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[ not unlike us ]

It´s so late it´s early again when John sees a shadow coming up behind him. He knows it´s Rodney without having to think about it and finds a faint smile spreading across his lips. “Are you going to skulk there watching me, or you wanna take a seat?’

There´s a moment of hesitation and John can imagine the caught-red-handed look passing over Rodney´s face, but then the shadow is closer and then it´s a foot and then it´s a leg and then Rodney is sitting cross-legged beside him on the balcony.

“I suppose it´s not a surprise to find you still up,’ Rodney says, voice quiet like it only gets at night.

John doesn´t look at him, knows too well what he´ll see in his eyes, and stares out over the distance to the stars above. “And it´s never a surprise to find you still up.’

“Yes, well, genius never sleeps,’ Rodney says, but the bluster is gone, the self-importance is gone, and it´s replaced by a poor impression of his usual self. He feels Rodney´s leg shift against his and braces himself for the inevitable. “So.’

“I´m fine, Rodney,’ John says, finally looking at him. His smile is forced and he knows Rodney knows it, but he puts it out there anyway. “Really.’

“Really,’ Rodney says, and this time the derision is there full force, the disbelief unmistakable. “Because you are aware that we saw what happened, aren´t you? You are aware that we saw that-- thing-- feed on you.’

John looks away. “Yes, Rodney. I am aware of that.’

“Good, because I realize that in man-speak it´s not okay to say you´re not okay, but that´s bullshit and we both know it,’ Rodney says, voice low and hard. “Because watching that… seeing that…’

John closes his eyes. “Rodney…’

“I´m not okay,’ Rodney continues, plowing right on through whatever protest John was going to say just like he always does. “I´m not okay, and I´m not the one that was sitting in that chair having my life sucked out of me.’

John shrugs even if the last thing he´s feeling right now is ambivalent. “What do you want me to say Rodney? I´m okay now.’

“Hmm,’ Rodney says, nodding his head and smoothing down his pants leg. “Except you´re not.’

“No,’ John says, and it´s like it´s not even him talking, it´s not even coming out of his mouth, because if it was it wouldn´t have been this honest. This easy. “I´m not.’

He can feel Rodney´s sharp look at him and the smile stretching across his face is real this time, because he can see it. He can see the shock on Rodney´s face without having to turn his head. “You´re admitting it?’

John shrugs again. “Apparently.’

Rodney nods, h is shoulder dipping as he leans a little closer into John. “Should I get Carson?’

John laughs. “No, Rodney. I´m fine.’

“But you just said--’

“I know what I said. Physically I´m fine.’

He turns his head to look at Rodney, watching him watch him, eyes flicking back and forth over John´s face. “Mentally, then.’

John faces the sky again. “When we got out, do you know what he said?’


John laughs, shaking his head. “Who do you think?’

Rodney shifts and takes a deep breath. Letting it out he slumps against the wall. “Oh.’

“He said it was worth it just to see the night sky again. Getting out, even if we got caught again, even if we got killed, it was worth it. Just to see the stars.’

“Huh,’ Rodney says, and John thinks yeah. Exactly. “That´s--’

“And I thought, ya know… in a similar situation, that likely would´ve been my take on it,’ John says, his voice low and quiet, like if he says it louder, if he raises his voice, then that makes it real. That makes this conversation, this confession, real. “If I were held prisoner for years, never allowed to see outside of my four walls… Yeah. That would be my take on it.’

“Colonel…’ Rodney stops then, and John doesn´t blame him. He doesn´t know what to say to that either.

“He said it with such relief. I never thought… I mean, it never even crossed my mind, that the Wraith had…’

“Feelings,’ Rodney says, and it´s not a question, it´s the logical conclusion. And this is why this conversation is happening with Rodney and not Ronon. Because Ronon will never understand.

“Yeah. Feelings. Emotions. There was… Rodney, he said it with fondness.’

Rodney shudders, actually physically shudders, and John´s kind of surprised he didn´t as well. He´d certainly felt like it at the time. “I guess there´s a lot about them that we don´t understand.’

“It´s more than that,’ John says, reaching up and scrubbing at the stubble he has yet to scrape off. “It´s not just that we don´t understand it. It´s that we don´t even know there´s anything to understand. We just thought they were monsters.’

Rodney snorts a little. “Well, they are.’

John shakes his head. “I´m not so sure anymore.’

Rodney´s eyes burn a hole into his head and John has to close his eyes. “You´re not.’

John leans his head back against the wall. “He wasn´t.’

“So… one Wraith decides not to kill you so he can escape captivity and all of a sudden that erases--’

“No,’ John says, and it comes out sharper than he means for it to. Taking a deep breath he flexes his fingers. If he lets himself he can still feel the arthritic numbness from before. “No. It doesn´t erase it.’

“Sorry,’ Rodney mumbles. “Continue.’

“It´s just… I´m not saying it changes anything. I´m not saying that if one of those fuckers gets anywhere near here, anywhere near you or anyone from my team, that I won´t kill them. I´m not saying that we shouldn´t still work towards destroying them, I´m just saying--’

“That there´s more to them than meets the eye.’

John laughs. “Yeah. I guess.’ He folds his legs in and his knee bumps against Rodney´s. He thinks back to the first time he met Rodney and he would have laughed if they´d told him then that Rodney would be the person he was closest to in two years time. He would have laughed, but he would have been wrong. “Ronon´s angry with me.’

Rodney frowns at him. “What? What for?’

“For not killing him,’ John says, shrugging. “For letting him go. He won´t say anything, but I can tell.’

Rodney´s frown deepens and he looks away. “Well he can just get over it.’

“I don´t blame him,’ John says, shaking his head. “Before this happened, I would have killed him. But… he gave me back my life. He took it, and then he gave it back. And I felt like…’

“You owed him.’

