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[personal profile] stillane

They don’t have the luxury of falling apart. Standard procedure is to have teams back in rotation within three weeks of a fatality, and none of them want large amounts of unoccupied time. They handle the soft jobs, visits to planets that are either old friends or uninhabited, but they keep going.
 
On one of the unoccupied designations, Elizabeth recalls them a day early, and her voice holds a strange note. When she refuses to give details until they are back in Atlantis, John’s first thought is of Kolya. They go through the gate ready for a fight.
 
The gateroom is quiet, though, and Elizabeth meets them calmly. Nothing but the look on her face is unusual.
 
“John, there’s something you need to hear. All of you.” She’s pale, and the warning bells in John’s head are louder than ever.
 
When they are all in the conference room and seated – she insists that they sit down – she hesitates. “The gate engaged an hour ago. This data stream was the only thing to come through.” She pauses. “I can’t…” Another pause, and this time she seems like she’s searching for words. “John, it’s someone claiming to be Iverik.”
 
“Play it.”
 
Despite the warning, John still feels the blood rush under his skin when the recorded voice comes. Ronon makes a low sound, surprise and fury in it. Those soft, flowing tones ask them to return to Yolenira. The voice offers something beneficial to all, and apologizes for any misunderstanding that might have occurred on their last visit.
 
In the silence just after, none of them move.
 
“We leave in an hour.” John watches Elizabeth to see what strategy he’ll need to use.
 
She sighs. “I somehow knew you would say that. John…”
 
Teyla’s voice stops them both. “Is it not important that we investigate? Can we risk doing otherwise?”
 
Elizabeth looks from her to John. “And if it’s a trap? They’ve already proven to be far more advanced than we realized.”
 
John nods. “Exactly. We know what we’re dealing with this time. We go in prepared, and we don’t turn our backs. We deal with the Genii on a pretty regular basis. This isn’t any different.”
 
It is, and she knows it. “I won’t lose anyone else, John.”
 
That finds a mark, and he feels that unspoken something that’s been in the air between them all pull tight. “You won’t.” It isn’t an empty promise, or a light one. He can hear the steel in his own voice.
 
They stare at one another for a long moment, and finally she nods. “Alright. Make it two hours, and take Lorne’s team with you.”
 
John is halfway through the door when he hears her quiet, “Be careful.”
 
*******
 
Iverik is waiting for them. “Welcome, Far – “
 
“Save it.” John speaks over the sights of his P-90. Teyla goes immediately to the DHD and begins to dial. “You wanted us, you got us. I’d start explaining fast, ‘cause I’m not feeling very patient.”
 
“Of course.” Iverik nods easily. “The Highest wishes to speak with you. This is a great honor, and –“
 
Ronon’s laugh is dark. “Yeah. Like the last one?”
 
Two more symbols light up on the ring. Still not a flicker from Iverik. “Oh, no. This is far more important. The Highest wishes to conduct an exchange. A trade, if you will have it.”
 
They can’t afford to ignore the kind of technology that can make a city fly, and they won't pass up the chance to meet the one behind it all. John reluctantly lowers his aim and Teyla lowers her hand. Iverik seems pleased, and turns away unconcernedly. After a moment, John follows him. Ronon and Teyla fall into step behind him.
 
There is silence for the first five minutes, and then John pulls even with Iverik. “So, how long since you got mindwiped?”
 
That same damn smile that he saw for four months doesn’t waver. “I assume you are speaking of the Cleansing, although that is an inaccurate description. It has been twenty-seven cycles of the seasons since I was chosen.”
 
John doesn’t ask why, or whether it bothers him to be this way. He suspects there’s no answer for the first, and no honest one for the second. He spends the rest of the walk trying to forget the Scarecrow reference that there’s no one here to understand.
 
The path into the city is offset by an inch where dirt meets stone. It’s the only indication that anything has changed. The people are as pleased and oblivious as before, and the city itself seems untouched. They follow the same streets to the same palace, the same corridors to the same chamber, and that’s where there’s suddenly a difference.
 
The chair is still dark, but occupied. A tall man sits painfully straight, and if the general populace are a free love bunch, this is definitely The Man. He’s dressed in the same flowing robes as all the rest, but his brand of aloof is a whole new thing.
 
He spreads his hands imperiously. “This is the Audience Hall. You are most welcome here.”
 
“Yeah. I feel the love. I take it you’re the highest.” John drops the capitalization and adds a hint of slur.
 
“Indeed. We have summoned you to discuss the terms of trade. We are in possession of a resource you will desire, and in return –“
 
John’s glad he remembered the room’s glass ceiling and kept his sunglasses on. The barrier helps. “Really not interested in handing anything else over to you. Tends to fuck the resale value.”
 
Finally, finally, he’s managed to find a crack in someone on this planet. The Highest’s expression goes from benevolent to mildly angry, and his tone turns waspish. “Are all of your people so… vexing?”
 
John opens his mouth, but the reply doesn’t come from him.
 
“All of his people are. Most of mine are more polite. I’m just special like that.”
 
