In the Holding
Rodney's not sleeping. I don't think he's really slept since Jameson died. He's lying quietly though, his back turned toward me while I sit on the floor next to his bed, watching him. Neither of us say a word. We never do during this little ritual of ours. He keeps his eyes closed in a pretence of sleep and I keep watch at his back, ready to chase away the demons if he slips and falls too deeply asleep.
Every now and then he slips into a doze and he twitches and moans, muttering incomprehensible pleas to his dead colleague, begging the man to hold on just a little longer, assuring him that rescue's coming, that *I'm* coming to get them, to take them home to Atlantis, away from the hellhole that had been their prison for seven of the longest days of my life.
I never asked him if he wanted me here and he never asked me to come. It just began, the first night Carson released him from the infirmary, and we've been doing it every night since then. In some ways I don't really want the nightmares to stop. Once they do, there'll be no reason for me to be here anymore.
It had been such an easy mission - a friendly planet with nice people who wanted nothing more than for Rodney to fix their power supply for them in return for as much grain and fruit as we needed. I'd made the decision to send Rodney and Jameson off to Tekala with another team so Ronon, Teyla, and I could have some downtime after a particularly heavy mission schedule over the past few months. I'd offered Rodney the same R&R but he'd said he'd go crazy sitting around Atlantis, there was nothing there that needed his particular attention, and the Tekalan power system was something he'd never seen before.
So I'd waved them off and by the time we got the news that everything had gone to hell in a handbasket, it was too late for poor Jameson and almost for Rodney as well.
His restlessness is edging up into a nightmare and I stand up and crawl up on the bed behind him. Hesitantly, I reach out and rub his back, the way I've seen mothers soothe fractious children. We've done this before too but there's a change tonight. Up till now, once he's woken enough to know it's me behind him he's simply drifted back to sleep with no acknowledgment of my presence. This time he moves back towards me until he's pressed against my chest, his back trembling minutely against my skin. I bring my knees up behind his so he's cradled there, and slowly, cautiously I place one arm around his waist and hold him, hoping to provide a sanctuary against the darkness.
"John?" His voice is a whisper in the night and I nod against his head. "I'm here."
"Yeah, Rodney, you're free."
I swallow down the truth and nod again, while my hand keeps up its hypnotic stroke on his back. "Yeah, he's free too." It's only a half-lie, I tell myself. It could be true for all I know. He's free from suffering at least, I think.
Rodney sighs deeply and then his breathing slows into that of sleep and I stay there, awake and content to be where he is.
Maybe one day there'll be a time to tell him how I really feel about him but for now this holding is enough.