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Prompt #3 conduit

Story: Conduit
By: Scarlettandblue
Rating: PG (maybe a little more for bad language)
Pairing: Rodney and John

Whew just squeaked in under the wire here!!

Disclaimer: I don't own them so don't sue me for having some fun please? It's not for profit and I'm just playing.

John loves the rain.

He didn’t used to.

When he was a kid rain was a disaster, rain killed the buzz, it kept him in when all he wanted was to be outside. When he was a younger man rain had been an unpredictable element to a mission, sometimes helpful cover, sometimes the thing that knocked you out of the sky. Even when he first came to Atlantis rain just reminded him of all the times he’d been wet and alone, waiting to kill someone, needing to save someone or simply waiting to see if he would live or die.

But since they came back to Pegasus, since the miracle of recovering a second, and then a third fully charged ZPM, since the city was finally able to run it’s full systems and protect his people the way it was meant to, John discovered he liked the rain after all.

He could stand on a balcony mesmerized by the sheen of beauty that rain added to the spires and towers, turning pewter coloured walls to fluid mercury, before his eyes. And the way the city felt in the rain. Like a circuit that was only fully closed when everything was glistening wet and slick.

And John could feel the slide of raindrops on his city like a soft glossy touch inside his mind and it made him lazy and happy knowing what was happening. Knowing that his city was purring and content, all systems charged and sub-routines actualised. Ready to protect its citizens. Atlantis becoming again what it once had been, a thing of beauty, with form and purpose fully realized.

It had finally happened five months after they returned to Pegasus. They had been operating at full power for maybe three and a half months. Every day since the third ZPM had been installed new systems would come on line. New applications and functions would be enabled that allowed the city to maintain and repair itself, that allowed a secondary power system they had never even imagined was there to come on line and begin charging. John had realised first because he felt it, but he didn't say anything. He rationalised that he never had the opportunity.

Rodney had been quiet ever since their return. He had lost a little weight and he was always pale. It seemed like he had lost something more than just a relationship when Jennifer has said she was staying on earth and that Rodney shouldn’t. Of course he was buried under the deluge of work that the new ZPMs created. Checking and verifying every application or function before giving the go-ahead to run it. They had been caught out so many times in the past with something that had only seemed to be benign, and Rodney was no longer blinded by the joy of discovery.

So John had been feeling something for a few days. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was exactly, just that something was different. Normally Rodney would have picked up on John’s mood. Would have bugged him until John gave in and spilled what he was thinking and feeling. Only Rodney could make him do that. Except he didn’t, because Rodney wasn’t himself these days and he didn‘t spend much time with John anymore.

The fact that he had chosen a seat opposite John instead of the one next to him at that particular command meeting was just another clue that something was seriously wrong with Rodney.

When it started to rain John felt the change at once, and his mind supplied the appropriate Star Wars imagery for what he was feeling. Suddenly that difference he had been noticing flared bright in his mind. The whole city had just lit up and the glow of it, the potential, took his breath away.

John had been aware of the meeting going on around him, but his focus was on Atlantis, and he had only gradually realised that the meeting was over. By the time his focus shifted back to the room around him everyone was gathering their papers and laptops, and Rodney was already gone.

When Woolsey asked him if he was feeling okay, John surprised himself and Richard by saying that maybe he was a little tired. He checked in with Lorne on the radio and then told Richard as there were no disasters pending he was going to take the afternoon off to try and get some rest.

It wasn’t the truth, but it wasn’t exactly a lie. John did go to his room but he didn’t try to sleep. He sat out on the private balcony of his new quarters and enjoyed the view.

Since they’d had the power now to really open the City up new living areas had become available. John had taken a seemingly random stroll through newly lit corridors a month earlier. He had somehow ended up walking through a suite of rooms to discover a space that had felt so absolutely right for him that he’d moved all his possessions into it the same day.