The sharp intake of air to his left is Teyla’s. The soft curse to his right is Ronon’s.
 
John doesn’t breathe.
 
“I can’t really vouch for Ronon’s or Teyla’s, except that the Athosian kids are kind of annoying, but then aren’t they all?” He's stepping into the room, out of the shadows of the doorway that wasn’t there a minute before. His arms are crossed over his chest, and his head is tilted at the angle that means all innocents should duck and cover. He’s still too far away to read his eyes, and the beard throws off the shape of his mouth, but John doesn’t need those.
 
Inside his head, there’s a roaring like every curse and prayer he’s ever heard gathered into one strong wind. It scours him out, sweeps through all the corners of his mind and throws the doors open, and he can finally see the footprints in the dust.
 
When his own voice comes, it sounds like rust on cellar doors.
 
“Rodney.” It’s been more than a month since he’s said the name, and longer since he’s meant it like this.
 
Rodney’s shoulders relax, just slightly. “The one and only. Nice of you to drop by, and can we go now?”
 
“I believe that would be wise.” Teyla sounds almost pleasant. It’s the best indication of just how shaken she is. It’s also fair warning. “There is nothing more we need discuss.”
 
The Highest shifts on the chair, and it’s not a bright move. John is only just getting feeling back in his arms, but Ronon is quicker. His arm and his aim are steady. “You don’t move.”
 
The Highest raises his hands placatingly and sighs. “Oh, fine. Really, we assure you we intend no harm. We simply ask that you return the resource which we issued you and you may be on your way.”
 
“Yeah. That’s not going to happen.” John keeps his eyes on Rodney.
 
“Don’t tell us you damaged it.” The Highest pushes off from the chair and takes exactly one stride.
 
There’s a flash in John’s peripheral vision and the floor where the next step would have fallen isn’t there anymore. In the sudden silence, the whine of Ronon’s weapon recharging seems very loud.
 
“You. Don’t. Move.”
 
John’s smile feels full of teeth. “It’s been a blast, but we’ll be leaving now. Don’t worry, we’ll see ourselves out. Rodney?” He waits until McKay and Teyla are both out the door. “Ronon.”
 
There’s a moment of hesitation, and then Ronon backs out of the room. John does the same, muzzle last, but the Highest makes no move to follow. The corridors are empty and no one tries to stop them, and that’s definitely not a good sign.
 
On cue, Rodney and Teyla freeze at the last doorway. When John pulls even with them and glances back over his shoulder, he’s not surprised to find the street crowded with silent men and women and children staring at them. There’s nothing menacing about them, save for the terrifying blankness on their faces and the sheer number of them.
 
Iverik stands in the front. “The Highest has not given his terms.”
 
Rodney’s eyes trace over the crowd. “You do have a plan, right?” A quick flick to John. “Right?”
 
He can’t stop the grin that slides onto his face. It feels a little manic. “Nah.” Rodney’s head whips toward him. “Better. I have backup.”
 
He clicks his radio three times, and two jumpers appear. The first is directly over the Yolens. The second is already on the ground, between the palace and the people. The back ramp is down and Lorne’s voice is all raised eyebrows over the radio. “Took you long enough, sir.”
 
“I promise we’ll be back in time for your programs, Major.” The grin gets a little wider as he steps onto the ship.
 
Lorne turns to face them from the pilot’s seat, mouth open, and that’s when he sees McKay. His jaw snaps shut. It’s another thirty seconds before it opens again. “Holy shit.”
 
“Yep. What do you say we talk this over in the air?”
 
He blinks, slowly. “Yes, sir.”
 
John stands behind Lorne's seat until they’re fully in the air, tense and watching for any sign of attack. When nothing comes, he lets the air out of his lungs and turns to the back.
 
He sits carefully on the bench beside Rodney, close enough to feel the heat of him. Teyla sits on Rodney’s other side, just as close, and Ronon watches them all from the other bench.
 
John slides his leg the extra inch to the side. “Hey.”
 
Rodney’s shoulders hunch forward and his breathing hitches. “Yeah.”
 
They don’t say another word for the rest of the flight.
 
*******
 
This time, the three of them don’t wait in the hallway.
 
Revealing the sardonic streak that John maybe likes best about him, Lorne doesn’t give anything away. He sends the IDC through and radios a request for Beckett to be waiting in the gateroom to have a look at their ‘unexpected passenger’. Elizabeth confirms, her voice tense.
 
She manages, “What –“ before the words dry up. She stares at Rodney until he’s fidgeting almost nervously. Then she steps toward him and throws her arms around his neck, holding onto him, and he looks… probably just as stunned as John did, once.
 
Radek is frozen mid-way down the stairs, and Carson drops the stethoscope in his hand. Carson’s sweet fucking Christ is barely a breath, and John’s willing to bet that whatever Radek says is similar in sentiment. John understands entirely. Then they’re all smiling like fools and blinking too much and touching just to be sure. Carson curses again – which makes the second time since John’s known him – and pulls Rodney to him with a hand on his neck.
 