“Yeah,’ John says. “And the thing is, I don´t think he´s angry so much as he is worried.’

“Worried,’ Rodney asks, snorting again. “I don´t think Ronon is all that much of a worrier, Colonel.’

“That when the time comes, I´m going to have a flash of conscience,’ John continues, ignoring him for the time being. “That I´m going to remember what this one did for me, and hesitate for a second too long, pause, think too much. Wonder.’

Rodney shifts and John watches him battle the words batting around in his head. “Well. He´ll get over it.’

“It´s a valid concern, Rodney,’ John says, smiling softly. “It´s one I´ve been thinking about ever since we dropped him off. Because I´ll kill the next one I see, but I´ll also wonder.’

Rodney looks at him, eyes worried and confused. “About what?’

“About what if he is like this one? What if he laughs. What if he cares. What if…’ John stops then, blinking and looking away.

“What,’ Rodney asks, leaning closer, hand reaching out to touch John´s arm.

“What if they really aren´t all that difference from us,’ John asks, grimacing as he looks up at him. “What if Michael is right. That we are the same. That the only difference is that our food can´t talk back to us.’

Rodney shakes his head. “He´s not. We´re not. We don´t plant transmitters in our pray and play tag!’

John rolls his eyes. “Yeah, Rodney, we kind of do. Fox hunts. We get entertainment out of what we consider to be lesser beings, and that´s what we are to them. We´re lesser beings. And look at what we do. Dog fights. Cock fights. Lion versus man. We´ve been doing that kind of shit since the Romans.’

“It´s different,’ Rodney says, but even John can see the doubt in his eyes. Hear it in his voice.

“Yeah,’ John says, nodding. “Because in this world, they´re at the top of their food chain. In this world, we´re the dogs.’

Rodney frowns and then shakes his head. “I don´t care.’

John huffs out a laugh. “You don´t care.’

“No, I don´t,’ he says, puffing out his chest as he looks back up to meet John´s eyes, defiant. “I don´t give a shit.’

John shrugs. “Okay.’

“No, maybe you´re right. Maybe we´re not that different. Maybe they´re not evil reincarnate, maybe they are just trying to survive,’ Rodney says, passionate and determined, staring John down. “But I don´t give a shit, because I watched you sit tied down to a chair while one of them sucked the life out of you. I watched your skin sag and your hair turn gray, and the life being drained out of you. And I stood there while Gall put a gun to his head and blew his brains out after he had done to him what you had done to you, so yeah, no. No, I don´t care. I don´t give a flying fuck if they´re just trying to survive.’

John can feel his chest seizing up and it´s like it´s happening all over again, the slow excruciating pain of being drained. The worst pain he´s ever felt in his life. He closes his eyes because he can´t look at Rodney´s face, because that might hurt worse. “I´m not saying--’

“No,’ Rodney says, and he sounds like a kid. He´s had enough, he´s done listening, and that´s that. “No. If Ronon´s right, if you have a sudden attack of conscience on some planet where a wraith is concerned, I´ll step up and take care of it. You pause for one second, and I´ll fill in the gap, because I don´t care. Do you hear me,’ Rodney asks, tapping John in the chest, and it´s right there, it´s right there where the wound is still fresh, and John can feel the spark of pain shoot all the way down his leg. He knows Rodney did it on purpose. “I. Don´t. Care.’

“Good,’ John says, eyes still closed as he rides out the wave of nausea rolling in him. “I need to know that.’

“So you just have to get over it,’ Rodney says, a sense of finality in his tone that makes John have to smile again. “Just forget whatever moral qualms you´re now feeling over the poor plight of the Wraith, and get over it.’

John laughs. “Yeah.’

“Yeah,’ Rodney says, palm smoothing over John´s chest where he´d just poked it. John thinks it should freak him out, Rodney´s hand now where the Wraith´s once was, but it doesn´t. It feels calming, soothing. It feels right. “So this is what you needed,’ he continues, voice softening slightly. “Someone to kick your ass a little.’

“Maybe,’ John says, looking up at Rodney with a lopsided grin. “I guess.’

“Well you´ve come to the right place. No one kicks a little mental ass better than Rodney McKay,’ Rodney says, smirking back.

“I didn´t come to the right place, you did,’ John says, raising an eyebrow. “Remember? I was just sitting here.’

“Well.’ Rodney pauses, frowning. “Then. You willed it. It´s your gene.’

John laughs. “I willed you here?’

Rodney nods. “Yep. You knew you needed me here, so… here I am.’

“Mm,’ John says, nodding. “Yes. And what. The little voice inside your head told you to come to the south peir to find me? Sounds like divine intervention.’

Rodney rolls his eyes. “No, it´s a life signs detector, and me being worried about you, you son of a bitch.’

“Aw, Rodney, you care,’ John says, swinging an arm around Rodney´s shoulders. “I didn´t know you had it in you.’

“I do, ya know,’ Rodney says softly. “Care, that is. And whatnot.’

John turns his head to look at him and his grin widens. “Yeah. I know.’

“All right, enough,’ Rodney says, clearing his throat and slipping out from under John´s arm. “You, up.’

John watches as Rodney stands, his arm dropping on top of his knee. “You, Tarzan.’

“No, no,’ Rodney says, fingers snapping a mile a minute. “Up, up, up. You´re going to bed.’

John reaches up and takes Rodney´s hand, allowing him to haul him up. “Rodney, are you propositioning me?’

Rodney gives him a once over. “If that´s what it takes to get you to go to bed.’

John loops his arm around Rodney´s shoulders again and leads him towards the doors. “Well aren´t you the romantic. You really know how to woo a guy.’

Rodney smirks. “Yes, I´ve been told.’

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