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Title: Death is Harder on the Living
Rated: R, language
Characters: John, Rodney
Notes: Set after John’s father’s death in Outcast. (This is what happens when Kelly has a horrible fight with her father. Catharsis through fandom, gotta love it.)

He hears Rodney coming up behind him loud and clear, and laughs a little to himself at the overly loud footsteps. Rodney’s not subtle at all, but he doesn’t usually announce his presence quite that blatantly under normal circumstances. Considering John is drunk off his ass at eight in the evening, though, circumstances aren’t normal.

“Message received,” he says, voice a hard bitter line. “Rodney McKay has arrived. Your stealth mode is failing you.”

The footsteps stop. “Would you rather be alone? I could leave you alone.”

“No,” John says, voice a bit softer. He probably should be alone. God knows no one deserves the kind of company he’s capable of being right now. Selfishly, though, he really doesn’t want to be alone right now.

Anger and hatred is more satisfying when it’s shared with a living breathing thing.

Rodney settles gingerly by him, feet dangling over the edge of the pier. Rodney, being delicate. It’s not something John ever wants to see. “I heard you were back.”

“Yup,” John says, and drains the last of his beer. Instead of tossing it behind him to be picked up later he lets it drop into the ocean below. He figures, one city, great big planet: what’s a few beer cans really going to harm?

Rodney sighs heavily. “I knew I should have told Carter to shove it and gone with you.”

“No,” John says, shaking his head. “You shouldn’t have. And you shouldn’t have sent Ronon.”

“You are such a stubborn ass,” Rodney says, and the bite in his tone relaxes John, makes him smile. That’s the Rodney he can deal with right now. “You know, Ronon was actually fooled. Said you seemed good. Said you seemed like you were dealing. Ronon’s not that easily fooled, I’ve found. Guess you’re just that good at holding shit in.”

“Forty years of practice affords one time to hone their act,” John says, tossing Rodney a beer and cracking open another for himself. He doesn’t foresee puking in his future just yet, but he does foresee a pounding headache in the morning.

Rodney drinks his beer in silence next to John for a good solid two minutes before speaking again. When he does, his voice is strong and unsympathetic and exactly what John needs it to be. “Do you want to talk about it or do you want to be an ass some more?”

“Think I’ll be an ass some more, if you don’t mind,” John says, but his anger is slipping. He’s weakening, and he’s so fucking exhausted. “Maybe you should go. Save yourself from my coping techniques.”

“No,” Rodney says, and swings his legs over the edge of the pier. John watches his shoelaces arc in the air and wonders if Rodney knows they’re untied. “Think I’ll stay here and make sure you don’t take a header into the ocean.”

“I can swim fine, McKay, and I’m not planning on a midnight dip.”

Rodney snorts. “It’s not so much the intentional cannonball I’m worried about as the whoops, that last beer killed my equilibrium.”

John stares at the fifty foot drop between the pier and the water below and thinks about just how much that would sting. “I’m so pissed,” he says, except what he meant to say was he was fine.

“I can tell,” Rodney says, and he manages to hit that exact tone, somewhere perfectly between caustic and understanding, that makes John realize that this shit he’s been avoiding for the past two weeks is about to all come tumbling out because Rodney fucking McKay knows him too well for his own damn good.

“Have you ever hated someone, Rodney,” John asks, the knot that’s in his stomach churning and turning over, coming up and invading his throat. “You ever hated someone so much that it stays with you even if they die?”

“Yeah,” Rodney says. “Not a good feeling.”

“No,” John says, laughing. “No it’s not. Because you’re at their funeral and everyone’s looking at you like, oh that poor John Sheppard. Lost his mother, lost his father. And all I’m thinking is, fuck you. Ya know? Fuck you, and fuck him, and fuck everyone, everyone can just fucking die, all of them.”

“Hm,” is all Rodney says.

“This is why I didn’t want you to come with me,” John says quietly, closing his eyes and twisting the can in his hands. “I don’t want to be this person. I didn’t want you to know I was this person.”

“Way I figure it, John, is if you hated him, he gave you a reason to.”

“You have more faith in me than I deserve.” John laughs. “Aren’t I supposed to be the better person?”

“Aren’t we all?” Rodney snorts and reaches over John’s lap for another beer. “It’s not a question of being a better person, John, it’s a matter of being honest with yourself. Anyone who says they’ve truly forgiven everyone that’s ever wronged them just because they’re the better person is fucking lying.”

“It’s not like he was this awful human being,” John says, feeling like he needs to confess. Like if he doesn’t tell Rodney this, then their friendship isn’t really real. “He just… expected too much. No commanding officer I ever had would have ever held a candle to him as far as disgusted disapproval.”