Now, whenever he needed time, whenever he needed to open up his mind to something; a problem or something he was feeling that made him uncomfortable, he came and sat on his balcony. Back pressed against the wall, legs stretched out in front of him.

If he tilted his head back he could look up and up, beyond the spire and into the sky. If he turned his head right he could see out to the horizon, sky and sea and nothing else. If he looked left the city was spread out below and around him.

John hadn’t heard Rodney when he came into the room. He didn’t even notice him step out onto the balcony, until Rodney said, “What’s wrong with you?”

John rolled his head to the left and looked up at Rodney and replied, “Nothing, what‘s wrong with you?”

Rodney shook his head like an angry pony shaking off a fly, it was the most animated John could remember him being in months.

“No! Seriously John, what’s wrong? What is it? Are you sick?” Rodney asked, but then he peered closely at John, maybe for the first time since they’d been back, and he looked surprised and little sad and said cautiously, “No not sick.” then incredulously, “ Are you high?”

Rodney’s expression hardened and he continued, “My God that’s it. You’re high! You moron! Don’t you know how much… I could have…” Rodney heaved a sigh, his anger seemed to drain away he said more quietly, “What is it? Those berries New Sateda keep trying to trade? Some idiot Marine fermenting Wekk Juice again? I know it’s tough sometimes, John. But can’t you make do with Zelenka’s blue vodka like the rest of us mere mortals?”

John had to smile, but he was beginning to feel kind of sad now, because this was the first time McKay been to his new quarters, and it was only because McKay thought there was a problem. It made him realise how much he’d been missing his friend. He shook his head and said, “No Rodney, not high, just feeling happy.“

Rodney looked confused and he repeated, “Happy?” Like it was a word he didn’t understand.

John’s soft joyful afterglow feeling couldn’t be totally dampened by the way happiness seemed like a foreign concept to McKay lately. It was a little dented, sure, but John still managed a crooked little half-smile as he answered, “Yeah, happy.“

“What made…” Then Rodney stopped, he was apparently listening to someone on his radio, but John could tell that the sharp focus of McKay’s mind was still with him. Studying him, weighing up the evidence, arriving at a conclusion and then acting on it, all in that lightning fast way that made Rodney the single most incredible person John had ever met, and the one person on Atlantis that John trusted without question.

Rodney said decisively, “Shut it all down. I don’t care! Shut it down now Miko, it’s doing something to Sheppard.“

And just like that John was out of the loop.

“It wasn’t doing anything to me, Rodney.”

“Oh I think it was. Everyone has been noticing the way you’ve been these last couple of days, walking around like someone had lifted the weight of the world off your shoulders. You were completely spaced-out in today’s meeting and you apparently lied to Richard to take the afternoon off! I mean even when you’re scheduled to take time off you don’t just go back to your room to rest!”

Rodney was pacing around John’s balcony and John decided if they were going to do this then they should at least be comfortable, so he stood up and headed back into his room.

McKay followed him still talking, “I asked Teyla if you had a new woman in your life, because that might have made some sense. Although honestly, you usually have even worse luck than me in that department. But she was certain that you did not have, nor were you looking for a new woman to have a relationship with.“

John retrieved two bottles of imported beer from his fridge, and handed one to Rodney.

McKay took the beer, twisted the cap off, took a sip then continued, “So I asked Ronon because I know it’s not always a relationship that makes you …well… sometimes a more informal arrangement can be very uuh… rewarding… And Teyla would probably give me a lecture on respect or something, if I suggested….. Something more casual. But Ronon gave me a straight answer. At least he did once he finished having what appeared to be a laughter induced aneurysm. He said your love life was even more disfunctuonal than mine,and there was no one.”

John actually snorted a little beer out of his nose as he headed back out to his balcony. He forgot sometimes how funny it was, that for all his bluntness, Rodney could be incredibly awkward and shy when it came to talking about sex.

