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[ Shredding Paper ]
by kHo

It’s not like he really believed it would work, going to the planet for one more day of Real McKay sounded like the really bad kind of sci-fi. He didn’t really believe it would work, except for how he kind of did because Ronon never lied about shit like that and if he said he’d seen it first hand, then he had.

When Keller says no, though, he wants to hit her. He wants to yell and scream at her, wants to say “what the hell do you know, you don’t get to have a fucking opinion, he’s a member of my team and I say what McKay can and can’t do!” He doesn’t say it because he knows he’s not really pissed at Keller he’s pissed at the fucking parasite taking his friend away.

Standing in the infirmary and watching McKay recite pi over and over and over and listening to Teyla realize that McKay’s past the point of fully comprehending what they were willing to do for him he experiences a weird out of body type thing where there’s shit going on all around him but his world consists of two things: McKay, broken and destroyed in front of him, and trying to remember how to breathe properly.

Teyla and Ronon and him walk out of the infirmary and he wants to punch a wall, wants to shoot things, wants to rage and rage and rage. Ronon breaks off from the group but not before John sees two fat tears roll down his cheek and John feels it like a sucker punch because Ronon’s been through a hell of a lot but he’s taking this McKay thing pretty fucking personal and John’s torn between feeling proud at the love that been instilled so deeply in his team and wanting to cry himself.

He brushes past Teyla and takes himself for a run around the city, ignoring the hails on his comm from Lorne about the meeting he had scheduled three days ago when he’d still thought Rodney had a fucking shot at surviving. He finds himself back at the infirmary at the end of it and he can’t catch his breath and he can see Rodney talking quietly to himself, mumbling and mumbling and mumbling, and it twists his insides up into an ugly mess of despair and he has to put his hand on the door jamb to hold himself up.

“John,” Keller says, noticing him and coming towards him. “Did you--”

“Can you fix him or not,” John says, not looking at her, staring at Rodney and wishing not for the first time that he’d just fucking let himself hug Rodney all the times he’d wanted to in the past week because now he might never be able to again and it makes him feel sick to his stomach to know that.

Keller’s lips pinch together and tears gather in her eyes and he knows she’s taking this hard, knows she’s taking on more guilt than she should be, but it makes him angry to see her crying. She’s still the new guy here and she shouldn’t be here anyway, it should be Carson, because if it was Carson then at least it was someone that cared as much about Rodney as John did.

“Can you,” he growls, finally looking at her, “fix him or not?!”

She blinks at him and steps back. “I am doing everything I can for him.”

“That’s not fucking good enough,” John says, walking forward, crowding her, and he’s not this person. He’s not this guy that threatens people with physical intimidation, he’s not the guy that blames people for things that aren’t their fault, but right now he is.

Right now he is that guy because McKay’s not even McKay anymore and Keller’s just standing there, looking helpless. “You need to fix him. You need to tell me what you need to fix him. Do you need my eye? My arm? My fucking heart? Because he can have it, do you understand, that’s how much he means to us, and we need you to fix him, okay? We need him back! I… I need him here!”

“Okay, that’s enough,” someone behind him says, and John can feel a hand on his back, another gripping his shoulder and tugging him back. “Sorry, Doc, he’s… ya know. He doesn’t mean it.”

“The hell I don’t,” John says, jerking out of the hands and lurching forward, gripping the edge of Rodney’s bed. “Buddy? Buddy I need you to come back to us, okay? Don’t give in okay?”

“I really am trying everything I know how to,” Keller says, on the other side of the bed, her eyes pleading. “I have everyone on it, we’re trying everything.”

The hand is back on his shoulder and tugging, and John whirls around to punch whoever the hell it is in the face until he sees that it’s Lorne, looking somehow stern and sympathetic at the same time, and John feels everything just kind of eek out of him.


John nods, closing his eyes. “Shit.”

“Let’s… come on,” Lorne says, and pulls John forward, hand falling to just above John’s elbow. His grip is light but John knows if he made one move to get out of it it would be tight like a vice and he wouldn’t get but maybe six inches or so.

John’s fists clench and he blinks but he can’t see where he’s going, only whirls of blue and amber, glass and people watching him that he can’t see the faces of. Lorne’s hand on his arm feels like an anchor, like the only thing holding him together, as Lorne pulls and tugs and shifts and turns them, navigating the halls like his own personal bodyguard.

When he feels cold hard metal in his hands he blinks again and stares at the 9mm in his hand and looks up to see a target in front of him. He stops shaking and raises the gun and fires, and fires, and fires, until the clip is empty. It feels good, satisfying in a way yelling at Keller hadn’t been at all, and he holds out his hand for another clip and quickly shoves it in and fires and fires and fires again until that one’s gone too.

He puts the gun down on the ledge and braces his arms there, breathing deeply through his nose, out through his mouth. “He’s not even here anymore. He’s already gone,” he says, voice low and trembling, knuckles white where he grips the ledge.

“I know, sir,” Lorne says from his side, a steady warm presence.

“She’s not going to fix him, is she,” he says, and it’s not a question, and Lorne doesn’t answer it. “We’ve lost too many people, Lorne.”

“Yes, sir.”

“If he… when he…” John takes a deep breath and feels a tear fall from his eye, looks at the target swimming in front of him. “I don’t think I can do this without him, Lorne.”

“I know, sir.”

John looks at him and Lorne has the decency to look him in the eyes, even with the tears. Lorne looks sad too, and John has to remind himself that over the past few years Rodney and Lorne have somewhat become friends too. It’s hard to think about McKay outside the walls of his team sometimes, to realize that there are other people out there that care too.

“Thank you,” he says, looking back at the target and clearing his throat, reaching up to scrub at his eyes. “For getting me out of there. Rodney didn’t need to see me like that, and Keller didn’t deserve it.”

“You know,” Lorne says, stepping closer and John turns to look at him. “I don’t know if it’s true, but, I’ve never known Ronon to lie. And I don’t believe in magic, but I believe in faith, and if that planet… I’ll take your six if you need it, sir.”

John smiles and rests his hand on Lorne’s shoulder. “It’s not a matter of people willing to take him, Lorne, but I appreciate it. Keller won’t let him go.”

Lorne nods and looks John in the eyes. “Not that I’m a rebel, sir, but… I’m fairly certain Chuck would look the other way for the time it would take for us to take two jumpers out the gate.”

John laughs and drops his hand to his side. “Jeannie will be here soon,” he says, clearing his throat again. “As his next of kin, her wishes will hold more weight than yours or mine.”

Lorne nods, stepping back. “If you change your mind, you know where I’ll be.” He reaches over and picks up the gun from the ledge, looking back up at John. “You good, sir?”

John nods. “Yeah,” he says, feeling much more centered and steady than he has in the past week. “Thanks.”

“Sometimes you just need to shred some paper, sir,” Lorne says, and then he turns and leaves.

He brings the target up and sees one hole, fired into a million times. Right between the eyes, a kill shot every single time. He wishes it were that easy.

After a while John reaches up and taps his comm. “Doctor Keller?”

Keller’s voice comes immediately, hesitant and soft. “Colonel?”

“Sorry about that,” he says, sitting down on the floor and wrapping an arm around his legs. “Pissed is easier than helpless.”

“Yeah,” she says with a quiet laugh. “I understand.”

“So yeah. Sorry.” He leans his head back against the wall behind him and takes a deep breath. “I’ll buy you a beer to make up for it, okay?”

“Sure,” she says, laughing again. “Sounds good.”

All feedback much appreciated!
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