Title: The Sound of Music
Rating: K+ -- cause I use "damn"... I think that's all...
Spoilers: None in particular, but it's at the beginning of season four.
Diclaimer: Don't own Stargate: Atlantis. I only love it.
A/N: So after a six day marathon and quite a few days of picking through fanfiction and finding the best McShep Friendship fics I possibly could, I decided to write a Rodney fic. :) it was originally going to be more about them, but somewhere along the lines, I decided to go with a version of his childhood. The first part of this story was going be the middle, but when I wrote it down I decided to keep it as the beginning... As for his piano teachers name: I couldn't remember what it was! (didn't he say it in last weeks episode??) I even looked it up online, but I got zilch... so sorry if that's off.
anywho: this is my first SG:A fic, and I'm really hoping I got everyone in character. (what little you see of them. :P) So please enjoy and leave me some feedback, pretty please!
The Sound of Music:
Ebony and Ivory, Living in Not-So-Perfect Harmony
"Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness."
-Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name
"Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you."
- Elbert Hubard
Running his fingers along the smooth ivory of the keys, Rodney could feel old memories rise to his conscious.
The keys feel authentically like spruce. He can remember the same feeling from when he was a child. He can still remember the pride that would swell up inside of him when visitors came over and plainly showed their amazement towards the impressive instrument. He was always the one to tell them first that it was an antique, made from real spruce and ivory, not one of those cheap imitations.
His family was never very well off. They weren't rich (like Sheppard) but they weren't impoverished, either. (like Zelenka) Everything else in the house was bought on the working man salary of his father and the generous check his mother managed to drag in.
His father was a white-collar, cubicle worker. Not someone who was of any importance at all, to the company, after all, it wasn't as if there was a short of losers with nothing more than a high school diploma and a knocked up not-quite-wife,-not-quite-girlfriend-either. He was also someone who would not have made enough money to feed himself, let alone his family, if it weren't for the hours of over time he put in. Rodney can remember his mother telling him stories, years after the fact, about everything his father had missed when Rodney was a baby, just so he could get food on the table. Now Rodney thinks his motives were different. After all, the longer you can stay away from the family you don't want, the better, right?
His mother didn't work the first few years after Meredith Rodney Mckay-Sampson was born. (They hadn't married, yet.) She stayed home and took care of the house and the baby, like any good housewife. Or at least that's what his father had thought. When Rodney was four, his mother dubbed him old enough to stay home alone. (His safety was not one of his parents' major concerns.) She took a job as a nanny for a rich family that lived 40 minutes away by bus.
It was not a stretch to say she loved their child more than her own. Maybe because wiping its ass got her a good pair of shoes instead of just left-over stretch marks.
Maybe spending his time alone all day, fending for himself is the reason for his abrasive personality. (It's definitely the reason he loves TV Dinners so much.) Either way, four years later, he was no longer alone. Jean Rachell Mckay-Sampson was born December 17, 1976. (They still weren't married) To say his parents were exponentially more thrilled to see a cute baby girl pop out of his mother, rather than himself was an understatement at its best. (It was rather obvious that they had wanted a girl, because no matter how you shake it, Meredith just isn't a boy's name.) The birth of his little sister seemed to kick his parents into gear, and the too-young couple finally decided to move out of the small, dingy apartment they had been living in for all of Rodney's known years. Scrounging together all the money they had managed to not spend (whether it be on shoes or beer) they bought a quant little house somewhere in the mind-numbingly mundane suburbs of Canada. They even decided to marry, firmly putting all that "Sampson nonsense" behind them. (Even though Rodney had always liked his mother's maiden name.)
They went all out with Jeannie. They bought her a crib, all the toys she wanted, books she couldn't even read, and a plethora of other items unimportant to her. (Considering all she was ever interested in doing was drooling at walls and laughing for no reason.)
At the time, his parents really paid no mind to him. Sometimes remembering to feed him and nodding robotically every time he spoke, kind of like having a house plant. You only remember to water it when someone points it out to you. So it wasn't surprising they didn't notice the straight A's he brought home from school, let alone the black eyes.
