[identity profile] sheafrotherdon.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] sga_flashfic
Fic: The Arms of Another (Scars Challenge)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] sheafrotherdon
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Rating: PG
Summary: Follows on (with permission!) from the end of [livejournal.com profile] trinityofone's Brothers in Arms. Read that first!
A/N: Trin's fic broke me, and I flailed and suggested all the ways Rodney might be able to help with John's situation. Bless her heart for letting me try, and [livejournal.com profile] siriaeve for beta-ing.



"Okay, what gives?" Rodney folds his arms across his chest and tilts his chin, all but daring John to try and give him the runaround.

John eyes him for a moment, then lets out a breath, pulls off his remaining sock and tosses it in the general direction of all his other dirty clothes. "Nothing. Look, it's fine."

"Please," Rodney offers, and John's never quite understood how one man can endow such a small word with so much meaning, as if he's folded scorn in upon itself, increased its density, tinkered with its mass.

John peels off his t-shirt. "Look, it was a good day, okay?"

Rodney tilts his head and eyes him with pity.

"Nothing blew up, no one attacked us, no one – " John can feel himself falter even before he says the word "- died." He concentrates on pulling back the covers, sitting on his side of the bed, unfastening his watch and pulling off his wristband. If he looks up now he knows he'll see kindness on Rodney's face – a fond understanding he can't begin to handle – so he slides between the sheets with his back to the door, thinks the lights off and pulls the blankets up to his waist. "Sleep, McKay."

For a long time Rodney doesn't move, then there's the whisper of fabric as he pulls off his jacket, the snap and slide of laces before he toes off his boots, the clink of his belt buckle and a zipper's rough glide. "You know," he says conversationally, "it's almost comical, the way you seem to think no one knows you."

"Rodney –"

"No really, it's almost charming in a particularly maladjusted fashion." Fabric rustles, and there's a one-two pause as Rodney no doubt steps out of his pants. "Shows a certain optimism, in fact; a certain faith in the improbability of human relationships and the quantum laws of – well, how god-awful stubborn I am for a start."

John can just about make out his footfalls as he pads back and forth across the room. "Look – "

"And what's even more ridiculous?" There's a cold breath of air at his back as Rodney pulls back the covers and the mattress dips. "You honestly seem to think that no one cares."

John squeezes his eyes closed, tenses his jaw, bites back the angry, vicious things he wants to say. He's learned, to his cost, that Rodney's never particularly impressed by his attempts to carve out a little breathing room, that he'll just wait around, implacable, instead of fucking off like any other person would. So he swallows all the words he doesn't believe but could mean for a moment, and rolls onto his back, left hip brushing against Rodney's side.

"The – other me."

Rodney hums smugly. "I knew it!" he says, waving a finger.

John glares in his direction.

"What?" Rodney asks. "You're dating a genius, get over it."

John rubs a hand over his face. "He – " The words are tangled and snarled in his throat, barbed-wire sharp and flaked with rust. "He's not me."

"Well, of course not," Rodney says witheringly. "He's the product of an entirely different set of – "

"No," John says, tone of voice sharp enough to make Rodney hush. "I mean – he's . . ." He scratches his belly, fingertips one universe away from the scar on his hip. "Jesse. His name's – Jesse."

"Huh." Rodney rolls onto his side and props up his head on one elbow. "Did your parents think of calling you that?'

It's hard to think of them as a unit – his parents – and he hasn't, not until now. He presses the heel of his hand to the bridge of his nose, closes his eyes and fights back the memory of his mother's perfume, the way she always seemed a little sad when his birthday came around.

"Hey," Rodney murmurs. "Hey, I'm sorry – whatever it was I said – " He pulls John's hand away from his face, fingers brushing restlessly against John's with worry.

"Twin." The word tastes bitter – camphor, castor oil, dust.

Rodney pauses, breath stilling. "You had a twin?"

John nods. "Conjoined."

"Oh god . . . "

"He – " John guides Rodney's hand to his hip, presses with his fingers, wills Rodney to read the scar he's touched before with his tongue, his breath, his lips – to read it new as an artless Braille of loss, a surgeon's mark, a rip in his being. "He died."

"Jesse."

John nods.

Rodney rubs his thumb over the scar once, then again. He presses his lips to John's shoulder – a dry whisper of heat against goose-fleshed skin, does it again as his thumb smoothes and presses at John's hip. He doesn't speak, doesn't inch closer, doesn't crowd or bluster or demand or take – just touches, gently, the half-moon curve of a secret. "And in his world you – "

John nods again.

