Story: Shoreline by dogeared
Challenge: 016 - colors
Notes: Spoilers for 2x14: Grace Under Pressure and 4x20: The Last Man. Thanks so much to sheafrotherdon and lim for beta suggestions on the story.
When Rodney hallucinates, he conjures up Sam Carter, and he's at the bottom of the cold, dark ocean.
48,000 years in the future (give or take), the ocean's gone, and there's sand everywhere, and when John hallucinates, it turns out he's not hallucinating at all.
Rodney knows enough about the sea—Moby-Dick when he was seven, the Bay of Fundy and its rushing tides when he was nine, Jaws when he was in grad school—to know that things lurk in all that deep water; to know that things sink and never surface again.
Maybe that's why the Sam in his head is soft and pink, like an anemone in a tide pool, or like the smooth inside of a shell—something you'd turn up in safer shallows.
John knows more than he wants to about deserts—how sand and wind strip skin from bone, the way the sun bleaches the color out of everything.
John also knows that Computer-Rodney's not a hallucination, because he never would have imagined Rodney this way—a mirage he barely recognizes, aged and worn and gray. The Rodney in his brain is solid and loud, scowling and red-faced and animated and teetering on the edge between panic and saving their asses. That there was a Rodney out there who spent 25 fucking years trying to solve a problem doesn't really fit into John's worldview. That Rodney did it to save him, to save all of them, makes his throat ache like it's been scraped raw.
I don't want to die, Rodney thinks, over and over again, in time with the thumps of his heart and the water lapping at his chin. He doesn't want to die, and he especially doesn't want to die alone, with only the ghost of Griffin and the figment of Sam and a sea monster outside for company.
John steps into the stasis chamber thinking about Hail Mary plays and sudden-death overtime, because that's better than the alternative—easier than thinking about being pressed into dreams by the weight of too many lifetimes of regrets, until even the dreaming stops.
Rodney stumbles out of the jumper with Radek on one side and John on the other, and John skids through the stargate, leaves one Rodney behind and hopes like hell there's another one waiting for him on the other side, and sometime in the 48,000-year span between two rescues, Rodney takes a breath and holds it and steps into John's room.
John kisses the breath out of him; John holds on like he's the one drowning, until he's the one running out of air, ocean greens and blues blooming behind his eyelids.
Rodney licks away salt and sucks wetness onto John's skin, and John shivers and touches as much of Rodney as he can. And when Rodney drifts off, John makes himself stay awake, watching him grow a minute older, and a minute after that, and a minute after that, so that he doesn't miss any of it.
One Fish - lim