When he lets go, Radek fights a frown onto his face and punches Rodney lightly on the shoulder. He says something very fast and with many consonants, and Rodney laughs and uses Carson’s maneuver on him.
 
John wishes he had a language to lapse into. There are things he would like to be able to say in the open with no audience.
 
John feels eyes on him and turns to see Elizabeth watching. She tilts her head toward Rodney and closes her eyes, and John recognizes the silence for its absence. The smile on her face is close-lipped and gentle.
 
Rodney walks into the infirmary without hesitation. It’s John who needs a minute to make his legs take that final step. Teyla catches his eye, and he smiles wryly at her. They stay for the scanning and the drawing of blood, for all of the less invasive tests, and go no further than behind a privacy screen for the rest. Through it all, Rodney talks and they listen. They get snippets of an explanation, words about cyborgs and communes and clones that make no real sense.
 
In the end, Rodney finally spells it out for them while they’re waiting for the test results. If he notices the intensity of their stares, he doesn’t let on.
 
“The Highest is a robot? That explains a lot.” John perches on another bed, and watches Rodney’s hands talk for him. “Except, not. He… it was the only thing on the damn planet with half an emotion.”
 
Rodney’s lips turn down at one corner. “It’s not called Artificial Intelligence for its ability to do crosswords. Speaking of artificial… at least a quarter of the population is.”
 
“You mean Iverik’s not a real boy?” He ignores Elizabeth’s cough.
 
“Oh, he’s real enough. Both of him. I spent a good long time with the more animated version, and you of course met the other one.” There’s the barest pause. “I’m guessing the other me didn’t fare as well?” The uncomfortable silence draws out. “Okay. Well… that at least makes things easier.”
 
It’s not exactly what John would have said. Ronon beats him to it, though. “You died, McKay.”
 
Rodney goes very still. When he speaks, there’s a false note to his voice. “Well, no, actually, my clone did. But since we’re not interested in existentialist debate –“
 
Carson interrupts in a tone that says this is ground already covered. “Not a clone, Rodney. Cloning cannot produce –“
 
“ ‘An exact replica inclusive of identifying marks generated by environment and life experience’, yes, Carson, I know. When you have a more semantically correct term to apply, be sure and let me know.” He crosses his arms over his chest.
 
John can hear the grin Elizabeth isn’t wearing. “So, if I understand this correctly, the Highest decided it wanted to reverse the exchange. Any idea why?”
 
Rodney grins smugly, chin up. “Because it was simply no match for my wit and skill. I provided enough distraction to prevent it from running smoothly, and it eventually saw the light.”
 
“How do you distract a robot?” Ronon is using one skeptical eyebrow to its full advantage.
 
“It’s not… Oh, what the hell. It’s a very good facsimile, but still a fake. It runs on very ordered pathways and in very standard applications. When you make life…” His grin turns slightly maniacal. “Messy, it’s a little less able to cope. I just made sure all systems weren’t go. I think the final straw was disabling the Z.P.M. configuration, though. That really brought it to its knees.” His hands rub together gleefully. “Without the power source, it couldn’t make a new me, and I was the only one who knew how to fix it. Catch-22.”
 
John fights to keep his face blank. “So, basically, you annoyed it into submission.”
 
Rodney nods happily. “Yep. That’s about the scope of it.”
 
 “Good thinking. Go with your strengths.” Rodney glares at him, and John loses the battle with his smile.
 
Teyla, as usual, is the voice of reason. “I don’t understand why the Yolens would allow themselves to be governed this way. Surely they have strong enough numbers to overcome this machine.”
 
Rodney nods. “They do, but first they have to know it’s a machine.” He frowns. “Actually, first they have to know that they’re not space cadets, and then that it’s a machine. As near as Iverik and the others had it figured, once upon a time there was a whole group of Ancients that were pretty convinced the Wraith were going to win at any moment. Apparently, when you’re a city full of glass-half-empty Ancients, you design a program to run your daily lives and drug yourselves into oblivion.”
 
His lips twitch. “The only problem was, they did a really good job with the hiding. They erased all record of the city’s existence, picked a planet that had already been searched and written off, and used basically the same cloaking technology we did. The Wraith never did find them, and the Highest program wasn’t so fond of being obsolete. It never bothered to tell the Yolens to stop taking their medicine. The stolen Yolens –" He stops, tips his head to the side, and shrugs. “They think it started editing out anyone in the population who showed any hint of getting wise to the whole thing, keeping them in isolation as its own tech squad, and replacing them with duplicates when people started getting suspicious. How it figured out how to make them…” He shrugs again. “It had ten thousand years and no television. What else did it have to do?”
 
Radek speaks almost reverently from his chair in the corner. “Fascinating.”
 
Elizabeth looks less thrilled. “I was going to say frightening. Any ideas on what we might be able to do to help them?”
 
Teyla’s voice is firm. “I do not believe that would be wise.”
 
John’s just about to agree with her when he catches the satisfied glint in Rodney’s eyes. “McKay?”
 