Rodney shifts to cover him – slides a leg over John's thigh, curves an arm over his chest, noses the long, lean slope of John's throat. "You know," he says at last, matter of fact as if they're discussing the weather, "he was right. It only took me half an hour to fix the gate, make it possible for – " He shrugs, and John feels the movement as a full body shiver. "I could do it again."

John tilts his head, looks toward him. There's only enough light to see the impression of Rodney's face, but his brain supplies the color of his eyes, the lines beside his mouth, the exact shade of stubble that shadows his chin. "What?"

"I could do it again. You could go there. Should go there." Rodney drags a thumb along John's collarbone. "With the understanding, of course, that you promise to come back. There'd be – I don't know. An Ahnthrane ritual of promising involved – you know how those goat-herders love their promises – and I'd make you an instruction book to take with you, small thing, pocket-sized, just in case something's happened to their McKay and you need to show them how to get you back again. Their Radek can probably manage the changes, in fact I'm sure if he's anything like ours he'll protest he doesn't need instructions, and besides, I like to think nothing's happening to me in any dimension, but given the Wraith, and the Replicators, and the – well, propensity for me to be shot in the ass, I think that – "

John covers his mouth with one finger. "Hey."

Rodney lets out an unsteady breath. "Hey."

He struggles with the backed up consonants in his throat. "I could really go?"

Rodney nods. "With – you know, the aforementioned promise of – "

"And I wouldn't – fuck up the universe?"

"Well we survived him visiting us, nothing untoward happened, not unless you count the way Chuck's man-crush on you ratcheted up a couple more degrees, so – "

"Is it – " John pauses. "Stupid?"

"Chuck's man-crush?"

John raises an eyebrow.

"Right no, no, you'd be talking about the, uh – with the brother. Well, no – no, I don't think so. I – I mean, no. Definitely not. He's – " Rodney shakes his head, wets his lips. "You were different, once he was gone. It was like – watching something in you dissipate. Smoke. Ashes."

"It's just – " John strokes a hand down Rodney's spine. "He – I . . . we – "

"You talked about it?"

"Some."

"He felt it too?"

John eyes him warily. "Felt what?"

"The loss. The – " Rodney waves a hand. "Relief."

The word hadn't come to him – relief; rain after dust – but now John closes his eyes, feels the weight of its meaning, the ache that chased it away. "Yeah."

Rodney kisses him softly, stirring up comfort with the brush of his lips. "You'll go. You'll come back. Maybe he can come here, we'll have him for – well, I was going to say dinner but I'm not sure we could call. . . anyway, you'll – " His breath brushes John's nose. "We'll make it right."

And as he lays his head on John's shoulder, a Sunday-through-Saturday weight that anchors and chafes against John's wilder impulses, irritates and cools his too-tight skin, John breathes into his hair, sags into the heat of his body, hears his words with a newborn's ear. "Yeah," he says, and almost smiles – believes it; can't touch his scar for the weight of Rodney's hip, feels its arc like a cupped hand, reaching, pleading. "Yeah," he whispers, and knowing the contours of where wholeness might lie, finds it in himself to let go and sleep.
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(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-19 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rike-tikki-tavi.livejournal.com
I so love your Rodney for making it better again.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-19 09:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emeraldsword.livejournal.com
I too am very relieved that Rodney made it better, a little. This works very well.

Also love Chuck's man-crush, that's a wonderful little detail that helps make the fic!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-19 09:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bratfarrar.livejournal.com
This, like its prequel, is beautiful - but without the same biting edge of loss.

Lovely.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-19 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ldyanne.livejournal.com
That is a lovely addition to Brothers in Arms. I love Rodney who really knows John and can find ways to make it better for him.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-19 10:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dogeared.livejournal.com
Oh, gosh, this is so beautiful, completely poetic and bittersweet and hopeful, and John, lost and found, and Rodney shifts to cover him – slides a leg over John's thigh, curves an arm over his chest, noses the long, lean slope of John's throat, oh oh oh. *sighs*

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-19 10:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shara50.livejournal.com
This is lovely and made me adore Rodney even more. I love how he was able to make it just a little better for John.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-19 10:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bbuttercup.livejournal.com
Wonderful follow up. I love that Rodney knows John so well, just knows something's up :o)

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-19 11:10 pm (UTC)
ext_975: photo of a woof (Default)
From: [identity profile] springwoof.livejournal.com
"We'll make it right."

Yay, Rodney!

thanks for bringing Rodney to make it all better...

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-19 11:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trinityofone.livejournal.com
*sneaks on at parents'*

Oh, Cate!

He presses the heel of his hand to the bridge of his nose, closes his eyes and fights back the memory of his mother's perfume, the way she always seemed a little sad when his birthday came around.

