Thanks for all your comments. This is the final chapter.
Rodney walked the halls until daylight. The corridors were busier now, so he kept his head down as he walked, pretending to be occupied, trying to avoid anyone's overly perceptive gaze.
Passing one person, he felt her stop, and then turn, keeping pace with him as he moved. After a moment, he glanced over at her. It was Anita. Of course.
Sotto voice, so that others in the hall wouldn't hear, Rodney said, "You're not here."
"Actually, I am."
Rodney stopped, shocked into silence. The thing had spoken. Great. This was definitely psychosis, or whatever, ratcheting up a level. He put his hands on his hips and glanced up and down the corridor. "What do you want?"
Anita smiled, but it was not a nice smile. "I want to die in my bed at age ninety, surrounded by family and friends." She shrugged. "I guess you can't always get what you want."
"Why are you here?" Rodney ghosted a smile at a person who was passing, who gave him a look of alarm in return but kept moving.
"To remind you of who you are."
Rodney, voice raised, asked, "And who, exactly, am I?" He felt a touch on his shoulder and jerked around sharply.
"You all right there, Rodney?" Carson asked, clearly concerned.
Rodney nodded crisply and hurried away.
x-x Rodney found himself sitting on his bedroom floor, his back to his door. He had no idea how long he'd been there, but it was nighttime again. Or maybe still.
Something was definitely wrong. He needed help. He stood, stiff from sitting on the floor, and he felt a gentle hand at his elbow. Anita smiled at him, her eyes cold.
"Why are you here?" he asked her, almost afraid of the answer.
"I'd actually like to ask you that same question," she replied, sitting beside him as he settled on the bed. She turned and faced him, crossing her legs beneath her. "Why are you still here?" She looked right at him, her eyes burning. "Do you ever wonder why it was them, and not you?"
"Who?" Rodney asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
"Grodin. Dumais. Me -"
"Enough," Rodney said sharply, interrupting.
Anita leaned forward, closing the distance between them. "Don't you ever wonder why it was us, and not you?" She smiled and added, "Because it should have been you."
Rodney scrambled backwards until his back slammed against the wall, then he pushed himself away from the bed and out the door.
He walked quickly down the hallway, ignoring the curious glances. He crashed into someone, he wasn't sure, he thought it was John, but he kept moving. He was heading towards...He didn't know where. Out. Then Anita was beside him, keeping pace. Rodney kept his head down. "Leave me alone."
"I can't," Anita replied from beside him. "You won't let me."
Then Rodney was out the door and on the balcony. He stooped and jammed the door controls, then stepped to the edge and stared down into the black water. Night was around him, warm, damp ocean air on his cheeks. He took a deep breath to try to calm himself.
Anita's voice came from beside him, gentle this time. "You can't keep living with all this pain."
He shook his head.
She whispered, "You know what you have to do."
Rodney was sitting on the balcony wall, staring down at the water. He kept his back to the door and let his feet dangle gently over the edge. His hands clenched the rail. He was shaking, but that was okay. It would soon be over. And at least Anita was gone now; she'd disappeared a few minutes ago.
He shifted slightly on the wall and heard a voice, soft, behind him. "Rodney."
Rodney glanced in John's direction before returning his gaze to the waves. "Bet the water's pretty warm right now."
John spoke again, sounding out of breath. "Rodney, I need for you to get down."
"Listen, Rodney. This isn't you," John said, sounding anxious and hurried. "What you're seeing and feeling, it isn't -"
Rodney interrupted. "I know. She's trying to show me."
Rodney nodded. "What I'm supposed to do." He looked over his shoulder, spotting Carson's concerned face behind John. He smiled in greeting, then looked back at John. "How I can make it right."
John took a slow step forward. "This won't make it right."
Rodney saw movement behind John and caught a glimpse of Elizabeth. He could hear Carson speaking quickly to her.
Whispered conversations. They weren't important. He looked back at the water.
John's voice came again, closer now. "Rodney, you do have the power to make things right, to make amends. But if you...if you die now, then you'll lose that chance."
He could hear John moving closer and he tensed. He was ready, and it would be so easy. He just had to let go. He leaned forward.
He felt a gentle hand on his arm, and all the tension flowed out of him.
"Rodney, come inside," John said.
Rodney closed his eyes and let himself be pulled back onto the balcony.
Rodney passed Carson and Elizabeth, and then some marines, but he refused to look up, instead staring at his own feet and letting John lead him by the arm. He let them put him in a wheelchair, and still he didn't look up.
John squatted in his line of sight. Rodney refused to look him in the eye, instead gazing over John's shoulder, at his hair, anywhere but his eyes.
"Could you give us a minute?" John asked, briefly looking up at the others. Once they moved away, he said, "This isn't you, none of this. Carson took another look at your blood work from the last mission. Back on that planet, you were drugged somehow. It's making you see things that aren't there, feel things that aren't -"
Rodney, remembering his dream, reached a hand up to his neck. He blinked and squinted to see past John. "Is it snowing?" he asked, staring out the window. Rodney looked directly at John. "We've been here two years. It's never snowed before." He stood up and stepped back onto the balcony, John shooing the others away as he followed.
Rodney looked up at the night sky and let the flakes come down and touch his nose, his eyelashes. For the first time in days, he almost felt peaceful.
"So, this was from a drug?" Rodney asked, his voice shaking.
"Carson said it should wear off," John replied, his voice low.
Rodney looked at John. "Hell of a thing."
John nodded, and they stood and watched the snow.
I'd love to hear your comments, so please let me know what you thought of this!