Winter Sunlight

SGA apocafic for Gen Battle

This was written for the Gen Battle, but ended up much too long for a single comment, so it's posted here instead.

Prompt: Rodney, lost opportunity; 1400 wds; genfic; warning: AU, character death, dark


The battle is hard-fought; the city's defenders give no quarter, even as silver towers shiver into dust around them.

Rodney stays out of the worst of the fighting. He would have preferred to stay behind on the Daedalus rather than risking his genius brain in battle -- seriously, he had no idea he'd signed on for anything like this -- but he's the only one who has a hope of lowering the city's shield from the inside. Well, all right, he and, maybe, he has to admit, Carter. But Carter is needed on the Odyssey. Rodney doesn't know the details -- no one in the SGC hierarchy ever tells him a damn thing; they've hated him ever since that whole Teal'c thing -- but he picks up enough scuttlebutt to know that they're working on some kind of superweapon.

All he has to do is drop the shield so that they can use it. Right now, the insurgents have set up some kind of weird oscillating thing with the shield's frequencies; Rodney would be impressed if it weren't such a pain in the butt, because it means they have to solve an endless series of equations in order to beam anyone through -- they can figure out one permutation, beam a small group of people very quickly into the city, and then the Atlantis program figures it out and switches the shield's frequency again.

Rodney's tried suggesting that this might be a good time to try the ship-buster technology that Earth's been developing from basic Asgard technology with a little help from yours truly, but O'Neill won't listen, just claims that they want to take the city intact if possible. Right. He'd listen if Carter suggested it. But, no, she's on the Odyssey and O'Neill, with eyes so shadowed that they look like holes in his face, orders Rodney down into a city full of heavily armed and dangerous people.

Actually, Rodney finds, it's a city full of very dead people by this point; the heavily armed ones are few and far between, though no less dangerous. Rodney almost laughs the first time he catches himself thinking This place looks like a war zone, because that's exactly what it is. There are bodies everywhere, and tangled masses of rubble, and big holes in a lot of the towers. Rodney doesn't feel too sorry for the rebels -- they were given every opportunity to surrender, and they got what was coming to them -- but he winces every time he sees what they've done to the city. Well, okay, technically a lot of the damage was probably the SGC goon squad, but it would never have happened if what's her name, Weir, had just surrendered like she was supposed to.

Rodney loses half his armed SGC escort in one of the rebels' booby traps. They're just ... there one minute, and the next, they're all over the floor and -- and he really doesn't want to think about it. Soldiers are expendable. That's their job. They were probably grateful to die in battle; isn't that what they all want? And this is a very important task, protecting him; he's risking his very valuable life down here, doing the most important, the most dangerous job in the whole battle. As the silent and grim-faced soldiers -- the surviving ones -- hustle him along, Rodney tries to focus on this: the knowledge that he's doing something even Carter can't do. He tries not to think about the fact that maybe they sent him down here, instead of Carter, because he's expendable too, and she's not.

There are more bodies as they get closer to the central tower. Rodney steps over a coppery-haired woman who must have been very lovely when she was alive. She's not wearing an SGC uniform, even the mismatched and patched ones that he's seen around on some of the corpses; he guesses that she must be one of the rebels' local allies. It appears that someone had tried to cover her face with a jacket, but either they were interrupted in the middle, or the jacket was scuffed away in subsequent fighting; it lies, crumpled, next to her head. It's black with gray stripes.

They blow the doors to the tower. A hard hand pushes Rodney down like a sack of grain, and when the shooting stops, he uncurls and looks up. It seems like there are bodies everywhere, bodies and blood and worse things. Only two of the soldiers who beamed down with him are still standing, still alive. "Do it, Doc," one of them orders him roughly, and Rodney automatically starts to complain at being ordered around like some nameless private, but then he realizes: this is it, they're in, this is the moment when he earns his medals and acclaim and Carter's devotion. This is when he, personally, brings the Atlantis Rebellion to an end.

He crunches through broken glass to the nearest console. He memorized all of Weir's known command codes back on the Daedalus, and cracking their system is easy as hacking Windows Vista. Their security is a joke. As always when he's caught up in a mental puzzle, the world falls away, and it's not until he starts to resurface, victorious, his finger poised over the OK button (or Alteran equivalent) to bring the shields down, that he belatedly registers the gunfire that's been going on for the last couple of minutes.

"I said, step away from the console," a rough voice says behind him.