Rodney hums again and John thinks meanly that Rodney’s taken too many lessons from God damned Heightmeyer. Confession brought on by silence works for a reason, though, and that’s why Heightmeyer is good at what she does.

Did. Past tense now. John still has to remind himself of that sometimes.

“He was never satisfied. I went to God damned Stanford and because it wasn’t Harvard, I was the black sheep of the family. He was ashamed.” John snorts in bitter amusement, tosses the can down and watches it waft lazily in the air until it hits the water below. He’ll probably take a jumper out tomorrow and see if he can clean up the mess he leaves tonight. “And the Air Force, forget it. No boy of mine is going to be some mindless drone in the armed forces, John. You’re far too smart for that.”

“You went to Stanford,” Rodney asks, and the way his voice goes up at the end John knows he’s shocked.

John laughs. “I would have thought by now you’d hacked into my personnel file.”

“No, oddly enough,” Rodney says quietly. “Being that we had become friends by the time I was curious, it felt like a violation.”

John looks at Rodney and takes a deep breath. “We are, you know? Friends. Sometimes I think you doubt that.”

Rodney shrugs. “I’m not good with people. Haven’t had many friends. I wonder sometimes if I’m forcing my own feelings on what is just a good working relationship.”

“No,” John says, shaking his head. “You’re not.”

Rodney quirks a half smile, so clearly pleased that they are actually friends that John wants to punch him for being uncertain. Except, he only has himself to blame for that.

“It’s not that I don’t want you to know these things about me, Rodney. It’s that I don’t want to have to talk about it,” John says, and then he laughs. “It would be easier if you did read my personnel file.”

“I don’t need to know all of your personal facts,” Rodney says quietly. “I know you.”

John glares up at the sky, wondering if Heaven in Pegasus is the same Heaven as he understood it on Earth. He doesn’t go to church anymore but being brought up Catholic stays with you whether you want it to or not. Not that he’s convinced his father’s gone there, just that he wonders sometimes, how different Pegasus is from the Milky Way.

“I wonder sometimes if I am who I am because it’s who I am, or because it’s who he didn’t want me to be,” he says, looking over at Rodney’s profile. “But it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

“No, it doesn’t,” Rodney says, looking back at him. “But the answer is yes. You are who you are because it’s who you are and because it’s who he didn’t want you to be. Equally.”

John laughs. “I suppose, yeah, that makes sense.”

“I am who I am because of the people I surround myself with,” Rodney says, grinning. “And because it’s who I am. The people around you influence who you are, good or bad. That’s just a fact of life.” He catches John’s eye. “You’ve influenced me probably the most.”

John frowns. “What are you talking about?”

“I’ve changed a lot,” Rodney says, shrugging. “I’m nearly a completely different person than I was when I stepped through that gate because of you. Don’t worry,” he says, laughing and jostling his shoulder against John’s. “It’s for the better, for the most part.”

John shakes his head. “I don’t want to do that. I wouldn’t change who you are for anything, Rodney. I mean that. I don’t want you to change at all.”

Rodney’s eyes widen. “That’s… that’s very touching, John, but you don’t seem to understand. I’ve grown. I’m a better man because of you. I wouldn’t give up the changes you’ve inspired me to make for anything either.”

“God,” John says, laughing and opening up another beer. “Parents. They fuck you up every time, don’t they?”

“I’ll drink to that,” Rodney says, and stretches his beer out to tap it against John’s. They grin at each other for a minute.

“I don’t hate him,” John says a while later, after a few minutes of companionable silence. “Hate’s just the easiest way to describe it. I’m just so angry at him. He was never happy with who I was, he always wanted me to do more, be more. He was never satisfied.” He laughs. “Some people would call that good parenting. Wanting more for your child, wanting better. Didn’t feel that way at the time, though.”

“It’s easy to forget that our parents were once us,” Rodney says, reaching for another beer as John nurses his own. “They used to be us, and then they had kids, and turned into them.”

John shakes his head. “I don’t think my father was ever me.”

“I didn’t mean literally, Sheppard,” Rodney says, a healthy eye roll accompanying it. John laughs. “I don’t know what I was thinking, thinking I was ready to propose to Katie. Katie wants kids, and somehow I convinced myself that I did too. I suppose I could blame it on Jeannie, but, it wasn’t that hard for her to convince me. I forgot, somewhere along the way, how terrified I am of having a kid be reliant on me to not fuck them up.”

“Katie was all wrong for you,” John says before he can stop himself. Biting his lip he looks at Rodney. “Sorry. She was though.”

“She’s too sweet for me,” Rodney says, nodding. “I had to tiptoe around too many issues with her. I’m not sure I would have been able to keep it up.”