John pulled on three of the ornate tiles that lined the wall of his terrace. Three sections slid out, two lower and a higher in the middle, it made a simple table with a bench either side. John had discovered that depending on which tile you activated you got different heights and lengths, one even slid out to form a low wide bed, and he’d been hoping since he found it, that maybe one day there would be someone to share it with.

They sat down and John realised Rodney was waiting for him to say something. To admit to a mysterious new girlfriend or fuck buddy or even to confirm what Rodney clearly suspected was really going on. So he tried to explain, “It isn’t anything like that….I mean there was...uuh something... but I‘m just feeling the whole....but that’s not what’s important, you know….? I‘m not looking for… I mean uumm...I'ts a connection and it makes me feel... happy?” John fucking sucked at talking about feelings.

Rodney was concentrating on picking the label off his beer bottle, and his face was mostly hidden from John. His voice was quiet as he said, “And of course you should be happy. I’m really glad you’re happy because if anyone ever deserved… and honestly if you have found someone to be happy with it‘s my own... I mean you aren‘t ….” And Rodney ducked his head further to completely hide his expression from John and said softly, “I’d just really like to meet her.”

So there it was. John knew that Keller must have done something. Must have said something about him, the utter bitch! Because Rodney was his best friend, and it hurt that he was so desperately unhappy. It hurt that Rodney couldn’t even look at him. So he grabbed Rodney’s hand and said, “Honestly. There isn’t anyone else. This isn’t even about someone new. And you already know what today is about, don't you?”

But Rodney didn’t look up, despite the hand grab, and John had the uncomfortable realisation that without seeing his eyes, he had no idea what Rodney was thinking or what he might do. John realised he didn’t like being cut off from his friendship this way. It felt worse than the abrupt way Rodney had just cut him off from his city. It felt like being exiled, and even though that had happened to John more times in his life than he cared to admit, it was the worst feeling he could imagine.

John had been missing the easy ebb and flow of Rodney in his life. Making noise, pushing him to admit things, just palling around with him racing their cars or playing poker, or Mortal Kombat, but always talking, always listening. Connected.

He had gown used to always knowing what was on Rodney’s mind. From his latest argument with Carter over who was going to publish what first, to how come there were never any raisin and oatmeal cookies left, or what he’s done wrong to piss Jennifer off that week. John always had a pipeline to what was going on in Rodney’s life. But since they’d been back he’d been cut off.

Maybe that was why he hadn’t said anything when the city had begun to talk to him.

Instead he’d grabbed on to it because at least it was a connection to something. It was better than nothing, because John had apparently forgotten how to survive disconnected. So it had been a distraction, allowing him to ignore what was really happening. It let him pretend that a moment like the one he was about to have with Rodney hadn’t been looming in his future.

John knew that every PsycEval completed on him contained stuff like, emotionally unavailable, and arrested emotional development,there was often PTSD, emotionally disconnected, and the classic issues with authority and on one memorable occasion selective mutism with regard to emotional issues. Yet he honestly believed that here in Atlantis, at this time in his life, with this one person, he had an opportunity to change, to do things differently. So John swallowed the nervous sick feeling that was the oh so familiar and asked, “What’s wrong with you, Rodney?“

McKay didn’t look up, he didn’t pull his hand away either, but when he answered his voice that was subdued and as far from his usual confident tone that it almost hurt John hear him. “It’s been a hectic few months, Sheppard. That’s all. We’re over-run with all the new systems coming on-line. We contracted to do some serious research now we have the capacity for it. But all the extra technicians and scientists the IOA sent through have to be set up. Protocols have to be in place, because otherwise these idiots would be doing the scientific equilivent of running with scissors and God knows someone has to be the voice of reason.”

John believed all of that was true, but he knew McKay, and there had to be more, so he said, “That’s just a normal day on Atlantis, Rodney, you could do that in your sleep. Tell me what’s really wrong… Please?”

Finally McKay looked up. His expression was defeated. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Yeah, you know I get that, but it looks like it‘s killing you, buddy. So tell me. Please.”

