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09 April 2007 @ 09:22 pm
We Swim Here One Stroke at a Time (The Post Hoc Remix) [Stargate: Atlantis; Rodney, John, PG]  
Title: We Swim Here One Stroke at a Time (The Post Hoc Remix)
Author: dogeared
Summary: Rodney re-acclimates to Earth, or doesn't.
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Characters: Rodney McKay, John Sheppard
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not mine
Original story: Post Hoc by miss_porcupine
Notes: Thank you to sheafrotherdon for invaluable advice and encouragement. Title from Judith Neeld's "Notes for Swimming or Dancing After a Lunar Eclipse"

Rodney surfaced. He didn't know what drowning was like, but he thought that a near-miss might feel something like this—a sudden coming up for air, swimming out of the murk of exhaustion and elation and the pressing need to impart all they'd learned; to distill a year's worth of experience into whatever could help Stargate Command, whatever could help Earth. Rodney surfaced, and at that moment, he couldn't remember how many hours he'd stayed awake while Atlantis was besieged by the Wraith, or how many days he'd been back home, or how long he'd been holed up in this SGC lab, but he knew that he'd been staring at his laptop for who-knows-how-long and seeing things that were very, very far away. And now he was feeling closed-in and twitchy, and it only took a glancing thought about the Genii's bunkers to make him need to get out, now—which is how he found himself sitting on a bench in a park that smelled like Earth-grass and Earth-dirt as the sky darkened, letting the fresh air clear his head. He watched the lights of Colorado Springs wink on and thought of flying into Atlantis at night, the central spire glowing and reflecting on the water. He couldn't wait to see what it would look like now that they had the ZPM, the whole city lit up and alive.

The next afternoon, Rodney drove downtown again; he parked and just walked—and maybe sidewalks and street signs shouldn't have been their own kind of revelation, but somehow they were—until he ended up in a residential neighborhood. Rodney kept walking, dusk shifting abruptly to night, and he zipped his jacket up to his chin, shoved his hands deep in his pockets. He could see into people's houses as he passed them, as though he were clicking through a View-Master reel—empty living rooms; rooms where televisions cast flickering blue light on the walls; rooms where people were sitting or eating or talking or moving from one room to the next—and it was invasive and strangely wonderful to catch the glimpses of people's lives, to feel alien and protective all at the same time. His chest ached with the ordinariness of each square of artificially green lawn, each satellite dish, each driveway with an SUV, and he wondered whether Jeannie lived someplace like this.

Going into Colorado Springs after he'd finished explaining Ancient schematics or reviewing personnel files every day was more of a holding pattern than anything else. Re-acclimating, whatever that meant, seemed pointless, but Rodney felt a constant press of guilt that he wasn't appreciating all the things he'd said he missed when they thought they might never get to come back. This way, at least he was eating well. Sam recommended a couple of her favorite places, but didn't offer her company, and Rodney, for once, didn't ask, hoarding this new solitude. He worked his way through whatever looked promising, comforted by all the familiar flavors and textures: Thai and Italian and Indian. Steak. Pizza (god, pizza). Ice cream. Lots and lots of real coffee. One wind-swept night, he got caught in the rain, was soaked by the time he ducked into a warm-looking bistro. He huddled in a booth, jeans heavy and stiff and clinging uncomfortably, and his stomach lurched when the waiter brought his burger and fries. He asked for a box to take the food with him and drove, shivering and nauseated, straight back to Peterson, where he still couldn't eat. A shower, hot as he could make it, didn't help much, and he spent the night bundled in sweats and curled under two big blankets, his mind supplying an endless loop of grounding station circuit diagrams; visions of his own shaking fingers; memories of pain and fear and cold.

In the morning, Rodney layered on an extra t-shirt and drank four cups of coffee and got to Cheyenne early, immersing himself in some of the newly-translated entries from the Ancient database. It was enough to make him feel steady again, to remind him why Atlantis was worth the risks. That night, he wandered until he found a sushi place, and if he was a little dubious about eating seafood so far from any ocean, it turned out to be good, really good, and he caught himself almost moaning over the spicy shrimp tempura rolls. He was warm, finally, and full, and missed Teyla, remembered the last Athosian festival dinner he'd been to, rich fish and vegetables roasted over a fire, sitting with his team, he and Sheppard trying to explain s'mores as logs crackled and orange sparks popped and danced up into the darkness. He suspected he hadn't been the only one that night thinking about surviving in the Pegasus galaxy long-term—or surviving, full-stop, if they were never able to make contact with Earth again—and that maybe they could survive . . . Rodney blinked and looked around the restaurant, at friends and couples and families eating together. He missed Elizabeth and Carson. Missed Sheppard.

