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Week #46: Ascent: I Am the Unlit Candle

There is simply no excuse for this.

Title: I Am the Unlit Candle (A Foray Into Ascension by John Sheppard)
Author: esteefee
Pairing: John/Rodney
Rating: R
Words: 3,066
Warnings: none, I don't think
Summary: Just your usual wacky Ascension device. John is unimpressed.
A/N: For panisdead since I was inspired by the awesome freakiness of Ascension World.

I Am the Unlit Candle

by esteefee

John didn't care what some people said, he was generally pretty good with not touching stuff he shouldn't.

Anyway, this time, at least, it was totally not his fault. He was clear across the room when he heard the no-good sounding, "Oh, uh, whoops—"

Then there was a flash of pure white.


John was in a surf shop. The little one in Santa Cruz his buddy Pete from Bagram had opened up after he'd lost most of his arm to an IED.

Except Pete wasn't there. Instead, there was a pretty, oddly familiar-looking woman standing there wearing a Body Glove wetsuit and holding a boogie board.

"Hey? Hi." John looked around. Pete's place looked much the same as John remembered it, fiberglass boards standing neatly in the corner in blues and yellows and reds, wet suits and bikinis and boardshorts on the racks. The light was a little too bright, a golden haze streaming in through the big glass windows in front, and he peered out to see the sun starting to set over the perfect waves of Cowell beach. Not too late to catch a few if he got out there right away, he thought distantly.

"Hello, John."

"I remember you, don't I?" He could almost place her, but she seemed weirdly out of context, like he'd seen her in his father's church or at a school bake sale or something like that.

"Yes, you do. We spent a great deal of time together." She smiled serenely, a little too peacefully, like she was brainwashed.

"Oh, yeah." It was coming back to him now. Long hours sitting on his ass with a bunch of hippies in scratchy home-spun while pretending to meditate. "Teer, right?"

Her smile brightened just a little. "Yes, John. It's good to see you. Welcome."

"Ah, hell." The memory was pretty foggy, but hadn't those kids all drunk the Kool-Aid? John was pretty sure he was the only one to get away.

She put her free hand on his bare arm, and he realized all he was wearing was a pair of board shorts. "This isn't hell, John."

"Close enough." He tried to pull away but felt oddly weak. "Look, lady. We had some fun, but you made your choice."

She didn't react at all to his irritation, which now that he remembered it, was par for course. "And now it's time for you to make yours."

Oh, that didn't sound good. "What do you mean?"

Teer lifted her hand toward the wide window, which suddenly filmed over like a viewscreen. John saw his own face with a dumb expression on it, and then the view panned around the side of his head until he was seeing himself from behind looking out the window, seeing himself from behind, et cetera, et cetera, until everything zoomed off into a wormhole of weirdness and he felt himself tumbling forward into it.

When he came out the other side he found himself drifting in space. He could sense Teer glowing beside him, but he couldn't turn.

"Great. What now?"

"We just needed a little more room to view all your options."

"And the surf shop wasn't one? Because Pete always said when I retired I could come hang out on the beach with him."

Funny how a glow could exude skepticism.

"What, you don't think I'd make it to fifty?"

"It doesn't matter what I think, John." She floated in front of him, her arms looking more like tendrils as she lifted them in a shrug. "This is your journey."

"My journey." John finally decided to bite the bullet. "Look—am I dead, or what?"

"A true traveler requires neither his feet nor his burdens."

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" With a huge effort, John finally managed to turn. The window to the surf shop was a small rectangle, tiny against a night of stars. But branching out below him were a bunch of greenish-blue wormholes arching downward, their destinations lost in the distance.

"Son of a gun."

"Too many choices, perhaps?" Teer sounded mildly amused. Everything about her was mild and just a little too sweet. Teer was sweet, yeah, the polar opposite of someone else John knew. Sometimes John wondered if he was a little busted in the head to hang around Rodney all the time. Especially now they weren't sleeping together anymore.

"Nothing wrong with having choices," John said. "But how do I know which is the best one?"

"Comparison is the self in confusion."

