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Keeping Pace

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John always runs to his favorite balcony after he parts ways with Ronon in the morning. He picked the balcony by complete chance, looking for a railing to do his stretches against. He'd stretched there for weeks before he noticed the person swimming along Atlantis's pier. Strong swimmer, sure strokes. Not just a long distance swimmer, either, John notices, someone doing arm and leg work, sprints and IMs.

John's not a swimmer, he sinks like a stone. His brother, though, was swim team captain, and John spent plenty of summers when he was little watching Dave's relay races and cheering. He tried swim team for a couple of weeks when he was old enough. It was exhausting, he felt like he was dragging his arms home behind his body afterwards, and he went to bed after dinner and slept through until morning.

He took up track when he was in high school, and that's when his dad finally started to look at him the way he always looked at Dave.

He looks down at the swimmer as he stretches his quads. He's still jealous of the grace of moving through water like that. Someday he'll run down there and watch from up close, but not today.


Rodney treads water for a while, looking out along one of the piers as John and Ronon run up and down it. It's a sprint day, He likes sprint days. He sprints along with them sometimes, doing butterfly kicks with flippers and freestyle with his hand paddles. He can swim almost as fast as they run if he has all his equipment on. It still feels like cheating.

He took up swimming again when Carson complained about his heart. He's tried running, jogging, speedwalking, and none of it is exercise he can do for long. It's exhausting and he gets sweaty, his legs gets sore, and it feels too much like running away from something when things go bad.

Swimming is just pure mindlessness, counting strokes and feeling his body glide through the water and churn it behind him. He feels like his body is his, for a change, and not this foreign thing that's generally trying to kill him. The water is the one place he feels like his body will do exactly what he wants it to do without complaining.


When John works out the swimmer is Rodney, he starts to linger on his balcony, waiting for him to finish his workout and climb onto the pier. He never really thought of Rodney as a morning guy, but he's swimming the same hours John's running, and that's pretty early. He wears speedos without a trace of irony, and he looks good in them - at least for the five seconds John can see before he covers up with his huge towel, and from a distance of several hundred yards.

Someday, John thinks, he'll go down and watch Rodney swim close up, put a foot in the water while Rodney does laps.


Rodney gets back in the swing of swimming pretty easily, and it helps to have John and Ronon to race with sometimes. Ronon's a powerhouse, his body used to running, like it knows nothing else. Rodney knows that Ronon's body knows plenty of things, one of which is how to break him into itty bitty pieces, so he watches John instead. John runs with his knobby knees and skinny calves, and still, for all that, makes it seem effortless. Rodney wonders if he's been doing it a long time too.

Someday, Rodney thinks, he'll tell John he races them on sprints day. Someday, he'll invite them over to his pier to race for real.