After that, Rodney stopped counting the days he'd been back on Earth and started counting down to when they were scheduled to go back to Atlantis. And that's when Sheppard showed up in his lab, asked him to dinner, and Rodney felt such a rush of welcome familiarity at the sight of him, rumpled and casual even in uniform, that he was giddy with it, nearly lightheaded. Sheppard beamed like he felt the same way. "Place has been there since before I was a cadet," he said, "best ribs in the state," as if he figured Rodney would need convincing. But Rodney didn't even have to think about it, just looked at Sheppard's amused face and said, "Okay."

They ended up on the deck at Zeb's, clinking beer bottles to toast Sheppard's promotion. If Rodney had thought he was desperate to get to Atlantis when they were still in Antarctica, well. It was nothing compared to how much he wanted to get back there now. There was just so much left for them to do. Sheppard ate barbecue ribs like Rodney'd never seen him eat anything before, really digging in, sauce on his fingers and smeared on his chin. And Rodney could see shadows of the cadet he'd been, in the way Sheppard was laughing, loose and easy; they both were, endless sky spread out above them. Rodney breathed in the cold air. He was going back to Atlantis. They both were.
Wychwood: SGA - Rodney excitedwychwood on April 22nd, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)
This is lovely. I like the original, but the way you flood it with Rodney's impressions of Earth and the way he's just absorbing it all... lovely.
quite magicaldogeared on April 29th, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much—I wanted Rodney to be thinking about a lot of stuff that—for once—he doesn't quite know what to do with.
Catesheafrotherdon on April 22nd, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC)
I love so many parts of this, but Rodney feeling protective of the suburbs, aimlessly wondering if that's how Jeannie lives - oh, it's such a short aside, but it *twists* my heart. And I love the description of John as 'loose and easy' (in all the best ways' and the sense of relief that comes from being right there beside him, thinking of Atlantis, feeling certain after so much uncertainty. SO LOVELY!
quite magicaldogeared on April 29th, 2007 04:11 pm (UTC)
*hugs* Thank you again for all your help with this. ♥!
beatrice_otter: atlantisbeatrice_otter on April 23rd, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
Nice. I think you've improved on the original, here. That one tells us what Rodney was going through; this one shows it, in a way that helps the reader feel it, too.
quite magicaldogeared on April 29th, 2007 04:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I stuck pretty closely to miss_porcupine's story, but I did want to really get in there and try and poke at Rodney's brain a bit. :)
AN ENIGMA GAVE A PARADOX A VERY SPECIAL HUG: sga teammelayneseahawk on April 24th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
Really well done.
quite magicaldogeared on April 29th, 2007 04:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
footinsinkfootinsink on April 24th, 2007 02:54 pm (UTC)
This was really lovely. The image of Rodney walking aimlessly through town, feeling protective of the people who have no idea of his sacrifice makes me shiver.

A shower, hot as he could make it, didn't help much, and he spent the night bundled in sweats and curled under two big blankets, his mind supplying an endless loop of grounding station circuit diagrams; visions of his own shaking fingers; memories of pain and fear and cold.

You really made me ache for him here. *huggles cold miserable Rodney-boo*

I'm working on a Rodney video to Blue October's Into the Ocean and when I finish (finger's crossed!) I am going to dedicate it to your remix and miss_porcupine's original because they both capture everything I am trying to convey in the vid.

Once again, beautiful story.
quite magical: rodney is always right! by drops_of_inkdogeared on April 29th, 2007 04:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Gorgeous
Oh, gosh, thank you—I'm so pleased this resonated so strongly with you. And how cool—I will keep an eye out for your vid! :)
lastscorpion on April 26th, 2007 03:01 am (UTC)
That's beautiful! I love the feel of it.
quite magicaldogeared on April 29th, 2007 04:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!