Rodney sighed and looked away again and then he started talking, “Jennifer. We had….I mean there were some … She made me realize something and maybe I knew it, I probably did know it because I can be self aware, I just don‘t feel that it’s particularly useful most of the time. We do the things we do for any number of reasons, and mostly those reasons are pragmatic. The choices we make to survive, or to avoid pain or sometimes just because there only looks like a choice but in the end there is only one possible course of action, and we have to take it even if the outcome is less than optimal…. Or because to do anything else would be harmful to someone important…. Someone who maybe isn’t as self aware. Who has no idea of their value to others. Someone with a ridiculous propensity for throwing themselves head-long into the most dangerous, foolhardy course of action just because they are loyal or courageous or so emotionally stunted that the only way they know how to avoid hearing someone saying I love you is to fling themselves onto a passing bomb and steer it off into oblivion.”

Rodney stopped. John wondered if he had finally run out of breath. But the look on his face said his mind had finally caught up with what was coming out of his mouth and he was pretty much horrified by what he’d just heard himself say.

John could tell by the way his mouth snapped shut and his shoulders hunched up that he was about to try the patented McKay bluster and distract method to cover up emotional turmoil. But John was finally ready to man up and weather a little emotional turmoil, to get where he wanted to get and McKay wasn‘t going to stop him.

“I did hear.”
John was amazed his voice wavered only slightly.


“Just now, the city. Atlantis. Talking to me….”

Rodney opened his mouth to interrupt but John just kept on talking,

“No, not actual words, but there in my head like…”


“No! Like… It doesn’t matter what it was like, just that it was, in my head. All systems functioning, ready, able. I could feel how it all worked, integrated. Potential. Perfect.”

“Oh.” Rodney looked even worse now, he sounded kind of heartbroken.

John guessed he was really fucking this emotional crap right up, but he’d started and he couldn’t seem to stop himself, and maybe this was his only chance to not screw things up even more.

“Seeing it all in a whole new way. And having a connection to it. Made me realise.”

“Realise what? That you have to let the city take you over? Use some ascension machine to become part of the city? Is it for our safety? To finally destroy the Wraith? To never be alone again!”

Rodney was waving his hand and beer was sloshing, and he tried to get up, but he sat back down with a surprised little huff when John tugged his other hand, the one he hadn’t noticed that John had kept hold of, all this time.

“I realised it wasn’t anything new. You were always telling me stuff. Getting in my head and figuring out what is going on, pushing in where everyone else knows to keep out. Poking and prodding until I’d say stuff or do stuff I never would have, because you had it all figured out. You have me all figured out. And I realised missed it. Our connection.”

John took a sip of his beer, because he was trying to be goddamned open and honest here, and beer really helped. Then he continued.

“I don’t know what she said to you, but it was bullshit, okay, Rodney. And if anyone should be worried… I mean maybe I’m not so self-aware, but… I did hear you. You jumped off a balcony, and you turned yourself into a hologram and waited ten thousand years for me to show up, and you…. remembered my name when you didn’t…. when you couldn’t. So I heard….But I was afraid to take a chance, okay? And I was wrong.”

“Does that mean…”
Rodney was a little pink and a little shocked looking.

“Oh fuck, yes.” John sighed, and he was so relieved Rodney understood.

“Only you haven’t…”
Rodney was looking a little smug now, like he knew just what lever to push.

And it made John want to punch him, or maybe kiss him. But he guessed he did owe McKay a little something more, before they got to the fun stuff so he said, “Yes Rodney, I’d jump off a balcony or turn myself into a hologram, or lose my mind but still remember to call you Arthur too. Is that communication clear enough for you?”

Rodney had that little quirk to his lips now, and a tiny amused sparkle in his eyes. John couldn’t believe how much he’d missed this irritation and delight in equal measure. The full-on, irrepressible Rodney McKay in his life, pushing his way in and just taking over. Making him mad and making him want things and giving him what needed even when he hadn’t known what that was himself.