His grandparents (on both sides) had long since abandoned his parents, not approving of how young they were. But now, now that they had bought a house, and now that Jeannie was born, they had come back around, slowly at first; a Christmas card or two; A call for birthdays. Eventually they swung around almost every week, like those dotting grandparents you see in movies and on TV, almost as if the past eight years had never happened.
When, two years later, his grandmother on his mother's side died of bronchitis, there was a surprising lack of grief from his mother. (He seems to remember the phrases "finally!" and "Dusty, old witch" being tossed around a lot that week.) Unfortunately for his mother the only thing she had left behind for her in her will was a piano. The piano was an antique that had been in the family for generations; old, authentic, nostalgic, and expensive. He remembers clearly that his mother had almost immediately tried to sell it. (She offered a tantalizing deal to the delivery man) But her father had disapproved of it, saying it was a family heirloom and that she should treasure it and such.
It ended up in the basement.
Which was just as well: had it been in the general vicinity of Jeannie at the time, authentic or not, the terrible-twos can make anything worthless. As it were, it stayed in relative peace for a few months before Rodney decided to tinker with it. He had long since been 'tinkering' with things around the house. Taking them apart, figuring out how they worked, putting them back together; he'd been doing it for years. He'd learned early on that some things you weren't allowed to tinker with, though. (Especially when Dad came home drunk.)
He'd never really seen a piano before, not in real life. He'd only seen this one as it passed him by while he played with Jeannie in the living room, it going down stares to its seemingly final resting place. So when he comes to stand in front of it and the bright sunlight that's filtering in through the small window near the roof of the room shines down on it illuminating it as if it's some gift from God, he reasons with himself that it's just the rush of discovering something new that makes his hands shake, not the ridiculous thought that it was stunningly beautiful. That would be some type of romantic thought. And romantic stuff was for girls.
Rodney remembers staying down there for hours that day, playing with the keys, listening to the sounds they made, making songs up, and playing songs he could remember, simply by ear. His mother had been out with Jeannie at the grocery store, his father at work, and Rodney hadn't noticed the passing of time so he starts when he pauses in the middle of 'Silent Night' and looks to the stairs to see his mother there, with a look on her face he still can't quite place. But he remembers liking it.
'Where did you learn to play that, Meredith?' she asked. She always called him Meredith, never Mer or Rodney or Rod.
He felt guilty for a minute, her voice wasn't accusatory but Rodney wasn't sure if he was even allowed down here.
'I didn't. I was just playing around… I'm sorry.' The last part was such a natural thing to say those days, with everything he did seeming to be wrong.
She's silent for a long time. She doesn't say anything, or move, and her face still doesn't change. When Rodney goes past nervous almost in to silent hysteria, his mother finally turns around and starts up the stairs with a quiet 'Lunch is ready.' thrown over her shoulder. Rodney moves so fast out of the basement he's sure he ripped a hole in the space-time continuum.
Two days later, Rodney wakes to find the piano in the living room, back facing a window so that the light shining in gives it that ethereal glow again. It's polished and cleaned, and the thin layer of dust it had accumulated is gone, and it sits in the living room looking for all intents and purposes as if it'd been there since time began.
Rodney was so proficient with the piano that he taught himself how to play it. At the time, he didn't think he needed a piano teacher (even then he was very ego-centered) but he could hear his mother at night, fighting with his father about getting him lessons. It was the first time his mother had ever fought to get him something, and suddenly not only did Rodney want a piano teacher, he needed one. And so, not a week later, Mrs. Haley came to their house. He didn't like her from the beginning. (Really, what kind of person has a first name for a last name?) She was old, and bitter, and smelled kind of like brussel sprouts, even though Rodney didn't see her eat a vegetable the entire year he knew her. (It was all meat and potatoes for her, literally.)
She was the one that would tell him he was too clinical. Not emotionally invested enough for the piano. That was the reason he quit. And with the recent death of his grandfather, his mother sold the piano.
And Rodney went to science.
But now, here on this desolate little world, that had not-so-recently been culled by the Wraith, he felt something when he touched that piano. It was nostalgic in an odd way.