Ice water flows through his veins, dribbles down to his toes, as he looks over his shoulder at the filthy and blood-splattered insurgent standing in the doorway over the bodies of the useless excuses for soldiers that were supposed to be protecting Rodney. It's not Sumner, just some no-name rebel in filthy black and gray fatigues. For some reason, the guy reminds him vaguely of a younger and dirtier O'Neill, but while O'Neill generally looks at Rodney with ill-concealed contempt and dislike, it's nothing compared to the raw hatred in the enemy soldier's piercing green eyes.

"Last chance, buddy," the soldier says. "Your friends have killed a lot of my friends today, and the only reason why you're still breathing is that I don't want to shoot an unarmed man in the back if I don't have to. But I don't think you're playing Minesweeper over there. Hands in the air. Step away."

Rodney doesn't know what comes over him then. He really doesn't. He's never felt anything like it before; he knows that if he pushes that button, the soldier will kill him, and yet -- he's not stepping away like he was ordered to. It's stupid. A hero's death sounds great, except for the death part. Carter might weep on his coffin, but it won't do him any good. Rodney has always been a rational, logical man, and rationality and logic insist that he ought to step away from the console just like the crazy man with the gun is telling him.

But he was sent down here to do a job. He was sent down to do it because they'd rather risk him than Carter, and he knows, in a sudden moment of clarity, that there's no hero's welcome waiting for him back on the Daedalus; at the most, he might get a medal pinned on his chest, and then he'll go back to being disliked and ignored by most of the staff at the SGC. No kisses from Carter, no handshake from O'Neill, no lessening of the coldness in Teal'c or Daniel's eyes when they look at him.

He'd probably be better off if he steps away from the console and throws his lot in with the rebels. He doesn't owe the SGC anything. They all think he's a screw-up, a coward and a self-absorbed jerk, and he thinks that maybe, just a little bit, they're probably right.

But they sent him down here to do a job. This is his one chance to prove that they're wrong -- and no one will ever know.

He pushes the button.

The glow of the shield, outside the shattered holes in the tower's walls, winks out suddenly to reveal serene blue sky.

"You son of a bitch," the rebel snarls, and the gun in his hands barks twice. Rodney doesn't even really feel pain, just a feeling like someone kicking him in the chest, and a great breathlessness. As he falls, the room washes out in white light, and the rebel soldier screams, a hoarse cry of pain or shock. Whatever Carter was planning, she's done; the war is over, they've won, and Rodney falls into darkness knowing that at least he managed to take the other bastard with him.
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Oh this is so brilliant. I *love* it. So perfectly dark. I started gasping for breath when he stepped over Teyla's body and then it didn't let up at all *glee*
Thank you very much! I was awfully worried about traumatizing people; I'm delighted that you liked it. :D
Damn. Poor unredeemed Rodney (especially that moment of near-growth at the very end), and Sheppard with his fool's nobility, and Teyla. I can see this happening exactly this way, but ... ::cries::
Sorry to be so depressing this morning! The thing about Rodney ... I think that he really did do the brave thing, the noble thing, in the end, from his point of view.
Oh, no, I agree. I'm just thinking -- Rodney without Pegasus would, I think, be just what you show us here, not having learned he can have friends and be honorable and brave ... but even without that, he has the potential, and in this one moment he shows that -- even though what he determines to be honorable and brave is so very different that it would have been for Atlantis-Rodney. ("Insurgents" -- ouch, and yet perfectly fitting in context/POV.) And I think that's what gets me -- even without everything that helped him grow in the non-AU, in this moment, rather than taking the coward's out that would end up helping the Atlantis folks, he ends up opposing them for the same character reasons that he would never take that course in the non-AU.

It makes more sense in my head than I think I'm explaining it. But ... just, wow, to find that in the character ... I'm really impressed. Even though I'm sad!
Oooh, very dark! And god, the image of Teyla on the ground was a striking one. This was a really good ficlet!
Thank you; I'm glad you liked it! Writing that little scene with Teyla hurt, but I think it was worth it.
Oh Oh OH! And Wow! Brilliantly done, to show one side of the conflict from Rodney's (wry) point of view, and the other side through Sheppard and Teyla. Great fic.
Thank you very much! I wanted to try to keep them recognizably themselves, despite the different (and very dark) circumstances; well, Rodney is still 48 Hours-style Rodney, but nonetheless Rodney. I'm glad that it worked. :D
Damn. This was good, very thought-provoking. What a twisted universe this is... and Rodney couldn't have picked a worse moment to get in touch with his inner hero. And John, not willing to shoot an unarmed man in the back... Damn.
Thank you very much! Yeah ... they both decided to have an attack of nobility at the worst possible time.
This is heart-breaking, mostly because it feels so perfectly possible. *shivers over alternate realities* Teyla's body on the ground made me go, "Oh, shit", and than Rodney and John destroying each other with their own better angels, not their flaws. Ouch.
Yeah, that's the greatest tragedy; they destroyed each other by being the better people that they sometimes are.

Thank you!
I have nothing coherent to say. Well, no, I have one thing but it's rather tangential to what this story is about, which is this glimpse of a Rodney and John who never had each other and find their bravery and their ethics at just the worst moment -- but I really hope the 'rebels' left a self-destruct and my reason is Teyla. There's very little in the story to tell whether this iteration of Weir and John and the people in Atlantis are in the wrong or in the right, except they had local allies. Well, that and they were besieged in the first place.

Great ouchy goodness.
hahaha ... regarding Teyla, note what I just posted, because I'm a giant wuss!

... but anyway, thank you very much. :) I really like the things that you can do with characters when they have nothing (or everything) to lose.
Wow, this was fantastic! And twisted, and awesome in its just-shy-of-what-we-know-ness, if that makes sense. I loved it.
Thank you so much! I really loved pushing them to the edge -- and past it.
*whimper* very dark, and very intense and now I need to go read something fluffy.
I liked this. Like -- a lot. And what I'm really surprised about is that I'm proud of Rodney pushing the button. I mean, he did his brave little toaster thing. He got a measure of himself before he died, and even though it was John that killed him (oh, John) it felt right. Even down to his pleasure that he took "the other bastard" with him.

And that's twisted right there, but I like it! (That's such a big part of what makes fanfic cool! It can take a familiar place and turn it upside down and make you rethink everything.)

I didn't realize the way this world worked until Rodney mentioned "Weir" as an insurgent. So I was starting out thinking of the people holding the city as the enemy. And to tell you the truth, I'm not sure whose side was the right one in the end. On one side Elizabeth, Teyla, John; on the other Sam, Jack, Teal'c, and Daniel. How do you choose? And I love, love, love that you don't give us any clear hints. No dark!Sam, no dark!Elizabeth. They're all who they are.

So I'm left in this delicious space where I think probably they're both right... and both wrong. And it breaks my brain and my heart, and I love it!

And, I shall stop essaying at you now. (The grinning might take awhile. Seriously, I love stories like this. *g*)
I'm glad you liked it! Yes, that's just it -- Rodney did the "right" thing in his universe: pushed the button, took down the enemy, no matter the cost. And I really was trying to go for a scenario where the "right" is not obvious. I think that, being Atlantis fans, we're going to automatically want to side with the SGA side, but I didn't want them to be obviously in the right.
I think that, being Atlantis fans, we're going to automatically want to side with the SGA side, but I didn't want them to be obviously in the right.

Yes, and where you were so very, very clever about it was holding back naming any names. So the reader gets behind Rodney (which is an easy thing to do; we know Rodney, and this Rodney is sure he's on the right side), and then as we're hoping for him to succeed... *bam* You hit us with "Weir" and the reader's poor little head goes *spin*. It's awesome.
WOW! How cool was THAT!

Your brain is a fun, fun place! I love it! All dark and twisty and wicked awesome! Thanks for making me grin!
I love the fact that this Rodney feels so much like the Rodney we first see in SG-1, because chances are that without Atlantis he would still be that person. And I like that you almost toy with the possibility of a happier ending in McKay's thought about how little would be waiting for him back at the SGC and how he might as well just join the rebels here, but then at the last minute he sticks it out - only here he's destroying Atlantis rather than saving it.

Dark and tragic and lovely all around. :D *heads off to read the AU AU*
Thank you very much! Yes indeed -- this is "48 Hours" Rodney, who is rather difficult to write. *g*
*wails* This could have been pretty easily in some other world. It is pure chance that they all ended up in a place where they'd be working together not against one another.
Yeah ... I *do* see this as a relatively plausible scenario. There but for the grace...
I love dark! And I loved the way this story was almost sort of teased out, without real details on the nature of the conflict, and Rodney encountering Teyla's body and John with no clue of how much they could mean to him in another life... And then with his stupid bravery at pushing the button, which is at the same time the wrong (from the POV of your readers who know the Atlantis expedition) and absolutey the right thing for him to do... wow.