Rodney smiles secretively. “That won’t be necessary. The situation should be resolving itself as we speak.”
 
Elizabeth looks wary. “Rodney, what did you do?”
 
“Oh, just showed the Highest why it’s never wise to mess with a man who possesses both coding expertise and a working knowledge of modern cinema.”
 
It takes a moment. “You didn’t.”
 
“Oh, but I did.”
 
John snorts. “How long…?”
 
“By the end of the day, they’re all getting the red pill whether they like it or not. Welcome to the revolution.”
 
John wishes he could watch Iverik kick his own ass.
 
*******
 
Carson decides to keep Rodney in the infirmary overnight for observation. Rodney grumbles, and John nearly backs him up until he remembers that thousand yard stare on Carson’s face and keeps quiet.
 
He’s got a few things to take care of while he has the chance. He gives an excuse involving food and takes requests -- Ronon’s for anything not moving, Rodney’s for something lacking all nutritional value– and slips out of the infirmary.
 
He’s in the hallway leading to long-term storage when he meets Lorne. There’s a box under his arm that John remembers packing.
 
“Major?”
 
Lorne meets his eyes and nods. “Sir.” John raises an eyebrow at the box, and Lorne nods again. “It’s taken care of, sir.”
 
John goes perfectly still. “Thank you, Major. Dr. McKay will appreciate it.”
 
Lorne’s lips turn up wryly. “I hear he managed to turn on the charm. Word has it he can even piss off machines.”
 
A few months ago, that would have been an insult. Now, under the humor John can hear the proprietary pride. “Damn right. He saves his best routines for us, though.”
 
Lorne chuckles. “Yes, sir. Good to have him back.”
 
If the look in his eyes is a little more serious than his tone, John lets it pass.
 
He grabs whatever he can carry from the mess hall. When the infirmary door opens, the lights are low and it’s very quiet. Carson looks up from his desk and smiles, then bows his head again over stacks of paper.
 
On the bed farthest from the door, Rodney is curled on his side, arms wrapped around himself, breath slow. Ronon is on the floor, leaning against the foot of the bed, his hands lax and empty. He doesn’t stir when John walks past him. Teyla is sitting gracefully on the next bed with one leg folded under her and one leg drawn up to her chest. Her chin is resting on her knee, and she turns her face to John when he sits by her.
 
She smiles and faces forward again. They keep watch.
 
*******
 
Teyla’s soft voice wakes him.
 
Carson is bent low over Ronon, voice gentle. Ronon rumbles something back and stands, stretching. The warm spot along John’s side tells him where Teyla was, but she’s standing over Rodney now. He blinks up at her owlishly.
 
Carson moves to John. “Aye. That’s the way, Colonel. Time you all found your beds.”
 
John opens his mouth to protest. Carson shakes his head. “Him, too. Go on, now. Off with the lot of you.”
 
The frosted infirmary windows are dark, and a glance at his watch tells him it’s hours yet until dawn. His eyes meet Carson’s and he doesn’t quite ask. He gets only a quiet smile in return.
 
Teyla and Ronon walk with them part of the way, branching off as the hallway to their quarters appears. Then it’s just Rodney stumbling along beside him. John reaches out now and again to steer him down the right corridor or away from the wall, bringing them to his own room.
 
Rodney sits on the bed when John pushes on his shoulder, and grumbles something that sounds like I’ve got it as John slips his shoes off of him. Another careful nudge has him settling back against the mattress and pulling his legs onto the bed. He sighs as he curls into himself.
 
John doesn’t bother with anything more than his own shoes before easing in along Rodney’s back. He tucks his forehead against the back of Rodney’s head and spreads his palm open across Rodney’s chest, and takes long, even breaths.
 
Somewhere between one and the next, he sleeps for a while, and then he wakes slowly. He’d almost forgotten how.
 
The bed is empty next to him. Rolling his head to the side, he sees Rodney by the windows, backlit by the early light. From this angle, John can’t see his face. He’s holding something in his hands, though, and it seems to have all of his attention. John sits up and slides his feet to the cool floor, and stops, watching.
 
“Five months.” He doesn’t look up. “It was five months, John.”
 
“No, it wasn’t.” He keeps his voice quiet. He looks at his toes, pale against the dark tile. “It was four months, twenty-one days, and three hours.”
 
Rodney’s head snaps toward him. “Is that supposed to make me –“ He stops. “Oh.”
 
Another moment of silence. John picks at the fabric over his knees.
 
It comes out barely audible. “I thought… maybe… maybe you didn’t…”
 
John nods and stands, slowly. He stops just next to Rodney, not quite touching. “I did.”
 
Rodney nods. “Yeah.”

He’s holding his own t-shirt in his hands, fingers stroking over the lettering. It makes John see this room, suddenly, the way he hasn’t in a long time. Nothing out of place, nothing out of order, and he wonders if Rodney understands.
 
John looks back at the shirt, and remembers lifting it every now and then and laying it back over the curve of a chair, pulling the sleeve to hang just so, and thinks maybe he does.
 