*flails*

And oh, Rodney! I love you both so, so much for making it better!

*smishes*

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 12:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beadattitude.livejournal.com
well, how god-awful stubborn I am for a start.

::sucks in tearful breath and laughs and laughs and laughs:: That's my sweet clumsy Rodney.

Oh, this is such a lovely, brilliant, interesting explanation for John's empty spaces.

The last paragraph is so beautiful I'm not sure even where to start with it, but I wish I could put words together like that.
(deleted comment)

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 02:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] adafrog.livejournal.com
Oh lovely. I adore that Rodney won't let him keep it in.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 02:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shadowserenity.livejournal.com
Oh. Now I want to see our John travel to that universe and compare the differences. What a fascinating AU :). The characterisation, in particular, was perfect.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 03:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] crownglass39.livejournal.com
I always trust Rodney to make it better. This is wonderful!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 03:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mcalex22.livejournal.com
A lovely companion to [livejournal.com profile] trinityofone's stories. I have to admit that I like the idea of John being a twin and both your stories have explored the idea better than a couple of other stories.

I don't know if either of you will continue to write more in this, as it's beautiful as it stands. I like the idea of John seeking comfort in Rodney.

Thanks for sharing - really lovely to read! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 04:06 am (UTC)
sage: Still of Natasha Romanova from Iron Man 2 (sheppard happy)
From: [personal profile] sage
So beautifully done. As i commented on Trin's post, I read The Thirteenth Tale not long ago and still think about it. Putting John into that situation just, god, it *fits*. All that repressed feeling...it just fits him so well.

– to read it new as an artless Braille of loss, a surgeon's mark, a rip in his being.

This line just broke me.

And I'm entirely in love with this Rodney and his whole "Let me give you this because I can and it may help" attitude. What's creating portals to other dimensions if it helps John? ♥

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 05:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lavilleperdue.livejournal.com
Oh, this was just lovely -- hooray for Rodney! The lengths to which he was willing to go in order to make things better for John...oh, bless. ♥

John guides Rodney's hand to his hip, presses with his fingers, wills Rodney to read the scar he's touched before with his tongue, his breath, his lips – to read it new as an artless Braille of loss, a surgeon's mark, a rip in his being.

That broke my heart a little. Oh, boys.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 06:03 am (UTC)
ext_1917: (Rodney in suits)
From: [identity profile] steammmpunk.livejournal.com
What a beautiful companion. YAY RODNEY ♥ Thank you for sharing.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 08:01 am (UTC)
ext_1541: (Default)
From: [identity profile] summertea.livejournal.com
*stoic face* *bites lip*

Oh Rodney. ♥

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 08:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seratonation.livejournal.com
Dude, I'm smiling and tearing up and its just so perfect! I mean this line: "Right no, no, you'd be talking about the, uh – with the brother. Well, no – no, I don't think so. I – I mean, no. Definitely not." sounded so much like Rodney! and then "We'll make it right." aww just *squishes* I love how you can make them so IC and still make me all melty and smily.

(and I finally realised something! in my head when they sleep, its always like that, Rodney half draped over John, head on shoulder, arm around waist and I realised! its from you! Thats cool.)

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] seratonation.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-05-22 03:42 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 11:54 am (UTC)
ext_230: a tiny green frog on a very red leaf (domestica africa antartica atlantica ero)
From: [identity profile] anatsuno.livejournal.com
Oh, Rodney. Thank you, Rodney, thank you. <3

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 08:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] madeline871.livejournal.com
He's learned, to his cost, that Rodney's never particularly impressed by his attempts to carve out a little breathing room, that he'll just wait around, implacable, instead of fucking off like any other person would.

Seriously, those two are meant for each other. You did such a nice job continuing the original story!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 11:19 pm (UTC)
ext_2188: Rodney McKay solemnly swears he is up to no good (Default)
From: [identity profile] lurkmuch.livejournal.com
Oh this is so hopeful - of course Rodney would fix it! (And especially after Brothers in Arms, which sort of broke me!)

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-20 11:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] melagan.livejournal.com
This is a lovely compliment to Trin's story.. kind of like happy tears

(no subject)

Date: 2007-05-21 03:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saphanibaal.livejournal.com
Squorble. Yes.

I knew I'd read this when I saw your name and the summary, but I hadn't realized -- it's so rare to find a fix-it fic of the same quality of the original that doesn't diminish its impact by implication that I wasn't expecting it at all.

And, oh, John -- didn't you know you'd taken a miracle worker and the chief wizard of Atlantis for your lover, you should have known these sorts of things would be par for the course!
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