Jul. 10th, 2008
Series: Highschool Heroes
Characters: John, Rodney, Regan, Marion, Teyla
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Beta: sherriaisling, rocking like a rocking thing.
Summary: Rodney came back in pieces.
Author's Note: Missing scenes from the fourth and fifth parts of Dog Days, in preparation for the first part of Junior Jumble.
Teyla feels Rodney ten miles away from the base, a burst of presence along their dormant mental link that makes her cry out. In the seat beside her she can feel Carson reaching for her. John is too focused on Rodney to think of anything else, but his parents in the front seat twist their heads back to look at her. She can feel their concern, but for a long moment she cannot make herself address it.
Rodney's thoughts have always been smoothly ordered. That is one reason that she liked him so quickly and easily, he had few of the tangles that most people's minds were full of. She could ride his thoughts easily, even if she did not always understand what their full shape and purpose was. He was fluid, open, and painfully truthful, even inside his own head.
The order is still there, but his thoughts are sharp edged as knives, laced with panic and fury, shaped into razor blades of pain. For the first time, Teyla wishes that he had some of the barriers, the little hidden eddies where most people kept their secrets, as the rush of his thoughts tumbles over her.
Teyla shakes herself back into her own mind, still seeing the stairs, the cold, metal, hallways that Rodney is running through behind her eyes. Carson is holding her hands, looking concerned, worry dripping off of his thoughts, and she manages a weak smile. She says, carefully, "I can feel Rodney again."
The others exchange looks, and Teyla watches the arrow on the speedometer lean further to the right. She is not entirely sure that skipping into the police officer's mind and convincing him that he didn't see them speeding down the highway had been a proper use of her powers. Nevertheless, she thinks it had been the right thing to do in the situation.
By the time they lay down rubber in front of the gate, Rodney's pain is a constant thrum through her skull. He's tired, hurt, and scared, and she sends what reassurance she can back through the link. She doesn't think he feels it, too busy running for his life. Her legs ache from running up stairs she has never even seen.
The gate tears itself open in the same instant that Teyla feels Rodney's giddy joy at being under the open sky again. It is enough to make her sag down in her seat, groping out for something solid to cling to as John slams his door open, his worry cutting through even Rodney's pain, the full pressure of his concern and affection sweeping through her.
Teyla knows when John reaches Rodney, because while the pain, panic, and fury are all still there, they are suddenly completely eclipsed by relief.
Carson is still asking if she's alright, and Teyla waves him off. She is, comparatively, fine. It's just a lot to absorb. She's having a bit of trouble finding her bearings, but none of that is important when John shouts for help. Teyla pushes Carson out of the car, the Sheppards already heading towards their children.
John is holding Rodney, cradling him more than anything, his expression stricken. The failure and guilt Teyla can feel off of him are so thick that she waves a hand in front of her face, trying to dispel them. There are more important concerns, like the boy kneeling beside them, whose mind is a tangle of twisted paths and hidden places, the maze of an animal that has lived with terror far too long.
The boy's name is Ronon, but that's all she gets from him. It's too difficult to follow his thoughts, especially with everyone else's so loud in her head. Teyla asks after him, and when Rodney looks up his expression is sleepy, disconnected and distant. Teyla shivers.
A new wave of anger and indignation hits Teyla hard. She hisses, bracing the heel of one hand against her temple, feeling Carson grab her elbow to steady her. This new mind projects its thoughts as huge hammers. Teyla is still trying to filter them out when Rodney jerks to his feet, John rising behind him.
Rodney's fury is a white-hot thing, burning everything else to ash, leaving Teyla's mind buzzing with it. His thoughts, always lightning fast, slide now like quicksilver. There's no pause to consider whether or not Rodney should hit the other man, no hesitation, no consideration of mercy.
Something cold curls in Teyla's stomach, because for just a second, before John reaches out and touches Rodney's shoulder, Rodney is planning to kill the other man. And there is no way for Teyla to pretend that he wouldn't do it.
The Rodney she remembers had been terrified of hurting someone, and though he had never mentioned what happened to his father, she had known. The Rodney she knew had nearly drowned in guilt every time he had to use his gift against another person.
This Rodney doesn't care.
John is holding Rodney again, supporting him as his body runs down to empty. Carson steps forward to heal Rodney's hands, his knuckles bloody and swelling up already. Teyla hesitates, for just a moment, before reaching out and rubbing her palm over Rodney's brow. The least she can do is guide him down to the peaceful sleep below dreams.