Rodney sighs, a deep, shuddering sound. His head dips, making his neck a strong and vulnerable arch, and John is done. He leans forward slowly and presses his lips to the skin just below an ear. “I did.”
 
Rodney swallows hard and turns toward him. At first, the kiss is soft, almost careful. John’s not sure which of them pushes first, but it’s not long before there’s a desperate intensity to it. Rodney has one hand clenched around the collar of John’s shirt and the other woven through his hair tight enough to hurt and it’s perfect.
 
John draws his teeth lightly over a lip as he pulls back, and Rodney makes a sound of protest. John whispers him quiet and strokes down his back. He gets them both over to the bed and pulls his own shirt off, then Rodney’s. The pants are more difficult with Rodney trying to take an active role, but they manage it.
 
Rodney asks what he’s doing even as he lays back easily, John’s hands giving him his cues. The question's soft enough, though, that John ignores it and just stretches out next to him. They lay on their sides facing each other, watching in the grey light. John reaches out and pushes him gently onto his back and lays himself carefully over him.
 
Rodney doesn’t ask again. His brow wrinkles with confusion, then smoothes under John’s fingertips. John raises himself and kisses lightly, lightly where the skin is whole. He presses his lips to each eyelid and feels lashes against his chin. He tastes the corner of Rodney’s mouth, and searches out the rough touch of stubble under his jaw. He lingers on the hollow between collarbones until he can feel the rumble of Rodney’s voice through his lips and teeth and tongue.
 
He follows the center of the body beneath him. His nose presses against the solid force of Rodney’s sternum, and he opens his mouth to taste where there is no blood, just soft skin and the faint hint of salt.
 
John runs his hands down strong thighs. The spot behind each knee feels paper-thin under the calluses of his fingertips. The ankles stop him cold. He wraps his hands around the bones to keep them from shaking, but it only makes the rest of him join them. Rodney strokes the hair at the base of his neck and whispers that he’s fine, he’s fine, and everything is alright until John’s body believes him.
 
Rodney’s hands shift to his shoulders and pull. John crawls to face him, and Rodney turns them back onto their sides. He keeps one hand on the back of John’s neck, and the other is slow and knowing. John tries to respond in kind, but mostly he just wants to feel, and Rodney links their hands together around both of them.
 
It's like that, smooth and sweet and steady, until Rodney goes absolutely still. His breathing stutters, and his head tilts back. His eyes are wide and unfocused, and John leans forward to kiss him lightly. After a moment, Rodney’s hand moves again, and John pants against his lips and shudders.
 
The first thing he becomes aware of is the finger barely trailing up and down his neck. He opens his eyes to Rodney’s, grey in this light. Rodney’s expression holds something like a quiet wonder.
 
“I did,” John whispers.
 
“I know.” Rodney closes his eyes, faint smile still on his lips.
 
John watches his breathing turn deep and even, watches the light turn brighter a shade at a time, and finally, finally rests.
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Date: 2006-04-09 10:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 20thcenturyvole.livejournal.com
*cuddles fic*

I loved this from the moment it popped up in my inbox. It's just a big ol' rollercoaster of weird creepiness and horrible angst and shocking relief and then sweet, sweet slash. I'm all dizzy! *g*

Date: 2006-04-10 02:46 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Hee. Close your eyes, stick out your arms, and whirl in the opposite direction for a while. I've been told this is a surefire cure for the dizzies. *nods sagely* Or, you know, just a good way to spend a sunny afternoon. *g*

*the fic cuddles you back* Thanks so much for giving it the going over. The fic-love is much appreciated. :>

Date: 2006-04-09 11:53 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
loved it. Thank you Ajay

Date: 2006-04-10 02:46 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: 2006-04-09 12:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trinityofone.livejournal.com
Wow. That was in turns intensely creepy, and heart-breakingly sad, and wonderfully relieved-hopeful. I especially loved how you used all the periphery characters in this: Teyla's vigils and Ronon's (justified!) paranoia and Carson's swearing, and Lorne and Zelenka and Elizabeth...it was just fabulous, and full of so many wonderful little details. I can understand how it ate your brain, 'cause it's definitely taken a bite out of mine, too.

Date: 2006-04-10 02:53 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
I really didn't start out wanting to write about everyone else. At first it was just about John and John's issues and John's grief, but I couldn't separate him from the rest of them, and I couldn't write them without seeing how they would be injured by it all, and it became this concept of a thousand cuts... Thirty pages later...

Thanks for joining me in the brain damage. *g*

Date: 2006-04-09 12:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kitsune-tsuki.livejournal.com
Oh, this was one big ow, but so beautifully done and quiet and thoughtful and I love it for everything that no one actually said, but was heard all the same. I absolutely loved this.

Date: 2006-04-10 02:55 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm so glad to hear you liked it, and heard what was supposed to be there.

Date: 2006-04-09 12:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 2naonh3-cl2.livejournal.com
oh, damn. i love it. the first little snippet made me sad, this one, even though it was a happy ending, ripped out my heart, stomped on it, and burned the leftover bits. it was so good. thank you for sharing.