"God, stop saying crap like that or I'll just jump."

He saw her smile, and couldn't help smiling back.

"You enjoy being angry?" She sounded curious.

"Nah, what?"

Teer swiped her hand, and one of the wormholes glowed brighter. Rodney appeared on the viewscreen, his hands waving, face furious. He was in John's room, and had accidentally put on John's zippered shirt in his haste to get dressed.

"I remember this pissing match," John said. The shirt wasn't Rodney's usual look, and John kept getting distracted, which hadn't really helped the discussion much. Not that it had been heading anywhere good to begin with. It had pretty much been the end. It was when Rodney first threatened to date Jennifer. She'd picked up on something he'd said when he was out of his head from the parasite, and asked him out. "He thought he could play me, seeing as this pretty young thing was interested in him."


"Oh, you think that was my choice? That he got involved with her and made that huge disaster, broke that girl's heart?" Not that Jennifer hadn't given as good as she got. She was a pretty feisty kid, John thought. "That's all on him."

Teer smiled serenely and said nothing. Rodney stomped back and forth, a sliver of skin flashing beneath the hem of the shirt. John felt an unexpected tug of affection for the ass. Rodney was pretty funny when he was all indignant like that. In fact, John was pretty sure half the reason he hadn't responded the way Rodney seemed to want him to was just to keep the rant rolling.

The other half, though, was John's sheer stubborn.

"Why should I have?" John said to himself.

"A man with no bricks can still make a pot of soup."

"Oh, ferchrissake. You're even worse with the head games than he is." There didn't seem to be an easy way to move, what with the lack of gravity, but John flailed his way over to the first wormhole on his left and waved his arm in front of it. Another screen popped up—this time his ex-wife was staring at him, worried eyes pleading for him to open up and tell her all the shit he'd waded through and brought home with him after an op. The crap that made him sit silently at the dinner table and stare at his plate while she tried so damned hard to talk to him about grad school and what was happening with their friends and, hell, the neighbor's cat.

"Yeah, I suck," John said to her now. But even if he could get around the classified parts, he just hadn't had the energy to live through it all again for her. They'd held it together for a while with sex and enough love to not want to hurt each other, but eventually the gloves had come off.

"Hey, wait a minute. All this stuff is the past. How are these choices?"

"No road ends without a beginning."

"Okay. That one I almost get." John looked back at Rodney, who had stopped ranting and was standing by the doorway. This was where he said something pretty mean, not that John hadn't deserved it at that point, because he still wouldn't give Rodney what he seemed to want.

But then, John had never liked head games. He'd had enough of that from wraith queens.

"Should have just told it to me straight," John muttered.

"Choice is a road led by a ghost."

"Oh, shut up." John eeled his way over to the wormhole on the right and waved at it.

He saw himself, sitting on the edge of the Atlantis pier, one knee propped up. Behind him was the new mainland, so John knew this was now, or at least not the past. The John there was flipping a coin.

He looked tired and old.

The coin rose in the air and hung suspended for a long moment before falling into his hand. He slapped it, unseen, onto the back of his other wrist, but didn't raise his hand to look at it.

"No-choice is a way led by a devil," Teer said.

"Well, shit."

The other John didn't move, as if he were afraid to look at the result.

"Fine, fine. I get it. You snooze, you lose. You could have just said."

Teer's glow brightened, then some more, until John's eyes teared up and he had to squeeze them shut.

He thought he heard her smile in there somewhere before everything went white.


"...apologized until I'm blue in the face, but that's not enough, no. You have to just keep lying there like a—like a lying...still thing."

"A rug?" John said roughly, then coughed. "A dog? How about a log?"

"Bastard." Rodney's voice shook. "Keller? Keller, he's awake. And a bastard."

"I'm just saying, there are lots of other ways to end that sentence."

"My God. You just—"

John cracked his eyes open to see what face Rodney was making to go with that voice, because that wasn't a good voice. "Hey, not dead. Not even a little." He felt fine, really. He clenched his fingers and toes, doing a systems check.

