"Well Rodney!" Carson's smile was fake, strained, and he was trying to sound joyful. Really he was just waiting. "Glad to see you woke up again" He set about fussing over his friend, working his voodoo magic. Rodney didn't notice. He couldn't even bring himself to look at the doctor. He was so tired.
Tired of the words, the "We'll get you out of this", the "Don't worry about it, it going to be fine" and then, the completely pointless comments, as if nothing had happened, pretending he was his old self. "The mess has blue jello today", "Rodney beat me up in sparring again", "Where's that quick wit gone then?"
Tired of the looks. The looks that bastardised the kind words, which infiltrated them with whispers of "I don't want to leave you" and "Hang in there" and "You can't die..."
Rodney did not like the looks. He wanted to see a real smile again, before he died.
He sighed sadly. He lifted up his hand in front of him, inspecting it. It was withered, the bones and ligaments straining out behind his loose skin. He flexed his fingers, trying to make a full fist. He was too weak. He let his hand drop.
Until he came to Pegasus, Rodney had never spared a thought for youth – unless it was to damn children in general – he had never feared that he would run out of it. He never worried about age catching up with him before he got all of his life dreams done. He never fretted that he would be old and withered before he knew it. He had never feared that his own life had been taken away from him.
His own life.
He had had his youth stolen from him. He had lain there, on the floor, beaten and broken, praying that if he stayed still, the wraith walking around drinking up the last of the survivors would miss him, would move on.
And when a wraith's eyes had landed on him, he had prayed and babbled about how bitter his life would probably taste.
And he had screamed, writhing in pain, as the wraith had jammed his hand onto his chest, as he felt the wound opening up, and felt his body wilt around him, abandoning him, giving all of himself to that monster.
Sheppard had arrived to save the day. He had killed the wraith. Rodney had felt that that was a waste, like his life had been taken away and then immediately killed.
But that doesn't mean he wasn't venomously pleased.
Rodney had simply lain on the floor, too tired to move. He didn't remember the trip back.
Carson had sad that he was now approximately 85. Rodney had bitten back the response that he was only a day older. Instead he had just nodded weakly.
John had made jokes. He had commented about how Rodney would have more time to practise chess, and that John would still beat him. He had joked about how he still expected him to keep in shape for missions. Rodney had not replied. He was too tired, his senses too dulled to think of comebacks. John had thought he was silently being asked to leave.
For once in his life, he had actually asked John to stay.
John had gone sometime in the night, Rodney assumed. He wasn't by his bed anymore, and neither was Teyla, Ronon, Elizabeth or Radek.
"You sent them away" his voice was weak and soft, but he didn't falter like he had the first time. He refused to notice anything.
"Aye, I did" Beckett sighed "I'm sorry Rodney, but they need sleep to" Carson looked down sadly.
"Good" Rodney said "that's good" I'm tired of their pity. He left the words unsaid. Carson had only smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder, before walking away to watch over another patient.
A patient who could be healed.
Because Rodney had seen it. Since about a week ago, they had stopped telling him that they were getting closer. They had stopped telling him that it was going to be okay. They had stopped draining blood. They had stopped doing tests.
It was that time. It was soon. All they were doing was making him comfy.
Rodney didn't want to be "comfy". Rodney wanted to be alive.
Rodney wanted to live so much.
He wanted to go to the mainland and fail abysmally at surfing, fall over, hurt himself, moan about it continuously and constantly make jibes at John as he failed just as much, while waiting on the beach with something which he would insist is broken.
He wanted to send out a communal email saying "I'm going to the mess hall, in case anyone is interested", Half heartedly pretending that someone would care, and then finding that everyone is there, waiting for him, eating their own meals, all insisting they were there anyway. He would brush off their comments, get his own meal and they would extend their lunch break as long as they can, laughing together, still sitting there when the hall was completely empty.
He wanted to gang up on John with Ronon about how insanely stupid golf was, and end up making a hapless blunder and turning the large man's wrath onto him.
He wanted to run madly across the landscape, shouting blind insults at someone, telling them that this was all their fault. He wanted to be in the heat of battle again. Anything was better than how he was now. He wanted to run.
He wanted to run again.
He wanted to sit outside on the pier and look up at the stars, drinking some beer in someone else's coat, his friend braving the cold so that he didn't have to.
He wanted to sit at night, trying to get to sleep, only to get woken up suddenly from a knock on the door, and have John tell him that there was a problem. He wanted to come through for them again; he wanted to save the day one last time.
