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TITLE: Everything And Nothing
FANDOM: Stargate Atlantis
RATING: PG
WORDS: 2,610
WARNINGS: NOT BETAED!
NOTES: This is for the SGA Saturday Amnesty week, the "Use All The Prompts" challenge.  Each of the prompts used is in bold.  By my count, I've used every single prompt except for Weeks 39-41 "Anthro Quote" and Weeks 65-67 which was Comm Pictures.  This could be considered pre-slash.  Also, since this was supposed to be crack!fic, I almost wrote John & Rodney as Eddie & Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous.  However, this idea took root and wouldn't let me go.  And it was surprisingly difficult to write...
SUMMARY:  John and Rodney find themselves offworld on a mission.  Late one night, they sit by the fire and talk about everything and nothing.

~*~*~

Rodney pours himself another cup of coffee from the kettle Sheppard brought with them on their off-world expedition to planet PT7-Y14, putting it back on the fire-heated rocks when Sheppard shakes his head at having his own cup refilled.  He and Sheppard had been holed up in a cave for the last few days, staying out of the natives' lines of sight, while researching a nearby Ancient facility.  Though the stars had been out the first few nights, even allowing for a heated debate about what star formations resembled those from earth (and stopped Rodney mid-word when Sheppard made him ascend a nearby bluff at just past midnight to see a vivid section of space that reminded Rodney of pictures of the Wolf Cave Nebula from Earth), a sudden squall of weather came up from the West, launching a massive rain storm.

The cave was barely tall enough for either man to stand in, so they take turns gathering the driftwood-like fuel they'd found earlier in their stay and stashed in the back of the cave, adding it to the fire whenever smoke overpowered the glowing orange embers.  As Rodney settles back down onto his sleeping-bag cushion, he sips at his coffee and stares at the flames as they burn through the dried wood.  "You ever miss home?" Rodney blurts out.

Before he knows it, the trace of a pout crosses Sheppard's face at the thought of his biological family back on Earth.  "Home?" John asks, daring to let out a chuckle.  "Rodney," he says, "my family's not like yours.  Not like yours at all..."

"Like my parents were modeled after something in a Norman Rockwell painting," Rodney manages, watching John poke at the fire with a long stick.  He leans over, bumping John.  "So parents...  Nothing new there," he adds.  "What about your brother...  What was his name again?"

"Dave," John says quietly.  "He was always the good one.  Mom and Dad...  They kinda showered him with attention.  I learned to hide - blend in - though I never really had to.  Not when Dave was around."  John steals Rodney's cup, taking a sip as he battles memories long buried.

"So what, you weren't the rebel type back then?" Rodney asks, a bit of an impish smile on his face.

Shaking his head, John quietly says, "Naah... Just never good enough."

At Rodney's questioning look, John adds, "Look, can we just drop it, okay?"  He feels a pang of guilt at Rodney's expression, but he ignores it, burying his feelings yet again.  Leaning back, he props himself up on his elbows and gets out of his boots, letting his feet warm next to the fire.  "Sorry," he says a few minutes later, blowing out a sigh.

"What?  No..." Rodney says.

John takes in the sight of his friend as the scientist stares into the fire.  He smiles at the shortly-cropped hair.  (Rodney had come to John months before on Atlantis and handed him a set of clippers, telling him to "Buzz it all off.  It's not like it's coming back tomorrow or anything...  I need to face reality - great brain, shitty hair genes.")  Rodney was a couple of weeks late for his usual trim, so his hair wasn't quite standing up in his usual buzzcut, and was currently limned by the orange flames making him appear to have a much fuller head of hair, a trick of the light.

"Hey, did I ever tell you what happened when I took Ronon to my Dad's funeral?" John asks, poking Rodney with his big toe to garner the man's attention.

Rodney tears his eyes from the dancing flames.  "Umm, no?"

"We made quite the splash among the gossipy housewives," John admits.  "That's what the country club life is like; a never-ending cycle of  'You'll never guess who did what with who.'"

John tosses the memories around his head until Rodney brings him back to reality with, "Well?"

"First of all, they wanted to know how I'd managed to land someone like Ronon," John admits, shaking his head at the thought.  "Then they were worried that they were going to get me kicked out of the military for violating 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"Seriously?" Rodney asks.

"I know, right?" John says, leaning back up.

"Like anyone would kick you out of the military for that asinine policy," Rodney says.

Laughing, John says, "I know...  Wait - what?"  He turns to Rodney.  "I was talking about being with Ronon," he admits.  "You know, with a guy."

