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[ Whiteboards and Wishes ]
by kHo

The pen squeaks as it goes over the whiteboard and Jeannie cringes. He's pushing so hard that he's going to go through a whole pack of markers by the week's end. In the moments when she can have a sense of humor about this she thinks that if she'd invested in dry-erase markers before this, she'd be a millionaire based on Rodney's contribution alone.


“Shh,’ he says, and squeak, squeak, squeak. “If I can just… yes, and then…’

Jeannie shifts, stirring her coffee with the little red straw. “Aren't you going to eat?’

“No, I'm close,’ he says, voice distracted, a million miles off. No, Jeannie thinks. Forty-eight thousand years off. “I'm close, I can taste it, Jeannie, god, I could kick myself for not starting this sooner.’

Squeak, squeak, squeak.

“Meredith,’ she tries again, standing up and walking over to where he stands at the whiteboard. Probably about the twentieth at this point, the other nineteen strewn around the room. Some upright, some sideways, some upside down, some face down. About half of them, though, are broken into shards from having been thrown clear across the room in one of his all too often now fits of anger. “You need to eat. Just five minutes. A sandwich, some soup, french fries… something.’

“You know if you think about it, really it's not all that tragic,’ Rodney says, completely ignoring her. He's always done this but these days it really breaks her heart. “Because see, he gets to live forever. He gets to live forty-eight thousand years.’

She tries another tactic. “I talked to Jennifer's mother today--’

“And I'm sure it'll be traumatic for him, of course it will, but he doesn't have to live through their deaths. He won't even have to know about them,’ Rodney says, and Jeannie knows he heard her but he's not going to acknowledge that. “He'll just think, oh, it's been forty-eight thousand years, of course they're dead. He doesn't have to know how, or why. But then he can come back, and none of it will have happened.’

“She'd like to see you, Mer,’ Jeannie says. She still somehow holds onto the hope that one day he'll acknowledge something that exists outside of this room, outside of his own mind. “She wants to get to know you.’

“None of this matters,’ Rodney says, his hand slowing on the board, hovering there for a moment, silent. “I'm going to fix it, and none of this will matter, and Jennifer won't… and Teyla, and Ronon, and Carter, none of it matters, because it didn't happen.’

Jeannie closes her eyes. “Except that it did, Meredith.’

“Either help me or shut the hell up,’ he says, the squeaking of the marker on the board once again starting up. “I don't have time for you to do your daily sisterly duties of making sure poor ol' Mer is still breathing. Hell, at this point, I'd almost prefer it if you put me in a mental institution, because then I could get some peace and quiet and its okay for me to obsess. I don't have to walk around pretending to be fine and dealing with what's happened.’

“Are you, though,’ Jeannie asks, watching his pale, drawn face as he takes in deep gulps of air and continues writing. “Are you dealing at all? Because I don't think you are. Jesus, Mer, you're talking like this is the nightmare and you're going to wake up from it when John comes back.’

Rodney snorts. “That's because that is exactly what this is, Jeannie. A nightmare.’

“But John isn't coming back,’ Jeannie says, grabbing his arm. “At least not in your lifetime. You do realize that even if you do manage to find a way to bring him back, you'll have lived the rest of your life and be dead and gone by the time he gets the message right?’

“Yes, obviously,’ Rodney says, erasing the latter half of the board and starting all over again.

“Then why can't you just relax for a second,’ Jeannie says, trying so very hard not to yell. “Sit. Eat. Sleep.’

“I'll sleep when I'm dead,’ Rodney says, and then he laughs. “Huh,’ he says. “Never thought anybody actually said that and meant it, much less myself.’

“Keep this up, Mer, and you will be dead,’ Jeannie says, and now she's yelling. “This is exactly what Jennifer was afraid of! She wanted you to live the rest of your life, to find happiness again. Grow old and fat and happy and have kids and grandkids, and look back and remember her fondly as someone that died too young. She didn't want you spend the rest of your life trying to bring her back!’

“It's not just for her,’ Rodney says softly, hand faltering slightly. He finally turns to meet her eyes, and his eyes are so haunted, so devastated, it's like this all just happened. It's just how he looked eight months ago when Jennifer died, it's still written over every inch of his face. She'd cried then just looking at him and right now she wants to again. “They're all dead,’ he says, and the fact that his voice is devoid of all emotion just makes it worse. “All of them, Jeannie.’

She sighs, rubbing his arm gently, unable to meet his eyes. It's almost funny. She's spent the last eight months trying to get him to look at her and now that he has, she can't face him. “I know, Mer.’

“I can bring him back,’ Rodney says, looking back at the board now. She can practically see the symbols swimming in his eyes. In moments like these she actually does think that maybe he really does belong in a mental institution. It's not healthy, the place he's in right now. The place he's been in ever since Jennifer got sick. Maybe even before, if she's honest with herself. “And in some other branch of this reality, Teyla and Ronon and Sam and Jennifer will live. I have to do this for them.’

Jeannie swallows past the lump that's been lodged in her throat since she'd stepped through that door three hours earlier. “What about for you? What will you do for you?’

“It doesn't matter,’ he says, voice distant again, no longer present in the room with her. The marker goes squeak, squeak, squeak, and Jeannie knows exactly how the rest of this day will go. “None of this matters. It didn't happen this way.’

“I love you, Mer,’ she whispers, standing on the tips of her toes to kiss him on the cheek.

The last noise she hears as the door shuts is the squeak of the pen on the board.

Addt'l Note: I feel the need to clarify... when Rodney says he's close, he means to *A* breakthrough, not to FINISHING it.

All feedback much appreciated!
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