One last time.
He wanted to get all of his friends in his room, and he wanted to look them in their eyes, and say all the kind words he had never said.
He wanted to walk around the city, running his hands over the consoles, wondering what secrets they hold. He wanted to run excitedly around, discovering, that shine in his friend's eyes that he knew he was reflecting back in full force.
He wanted to lie down at night, and know that he would get up again the next morning, just as alive.
He wanted to get up, get in the shower, grope madly around for the coffee machine, and not see the poignancy of it.
He wanted to spend some time with his friends, laughing together, for whatever reason.
He wanted to make sure that they would never forget him.
He wanted to take a walk in an abandoned part of the city, laughing with them, watching the city dutifully light up as they walked past, welcoming them, then turning off after they leave, saying goodbye. He wanted to say it back to the lights, to Atlantis, the closest he ever had to a real, complete home.
He wanted to say that word to his friends again.
He wanted to say goodbye.
But he couldn't.
And because of it, Rodney was going to live his worst fear - he was going to die alone.
Alone, just like he had always been.
It was dark next time he woke up. There was no one there again. He didn't move when he woke up, just opening his eyes sluggishly. He wandered what it was that woke him up. He didn't normally wake up very easily anymore.
Then he heard it – it was whispering to him. In the slowly decreasing heart rate, in the dullness of his senses, in the darkness, slowly drifting up around him. It was whispering.
It is time.
He sighed calmly
Thank you for waking me. He whispered back.
He had been waiting for this. He reached sideways, his arm barely answering his will. He could see it, sitting on his desk. He had to be able to reach it. It was important to him. Finally, he let his hand drop, only staring at the small headpiece.
He had to reach it.
He couldn't not reach it. He lifted his arm again. He shook, and it hurt.
He couldn't stop. He would not be alone.
He had no energy left. He was on borrowed time.
He grasped the radio. He had done it. Silently, he placed it in his ear.
"Guys..." He whispered. Few people would have their earpieces in at this time anyway. He knew they would. He had asked them.
His heart fluttered. It hurt his chest. The machine beside him beeped incessantly, and Carson was suddenly beside his bed.
"Hey Rodney" He whispered. "Are you okay? You need any help?" Rodney moved his head slowly, looking into his friends eyes. He saw the fear, and the sadness.
"There's nothing you can do to help anymore." He said. Carson dropped his gaze, eyes shining. Rodney inched his hand towards his friend's "I don't mind. No matter what you do – don't blame me. I'm counting on you to stay strong. They need your voodoo."
"Don't talk like that Rodney. You have got to hold on. Rodney?" Rodney felt himself slipping "Rodney!" He heard the shout again, and some thought worked its way through his mind. No He thought – I have to wait for them.
"I'm holding on" He whispered, as he heard footsteps run into the infirmary, three sets. They must have met up on the way. "You heard me" He said. John, Teyla and Ronon walked to the edge of his bed.
"Of course we did. What do you need?" John said, glancing up at Carson. Carson's hand was still in Rodney's, and he still wasn't looking up.
"I need to say something"
"Come one little guy" Ronon growled "Don't start thinking like that"
"You can all tell me off in the morning" Rodney whispered, looking into their eyes. They understood. "I'll wait for you". He held out his hand towards the three of them. All three placed their hands on his. Rodney sighed raggedly. "I have not been the nicest person in the world."He began. He stopped any one butting in. "I have stepped past the line; I have made some bad choices. I never said sorry. But I want you to know anyway." He closed his eyes "I'm sorry, for everything." A tear escaped his eyes "But more important than the saying sorry, I want to say something else. I want to say thank you. I get to be with my family when it happens. I get to hold your hands. I get to know you're here." He looked at all of them "I can say that don't want to leave you" His voice cracked. "I'm not embarrassed to say I'm scared. I am not a hero. I don't want to die." Another tear fell down his face He closed his eyes. "But I'm happy enough, 'cause you're here to see me off, at least"
"Rodney, you can't let go"
"I'm still holding on." Rodney squeezed the hands in his. "But..."
His heart heaved again.
"Rodney!" Rodney grasped the doctor's hand
"Don't do anything." He looked his friend, pleading "Just let it be."
It is time to go now
It was still there, still whispering.
As the darkness crept around him, soft wings embracing him, he remembered that there was something else he had wanted to say.
There was a word.
"Goodbye." And he breathed out, and couldn't breathe in again. His heart relaxed. The darkness took him.
And he was flying.
He had not been alone.