"Yeah, so?" Rodney says.  "Look, it doesn't matter if you were with Ronon or Elizabeth or anybody.  But DADT...  That's just a stupid rule."

John takes a deep, controlling breath, wondering if he's suddenly been sucked into another dimension.  He's been so careful with hiding his true self, he wonders if he's let himself get soft on Atlantis.  And if Rodney's noticed, he wonders who else may know.  "Seriously?" he asks, voice quiet.

"John," Rodney says, then turns, and John can sense Rodney struggling with something.  "You're my friend.  My best friend," Rodney says, looking into John's eyes.  "I...  Well, I never really had that many friends," he admits.  "It was kind of rare for me growing up to even have people my own age that knew my name."

"C'mon, Rodney," John says, bumping the scientist's shoulder.  "It couldn't have been all that bad..."

"Well, I wasn't a pariah, no," Rodney says.  "But I never really got the hang of friends.  Not until you..."  Rodney steals a look, the hint of a smile parting his lips.  "I always had my face in a book or some computer manual."  He sighs, then turns his attention back to the fire.  "I just..."

"Hey, it's okay," John manages, nudging Rodney in the leg.  "I know what it's like."

Rodney gives John an incredulous look.

"Seriously," John says.  "Besides a couple of drinking buddies on base during my enlisted days, I never really had that many friends, either.  And what friends I had by getting married, I lost in the divorce."

"Wow," is all Rodney can respond with.  "Well," he says, knocking shoulders with John again.  "At least Pegasus has been good to us," he adds, John nodding in return.

After a companionable silence, John finally says, "Did you see the tattoo Sergeant Dawson came back with?"  When Rodney shakes his head, John continues, "Earth.  Big tattoo of Earth on his chest.  Said he always wanted a reminder of what he had to go home to."

"Huh," Rodney replies.  "You know, I don't think I could honestly decide on one thing to put on my body for the rest of my life.  Not anything..."

"Not even your big crush?  The one you don't think anyone knows about?" John asks, an impish look on his face.  At Rodney's curious look, he says, "The one that's outlasted Katie.  Outlasted Keller..."  Before Rodney can guess, John says, "C'mon, McKay - Ada Lovelace?"

Laughing, Rodney replies, "Are you serious?"

John playfully cuts his eyes to Rodney and makes tsking noises.  "You've never seen it, I guess," John says, then goes back to poking the fire.  At Rodney's look, he adds, "The way you...  I don't know...light up when you get to talk about her.  The way your whole body language changes.  Seriously, Rodney; you don't have to be psychic to know you've got a wicked crush on Ada.  Everyone on Atlantis has known it since you got here."

Blushing, Rodney stammers for a beat, then asks, "Look, can we change the subject?"  He sighs.  "Okay, okay, so I admit that I've had a bit of an obsession with Ada Lovelace since I was a kid.  I mean, how could you not?  And...  Well...  She was the epitome of a perfect woman for me.  At least when I was still in school."

"Is she why you got into science in the first place?" John asks, leaning back.

Rodney contemplates the question as he unties the double bow of his laces and takes his own boots off, careful of the mud and dirt that cake the soles.  John's amazed that there's any white left on the man's socks at all, and chuffs out a laugh when he spots a big hole in Rodney's right sock.  "Actually," Rodney says, leaning back on his own elbows.  "It was my ninth grade science teacher; Mister Cornelius."

"Really?" is all John can manage.  He didn't see that one coming.

"Yeah...  See, he'd taken us all to MacMillian Space Center on the outskirts of Vancouver to see the planetarium, and it was one of the first times that I saw more than just one or two of us interested in science.  I mean, the majority of us all.  We all just wanted to be there, learn about the stars and where we came from.  And Mister Cornelius was there to help us."

John nods.  "Sounds like a good guy," he says, letting his fingers dig through the dirt on the side of his mattress pad, producing multiple geometric shapes that he and Rodney take turns erasing, then redrawing.

"Except he wasn't that good a teacher," Rodney says.  His lips turn down into a hesitant frown before he shakes his head, then runs a hand through his hair.

John glances over, Rodney appearing lost in his memories until he starts again a few beats later.  "Here he was, this guy, with a crowd of students that appeared that they wanted to learn, for the first time that year.  He had his Masters degree in Childhood Development, specializing in teaching science to high schoolers.  He'd recently gotten tenure - even got an article published.  He was at the zenith of his career."  Looking over at John, Rodney adds, "And he blew it."