Sure he had a City that could talk to him. Could shine like a jewel in sunlight and glisten with power when the rain fell so he could feel the charge of energy building beneath his skin. And that was something pretty amazing. But it had only been a substitute for the real thing. His connection to McKay.


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
Well...that was lovely...I simply love the lyrical descriptions...

"mesmerized by the sheen of beauty that rain added to the spires and towers, turning pewter coloured walls to fluid mercury,"

beautiful imagery and John's increased connection with Atlantis is a real favorite topic of mine, I really like where you took this.

Great story...

Jun. 18th, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for you kind words, I'm really thrilled you liked it. I love the whole connection John has with the city, and there are just endless posiblilties for where to take it, but I'm glad you liked this journey :-)
Jun. 18th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)
wow, I really loved the imagery here.

Like a circuit that was only fully closed when everything was glistening wet and slick.

and the concept of John as conduit, and how it made him realize the connectedness he'd been missing.

very nice!!!

John took a sip of his beer, because he was trying to be goddamned open and honest here, and beer helped.

hahah. yeah. :)))

(you have a 'loose' instead of 'lose my mind' at the end there', sorry!)
Jun. 18th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your very kind words. I'm so glad that you liked it. I must admit that I was secretly rather amazed at that particular phrase, it came out so pretty!! I'm often amazed at what comes out of the end of my fingers, you know?

And I loved the idea of there being some layers of connections here(I'm not sure I usually do so well with layers) and as soon as I saw the prompt that was the one thing that came to mind straight away.

and thank you so much for noticing my faux pas...I've out it right now :-)
Jun. 18th, 2011 08:32 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, I love this! I love John feeling this connection with the city and letting it go a little too far because he's missing his connection to Rodney!

And Rodney's little speeech about "the choices we make to survive" is HEARTBREAKING, oh Rodney.

And just...the idea of Atlantis "integrated. Potential. Perfect." is WONDERFUL (and I loved John watching the city in the rain and thinking it was this beautiful thing).

OH, and the END! Oh my heart. It's so lovely!!
Jun. 18th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
To be honest I had the idea of this Atlantis in the rain from the previous prompt and I had originally planned to write a second part to my Rain story that was from John's POV. But it just didn't want to be written.

But as soon as this week's prompt came up it all kind of slid into place, the city talking to John, John being all blissed out and beguiled feeling the rain, and the rain being a catalyst.

And Atlantis whole and perfect is a completely gorgeous idea, I mean they never had that did they? it was always damaged and under-powered but just imagine how it would have been... totally amazing.

I'm also thrilled you liked Rodney's faltering but heartfelt speech about choices.

And I'm relieved the ending was okay, because I thought I was faltering there!!
Jun. 19th, 2011 03:06 pm (UTC)
I've always been intrigued with Johns connection to the city, I wished they would have explored it more on the show. So many possibilities.

Rodney thinking John was high! LOL.

I liked the Eval reports "emotionally unavailable" "emotionally disconnected" and that Rodney can cut right through that.

Nicely done!
Jun. 19th, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
Yes it's a fascinating element to the show they never really explored. And there were so many places it could have gone. But then hey that's what we have fan fiction for, to do better :-)

Yes I love the way Rodney thought John was high.

And I was quite chuffed with the idea of John's psycEvals and I had quite a time finding the the phrases they'd walled John in with, or maybe he'd walled himself in with...And then along comes Rodney and knocks it all down. thank you so much for your kind words, I'm really glad that you liked it.
(no subject) - pisces227 - Jun. 19th, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - scarlettandblue - Jun. 19th, 2011 04:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 19th, 2011 04:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you for you very kind words. I'm glad that you liked it:-)
I think that Rodney knows a great deal, but for oh so many reasons that have to do with fear and a very unhappy past and an occasionlly not so happy present, he doesn't let on what he knows.

And the way I think of it is if John has the gene that lets him in to the city, then Rodney had the gene that lets him into John.

