oh, why?

Thank you!
Oh, oh, love, what a beautiful story! I love that their life is etched in quiet and physical labor and loving each other. What a fantastic way for them to be. ♥
Bless! Praise from you is high praise indeed, dear Cate -- thank you!
Thank you for pushing me to add that bit -- you were right. Maybe I should have even done a bit more.

And thank you again for this lovely community.
Oh, what a lovely, lovely story—and I especially love what feels like such hard-won, much-deserved happiness. What a beautiful future!
I do love to imagine them in some distant future, safe(r) and happy. *sigh*

Thank you!
So beautiful, this brought tears to my eyes. I'm so glad John realized he trusted Teyla, when he couldn't quite trust himself.
That moment in the first episode when John encounters Teyla -- I dunno. I can see that she's a bit distrustful and he's trying to be charming, but it seems as though they can see into each other's heart. Or so I like to imagine.

Thank you!
This was truly astonishing, especially as I've become accustomed to reading more fluffy fics at casa_mcshep. But there was so much tension at the beginning (and OMG John cut his hair to regulation length and yes he was going to be a fucking hero and take the rap) and then the little details (such as including Madison's name in a group leaving the reader to wonder WTF - when and how did she show up); also the Tao of Rodney reference to "You know, the way a friend loves, uh, another friend."; and the wildest underground railroad ever invented.

So it was so fulfilling to know that it was way more than just the two of them. And it leaves me feeling warm all over.

Thank you for a highly imaginative read!
Thank you so much! I love writing about them finding and making a home, but I want them all to be together. And happy!

Thank you again!
Oh my, so lovely and evocative. Your characterizations are perfect, your descriptions of the field very inviting. Enchanting!
Your characterizations are perfect

Now that made me very, very happy. Thank you!
This is beautiful.
Thank you!
Oh, oh, oh, that was lovely. All easy and twisty and gentle like swaying grass, with just enough of a kick to make it delicious. <3
Thank you so much!
So many planets in Pegasus were thickly forested, and he understood why -- to hide from the Wraith

I love this detail. I had never thought of that, but it makes so much sense, and it's perfect for John to understand that.

The scenario is so intriguing I almost hoped for John to hold out longer than he did, but the way that he came around-- trusting in Teyla-- is so perfect. So I really enjoyed all of it.
trusting in Teyla

That was a late addition, but it made such sense to me -- I'm really glad it did to you, too. Thank you!
OK, got a little nervous when John was kidnapped, but then it was all good. Absolutely wonderful story, I love this idea of a future for them. And the idea that people had been planning this for some time. And Rodney, being so stubborn and vulnerable, and right.
Rodney, being so stubborn and vulnerable, and right.

You just summed up how I understand Rodney. Oh, I love that man.

Thank you!

Oh, dear Lord, YES!
Hee! Thank you!
This is such a wonderful story.
Oh, thank you so much!
beautiful :)
Thank you!
an underground railroad

That idea really appeals to me -- I'm so glad you liked it. Thank you!
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