Furrowing his brow, John asks, "How?"

"I was like - I don't know...  ten or eleven years old at the time."  At John's look, he adds, "Remember, they kept advancing me in school.  Anyway, so just after we got settled in and he got up to introduce the lesson, somebody asked him how the ancient Chinese were able to view a supernova 2,000 years before."

"So?"

Sighing, Rodney continues.  "The guy...  One of the first people that got me interested in space, just said, 'I dunno kid.'  I mean really - what kind of answer is that?"

"So how did the Chinese manage to catch a supernova way back then?" John asks.  He leans over and steals Rodney's cup again.  Finding it empty, he leans up to grab the coffee off of the hot rocks, then fills the cup to the brim.  He sets it down, letting it cool.

"That's just it.  He didn't know.  All these kids, most of us finally ready to learn, and he didn't freaking know."  Blowing out another sigh, Rodney adds, "So then the kids start asking me because - you know - I was supposedly the brainiac and all."

"So did you know?" John asks.

"Yeah...  Yeah, I did.  I was able to answer the question.  It pissed Cornelius off so much that he just went and sat down.  Told the projectionist to start the program.  Didn't talk to us for almost the rest of the field trip."  Using his index finger to make a point, Rodney adds, "It was then and there, that very day," he says, tapping the ground with each syllable to emphasize his point, "that I knew I wanted to go into science and never stop learning.  'I don't know' was just not good enough."

Considering Rodney's admission over the silence in the cave, John just 'hmms' a bit.  "So the man who's supposed to be a conduit for learning ends up disappointing you, but also is the reason you went into science in the first place.  There's a kind of karmic balance to all that, I think..."

"Hmm," Rodney says.  "John Sheppard, deep thinker.  Who'd a thunk it?" he adds with a wink.

"Hey, I've been edumacated!" John says with as deep a twang as possible, their combined laughter coming through as a babel of voices as it tumbles across the walls of the cave, echoing back at them.  "But seriously," he adds, "I'm glad."

"So since we're trading stories here," Rodney says, "how 'bout you tell me why you decided to come along?"

John furrows up his brow in confusion.  "What, this mission-" he starts to ask.

"No, no, no.  Atlantis," Rodney says, enunciating each syllable.  "Pegasus," he adds.

Scratching the back of his head, John asks, "Would you believe me if I said it was the flip of a coin?"

"You've got to be kidding me," Rodney says, rolling his eyes.  At John's expression, he adds, "You mean to tell me that if that coin had flipped over to what - tails? - that I'd have been sent to Pegasus with some other guy?  What the hell, John?"

John is momentarily taken aback at Rodney's outburst, and surprised that Rodney seems genuinely pissed off at him.  "So, so, so," Rodney stutters, "if that coin had flipped to tails, I'd be here with some random guy who wouldn't have my back every time we went to some crazy planet where there are colonies of dragonsActual dragons?  Or, you know, planets with seventeen-feet tall gorillas with razor blades for fingernails?"

"Yeah," John says dryly, "but think of it this way.  You got me, dinosaurs, dragons, exploding volcanoes, ten year old Princesses, Wraith, and you got to venture into a deep, dark tunnel with a bunch of vampire-bugs to try and keep me from turning my ass into a bug."  John takes a sip of the coffee.

"Your eyes," Rodney says, quietly.

"My what?"

Looking directly into John's eyes, Rodney says, "Your eyes - when you were changing - mutating.  That was the only time I was really scared..."

"Scared?" John asks, his suddenly arid mouth fumbling over the word.  Rodney's tone worried him; he'd never really heard Rodney confess anything but arrogance and genius before.  Hearing him admit it unnerved him.

"Hey, how 'bout we talk about something else, okay?" Rodney suggests.

Nodding, John takes a sip of coffee, then puts the cup back down.  "Okay, so since my birthday's next, what are you getting me?  A new gun or a newly tricked out 'jumper?"

Belting out a quick laugh, Rodney says, "I'm surprised you aren't asking for both!"

"Hey now," John starts.  "I like Atlantis' transportation just fine.  It's just...  Can't I get a tricked out version with, like, laser cannons and RPG launchers on the outside?"  With a casual laugh, he adds, "I'd like us to be a little more intimidating when we go up against the likes of the Genii again..."