Regan has seen horrible things in his life. It comes with the job, and while he rarely regrets choosing his career, there are things that he would love to clear from his memory. Compared to the shit he's seen people do to each other, what's been done to Rodney shouldn't seem that terrible. But Rodney is close enough to family that Regan doesn't know what else to think of him as, and that makes it a whole different ballgame.
The boy sleeps almost the entire drive home. He starts out with his forehead leaning against the window, body curled towards the door, John not even bothering with pretending that he's not staring at him, crowded up against his side. It hadn't actually taken very long for John to get Rodney turned, his head on John's shoulder, legs over John's lap. John tilts his head down, hiding his face. John's hands are balled into fists that he keeps trying to relax, only to have them ball up again.
Regan exchanges a look with Marion, her eyes bright, her mouth turned viciously down. When he reaches out to rest his hand on her thigh, her muscles are all bunched up, but she covers his hand with one of her own anyway, squeezing his fingers.
They drop off Teyla and Carson at the girl's house. Teyla pauses half out the door to carefully touch Rodney's shaved head and whisper to John. When they reach their house, John, having still not said a word, lifts Rodney with the care someone would give to delicate glass that was about to break. Regan dislikes how close to the truth he thinks that is.
There are no 'good nights' or any words at all, just John's back as he goes upstairs. Marion starts after him, but Regan catches her elbow, shaking his head. Everyone is too exhausted for words right now, and there isn't anything to say to make this better anyway.
Marion still stares up the stairs for a long moment before nodding and sighing. She wanders into the living room and Regan detours to the kitchen to get the whiskey before joining her on the couch. Marion is already huddled in one of the thick blankets kept over the back of the couch, but she shifts over to him when he sits down.
They trade the bottle back and forth, and somewhere around the third drink Marion drops her head to his shoulder, her voice low, "Fuck."
Regan nods, reaching up to tangle his fingers in her hair. The strands are a mess, he absently starts smoothing them. She sighs, pulling her knees up and poking him in the chest with one elbow before settling again. She's almost whispering when she continues, "What kind of bastards could do that? He's just a baby. They were all just babies."
Regan stays silent. She's not looking for input, just trying to make the whole thing make sense in her head. He can feel her scowling when she keeps going, "And they're not even going to be punished. Just reassigned." She spits the word like a curse, "Never mind that they fucked all those poor kids up. Our tax dollars at work."
The worst thing is that she's right. Regan has no idea how many kids were under that mountain when they got there or how many had went through before, but he knows the people that did it should be punished. Just like he knows that they won't be. Justice is usually too much to ask, and he learned that long ago.
Marion falls silent, still breathing fast enough for Regan to tell she's agitated. He asks, softly, "You think nightmares tonight?"
"No. He's too tired. Tomorrow." Marion sounds exhausted herself, now, and he holds her tighter. They've both had experience dealing with the hurt and afraid, one way or another. Regan wonders if knowing what to expect makes it worse. "I'm more worried about getting him to eat. You saw how he got after he burnt out his gift before."
Regan nods, because he's thought about that already. Rodney had already had the awkward, lanky build that went with his age, all elbows and knees. He's lost weight he had no business losing. Regan says, into the softness of Marion's hair, "Might be time for John to cook a bit more often."
Marion snorts, the sound colored with amusement. "You're a devious man, Regan Sheppard." He grins, the expression feeling strange and foreign. It's been a long time since anyone smiled in this house. Even now he can't manage it for long.
They're silent for a long time, the small hours of the morning changing to merely the early, the sun creeping up over the horizon. Marion stretches against him, blinking up at the ceiling when she asks, "How are we supposed to make this better?"
There is no answer, so Regan keeps his mouth shut. He's been asking himself the same question since they signed the papers making Rodney legally part of their family. No, since before that. Since he saw the boy, stick thin, his eyes huge and scared, curled up in John's arms. He's still no closer to figuring out what the magic words to make this better are. Regan has a sneaking suspicion that there aren't any.
Regan stands to go make coffee, because there's nothing else for it, and the conversation fades and shifts out of focus.
The next night proves Marion right. Rodney starts screaming not more than an hour after he and John go to bed, no words, just panicked, almost animal, cries. Marion is out of bed before Regan can catch her, hurrying towards the boys' room.
Marion is to the boys' door by the time Regan catches her, grabbing her wrist and raising his finger to his lips. The screams have already stopped. Regan can hear shaky, hitching breathes from behind the door, and, almost below his hearing, whispers.