“You shouldn’t have had to,” John says feelingly. “You can’t force yourself to be the person someone needs you to be. You’ll never be happy. Trust me, I know. Been there, done that, have the papers to prove it. You don’t deserve that.”

Rodney looks at him and John can see the questions dancing in Rodney’s eyes. He nods his permission. “Was that what happened,” Rodney asks, leaning forward. “With your marriage. You had to be someone you weren’t to make it work?”

John nods, but doesn’t elaborate. To Rodney’s credit, he accepts the answer as given and doesn’t push. It’s rare for Rodney to not push, but with John he somehow always knows when to not.

“Ronon said she was drop dead gorgeous,” Rodney says with a grin. “I’m not surprised. Of course you were Kirk even before you were here.”

John laughs. “Oh she is. But I’m no Kirk.”

“So you keep saying,” Rodney says, pulling his legs up and crossing them, pulling his coat tighter.

“Dave is Kirk,” John says, laughing. “My brother. A spinning rolodex of dates in high school and college. No girl he couldn’t, and didn’t, get.” He sighs and hunches over against the wind. “Maybe if I was Kirk my father would have loved me.”

It hurts more than he thought it would to say, mostly because he hadn’t meant to say it at all. If he knows Rodney at all, Rodney will let it slide.

“You are though, you know,” Rodney says after a moment. “You just don’t. It’s not that you couldn’t be Kirk, it’s that you aren’t.”

John ignores him, because he never knows what to say to that, and because he doesn’t want Rodney to give him a pass. “I think that’s the part that gets me the most. The fact that I can’t quite figure out if I hate him for being so god damned stubborn and rigid, or if he just hurt me and my reaction was to get pissed.”

“Well,” Rodney hedges, slowly feeling his way onto this new ground John’s laid out before him. This is somewhere they’ve never been, and it absolutely terrifies John. It makes him feel better to know that it terrifies Rodney too. “I guess the deciding factor is, are you sad that he’s dead?”

“Yes,” John says, before he can psyche himself out. “I never know from one minute to the next if I’m going to scream or cry.”

“Honestly it’s kind of a stupid question,” Rodney says, making John bark out a laugh. “I mean, what anger didn’t start out as hurt anyway?”

“True,” John says, fiddling with the tab on his beer.

“I hated my mother for years,” Rodney says softly, and John has to concentrate to hear him. This is new territory as well, because Rodney’s mentioned his father before but never his mother. “I hated her for staying and then I hated her just as much for leaving, and then after she died I hated her for that too.”

John looks at him. “She left?”

Rodney nods. “She was brilliant. My father was smart, but she was… Oh, she was brilliant.” He grins. “My father said she was the Picasso of nuclear physics.”

John nods. “And then she got pregnant with you,” he says, because it was clear where this was headed.

“And then she got pregnant with me, and she never let me or my father forget who was responsible for her failed dreams and aspirations,” Rodney says, frowning down at the water. “And then she left when I was fifteen and Jeannie was seven.”

“My mom died when I was twelve,” John says quietly. “I think my father might have been an okay guy before that. I can’t remember.”

“The thing is, I understand where she was coming from now,” Rodney says, frown deepening. “I have my own dreams and aspirations, I’m living them. I can imagine I would be bitter at something or someone keeping them from me.”

“That doesn’t make it right,” John says, kicking his foot into Rodney’s knee. “Making you suffer for her own choices. Leaving you. That’s not right.”

“No, but it helps me understand that it wasn’t me so much as the reality of having me that she hated,” Rodney says, looking at him. “And it makes it easier to not hate her.”

John nods. “Dave told me that Dad regretted what happened between us.” He chews on his lip. “It just made it worse.”

“It’ll take time. I’ve had fifteen years to come to terms, your father only just died.” Rodney laughs then, shrugging. “Or not. Maybe you don’t come to terms with it. I don’t know, that’s up to you. I just know that hating my mother made me feel awful, and I feel slightly less awful not hating her.”

“Why can’t it just be easy,” John asks, looking up at the moon and feeling a tear leak out of his eye. Two weeks he hasn’t cried but now sitting here with Rodney, he does. He doesn’t bother to wipe it away. “Why can’t there just be a fucking switch. I’m over this. I’ve been over him for years. I was done.”

“Because life sucks and happiness is a five second orgasm,” Rodney says, and then he laughs.

John snorts through his nose. “Never pegged you for a Leary fan.”

“I’m a fan of truth,” Rodney says, and leans against John.

“You’re easy,” John says, and leans back against Rodney. He means, thanks. He means, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. He means, I love you.

Rodney grins, because he knows that. “You too.”

“So,” John says, clearing his throat and wiping quickly at his face. “How are the kids at M7G-677?”

Rodney groans and starts bitching, which is exactly what John was going for. John grins and leans back and lets Rodney’s words wash over him.