Date: 2006-04-10 02:57 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Can I offer a deal on refurbished hearts? There seems to be a market for them in fandom. I know I go through four or five a year. *g*

Thanks so much for reading!

Date: 2006-04-09 01:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] enname.livejournal.com
So pretty.
:)
I won't gush anymore than I already have gushed, but it just makes me smile to read it. Yeah, smiling over angst things - I think I am broken.
The understatedness of your writing is what always suckers me. I think you can say more with one sentence than an entire paragraph of exposition.
Worked out good.

Date: 2006-04-10 03:03 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Yeah, smiling over angst things - I think I am broken.

Nah. Chalk it up to the cathartic experience. *g*

Thanks again for tackling this one in its youth, and for the gushy boost. It's definitely better for your input. Also, am blushing at the understatedness compliment. It makes me inordinately happy, since most of my professors over the years have been trying to beat conciseness into me. Particularly the biologists.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] enname.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-04-10 01:46 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-04-09 01:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flaming-muse.livejournal.com
It's creepy and awful and wonderful all at the same time. The thought of Rodney being silent and helpful is wrong in so many ways! You used silence really well in this fic to illustrate what was and wasn't being said. Nicely done.

Date: 2006-04-10 03:07 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
The thought of Rodney being silent and helpful is wrong in so many ways!

Exactly! There's just something horrifying about someone that... well, full of personality being reduced to a shadow. The idea that he could still be just as productive, and in that prove that there's more to the relationships of these people than simple dependence on skills... yep, hooked me good.

Thanks so much for reading!

Date: 2006-04-09 01:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] temaris.livejournal.com
This is just gorgeous. The whole thing builds so gently, and moves along, one thing after another until the weight of them is unbearable. That scene with Teyla standing vigil just broke me. I was so hoping that you'd fix it somehow, and when you *did*, oh, wow. Going with his strengths indeed *g*. I loved the realism of the retrieval, and everyone's reactions, and Lorne not saying anything, and, oh dear, John talking care of him, and knowing to the second how long it had been, and...

Beautifully done. Thank you.

Date: 2006-04-10 03:12 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
one thing after another until the weight of them is unbearable

This was a tough one to write. It sat in the back of my head, being insistent, but the actual writing was exhausting. I tend to just go along with what I see, and this one... hurt. Teyla being there surprised me as much as it did John, although I'll confess that I did know Rodney was hiding out with the hippies. *g*

Thanks so much for jumping on the ride with me.

Date: 2006-04-09 01:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] looking4tarzan.livejournal.com
ZOMG!
good so shiny good
Its a nooooooooooooooo followed by a YES and Rodney gave em the finger *giggle*
OMG I love the resolution........god I love it when Rodney gets devious

Date: 2006-04-10 03:14 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Hee. Rodney is an evil genius. It's one of the things I love best about him. *g*

Thanks so much for reading!

Date: 2006-04-09 02:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anatolia1.livejournal.com
This is awesome, it has everything... a well developed and incredible plot, pain and loss and reunion and joy. I loved it. Thanks for sharing.

Date: 2006-04-10 03:27 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm so glad to hear it hit the right spots!

Date: 2006-04-09 02:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cesperanza.livejournal.com
Wow, saw this recced and was it ever worth it. You have a fine, fine sci-fi brain, and a great sense of pacing and angst; I enjoyed it very much!

Date: 2006-04-10 03:31 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Someone recced it? Neat. Hadn't seen yet. I'll need to track whoever it was down and thank them.

In the meantime, thank you for following their suggestions. This is the first time anyone's said I have a brain built for scifi and meant it as a compliment. *g*

I'm so glad it worked for you. Thanks again for reading!

Date: 2006-04-09 02:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rivier.livejournal.com
I'm proud to report that I cried like a big, blustering baby at the appropriate place - even though I *knew* that what seemed to have happened couldn't have happened. The story was too much about the two of them: if that had been it, it would have been half a tale.

I wouldn't change a word of this. I loved all the touches of everyone around them, the tiny reactions and nuances that told all. And the reunion was tender and laced with the kind of perfect pain that has nothing to do with any failing to understand or connect, and everything to do with the reality that, no matter how strongly you love and are loved back, it's the rest of the world that can still do you harm.

I, y'know, kind of liked this one! And any time you want to take the thick girl off to one side and whisper to her what the title means, that would be much appreciated!

Date: 2006-04-10 03:44 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Mwahahaha! I have brought the mighty Riv to tears. Go, me! *boogies* You do know that's just karmic payback, right, Rodneykiller?

Ahem. In all seriousness: I'm quite thrilled to hear you kind of liked this one. *g* Like I said, it ate my brain and earwormed me for more than a week. Poor Shakespeare never stood a chance, let alone the SPN boys. John paraded around being all silently disintegrating, and Rodney popped in and out to be distantly tragic, and I was lost.