He and the rest of the team had arrived on P3M-677 as a routine check-in of near-by planets. With the recent relocation of Atlantis they were required to make new 'friends'. It had been established as a now uninhibited planet, but they were sent in to check anyway. They arrived in the main city, which wasn't far from the 'gate, to a site of depressing demolish. The buildings were crumbling, but not destroyed. A missing door, broken windows, gaping holes; none were uncommon in the city. Sheppard ordered the team to split up to search the area.
It had been an hour since then, and when Rodney had been beginning to tire of the depressing surroundings he had found it. Walking down what appeared to be a side street, which was really just a dirt road, he found lots of buildings that seemed to be in coordination with each other; it was a school he found out. Unlike ones back on earth, they were built in rows on the side of the street like houses would be. He searched through all the buildings, but most were completely destroyed, by Wraith darts no doubt. He passed by a particularly large building, one that he assumed had had large double doors that were no longer there. From the outside, large windows were visibly set up all around the room. Rodney made his way through what used to be the doorway to an empty room. Or mostly empty.
Slightly to the right of the middle of the room stood a large Grand Piano, not unlike the one he'd played as a boy.
Rubble from parts of the wall lay in heaps on the floor, and broken glass from the large windows was also strewn about, but aside from that, there appeared to be nothing else in the stone room but the piano. The light from the open windows shone through straight onto the piano, giving it the same ethereal glow his grandmothers' had had in the basement. The dust particles in the air around it seemed the same even. It hadn't been visible to him from the door, he realizes, and he wonders if it had, if he would have even come into the room.
It steps closer to it, but does so slowly. He can see the thin layer of dust on it, just like it had on it in the basement. It was staggering, the resemblance it brought on. For a minute Rodney wondered if what he was seeing was some type of hallucination, but there was a difference. Where the basement of his house had had a warm, sepia-like look to it, this building was cold, with blue-gray tones, but yet wasn't uninviting. He steps closer yet and he's close enough to touch it.
Running his fingers along the smooth ivory of the keys, Rodney could feel old memories rise to his conscious.
The keys feel authentically like spruce. He can remember the same feeling from when he was a child. He thinks fleetingly of what the tree would look like in this galaxy, this spruce-like tree. As he presses down on one of the keys (Aflat, his mind supplies.)he is amazed to find that it is still in tune. (Or, in tune to him; here what's 'in tune' could be completely different, he supposes.) Still standing, he presses down on three keys, and then plays them separately.
The sound vibrates through him and suddenly he feels like he's been reunited with something he lost and has missed for a long time, except that he hasn't missed the piano; has he?
Continuing to play the three notes at the same tempo, he mulls this over in his mind, finally coming to the conclusion that, of course he didn't, he was just being nostalgic.
Somewhere along the lines, his 'nostalgia' had led him to sit on the bench placed neatly in front of the piano. His back facing the door, he unclips his P-90 from his tac vest and rests it on the space next to him. He stops the three note song, and thinks back to his lessons. He sits how instructed to by Mrs. Haley, without conscious thought. (Sit up straight, fingers here, here, and here…) He thinks for a minute, trying to decide on what he should play. It would be the first time he's played something in almost 30 years. For some reason the only song that comes to his mind is Carry on My Wayward Son.
"Kansas?" he asks himself with a scoff, but he's already started playing, deducing the notes by ear. For some reason the thought that Sheppard would appreciate it strikes him and he chuckles.
He doesn't know how long he's been playing the piano (long since moving on from Kansas songs.) but by the time he's half-way through Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata he becomes aware of noises he hadn't noticed before. Stopping short, he turns around to meet the gazes of his teammates. Ronon, Teyla, and Sheppard stand just past the doorway looking as if they'd been there for awhile.
Suddenly Rodney feels embarrassed, but more than anything, he feels like he's ten years old again, in that damn basement with his mother.
He clears his throat and tries to figure out if the heat he feels rising to his face is visible from where they're standing before saying, in a clearly agitated tone, "Why didn't you tell me you were here? I would have stopped…" he was sure he had planned for a far more viscous and brow-beating tirade, but for some reason that's all he can squeeze past his suddenly dry throat.
