Forever End

Chapter Eighteen

The End

It's funny, isn't it? That if you repeat the lie enough, you begin to believe it yourself.

When people asked Rodney, "How are you doing?" "Are you in pain?" "Is there anything I can do?"

And he answered the same, because he was tired and worried and couldn't seem to think of anything else.

"I'm Okay."

I'm Okay.

I'm Okay.

I'm Okay.

"No, really, I'm Okay."

And it was such a blatant lie, but it passed so easily from his lips. The smiles were harder, he would work to push his face up, to crinkle his eyes at the corners and bare his teeth. Sometimes, when he was so exhausted he could barely think, he suspected he more sneered than anything else. But no one ever commented on it.

Just as well.

Maybe.

Maybe he wished they would.

Rodney suspected he was an eccedentesiast. Someone who fakes a smile. He was a liar, too.

And as hard as it was to pretend, he kind of preferred to lie than to admit the truth. That he remembered everything, that he could still feel the slow burn of guilt and agony and grief whenever he thought about Ladon. The fear and horror when he thought of Kolya. The regret and shame when he thought of Sheppard.

Protector, enemy, friend. Rodney felt unworthy of all three. For the first time in his life he felt unimportant. Useless.

The world was moving around him, or maybe he was the one moving? Rodney wasn't quiet sure. Pain muffled his thoughts, made it hard to concentrate. He drew in each stuttered breath after another and attempted to ground himself in the situation.

He was walking, staggering, down one of the corridors that lead to the main control room. There was something hard and cold pressed into his back, a gun. And holding the gun, was Kolya.

"I don't understand," He found himself saying. "Why is killing me so important? Why should revenge mean this much to anyone?"

Kolya chuckled dryly. "You are not a man of battle, Doctor McKay, if you do not understand."

And that wasn't really an answer, but Rodney said nothing more. He didn't understand revenge, didn't see the allure of killing someone, couldn't imagine it making him feel any better. He just didn't have it in him.

The 'gate room was not crowded, but the few people manning the controls fell silent and still when Rodney, tailed closely by Kolya, took the stairs and came close. There was no one on Atlantis who didn't know Kolya, who didn't know what he'd done, and so it was no surprise when hands flew to headsets and quiet, sharp words were spoken, almost as one.

"Colonel Sheppard to Control room, immediately."

"Weir, there's a problem."

"Emergency in the 'gate room, assistance required."

Rodney flinched; Kolya was pressing the gun into his back, digging into his already aching muscles. He hunched forward and eyed his own, bare feet.

"You will dial this address and allow Doctor McKay here and myself to go throw, unhurt." Kolya's voice was deadly quiet.

Rodney watched the tech's shift restlessly, indecisive. Chuck's gaze flickered back and forth.

"I can't allow you to harm McKay in any way." He finally said, voice steady.

Rodney opened his mouth to say something, anything, because the pressure at his back disappeared for a moment, there was a loud bang by his ear, deafening him, and he saw Chuck flip backward on his chair, watched him land gracelessly on the floor.

The ringing filled the silence, and then distant shouts and screams, hands twitching toward headsets and fingers quivering in anxiety. Rodney stared at Chuck as the other man pressed already stained hands against his shoulder.

"Do it, now, or I will shoot Doctor McKay." Kolya's voice sounded like a buzzing in his ear.

He shuddered.

People flew, there was the chevrons locking, the strangely quiet whoosh of the wormhole engaging. The crackle of gold as the powerful iris was not removed. And Rodney felt panic seize him, so swiftly that his legs buckled, sent him to the ground. He wavered, knees aching from the fall, eyes fluttering.

He didn't want to go through the Stargate. He didn't want to go anywhere with Kolya.

He didn't wan to die.

When he looked up, Sheppard was standing there, as if he'd appeared out of thin air. Rodney looked back down and clutching his hands to his aching ribs. Could feel that even the slightest pressure against the stitches marching across his skin hurt like hell.

Without the gun at his back, Rodney felt like he could breathe, because the gun was pressed into the back of his head. And being shot in the head was easier than in the back. He would die fast, this way.

And then he was on the ground, staring at his hands from inches away. He didn't remember how he got there, only that he was.

Rodney's head felt funny, light, as if he were full of helium and it was only his sweaty hands anchored into the ground that kept him from floating away.

Hands on his back, dragging him back and away from the strange puddle of red that had been forming between his hands, reaching out toward his fingers. He fell back, and the hands latched onto his arms, holding him in place.

He realized he couldn't hear. There was a static in his ears, spinning in his head. A whirlwind of nothing-ness that was almost deafening. Rodney looked up and blinked. Kolya was there, but so was Sheppard. Their mouths were moving, Sheppard's curled into an angry sneer, his P-90 was trained on the taller man. Kolya has his own gun, Rodney couldn't see his face.

Everything seemed so still and slow.

Rodney drew in a deep breath, but oddly, it still wasn't enough air to fill his lungs. He struggled. He felt empty. Someone was rubbing quick circles over his chest. Their hands were red, left a stain on his clothes. He tried to push the hand away and felt a rumble against his back. Speaking, maybe.

Movement. He looked up in time to see Sheppard stagger back clutching his arm even as he tried to raise his gun again.

He must have fired, because the body behind Rodney jerked violently, curled around Rodney protectively and held him tight.

Rodney was just trying to breathe.

Kolya fell. Just…fell.

One moment he stood. Stood tall and imposing, and the next he was down, landing somewhere by Rodney's feet.

And all he could hear was the static.

People were everywhere. Crowding. Moving. Kicking the gun out of Kolya's lifeless hand and surrounding Sheppard.

The body behind Rodney shifted and moved away and Rodney tipped sideway, unable to keep himself upright. He felt so light and weak and hollow. His cheek slid against the smooth floor. He stared at the space where Kolya must have been, where people swarmed like hungry scavengers to obscure the sight of his body. He could barely believe…..barely comprehend…

Something rolled down his forehead and then his nose, tickled his skin. He reached up with a heavy hand and swiped at it.

The light was dulling, color being sapped, feet moved restlessly and a set of legs and a knee filled his vision. Gentle, familiar hands felt at his neck, at the juncture between jaw and throat, and pressed against his head.

At last the people shifted, slowly, moving through air so thick he could barely drag it in between his lips. Darkness lurked seductively at the corners of his mind, lapping at his consciousness. He could see Kolya, the man's face, the bullet hole and the gore where most of his face used to be.

And his last, coherent thought was,

Good.

"You really think you're going to get out of here alive, Kolya?" Sheppard felt his teeth ache, he was gritting them so hard.

Kolya bared a snarl at him. "I will kill him if you do not let me through the Stargate, Colonel Sheppard, you know that."

Sheppard looked to Rodney, held by his throat against Kolya, and felt his pulse speed up. He looks like shit. His skin was a sickly pallor and sweat oozed down his face. Even Sheppard could see his body trembling.

"Just let him go, Kolya."

There was a long silence. Broken only by the harsh gasps of Rodney as he struggled to breathe, and the little shuffle as the people around them shifted restlessly. Sheppard curled his hands more securely around his weapon, lifted his shoulders and let out a slow, calm breath.

"No matter what, Kolya, I will shoot you."

And there was nothing to dispute him, Kolya could see it, everyone could see it. For him, there was no escape from this, they wouldn't let him go. Kolya's hands tightened briefly around Rodney's throat, and then he let him go.

Rodney swayed forward, listless, eyes to the ground. He didn't see when Kolya swept his arm back and struck him across the side of the head with his stolen gun. Barely seemed conscious when he collapsed to the ground without a sound, hands splayed out before him to stop his face from hitting the floor.

Blood oozed, dripped, formed a growing puddle.

Distantly, Sheppard was aware of Beckett lurching forward and dragged Rodney out of the way.

Shocked, angry, worried, Sheppard raised his own gun, but Kolya bet him to it. The bullet struck him in the arm, pain flared, hot and bitter, but felt his fingers tighten around the trigger and lifted his gun in time to aim it at Kolya. The sound of a second bullet echoed coldly in through the large room.

~OO~

Three weeks later…

"How's your head."

Rodney looked away, fingers automatically prodding at the stiff mound of bandages wrapped around his face.

"Feels like crap, actually." He said, a little miffed.

Sheppard nodded with a sigh and leaned back, took a long sip of his beer.

"How's your arm?" Rodney asked after a long moment, his own bottle still full and untouched in his hands.

"Pretty good."

"liar." Rodney said snippily.

Sheppard laugh. "Yeah. Yeah, I suppose I am. It actually hurts like hell, but Beckett says I can't have any more painkillers."

"And that's why you dug into your secret supply?" Rodney waggled his bottle, slopped beer over his hand.

Sheppard looked tired, older. There was something about him that made Rodney worry. Or perhaps he was being paranoid. He looked away, to the landscape of water that reflected their precious city, their home.

The reflection showed them towers of glass and steel, golden stars and silver moons. Each ripple disturbed the image, made it into more of a careless painting than anything else. And Rodney found it eerily pleasant to watch.

"Rodney." Sheppard's voice had gotten serious, low. Unease coiled in the pit of Rodney's stomach.

"Yeah?"

And here it was.

Rodney didn't want him to ask. Didn't want him to question.

"Do you remember? Is there anything that you remember?"

And maybe Rodney just didn't want to lie anymore.

But then, if you say the lie enough, even you begin to believe it, and Rodney so badly wanted to believe it.

"No, I don't remember."

No, I don't remember

No, I don't

No

"I don't remember anything."


I think you get to a point when writing a fic where you want to just stop, because you worry that you're going to disapoint your readers. Because you think your writing isn't good enough, that the plot is weak and about to fall apart.

And it's only by reading each and every review left by such wonderful people that has dragged me from my cave and forced me to write the last chapter, as short, and perhaps lacking as it is.

But, and even though I've taken more than a year to complete this story, I've loved every minute of it. I love hearing what people have to say, to their ideas for improvement or simply getting to know them. It's been unreal.

Thank you all for sticking with me and I hope to hear from you again!

- Alerix Slynn