The title, btw, is proof-positive that I love this fandom. Very little else could see me googling insurance terms on the faint suspicion that there must be something in there about loss and return. Then I hit on 'burning ratio', which apparently is the relationship between how much coverage you have and how much you lose. Basically, what you are prepared to lose and what you aren't. Add a little poetic license, and presto! Instant title. *g*

Thanks for crying the big, blustery tears and suspecting all along that I'm not quite evil enough to really off him. This time.

Date: 2006-04-09 02:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fatuorum.livejournal.com
This is just, wow, you had my heart clenched up in your hands. I love the storytelling to bits; very light touch, nothing too melodramatic and wonderful pacing. Even though I know you can't possibly kill Rodney, you pushed the feel of it so well, and all of their hurts, especially John's, was heartbreaking.

I half want to nickname this the Stepford planet fic, but that's really doing it injustice.

Off to reread now, thank you so much for sharing this!

Date: 2006-04-09 04:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fatuorum.livejournal.com
Also, a cover (http://fa-crylic.livejournal.com/8272.html). Hope you like :)

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From: [identity profile] fatuorum.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-04-09 10:02 pm (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2006-04-09 03:06 pm (UTC)
aurora: (SGA JohnRodney Embrace)
From: [personal profile] aurora
Wow, this was fantastic.

Sad, haunting, desperate at times, with amazing characterisations. The part before they got Rodney back was so quiet, and everyone was just so numb, and I really felt that as I was reading along, hanging on to my bits of hope. And I love how you resolved it, with a feeling of serene joy and soft smiles, and yes, this was just perfect.

Date: 2006-04-10 07:25 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm so glad it made you happy. Well, you know, eventually. *g*

Date: 2006-04-09 03:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ignipes.livejournal.com
Yay! I'm so happy to see this posted. I do love this story. It's just fantastic, through and through. Great job!

Date: 2006-04-10 07:31 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you! There are at least five extra pages to it in answer to all your (completely correct) suggestions. The thesis kept me hopping this last week, and so the revisions and posting got put on hold. It finally started burning a hole in my hard drive on Friday. And to your comment about the geology: I'm a paleobiologist (sometimes - it's complicated). All of my geologic knowledge revolves around extinction events. And teeth. *g*

Thanks again for all your efforts! They are much appreciated.

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Date: 2006-04-09 03:41 pm (UTC)
fenris_wolf0: So innocent it hurts! (Default)
From: [personal profile] fenris_wolf0

Date: 2006-04-09 04:02 pm (UTC)
fenris_wolf0: So innocent it hurts! (Default)
From: [personal profile] fenris_wolf0
except that the Athosian kids are kind or annoying

'kind of annoying'

I’m guessing the other me didn’t fair as well?

'fare'

:)

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Date: 2006-04-09 03:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chaps1870.livejournal.com
Wonderful and touching story. Loved the roles you gave the team in real Rodney's absense.

Date: 2006-04-10 07:32 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you! So glad you liked it.

ratio of burning

Date: 2006-04-09 04:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laceymcbain.livejournal.com
You're amazing. I read every word of this (never felt the urge to skip or skim) - slowed down to savour it - and had to force myself not to scroll down to assure myself of a happy ending. It was heart-breaking in places, and I think the moment I "knew" was when John went to Rodney's bed and smelled neither of them there. He knew but he was so stricken he didn't know how to process that except as the barest sense of hope ... and I'll admit, that's what I felt too. Hope that things were going to turn out right - not just for the story - but hope in the wider sense of really caring about the characters and the situation, and that, my dear, is the mark of a gifted writer.

You continue to impress with every thing you write.

Also, I loved this description: "Initial contact meetings are usually like the first day of school: no one knows whether they’ll like each other, everyone’s a little afraid, and there’s an even chance someone will be bleeding by the end of it." Perfect.

A typo, on the web version anyway:
He blankets are suddenly sufficient.

Re: ratio of burning

Date: 2006-04-10 07:42 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
You have this terrible, wonderful habit of making me all bashful with your comments. *g*

had to force myself not to scroll down to assure myself of a happy ending

See, I'm horrible about that. I'm the type to read the last page of a book first, every time, because I want to know who I can be attached to and who I should remain aloof about. I'm working on it, though, since I think it ruins the experience sometimes. It's part of the reason I'm so conflicted about posting warnings to stories. Hmm.

I think the moment I "knew"

This fascinates me. I'd love to have a poll, asking when everyone figured it out. Since I knew that much all along (although quite a bit caught me by surprise), I'd really love to see what exactly tipped everyone else off, and just how much they'd been convinced before.

The initial contact line... I have this persistant analogy of the Atlantis crew as kids. There's just something about their stumbling style of exploration that makes me think of the young. Plus, they have far too much fun sometimes. *g*

The blankets are now 'his', btw. Thank you, both for the kind words and the quick fix!

Date: 2006-04-09 05:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] akro-orka.livejournal.com
SQUEE!!!!

Date: 2006-04-10 07:42 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Hee. Thank you!