"Happiness comes in small doses folks. It's a cigarette butt, or a chocolate chip cookie, or a five second orgasm. You come, you smoke the butt, you eat the cookie, you go to sleep, you get up, you go back to fucking work the next morning, THAT'S IT! End of fucking list! "
— Denis Leary (watch it here. it's at the 2:30 mark, but I suggest the entirety of No Cure, which stars with part 1 here.... and no, I don't care if Denis stole his act from Bill Hicks, I worship at the Throne of Learydom)

I love this quote, I think it's one of the truest things I've ever heard. And yes, it does make me want to write a followup where the five-second orgasm is acheived. Perhaps not a followup, perhaps just a whole other take on this quote. The fleetingness of happiness in the Pegasus galaxy.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 13th, 2011 05:38 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, glad you liked it!
Jan. 4th, 2011 05:39 am (UTC)
First Kevin Smith, then Denis Leary. I think I'm a little in love with you as well as your writing ;)
Jan. 13th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, glad you liked it!

Fan of Dane Cook as well? Ted Alexandro? Greg Behrendt? Wodnering how much we have in common, lol. I love Kevin Smith and Denis Leary so much!
Jan. 13th, 2011 07:22 am (UTC)
Okay on Dane and not sure I know the others (certainly not by name but maybe by sight). I was more of an old school comedy fan, especially when I lived in the Bay Area years ago and they had such good comedy clubs. MTV introduced me to Leary, with knowing about Kevin Smith from the comics end first before the movies. What did you think of Zach and Miri?
Jan. 14th, 2011 10:42 am (UTC)
I love many many many comedians. I've bonded with many LJers on the basis of comedians. LOL.

Zach and Miri was... I'm not sure how I feel about it? I think I would have liked it more as a teenager, just like I loved Mallrats back in the day but as a new movie NOW probably wouldn't have liked it? It was funny, and it was Kevin, but a little. I don't know. I'm not sure. It was no Chasing Amy or Dogma, is what I'm saying. LOL.
Jan. 4th, 2011 08:02 am (UTC)
Lovely - real and painful. It they ever did talk about their feelings, it'd be like this.
Jan. 13th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, glad you liked it!
Jan. 4th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
All I can do is nod and say, "Yes, this."
Jan. 13th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, glad you liked it!
Jan. 4th, 2011 05:55 pm (UTC)

Beautiful! I love how their deep feelings and respect for each other is evident in this coversation.
Jan. 13th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, glad you liked it!
Jan. 4th, 2011 11:40 pm (UTC)
Lovely, aching interaction between Rodney and John. Great fic!
Jan. 13th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, glad you liked it!
Jan. 5th, 2011 01:51 am (UTC)
This is just amazing. I would start pulling out lines that grabbed me but I'd wind up quoting the entire thing. I love how raw and how real this is, how very them, and how it's sweet in a way too because they have each other and while they're not perfect, they're just right, if that makes any sense.
Jan. 13th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, glad you liked it!
Jan. 7th, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
I really like this.
Jan. 13th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, glad you liked it!
Jan. 9th, 2011 09:30 am (UTC)
This is a great conversation.
Jan. 13th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, glad you liked it!
Feb. 14th, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
Very real, very touching, and so John and Rodney. Character voices were spot on and the emotions very vivd for this episode. This tag satisfies in some way how I feel John should have gotten that venting time after "Outcast". A parent's death is hard enough, but one where the relationship is estranged has got to be an agony as the relationship is already damanged. Now there's no hope of redemption.

I adore how you've portrayed Rodney's and John's friendship as well. One can feel the bonds of love and support through your very lyrical word usage and phrasing. Fantastic job in the relationship department.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful fic; it satisfied a ton. :)
Feb. 15th, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! Yes, I too felt John deserved to have some venting time in that episode. I was actually pretty pissed that they ruined the episode with the stupid replicator thing. I personally would ahve enjoyed an entirely non-sci-fi/character-driven episode, but I suppose they didn't think enough of their fans would enjoy it. Or maybe, just, I don't know... a moment. A moment where John's alone, between running after the replicator and the next move, where he's sitting there and just kind of gets lost in everything that's overwhelming him.

Or, this as a tag to the ep, which is what I wrote it as.

I'm so glad you like the friendship as I portrayed it. I love how much they've grown in the five years they were on the air, how solid they became, even if the show as like, allergic to character-driven scenes. I'm glad that Joe and David found their ways of portraying that despite TPTB. Sometimes I feel kind of bad, guilty almost, about porning them so much because I honestly DO love their FRIENDSHIP. Which is why i very purposefully made this a friendship piece rather than "I will now heal you with my sexiness" bit. LOL.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )