Author's Notes: This was written for sga_santa for girlgonemadd with the request for 'Rodney/John with lots of angst/humor/silliness/etc and well-rounded appearances by all the cast.' I went with angst. Be prepared for a lot of it. The title comes from a quote by Samuel Johnson, "A man may be so much of everything, that he is nothing of anything."
Betas: michelel72, without whom this fic would be incomprehensible, and momma66, whose encouragement and cheerleading kept me going when all seemed lost. I can't thank you both enough.
Warnings: The request said no character death, and while I do not feel I truly crossed that line, I definitely more than toed it. I apologize to the recipient if I went too far. This story contains issues of identity and self-perception that I consider to border on brainwashing. One aspect of this is gender, but I would like to stress that this is in no way meant to represent a transgender experience. Also, this is a very grim take on a common trope that is usually written as crack. A willing suspension of disbelief is necessary, dear readers.
The warmth surrounding him and the light filtering through his eyelids were first to register as Rodney slowly woke. His eyes fluttered open. It was brighter than he was used to. Or maybe it was just the time of day - it must have been early, the sun was kind of pink and at a low angle. He felt an arm shift minutely around his waist and a soft exhalation on the back of his neck. Rodney really wanted to just let himself drift back into sleep, wallow in this perfect place, but his mind was already gearing up and he couldn't help but start to wonder.
He didn't remember the previous night. Okay, so he did remember doing inventory of the new Ancient devices brought in from the area cleared in subsection D well into the early hours of the morning, but he didn't remember sleeping with anyone. Come to think of it, he didn't even know who it might be back there. That was a disconcerting thought that pushed the last of the sleepy haze from his mind.
He scooted away enough to roll onto his back and look at the person who was wrapped around him, and he couldn't help but gape a bit. John Sheppard was smiling peacefully in his sleep, moving just enough to bring them closer again, resting his head on Rodney's shoulder.
He wasn't fundamentally opposed to the thought of sleeping with men, or even Sheppard. He just hadn't done this in a long time and, while John was certainly attractive, Rodney honestly hadn't considered this. Though, in hindsight, that might have been a mistake.
John's eyes opened just a sliver. He smiled. "Good morning, beautiful."
Rodney wasn't sure how he would have taken that from anyone else, but the look in John's eyes was sincere and Rodney couldn't bring himself to do anything but return the smile.
John rolled further, placing more of his weight onto Rodney, and leaned forward to kiss him gently. He felt larger, heavier, than he should. Rodney didn't want to analyze this but his mind went on without him, calculating and comparing this to all the times he'd hauled John around, all the times John had thrown himself onto Rodney in protection, and it just did not add up. John wasn't just heavier than he should have been, he was also taller, and broader, than was right.
"I can hear you thinking," John said, leaning back so he could look Rodney in the eye.
Rodney was a little embarrassed. John was obviously okay here and he didn't want to hurt John's feelings, but he couldn't just let this go. "About last night?"
"What about it?" John asked, shifting his attention to where his fingers were walking up Rodney's body. When they reached his chest Rodney looked down at them as well, but he didn't get that far because John's hand was on one of the large lumps under Rodney's shirt. It looked weird, but worse, he could feel it, like the lump was part of him.
He felt himself starting to hyperventilate, because this, well, this just could not be what it looked like. John backed up, looking concerned. "Mer? You all right?"
Mer. Rodney scrambled backward, up against the wall, and pulled his shirt out of the way. Breasts, he had breasts. Mer. He managed one wordless shriek before hyperventilation stole his breath completely.
Black started inching into his vision and he heard John in the background scrambling for a radio. The last thing he thought before the blackness pulled him under was that he wished he had the breath to scream.
Rodney swam awake to the steady beeps on the heart monitor, eyes screwed up against the harsh light in this area of the infirmary. When he opened his eyes, John jumped up from the chair next to his bed and called for Carson as he reached out to hold Rodney's hand.
"What," Rodney said as Carson neared, "the hell is going on?"
John looked helplessly at Carson.
"Well, lass, I don't know. I just…."
"Wait! Right there, see, now that's a problem. And I realize that you may as well deal with chicken scratch for all the science that you do but surely even you know that's not right!" Rodney halted then, looking closer. "Wait, what are you even doing here? Aren't you supposed to be continuing with your 'Pegasus Doctors Without Borders' thing?"
Carson stood kind of frozen in place, staring at Rodney, so John interjected in what Rodney assumed must be his attempt at a soothing voice. "Mer, calm down, please. We don't know what you're talking about."
Rodney turned to glare at him. "I know I'm having some short-term memory trouble at the moment, but I am positive I told you not to ever call me that."
"Call you what?" John asked, still with the infuriatingly patient voice.