Rodney's the one who laughs next.  "More intimidating?" he snorts.  "This from the man who plays with the safety on his P90 during routine trade negotiations?  And who taught Ronon to sneak up on enemies, thrust his sword in the air, and scream at the top of his lungs, 'This...Is...Sparta!"

"You should have seen your face the first time he did that to you," John says, clutching his stomach as he laughs.  He turns to his side, gasping for breath as he laughs uncontrollably, hooting when Rodney whacks him on the arm.  "I'm...  I'm sorry, Rodney.  But that was priceless!"

"Yeah, whatever..." Rodney mutters.  "I will get you back one of these days, though.  There will be parity on this subject."  He pokes John in the side as he finishes with, "Mark my words..."

John continues to laugh as Rodney rolls his eyes, and plans to get even with the man - and soon.

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
melagan
May. 23rd, 2013 01:34 am (UTC)
Delightful and wickedly clever getting all those prompts in. I enjoyed this very much.
squidgiepdx
May. 23rd, 2013 12:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was tough to write and get all of them in there, but I'm glad it came through! :)
popkin16
May. 23rd, 2013 01:44 am (UTC)
Whoa, good job using all the prompts in a coherent whole. The boys lounging around, just chatting, is a lovely image that makes me happy :)
squidgiepdx
May. 23rd, 2013 12:07 pm (UTC)
I'm just glad it was coherent! :) Thank you, sweets! There needs to be more of these fics - just the boys sitting around talking...
melodysparks
May. 23rd, 2013 07:21 am (UTC)
Thats excellent
squidgiepdx
May. 23rd, 2013 12:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
esteefee
May. 23rd, 2013 07:44 am (UTC)
OH MY GOD! \o/ \o/ \o/ you win at the internets. I can't believe you even got Spartan in there. I am so sending you a Stargate coaster. :DDD

plus what a sweet friendship story. :)))
squidgiepdx
May. 23rd, 2013 12:09 pm (UTC)
Well, you *knew* that once you threw down the gauntlet that I'd have to take up the challenge! :) The Sparta thing came to me at the last minute. That, and geometric (which I found a spot to throw in just after I'd finished writing!).

Thank you! :)
lilyfarfalla
May. 23rd, 2013 04:46 pm (UTC)
YAY! Haven't read it yet, but just a scan through makes me really happy. :D!!!
squidgiepdx
May. 23rd, 2013 05:49 pm (UTC)
::bows:: Thank you! If there's a challenge, I'm up for it! :)
selenic76
May. 25th, 2013 08:06 am (UTC)
This is just pure awesomeness! :) How you managed to squeeze in all the prompts is a thing of wonder in itself, but the story is also well written, funny, witty, and so wonderfully full of warmth and emotion, ♥♥♥! If this was pre-slash, I want to read the slash part too! ^_^ Thanks for sharing!
squidgiepdx
May. 25th, 2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
Funny thing is, I actually *do* have a slash part in my head! :) Maybe I'll write that one next...
selenic76
May. 26th, 2013 06:08 am (UTC)
Yay! ^_^ This story was so building up to that first kiss, that when I reached the end I was like This can't just end here! :D

I love first kiss/first time stories so much, and will be eagerly waiting to see where this leads. ^_^
fanficfan123
May. 26th, 2013 11:12 pm (UTC)
Well-done--your boldness in tackling the challenge succeeded.
squidgiepdx
May. 27th, 2013 08:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :)
fanficfan123
Jun. 1st, 2013 12:41 am (UTC)
You're very welcome.
lilyfarfalla
May. 27th, 2013 09:55 pm (UTC)
OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!! THIS IS SO GOOD. Man, it would have been enough if you'd just used EVERY SINGLE PROMPT (I mean, I'll take the "almost", because, come on), but THIS STORY. It's so freaking true to the characters and kind of sweet, and I love this little moment in time, them, drinking coffee in a cave between daring mission feats, slowly getting to know each other a little more. And how awesome is Rodney swearing to have parity?! SO AWESOME. Seriously, this has just delighted my heart to no end!!
squidgiepdx
May. 28th, 2013 06:13 pm (UTC)
Awww... Thank you, sweetie! :) I *do* love these boys. I've already got the next scene in my head; just waiting for the right prompt ("Spike" is getting an AU treatment. ::grin::).
lazy_8s
May. 28th, 2013 01:11 pm (UTC)

Awesome!!!! I love this, the simplicity of the these two men just talking about their lives, both together and separate. 'sighs' :)
squidgiepdx
May. 28th, 2013 06:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you!! This was hard to write, but I still love it! :)
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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