"You've been brain dead. Completely flat-lined across all your little squigglies for two full days," Rodney said in a tone that implied the complete heat death of the universe.

"Well, that's no good." Weird, though, because John could swear he'd been having a pretty trippy dream about a surf shop and a space walk to somewhere. It was fading fast, though. But something nagged at him.

Just then Jennifer came by, her smile bright with relief. "It's good to see your eyes, Colonel. You know, without me having to peel them open."

John winced. "Hey, Doc. Yeah, sorry about the false alarm."

"No, no, we like it when our patients recover unexpectedly with no explanation." She grimaced comically.

Rodney made an indignant noise, but John laughed.

Then she wanted to do a lot of poking and prodding, so Rodney made himself scarce, but with a last, hasty look that reminded John of that nagging feeling, like when he left for a trip but forgot the most basic thing, like his dopp kit.

He was tired though, and since Jennifer wasn't cutting him loose anytime soon, he fell asleep before he could remember it.


"It's a state of mind, sir," Aiden said. "Kind of like...it's there but it's not."

John looked at the unlit candle, then at Ford. "And I do what?"

"C'mon, we've watched The Matrix like, twenty times." Aiden grinned. "You're not going to ask me to bake your noodle?"

"I thought I was done with this shit," John said, and focused on the candle wick.
I am the lit candle. It gave a puny little sizzle, and then nothing.

"Not bad for a newbie."

"And this is supposed to show me what?"

Aiden shrugged. "Nothing, really. I'm just here to remind you to pack your toothbrush."

"Fuck. I knew I forgot something."


John woke up to the rattle of the nurse's breakfast cart, but managed to wheedle Jennifer into releasing him so he could go to the mess for some real chow. The dream stayed with him the whole way there—he didn't dream of Ford that often anymore, but lately when he did, the kid was fresh-faced again, with his eye healed, and without the enzyme-inspired paranoia.

In the back of his mind, John always wanted to believe it was true—that somehow, somewhere Aiden had shaken the enzyme and was living it up, Pegasus-style.

Grabbing a tray, John sat down and ate slowly, hoping to catch one of his teammates. He lucked out when a few minutes later Rodney hurried in, metal coffee mug clutched in one hand. John waited until he'd filled it up and gotten his breakfast tray before calling him over.

"So, you escaped." Rodney looked nervous for some reason.

"Yep." John cut into his French toast. It took some effort.

"And Keller's sure you're all right? No...lingering ill-effects from the device?"

John narrowed his eyes. "And what device would that be? That I was nowhere near, by the way."

Rodney bit his lip and gained a sudden interest in his own breakfast.

"Waiting, McKay."

"All right, all right—but it clearly wasn't my fault, as we discovered after closely analyzing the data while I tried to figure out if I'd killed your brain, thank you very much."

"Okay. Sorry." Because no one deserved that kind of load. "But?"

"But, yes. As soon as I accidentally initiated the sequence, the cone array on the device targeted you as, well, the closest thing to an Ancient going."

John leaned back and crossed his arms. "What sequence?"

"From what Dr. del Rio was able to translate, the sequence I accidentally, completely incidentally selected, was intended to, uh, help guide the initiate toward Ascension by, um. It was meant to help them past the hurdles of their earthbound existence."


"Obstacles of..." Rodney trailed off into a mumble.

"Didn't quite catch that."

"Commitment, all right?"

John chewed the corner of his lip. "And you think I have a problem with the concept?"

"Well, it did take you two days to come out of brain-death," Rodney said sarcastically.

"Uh-huh. And how long did it take the other initiates, according to your findings?"

Rodney's face twisted.

"That long, huh?"

"There were more than a few deaths."

"So, there you go." John smiled.

Rodney frowned and tilted his head.

Putting down his fork, John said, "Well, I'm done with this. Want to go back to my quarters and play pong?" He made it sound as suggestive as possible, which, well, it being pong, wasn't too hard.

"Pong." Rodney looked hopeful. And confused.

"Yeah. I've got an emulator. I have The Legend of Zelda, too."

Rodney blinked, greed vying with wariness on his face.