Date: 2006-04-09 06:03 pm (UTC)
ext_1637: (Default)
From: [identity profile] wickedwords.livejournal.com
my-partner's-dead-just-kidding is one of my absolute favorite genres, and this had everything I look for in that kind of story: angst, and pain, and the revelation of the deep connection between them, and then Surprise! hope, need, reassurance, desire. You made me very happy with this.

Date: 2006-04-10 07:47 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
my-partner's-dead-just-kidding is one of my absolute favorite genres

Me, too. 'Presumed dead' stories get me every time. My current problem is having too many bunnies of that variety in too many fandoms. Next up is Supernatural, I fear, except that over there, it might not be so presumed. It should probably worry me that death isn't really a career ender in most of my fandoms. *g*

I'm so glad to hear you liked this one. Thank you for reading!

Date: 2006-04-09 06:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] melagan.livejournal.com
Ouch and then Wow. And damn if I didn't miss Rodney too. A silent Rodney just crawls under your skin and is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Date: 2006-04-10 10:51 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
It is. I even knew where he was the whole time, and I missed him terribly.

Thanks for reading!

Date: 2006-04-09 07:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shoemaster.livejournal.com
Oh my god, that was heartbreaking. Seriously, I was getting all teary and crap but then you kept me from becoming a blubbering mass of fangirl with the happy ending and I love you for it. Teyla adopting clone Rodney, and the whole team camping around his bed at the end just made me so happy, I love the team dynamic and even Lorne missed him in the end. Yay! That was an excellent piece.

Date: 2006-04-10 10:53 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Hee. We're often blubbering masses of fangirl around these parts. *g*

even Lorne missed him in the end

He's a very hard fellow not to miss, is that Rodney, and Lorne's a smart guy. I'm sure he'd catch on eventually. :>

Thanks so much for reading!

Date: 2006-04-09 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spankys.livejournal.com
Oh. My. God. That was so good! I so glad it had a happy ending. I was afraid it wouldn't for a while. It was perfect.

Date: 2006-04-10 10:53 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: 2006-04-09 09:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ferret-kitty.livejournal.com
So I was skimming down my f-list and my brain registers "New fic. Sheppard/Mckay." And I think, "Sweetness."

And then I get to the middle and he *dies* and I'm thinking that maybe I should have read the info a little more carefully, 'cause I like a character!death fic as much as the next person, I was really in the mood for something more cheerful. But it didn't matter, because your story swept me up and I couldn't stop reading. My heart broke for John, especially after I figured out that he and Rodney had been together before the "breaking," and that made it even worse. I was almost relieved when clone!Rodney died because I hated watching John suffer.

One or two little hang-ups, though. I didn't get how much time had passed since Rodney has stopped being Rodney, so at the end I was thrown by the "five months thing," although once I cottoned on, I squeed at the thought that John had been counting to the hour (and probably the minute, since he's so mathy). I also didn't quite get what you were getting at during this part:

It comes out barely audible. “I thought… maybe… maybe you didn’t…”

John nods and stands, slowly. He stops just next to Rodney, not quite touching. “I did.”

Rodney nods. “Yeah.”


Maybe I'm just slow, but... I had no idea what Rodney was stuttering about, and what John had done. And was it the first time they had been together? Because John thought earlier in the fic about how he missed cold toes on his calves at three in the morning, and it seemed like they had been together, but I just didn't know.

In any case, overall, a completely wonderful fic and a heart-wrenching joy to read.

Date: 2006-04-10 11:10 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Sorry for the bait-and-switch of non-cheer. I just really didn't want to give anything away before I absolutely had to.

As far as the passage of time goes, I had it figured as about five months total from the day they first went to the planet to the day they finally got him back. From John's persective, that would have been the better part of three and a half months with notRodney, and then another month after he died. For Rodney, it would have been one long stretch.

As to the other: Rodney spent a good long time cut off from them all. Somewhere along the way, he would have had to start questioning what he means to these people, if they can't even figure out that the replica isn't him, or storm the castle to get answers to 'fix' him. Even knowing that they've got a legitimate reason for not rescuing him - namely, that they don't know he needs to be rescued, and then that the city is AWOL - there has to come a time when he wonders just how important he is, on a personal level.

What he can't quite say here is '...miss me, need me, mourn me'. I don't see either of them as being very good with that kind of articulation, but I do see them as being very good as reading between the lines, once they are given the lines. John's 'I did' is him knowing what Rodney isn't saying, and that the answer to all of his questions is yes.

Thanks so much for putting up with the vagueness and liking the story despite the false advertising. :>

Date: 2006-04-09 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sp23.livejournal.com
Oh, you made me all weepy with the quiet not!Rodney, and then his death. I just knew you could not have actually killed Rodney, but was still thrilled when they were called back to the city. I loved it to pieces that Rodney had annoyed the head robot/clone so much, he had to give Rodney back. *g* Really wonderful fic and one I'll read again and again.

Date: 2006-04-11 12:23 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Sorry about the weepy. If it's any consolation, it wasn't easy to write, either. The long-term ouch kind of exhausts me. Writing the ending made it better, though. *g*

Thanks so much for reading, and thanks in advance for the proposed re-reads! :>
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