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[ When Can´t and Won´t Are the Same Thing ]

John doesn´t really think about it until he´s back on Atlantis. Doesn´t really let himself. He has a meeting with Sam three hours after he gets back and it goes about as well as he´d expected it would, but even then he didn´t really let himself think about it. Question the why´s.

“I don´t buy for a second that the wraith just got the upper hand,’ Sam says, perching on the end of her desk. “I´ve worked at the SGC practically since its birth. No way do those marines just let an enemy force ‘get the upper hand.´ No way, no how.’

John looks away. “Things happen.’

“This didn´t though, did it,’ Sam asks, and John knows she´s trying to meet his eyes. He finds it much easier to not let her.


There´s silence and John thinks then that maybe Sam hadn´t wanted the truth. Maybe she´d been asking a perfunctory question, that she´d wanted to be able to say she´d investigated but hadn´t found anything out. Oh well. Shoulda let him in on that.

“You let a wraith feed off of another human being,’ she asks, and her voice is neutral, non-confrontational, unassuming, but there´s a disgust just below the surface of her eyes. That disbelief, that ‘tell me you´re kidding, tell me this is some sort of horrible, awful dream.´

“Yes,’ John said simply, and he didn´t even bother to fake the sorrow he knew Sam expected him to feel. He was supposed to feel regretful, guilty even, except he didn´t. That probably should have scared him.

“For Jeannie,’ Sam asks after a long pause, voice softening, tone a little too understanding for John´s comfort level. He doesn´t want her understanding, he just wants to get the hell out of here and punch a few punching bags and go a few rounds with Teyla and the sticks.

“Yeah,’ he said.

“No. For Rodney,’ Sam says, and this time it isn´t a question. It´s a statement of fact, and that´s what makes John finally meet her eyes. “You did it for Rodney.’


So he goes about his business and he avoids looking at Sam for the entirety of the two weeks that Rodney is gone. Briefings take place with her at the head of the table and his eyes on satellite photos or notes. Teyla handles one on one meetings and Ronon… well. Ronon basically lets John run himself ragged and stands there when John needs a shoulder to lean on to get back to his quarters.

It isn´t until Rodney is back, standing there in his quarters, looking healthy and happy and relaxed and not just a little confused, that John actually takes a second to think about it.

Because it´s really amazing what two simple, short, one-syllable words can say: I can´t.

I can´t let you do this. I can´t let you sacrifice yourself for your sister. I can´t stand there and watch it, and I can´t walk away.

I can´t lose a member of my team, again. I can´t replace your mind and your perseverance and the way you fit with my team the way no one else would be able to. I can´t replace you.

I can´t be brave and self-sacrificing like you are being right now, I can´t say yes to this. I can´t trade you for her, I can´t do it no matter how much you want me to.

I can´t lose you.

And when he´d said he was sorry, he´d meant he was sorry that he couldn´t say yes for Rodney. He was sorry that Rodney´s sister was going to die. He was sorry that Rodney would probably hate him for the rest of his life for this decision alone.

He wasn´t sorry that he said no, though.

He also wasn´t sorry for the lines he was willing to cross to get that betrayed look to disappear off of Rodney´s face. Talking to Wallace hadn´t even been a decision, hadn´t been something he´d had to talk himself into, hadn´t been something he´d had to talk to other people about before doing.

Talking to Wallace had just been the next step because he couldn´t say yes for Rodney, but by God he could try his damndest to save his sister.

And the thing was, he hadn´t even gone as far as he would´ve. He´d been prepared for more, for worse. He´d had a contingency plan. He´d had a contingency plan for his contingency plan. If playing to the man´s guilt hadn´t worked, if the pictures hadn´t worked, John wouldn´t have been above putting a gun to the man´s head and holding the wraith´s hand to Wallace´s chest himself.

“You did this,’ he´d been prepared to say. “You got your daughter killed because you´re stupid and you´re impatient and you didn´t know what you were talking about. You don´t deserve to live and Jeannie doesn´t deserve to die, and you´re going to rectify that.’

“You talked a man into killing himself,’ Rodney says, and John thinks, “Yes. Yes I did. And I´d do it again.’

“I presented a situation,’ is what he says because Rodney doesn´t want to know this. Rodney doesn´t want to know what John was-- is, will be-- willing to do to keep Rodney from dying. He knows Rodney doesn´t want to know because John doesn´t really want to know himself.

Except John does know, and has known for a long time, and he´s pretty sure Rodney knows too, because neither one of them is as willfully obtuse as they´re both willing to pretend they are. It´s almost as good as not knowing, so he lets Rodney change the subject and start talking about who´s better looking.

So he continues to not tell Rodney that his worst nightmare is watching Rodney die and jokes and bitches and banters with Rodney about stupid bullshit that neither one of them is really interested in talking about because it´s easier than saying what he really wants to say.

Because what he wants to say is don´t die on me, which he can´t say because that´s the same thing as saying I love you, and that´s just about the last thing John can say right now.

Maybe some day though. If the timing´s right.

And he´s really, really, really drunk.

All feedback much appreciated!
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