John shrugged and lifted his tray.

"All right, okay. I'll see your 'pong' and raise you a 'Zork.'"



Rodney looked disappointed when John actually booted up his computer. "You really do have pong?"

"Nah, I'm just funnin' you." John turned and leaned back against his desk.

It was just vaguely possible the little vein in Rodney's temple could bust wide open. "I might have to kill you. No, there is no 'might' about it. What sort of game are you playing here, Sheppard?"

Games, right. "Just thought it was the quickest way of getting you to talk."

"Oh, tell me you're joking. I'm not the one with verbal constipation in this room."

"Yeah, you talk a lot. Most of it's bullshit, though."

Rodney's mouth dropped open.

"I had a lot of time to think while I was brain dead." John smirked when Rodney started to take the bait. "Yeah, and I figured it out, too—where things went FUBAR. It was the first time you tried to get me jealous about Jennifer. It pissed me off, and so I pissed you off, and then you went off and..." John shrugged. They didn't have to talk about that part. He pretty much had hated that part, but they both had screwed up to get there.

Rodney was looking at him like he'd grown another head.

"So, what say we don't do that anymore," John said, stepping forward. "Deal?"

Maybe it wasn't, though, because a sulky frown was starting on Rodney's forehead. "And what about you not telling me you don't want me to date another person?"

John had to grind his jaw together a little. "And what about you just manning up and deciding for yourself you don't want to? I mean, why is it on me to ask you not to?"

But Rodney still looked dissatisfied.

"Jeez. You don't see me telling you I've been thinking of asking Dr. Esposito out—"

"No, that won't be necessary," Rodney said, and he grabbed John by the collar of his scrub shirt.

Maybe Rodney didn't get the point, which was John wouldn't play that kind of game. On the other hand, Rodney was kissing him pretty hard, one hand twisted in the collar of John's shirt so it threatened to cut off his blood supply, so maybe it didn't matter.

"Careful with the brain-dead guy," John said, but he didn't mean it. Rodney didn't listen anyway, and tugged him around and back onto his narrow little bed.

Thank God they were good at this, at getting out of their clothes fast without either putting an eye out or falling off the bed, because John wanted skin, he wanted Rodney, he wanted to fuck. He'd been floating in a netherworld of nothing for what felt like years, waiting.

He wasn't waiting any longer.

As soon as Rodney had his pants off, John climbed on top of him and kissed him, getting between Rodney's legs so he could rub his cock against him. It was lousy uncoordinated and just a little raw, but it felt so damned good, and Rodney was making little sounds in John's mouth, little moans that were such a turn on.

"Okay, yeah," John said, because he'd missed this so damned much. "I never wanted to date Dr. Esposito," he said as he slid his cock between Rodney's thighs and started thrusting.

Rodney let out a huff that almost blew out John's ear-drum and grabbed John's ass to grind up against him. "I likewise am finished with the dating scene." He punctuated the statement by slipping his fingers between John's cheeks.

"God. Please, yeah. Excellent."

So, that was the deal they made.


"We begin by asking: am I the cup? Or am I the bowl?" Chaya floated before him, her hands beckoning.

"Oh, hell, no. Thanks, Chaya, but I'm all set," John said. "I think I'm the spoon, anyway."

He took the quickest wormhole home.

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( 55 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 14th, 2012 12:53 pm (UTC)
I'm chuckling insanely to myself here! Lovely.
Apr. 14th, 2012 12:59 pm (UTC)
thanks. I'm really just. I think the word I'm looking for is ashamed. I kept flashing on poor Daniel Jackson and those freaky nonsensical koans they kept throwing at him. irresistible.
Apr. 14th, 2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
Lovely, thanks.
Apr. 14th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
thanks, ada!
(no subject) - adafrog - Apr. 15th, 2012 03:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - esteefee - Apr. 15th, 2012 05:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - adafrog - Apr. 16th, 2012 02:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - esteefee - Apr. 16th, 2012 04:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - adafrog - Apr. 16th, 2012 08:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 14th, 2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
Hee! Loved it - particularly the ending. John would be the spoon, just to be annoying *g*
Apr. 14th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
He would so be the spoon. Or maybe the butter knife. :D
Apr. 14th, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC)
I LOVED the ascension!babble! God those things made me smile and laugh! This was lovely!
Apr. 14th, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
I often find myself gaining inner peace through John's frustration. ~:
Apr. 14th, 2012 02:32 pm (UTC)
EEEEEEEE, what an awesome thing to wake up to!! This is like, Remedial Relationship Communication for Assholes; I love it. Arguing over ever-increasing degrees of passive-aggressiveness (I mean, why is it on me to ask you not to) while falling into bed--I buy it.

I also love John's incredulous disgust at Teer's ascension coaching seminar: "sense her glowing beside him," and "a man with no bricks can still make a pot of soup," jeez, I actually LOLed. And Ford's cameo made me want to hug somebody. Probably John.

Thank you!! BRB, leaving 75 kudos....
Apr. 14th, 2012 08:04 pm (UTC)
Seriously, it's a game of who can win by using the least amount of words. :D

and thank you! ::eats an Ancient sno-cone of happy::

Apr. 14th, 2012 02:55 pm (UTC)
HA! This is delightful! And sent me into giggles, which is damned hard to explain to my MiL, who's sitting next to me. So there's that. ::g::
Apr. 14th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
hee, let's confound her with pie koans.
Apr. 14th, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, John. He really is terrible at this sort of thing. I loved it!
Apr. 14th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
<3 <3 <3
Apr. 14th, 2012 03:45 pm (UTC)
Thank goodness he didn't say he was the 'fork', LOL

Apr. 14th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
bwah! they'd probably ban him from all the Ascended parties.
Apr. 14th, 2012 04:23 pm (UTC)

This sounded just like John! ::big grin::
I really liked Teer's mumbojumbo-speak and adored that last section. Yes, John, you are the spoon....

Apr. 14th, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC)
he really is. :) *imagines John dropping out of REM to squeeze Rodney*
Apr. 14th, 2012 06:39 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed the story, and LOL in places.
Apr. 14th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
thank you!
Apr. 14th, 2012 08:24 pm (UTC)
Of *course* he's the spoon. This made me grin, so I guess it worked. ;-)
Apr. 14th, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
hee, mission accomplished! :)))) thanks, mab!
(no subject) - kensieg - Apr. 15th, 2012 01:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - esteefee - Apr. 15th, 2012 05:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 14th, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
Always love your writing :D
Don't like the effect on my keyboard, though.What with the spewing tea on it when sudden laughter burst out...
*accusing look*
Apr. 14th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
whome? "the hat of justice cannot cover the bald head of self-righteousness."


no wait I have better:

"your hands do not know the knitting of your fondest wishes."

Edited at 2012-04-14 10:08 pm (UTC)
Apr. 14th, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
i am the unlit candle
So...does that make Rodney the plate?


I'd have had to smack Teer upside her glowy head part after the second koan.

Apr. 14th, 2012 10:09 pm (UTC)
Re: i am the unlit candle
dude, Rodney is like, the cranky teapot in the corner. John is the teaspoon filled with honey. :DDDD

(I would have used the speargun on Teer. I'm sure the surf shop has one.)
Re: i am the unlit candle - elderwitty - Apr. 14th, 2012 10:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: i am the unlit candle - esteefee - Apr. 14th, 2012 10:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 14th, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
So... Rodney is the dish that ran away with the spoon??? Hmmm... great little story!
Apr. 14th, 2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
hee. I think they'd leave a little trail of glowy sparks behind them. <3 thanks, blackchaps.
Apr. 14th, 2012 11:20 pm (UTC)
Smiling. And I bet John would just be a 'runcible spoon,' as I sometimes think Rodney and he are Owl and Pussycat.
Apr. 15th, 2012 05:35 am (UTC)
heh, you did *not* just call John a spork. :)

(no subject) - fanficfan123 - Apr. 16th, 2012 02:21 am (UTC) - Expand
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