"Don't give me your innocent look, Colonel, you know what I mean!" When John still looked puzzled, Rodney whispered fervently, "Mer!"
"Um, okay. What do you want us to call you, then?"
"Uh, Rodney!" he said with his best 'duh' voice.
Carson and John both looked at him wide-eyed but Carson recovered quickly. "All right, lass, but do you mind explaining why you wish to be called… Rodney?"
"That's enough! No more 'lass' and no more of that pathetic 'talk down the crazy person' tone! I need to talk to Radek. I assume he's been working on the artifact while I've been out?"
John and Carson shared a loaded glance and this time it was John who turned back to him. He leaned in close and squeezed Rodney's hand again. "Please, M- uh, just tell us, why Rodney?"
Rodney pulled out his best 'duh' voice again. "It's my name, Colonel, and I know you've been known to use it." He snapped his fingers impatiently. "Now, Radek?"
"M-" John cleared his throat. "Why do you keep calling me that?"
"What, Colonel? Are you telling me you actually prefer Sheppard?"
"Actually, I prefer John."
"John? Why would I call you John?"
"Well, you don't usually have a problem with it."
"That's because I don't usually call you that."
"You always call me John."
Rodney snorted. "Why would I?"
John looked a little sheepish. "'Cause you love me," he murmured.
Rodney quirked a short smile. "Of course, but…well, after last night I suppose 'the way a friend loves another friend' isn't really appropriate anymore, but the point remains, we're just not far enough into this for you to expect me to make claims like that."
"Far enough into this?" John was starting to sound irritated. "Three years isn't far enough into this?"
He holds out his left hand and wiggled his fingers for Rodney to see. There was a small bright band around his ring finger.
"What the… when did you get that?"
John growled, "The same time you did," as he reached out to pull Rodney's hand up to reveal matching ring.
"I-" And he really did try to control his breathing because hyperventilation was not fun, but then Carson rushed closer, talking urgently. The words couldn't penetrate the rushing in his ears. He felt John pushing his shoulders down and Carson pushing a needle into his arm but it was too late. Rodney watched them swim in his vision as it grew darker.
Carson was gently shaking Rodney's shoulder. "Um, Rodney? Come on, now. Time to wake up." Rodney groaned and his eyes fluttered open for the third time in as many hours.
A slight fuzziness persisted, and no amount of blinking or shaking his head cleared it. Rodney looked slowly from Carson's thinly stretched mask of professionalism that didn't quite hide his fear and the look on John's face that was clearly somewhere between bursting into tears and raging against fate.
"Did you drug me?" he asked with as much anger as he could muster through the clouds of indifference floating behind his eyes.
Carson had the decency to look ashamed. "Aye, well, ye did faint twice then you were having a panic attack. Now, Kate is waiting in the other room. She'd rather like to speak to you. Is that all right?"
Rodney sighed, "I must be on the good stuff 'cause I don't even care who that is."
Carson backed off, exiting around the curtain. Rodney turned to look at John.
"And you, way to give me a heart attack there. I hope that stunt was worth it, 'cause it's so not funny on my end. Now, I know Radek must have gotten somewhere on this but he is, no doubt, in need of my brilliance, so if you wouldn't mind busting me out so I can help him, then all can go back to normal."
Rodney almost gave himself whiplash as he turned to see Kate Heightmeyer come around the curtain. He knew he was staring; it had been a while since they lost her, but this was like a punch to the gut. He didn't move until she reached out a hand to his arm. Rodney pulled back sharply.
"No, nononono. Not again. Not another clone, or hallucination, or alien mind control. Please, I can't do this again."
John put a hand on Rodney's shoulder and Rodney just leaned into it, let John wrap his arm around him. "Mer?"
"I think I'm beginning to understand how SG-1 felt. First Carson, now Heightmeyer - any more Jackson wannabees out there?"
"Daniel Jackson, I'm sure you remember him. Raised reincarnation to an art form. Coming back from the dead. Or the ascended. Or whatever."
Heightmeyer stepped closer, saying gently, "Meredith, who died?"
Rodney sighed, the situation and the drugs working together to give everything a sort of unreal quality. He closed his eyes as he felt John move onto the bed and support some of his weight. He should be worried but he couldn't really bring himself to care. Any and all emotions just floated away from him and he was left feeling nothing much but mellow.
"You, and Carson and Elizabeth and Grodin and Gall and Markham, and so, so many more. And Ford might be, too, if he's not still amassing a drugged-up army. Then, of course, Carson came back as a clone and Elizabeth was a replicator and now you're back. What are you?"
There was a stunned silence for a moment. Then John shifted. "Mer, honey?"
Rodney opened his eyes to look blandly at John. "And that's kind of disturbing. I really, really should care but honestly, all I want is to get my body back. Can I talk to Radek now?"
Carson shared a look with Kate then spoke, "Not just yet."
"Why not? I know the drugs are messing with me a bit but really, I'm perfectly healthy and the only thing diminishing my mental abilities is those damn drugs. I don't see how you can keep me here when I should be helping Radek with figuring out that device."
John's eyes narrowed. "What device?"
"The one I was looking at last night, must have been nearing three AM. It's obviously some kind of gender-swapping device, though I wasn't able to verify anything about it before - well, I must have done something and I woke up this morning as a woman!"
John coughed, "You were in bed last night at one. I got you out of the labs myself."
Rodney pushed himself up and waved as frantically as he could manage. "Really, do you have no reserves of self-preservation? I don't want to be responsible for a court-martial in your future!"
John squinted at him.
"Your stupid military's bigoted rules, Colonel."
John sighed like he'd heard this a million times, "Can we skip the DADT rant? I know it by heart, and I agree with you, already."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Did I not just say not to talk about it?"
"DADT doesn't apply here."
Heightmeyer broke in then. "So what exactly are you saying this device did?"
"I can't be the only one who sees how wrong this is. I woke up a woman! And you have all gone insane."
"You're saying you were male prior to last night," she said slowly.
"Of course that's what I'm saying! What are you saying?"
John bit his lip and Carson looked at the ground. Kate stepped forward.
"You are Meredith Sheppard, formerly McKay, and you're female. You've always been female."
"What? What is this about? Really?"
"You're head of the Science Department here on Atlantis. You're married to the Commanding Military Officer, John Sheppard."
Rodney squeaked and turned to look at John, who was still biting nervously on his lower lip and looking at Rodney with so much fear and hope that Rodney could no longer believe that this was a joke for him.
He turned to each of the others in turn, "You're serious. You actually believe that. Oh, nonononono, this cannot be happening. Either this device did a hell of a lot more than I thought it did or…or, shit. I'm in another reality."
Kate placed a gentle hand on his forearm. "Meredith, everything will be all right. We'll help you get through this. We all want to help you."
Rodney just groaned and focused all his energy into resisting the urge to smash his head onto the nearest hard surface.
After nearly an hour of answering questions and listening to Kate talk she suggested they take a break. She'd made it clear they were to call him Mer, siting something about not playing along with the patient's delusion. She probably didn't think he'd heard that part, though. She also was suggesting they start considering medication if this didn't resolve itself soon. It was made very obvious they didn't believe him. He didn't know how but they didn't seem to think there was any precedent for it in this galaxy and none of the things SG-1 been through could accurately explain it. Though, really, he could hardly believe it himself.
Carson, Kate, and John moved to an area out of Rodney's hearing. He imagined they were trying to decide what to do with him. John would likely want to get him out of the infirmary with instructions to take it easy and hope for the best. Rodney had no idea what Carson and Kate would be pushing for.
The thought of going home with John was—a relief. And terrifying. He spent most of his time in the company of John, but that was his universe and in this one he and John weren't just friends, he didn't know if he could deal with the reality of a life with John right now, even if he couldn't imagine it any other way at the moment.
Something was definitely wrong. He could admit to being a bit moody, but never this bipolar.
Around lunch Radek shuffled nervously around the curtain with a tray, followed by Carson. John had been sitting quietly with him but looked up hopefully. It appeared to Rodney that they had decided to let him stew in the infirmary for the rest of the day, or at least until Carson didn't have the excuse that they were 'just waiting on test results'. Carson gave John a pained expression and the suggestion that he go grab a shower and something to eat. John looked about to refuse but Radek, bless him, said, "I will stay until you return. Everything will be fine in the half hour you are gone, Colonel."
Rodney had to fight the constriction in his chest at the defeated slump of John's shoulders as he lifted himself from the chair and left.
"Now, you eat," Radek insisted as he placed the tray in front of Rodney, grabbing one of the sandwiches and one of the three cups of coffee for himself. Carson reminded them that he was just around the corner in his office if they needed him and turned to leave them as well.
"So, ah, how much do you know? And by that I mean, of course, how much have they told you, because they have made it abundantly clear that they think I'm crazy or hallucinating or something and…." He stopped, looking down at his meal, and then said in a small voice, "Do you believe me?"
"I believe there is nothing I am able to do about who you may or may not be at the moment," Radek said, shrugging.
Rodney frowned but nodded. "You didn't find an artifact, did you."
Radek sighed. "No, there was no device." He paused. "I was there when you left last night with the Colonel, and all the devices we had been working on all day are accounted for."
Rodney nodded again, swallowed, and then tried for a cheery voice. "Right, sure."
"I have not given up. Dr. Krogman is searching the database for anything we may have missed."