Marion mouths, "Oh," shifting back away from the door. In the room, Rodney makes a soft, tight sound, and the whispers get momentarily louder, forming words of comfort. Regan tugs on Marion's arm and she nods, stepping back.
There are more nightmares, but this time Marion stays in bed. She curls over into Regan, resting her chin on his shoulder, her voice thick with sleep or anger, "I wish I could give those fuckers what they deserve." Regan kisses the top of her head, squeezing her, because he shares that sentiment.
When Rodney follows Marion out onto the back porch while John and Regan are fixing dinner, she has to work to cover her surprise. It's the farthest she's seen he and John apart since their visit to Rodney's family's home. She's even more surprised when Rodney closes the door, though after a moment's hesitation he reaches out and opens it again, just a crack.
And then he stares down at the ground without saying a thing.
Marion gives him a moment, but aside from crossing his arms tightly across his chest and biting his bottom lip, he doesn't move. Marion carefully sets down the plates she'd been carrying out to set the picnic table with, keying her voice low and gentle when she speaks, "Rodney? Is everything—" she almost finishes with 'okay', and catches herself with a grimace, rephrasing, "Did you want to talk about something?"
For a moment she thinks he won't speak, but then he takes a deep breath, visibly marshalling himself. He doesn't look up when he speaks, spitting the words out quickly, "I—I keep waking John up. Is there something, a pill, something to make me sleep?" He winces at the end of the words, still staring pointedly at the ground.
Marion feels something in her chest burn, restraining the urge to just reach out and grab him. Sometimes he startles when grabbed unexpectedly, and, when he does, the shadows of fear and anger that he's repressing so strongly all flash to the surface. Marion speaks, instead, asking a question she already knows the answer to in an attempt to get him to talk, "Are you having trouble falling asleep?"
Rodney curls his shoulders over a little further, and Marion very nearly calls for John. But Rodney cornered her one-on-one for a reason, so she restrains herself. When he speaks the words are almost a whisper, "No. I. I'm tired a lot. But I have—" he cuts himself off, uncrossing his arms so that he can rub at his neck, two of his fingers back and forth over the same spot, "—dreams. They wake me up."
Apparently this is a night for asking questions with obvious answers, "Have you tried talking about them?"
Rodney looks up at her, finally, his face twisted up with too many emotions for her to detangle. She thinks that he'll cut the conversation off now, pull back into himself, but he surprises her by speaking, the words forced awkwardly out of his throat, "I can't. It's bad. I don't want—" he twists his head, casting a single longing look towards the kitchen. When he looks back, his eyes are flat, "John shouldn't have to know about the kinds of things in my dreams."
A chill climbs Marion's spine, the one she feels every time she's reminded of just how damaged Rodney came back to them. She hates the people that did this to him, that gave him this empty, icy look. She fears how often he falls back on it.
Marion says, carefully, "I think he wants to know."
For a moment Rodney just stares at her, blue eyes blank, and then he blinks, looking away. He repeats, his voice distant and small, "It's bad. Some of the things. They're bad." He's rubbing his neck again, and Marion can't take it anymore. She steps forward slowly, carefully placing a hand on his shoulder, not surprised when he flinches.
"He wants to know anyway, Rodney." Marion has to move her head to the side to meet his eyes, and as empty as his eyes were earlier, they're equally full now. The pain there is every bit as bad as the chilliness, makes her just as angry.
Rodney nods jerkily after a moment, and Marion expects him to pull back. She is completely unprepared for him to step towards her, one of his arms coming up to hesitantly wrap around her back. Marion has to squeeze her eyes shut, folding her arms around his skinny back, drawing him closer, careful not to pull or force.
Rodney lets out a shuddering breath, his heart racing behind his ribs, his hand fisting in the back of Marion's shirt. Marion shushes him softly, feeling the tremble in his body, letting him keep his face hidden against her shoulder.
Over Rodney's shoulder, Regan pokes his head out the back door, mouth open, and Marion shakes her head as firmly as she can. By now Regan knows what she's thinking almost before she does, and he ducks back into the house. She hears him make up an excuse, some other dish they need to whip together, John's softer protests barely audible.
When Rodney pulls back after a long moment, Marion is most surprised to find that he hasn't been crying. His cheeks are dry, and he rubs at his nose, not managing to meet her eyes. She says, squeezing his narrow shoulder one last time, "We're not going to let anything happen to you now, okay?"
Rodney looks towards the kitchen again, this time a slight smile twitching up one corner of his mouth.
::go to 'Junior Jumble' —>::
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