It's silent for a while, and Rodney tries to gauge their reactions. Teyla opens her mouth as if to say something, then looks uncertain and closes it again. Her eyes move from his own to the floor and she slightly puckers her lips out, like she does when she's thinking. Ronon seems the same as always: somehow unemotional and entirely too emotional all at the same time. Sheppard doesn't break eye contact when Rodney looks at him, but the look on his face make Rodney look away.
It was the same one his mother wore when she caught him the basement. He'll wonder incessantly what it means, he knows that much.
"That was nice." Always straight to the point, Ronon looks at him with that look that Rodney has put in the 'You're kind of annoying sometimes, but I'm getting used to it, and I still count you as a friend' column. Rodney decides the nice warm feeling in his chest is heart burn, nothing else.
Ronon nods, as if confirming with himself that, yes, his words were rather wise and met the standards he'd set, then turns and walks out of the empty doorway, somehow managing to make leaving them behind not rude.
One side of Teyla's mouth quirks up as she watches him leave out of the corner of her eye. She turns her gaze back to Rodney and her mouth is engulfed by one of her all-out, heart-warming smiles, the ones that make you think she would make a good big sister, as she speaks in that ever calm and polite voice of her's.
"Yes, Rodney, that was quite beautiful." Just because that warm feeling has spread throughout his limbs, doesn't mean it's not heart burn. Her smile is now accompanied by the furrowing of eyebrows as she asks, "Do you have instruments such as this on Earth?"
"Yes, exactly like this. It's strange, I've never seen anything so similar." He smiles indulgently back at her, and she nods her head understandingly.
"I am… surprised that you would know how to play such a thing." She says it cautiously, like she is afraid to insult him with the wrong words.
He smiles ruefully, and looks from her eyes back down to the keys, running his hand over them lightly. "I learned when I was a kid."
She seems to notice the mood swing, and nods her head again, and Rodney can almost see her smiling sympathetically (yep, definitely big sister material) and he can see her turn her head to Sheppard out of the corner of his eye. Sheppard hasn't changed his expression, and Rodney's not sure how to react. He can see a silent conversation between the two before Teyla turns to follow Ronon's lead outside. She stops in the door way and looks back over her shoulder, informing them that they'd be waiting back at the 'jumper.
It's silent for a while, neither men talking. Rodney is again reminded of the day in the basement with his mother, and he wonders why. John Sheppard was more a brother than anything else, and Rodney would never compare him to being a mother (though, he had a tendency to be mother-hen-ish) so there was no justifiable reason to feel like he was going to be scolded for touching grandma's piano.
"I got lessons when I was a kid." Sheppard says suddenly. His stance is more relaxed now. Like he had been holding his breath and suddenly let it out. "I hated it."
Rodney looks slightly surprised, then smiles. "Me too."
That was all. Suddenly with that, everything was okay, no more tense Colonels, no more nervous tics, and no more troubled memories.
Rodney picks up his P-90 and makes his way to Sheppard's side. The entire walk to the 'jumper they talk about piano teachers that smell like brussel sprouts, and recitals, and 'never getting to learn the cool songs', and everything that comes with the camaraderie that they shared. But for some reason, the memories that had hurt before when thought of (Anyone can play the pee-an-a, boy. It takes real skill to make it sing.) no longer did. It felt good to say things, and laugh about them. (Really? Mine just said I sucked…) Rodney's sure the warm feeling that's encompassed him won't fade for days, and he's maybe more than okay with that.
And when, two days later, Rodney finds the Pegasus Galaxy version of a Grand Piano sitting in an empty room in Atlantis, maybe he's okay with that too.
Sorry to any Ronon fans who were impressed by his blatant abscense, but i figure he wouldn't have much to say in that situation. :) And with John and Rodney, I would like to quote the lovely Martin Gero when he said something like "it's those looks they give each other that say more than the actual dialogue." Very true. That's why you gotta love Joe and David.
This story has the longest sub-title ever! haha...
Anywho, leave a review for me please! I'd love you forever if you did...
PS: Does anyone else have trouble with formatting with Word 2007 to ff dot net? it splits up my paragraphs and leaves boxes where my page breaks are, it's flippin annoying...