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[ Pieces of Himself ]|
That had been the most awkward conversation he'd ever had, trying to explain to Tim's mom that no, his mother was not allowing men to molest him, she was simply teaching him how to capture the way the light falls and the importance of shadows.
It was that conversation and the fact that Tim had never been allowed to spend the night after that that made Evan hold the fact that art is his first love a bit close to the vest.
He lets it out in little ways, drawing little caricatures in the corners of his math notebook, Marvin the Martian's and Chewbacca's and R2D2's that make his friends crack up, little comic strips that he submits after much cajoling to the school newspaper. Nothing pretty. No landscapes, no nude forms, nothing too “girlie.”
One day during a particularly boring, mostly-science-driven briefing, he sketches Radek and Rodney into the liner notes of his pad. Radek's hair is wild and tangled, dust floating around him as he talks and spins around like a tornado, Rodney next to him with color tinting his cheeks and eyes bugging out and fingers pointing out at a thousand different points all at once.
He's so engrossed that he doesn't notice Sheppard leaning over to look at it until he grabs the pad out of his hands and says “Holy shit!” and begins howling in laughter, “This is perfect!”
“Hardly,” Rodney says, frowning and crossing his arms. “I look like a mad man.”
John only laughs harder as he hands the pad back to Evan “It's a caricature, Doc,” Lorne says quietly, smiling and laughing as Radek and Rodney start arguing about whose caricature is more accurate.
“Do Elizabeth,” John says, leaning his shoulder against Evan's and lowering his voice. “With like, a bubble over head saying 'oh god, when will they shut up?' or whatever.”
Evan grins and looks at Elizabeth and archs an eyebrow. She blinks at him with a stern look on her face and says “I'll have you know that's not at all what I'm thinking. I am thinking oh my God, why is the head of my military and his second in command giggling over cartoons when we are talking about the safety of the city.”
Evan cringes and looks at John, who just rolls his eyes. “Yeah right,” John says, leaning forward. “Admit it, you're just as sick of their voices as I am.”
Elizabeth doesn't answer but she smiles and later, when Rodney is arguing with Radek about something that Evan doesn't understand at all, she leans forward and taps his pad. He guiltily looks up from his half-drawn caricature of Elizabeth and waits for the punishment. “In the thought bubble, maybe you could draw my head exploding,” she says.
He grins and does so. She frames the picture and puts it on her desk.
Nobody finds out that art means more to him than just fun and games and comic strips depicting Marines as monkey's and Wraith as the Wicked Witch (he drew it after one too many 'why the hell are the two zoomie's telling us how to do our job anyway?' comments) to him until he's locked in a prison cell for three miserable days with Rodney on PT4-23R.
They'd gone on the mission with Rodney accompanying his team. It was a scientific mission, an “uninhabited” planet. Right up until the indigenous people had come up out of their bunkers and reminded Evan that they really should have learned more from the damn Genii. On the second day of imprisonment Rodney was thrown back in the cell with Evan with a nasty welt on the side of his head and his pupils were the size of his irises and Evan was tasked with staying up all night waking him up every 30 minutes to make sure McKay was still McKay.
“I was dreaming,” Rodney says at some point in the middle of the night. “I only think about her when I'm dying, Lorne, am I dying?”
“You're not dying, Doc,” Evan says, rubbing his hand over Rodney's back soothingly, hating the way Rodney's curled in on himself and the fact that they're still fucking stuck here and there's not a god damn thing he can do about it. John is going to absolutely kill him if they get out of this alive. “You're brain's a little bruised, but you have a lot to spare so.”
“She wasn't much of a mother most of the time,” Rodney mumbles, closing his eyes but continuing to speak. “Gave up her dreams because she got saddled with me. Hated me, hated my father. Except when I was sick. I was really sick when I was 13, bedridden. Almost died. Had a fever of 107. She read me stories in French. I don't know why French. I wish I could remember more of it.”
After Rodney goes back to sleep Evan thinks about how having a Mom that made you feel like she hated you could really explain why Rodney was as caustic as he was, and he gets out Rodney's tablet and grabs a pen and starts sketching, thinking about the blonde curls of Jeannie and Rodney's wide crooked mouth, hatred sparking in blue eyes only to be softened when her kid's sick enough to almost die, French stories falling past lips that previously spoke in only bitter words.
He falls asleep at some point and the next day is woken up by Rodney. “Oh my God,” Rodney says, and Evan tenses and wakes up ready to fight only to find that it's still just he and Rodney alone in the dank dark cell, light pouring in only from the window up above them. Taking a deep breath he settles back in and finally sees what Rodney's staring at, eyes wide and mouth open. He cringes and curses himself for not ripping the page out before letting himself fall asleep.
“This is,” Rodney says, pointing at the drawing and looking up at Evan. “This is my mother, how did you... how... why...”
Evan shrugs and sits down next to Rodney in the dirt, not looking at him. “Between you and Jeannie, I... extrapolated.”
“That's...” Rodney blinks and Evan pretends not to hear the way Rodney's voice cracks. “She died seven years ago. This is exactly what she...”
“Sorry, Rodney,” Evan says, and he's not sure if he's sorry she died or sorry she was a bad mother or sorry that he'd drawn her, so he just left it at that.
“May I?” Rodney asked, and then didn't bother to wait for an answer, ripping the picture out of the tablet and folding it into fourths, putting it in his pocket.
They were rescued later that day and two weeks later Evan had almost forgotten about it until John found him in the armory and said “Nice shot.” Then he said, bumping his shoulder against Evan's, “Rodney's drawing, the one of his Mom? He'd never say it, but he cherishes it. He takes it everywhere he goes. It's never not on him. I just thought you should know.”
Evan decides then, fuck it. He likes to draw. He's good at it. He orders art supplies on the next Daedelus run and sets up the easel on the pier nearest the barracks where he and his men sleep. No one makes fun of him, and every chance he gets he paints until his fingers don't have any feeling anymore.
When Carson dies he paints him in oil and when he's done his eyes swim with tears even as he smiles at the likeness.
When they come back to Earth after defeating the hive he walks around Atlantis and finds little pieces of himself all over her. Caricatures pinned up on bulletin boards, Carson's painting hanging in the infirmary, comic strips taped to computer screens. In Woolsey's office he realizes that even after the two years that Elizabeth has been gone, his drawing of her thinking about her head exploding still sits on the desk next to the computer.
When John tells him, three months after they'd first landed in the bay of San Francisco, looking at the painting of the cityscape that he'd painted on the day Carson died, “I fucking hate it here, I'm ready to go home,” Evan knows exactly what he means.