But please tell me, what is a tin hat?
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - scarlettandblue - Jun. 19th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 20th, 2011 08:32 am (UTC)
Thank you I'm very happy you liked it :-)
Jun. 20th, 2011 02:57 am (UTC)
Oohh, I like this. Melancholy and sweet.
Jun. 20th, 2011 08:34 am (UTC)
Thank you for leaving such kind words, I am so glad that you liked it :-)
Jun. 20th, 2011 03:05 am (UTC)
That was lovely and sweet. :-D
Jun. 20th, 2011 08:37 am (UTC)
Thank you, I'm really glad that you liked it..

I am sad tho that stupid me missed the sign ups for McSM and so we won't be team mates again :-(

and thank you once again for utterly gorgeous icons which as you see I'm making much use of!!

Edited at 2011-06-20 08:38 am (UTC)
(no subject) - danceswithgary - Jun. 20th, 2011 01:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - scarlettandblue - Jun. 20th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 20th, 2011 11:42 am (UTC)

Gorgeous! All that I can really say. :)
Jun. 20th, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, you are very kind, and I am really glad you liked it
Jun. 20th, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
An absolutely wonderful and satisfying story!
Jun. 20th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, you are very kind and I'm really glad that you liked it :-)
Jun. 20th, 2011 07:39 pm (UTC)
Wow. I'm stunned. It's a sweet, unhurried and light fic. *__* I love it!

“Yes Rodney, I’d jump off a balcony or turn myself into a hologram, or lose my mind but still remember to call you Arthur too. Is that communication clear enough for you?”
I think this is the a great way to make a confession without actually saying anything.
Jun. 20th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
I'm really so glad that you liked it, and thank you so much for leaving such a lovely comment.

and I'm really happy you picked up on this...
“Yes Rodney, I’d jump off a balcony or turn myself into a hologram, or lose my mind but still remember to call you Arthur too. Is that communication clear enough for you?”

because this is probably the only way John can say I love you
Jun. 26th, 2011 08:05 am (UTC)
Oh, I really like your water imagery here, with the rain on the walls turning them to fluid mercury, and the slide of raindrops like a soft glossy touch inside his mind. Mmmm.

I also liked how John's connection to Atlantis reminded him of what he'd been missing with Rodney, and that he - manned up, as you put it *g* to make sure he wouldn't lose it again.
Jun. 26th, 2011 09:06 am (UTC)
Thank you for your lovely comment.
I'm so glad that you liked it,

I loved that this particular prompt inspired this and incidentally this week's story on the orange theme is actually part 2 to this story incase that might be of interest at all...posssibly... ;-)
Aug. 28th, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC)
OH YAY!! This was just *perfect*!!! I love that, this and just. SO MUCH.

OKAY. Coherency, take two. I LOVE that John's connection to the City is only, like, an interface, not the city actually talking to him. I love that he realized it was a substitution for what he *really* wanted. I love that he told McKay he would call him Arthur, too, and just, oh so much yes.

Okay, coherency partly failed. But you get it. I love this.

Favorite line of ever: He could stand on a balcony mesmerized by the sheen of beauty that rain added to the spires and towers, turning pewter coloured walls to fluid mercury, before his eyes. So gorgeous, those words.
Aug. 28th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
Oh you are so kind.
I'm so thrilled and touched that you liked it.

I adore the way we can imagine Atlantis now, not constrained by TPB, but just free to make it how we'd like it and for me I don't really like the idea so much of Atlantis being a seperate, sentient being, but more that Atlantis is the most amazing advanced technology and that it links to John the way all the Ancient tech does. But I also imagine that having all that Ancient stuff in John's head would make him kind of dazed and gorgeously overwhealmed and that Rodney would realise that he was jealous.... at least until he had a slice of thtat for himself....which of course he does in the next part...Orange!!!

thank you so much for this lovely comment
(no subject) - hoktauri - Aug. 29th, 2011 02:23 am (UTC) - Expand
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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