It took some effort for John to get Rodney out of his lab. He’d secluded himself more than usual after Carson’s death, all but closed himself off. John had been willing to give him a little time. After all, Rodney had known Carson longer than most of the others. But the mourning period had run its course.
“I’m very busy, Sheppard,” Rodney said dismissively. His table was littered with Power Bar wrappers and dirty coffee mugs.
“You’re taking a break,” John corrected. He took hold of Rodney’s elbow and pulled him out of his chair.
“Hey! You can’t go around strong-arming people, Colonel! Elizabeth is going to hear about this!”
“Wonderful. You can tell her when we get there.” John propelled him out of the lab and towards the nearest transporter.
“When we get where?” Rodney asked, pulling his arm out of John’s grasp. “I have work! Very important –”
“Rodney. It’s Sunday. No work today.”
John kicked himself for putting it so bluntly when Rodney visibly paled.
“Sunday? So soon?”
“It’s been over a month,” John said. He tapped his selection on the transporter map. “And you need some fresh air.”
The transporter took them to the West Pier, which was already full of people wandering around in their civvies.
“What is this? Why are all these people out here?”
The botanists had been working almost around the clock, and it showed. The pier now boasted a little potted plant park, with pathways leading around brightly colored native flowers and towering stalks of greenery. But the plants weren’t the big draw.
Interspersed with the fauna were tall metal posts. Some had windchimes dangling off them. Others were fashioned with the kind of tubes one might find on a pipe organ, so that when the wind blew through them it made a low, melancholy noise almost like a ship’s horn. With the chimes providing higher-octave tinkling, the mix of sound was actually very pleasant.
John took Rodney to the entrance of the little park and pointed out the plaque that had been placed there.
Dr. Carson Beckett
Memorial Sound Garden
“Oh,” Rodney said in a small voice. He turned his head away, but not fast enough for John to miss that he had tears in his eyes.
“Come on, buddy.” John knocked his shoulder against Rodney’s and led the way into the garden. There were several little alcoves with benches, so people could sit and enjoy the sounds, and John steered them towards the first empty one.
“They did all this in a month?” Rodney asked, his voice rough. “I didn’t know anything about it.”
“A lot of people pitched in. But it was Dr. Peace’s idea. She thought it was the kind of thing Carson would’ve liked.”
Rodney nodded, his lips pressed tight together.
“We all miss him,” John said softly. “But locking yourself away in your lab won’t make you feel any better.”
“I could’ve saved him.” Rodney stared at his hands. “Like I saved Radek. I could’ve gone through the database, found out about the lab before anyone died. It would have been the easiest thing.”
He was talking about the Ascension machine, the one that had bestowed so many gifts on him but nearly killed him as well. John remembered how it had felt, being helpless to save Rodney from his own brain. And how much Rodney had accomplished while he had his super powers. He’d erased Ronon’s scars. Saved Radek from a painful death. Invented a new math that no-one understood, not even Rodney once he’d turned back into his normal self again.
“No point in looking back,” John said. “Believe me. I’ve been there.”
“Ronon told me the same thing.” Rodney sighed. “It’s just…he was my first real friend. I know I’m not easy to get along with, but he put up with me.”
“You’re not that bad,” John said teasingly.
“Yes. Yes, I am.”
John had only wanted to get the Rodney outside, show him that no-one would forget Carson and it was okay to move on. Now he was thinking about regrets. Lord knew he had plenty of his own, amongst them blowing Carson off when he wanted to go fishing. Rodney wasn’t the only one at fault for how things had turned out last Sunday.
John’s biggest regret was sitting on the bench next to him.
“I’m not a good friend,” Rodney insisted.
“You’re good enough for me,” John said. And before he could stop himself or consider all the terrible consequences of what he was doing, he leaned over and kissed Rodney. It was just a quick press of lips, but John’s heart was thundering in his chest as if he’d just narrowly avoided his own fiery death.
Rodney stared at him, eyes wide, for a painfully long moment, and then he fairly launched himself at John, kissing him frantically. John slowed it down, setting a more languid pace, and Rodney melted against him. It was damn close to perfect, except he was pretty sure Rodney was crying.
“Sorry. It’s just…he said you liked me. Like that. And I wanted to believe him, but you’re so…you…and he was right, and he can’t even gloat about it.”
John didn’t say anything, just hugged him, his own throat a little tight. The chimes tinkled and the pipes made their deep bellows, and in that moment John felt like Carson was indeed gloating. And maybe congratulating them for finally getting their heads out of their asses.
“I should warn you,” Rodney murmured against the side of John’s neck. “As terrible a friend as I am, I’m an even worse boyfriend.”
John huffed out a laugh. “You’re a genius, Rodney. You’ll figure it out.”
Rodney answered with a slightly salty kiss.