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Aug. 24th, 2008 @ 06:04 pm The Threat of a Lullaby by liketheriver (5.06 The Shrine)
 Title: The Threat of a Lullaby
Author: liketheriver
Pairing: None (Gen)
Rating: T.
Word count: ~3300
Warning: None
Spoilers: Anything upto and including The Shrine
Author Notes: Set mid-episode... probaby around day 11 or so of Rodney's affliction. The guilt John had about leaving Rodney alone when he thought he'd fallen asleep wouldn' t let me go.  Also, I thought there wasn't enough Teyla in the ep, so here she is. Special thanks as always to Koschka for the beta.
Summary:  John takes the night shift watching over Rodney.

The Threat of a Lullaby
by liketheriver
Teyla really does have one hell of a singing voice.
The lullaby is Athosian, the words remarkably similar to those from Earth… soft and harmonious and, oddly enough, center around the fear of loss. I’ve never understood how babies are supposed to find the idea of falling out of trees or gifts that don’t live up to their full potential all that comforting, but it seems to be a common theme. This one Teyla is singing involves the father’s hunting party overdue, the deepening night, and, even though the song never comes out and says it, you can feel the threat in the lullaby that the father may never return, hear the possibility of heartbreak it holds in the rise and fall of Teyla’s voice as it travels along the minor chords and provides the comfort only a mother’s touch can give. Funny, of the three people hearing the song, only Torrin remembers how reassuring it can be to be held close in a motherly embrace. For me and McKay, we’ve both lived without it more than we ever lived with it, and even without the memory loss he’s suffering, I doubt Rodney would be able to recall how soothing a mother’s touch can be. Still, the melody is having the same effect on the two of us as it is on the baby Teyla is bouncing gently in her arms as she walks and sings.
“He is finally asleep.”
Teyla’s words have my eyes opening where I am dozing lightly on the couch in Rodney’s room. “Well, there’s nothing like his mom’s voice to put a kid out like a light.”
“Oh, this little one is still awake.” The smile she gives her son is answered by a small hand reaching for the curling lips. “I was speaking of Rodney.”
I look over to where our teammate lays curled on his bed, knees pulled up, one arm hanging off the side, mouth opened slackly, and can’t help but give a small snort. “It’s about damn time.”
“I can most assuredly relate to that sentiment.” She grins once more at the infant in her arms.
“Too bad they don’t make cribs in adult sizes,” I lament before considering, “Maybe a hammock.”
“Perhaps I should not have brought Torrin to see him tonight. Rodney had seemed rather overly stimulated today.” 
“He’s just frustrated. Keller said he was pretty upset by what he couldn’t remember when they were making his tapes today.”
“I know, which is why I should have left Torrin with Kanaan. It is just that Rodney seems to enjoy when he is here and I do not know how much longer it will be that he...”
I know what she is going to say even though she doesn’t say it, and understand when she bounces the child a little faster and turns away. In a day or two Rodney probably won’t remember Torrin at all or the part he played in his birth or the part he plays in all our lives, for that matter. So far, he’s remembered all of our names… those on his team, those he considers worth knowing, and, yeah, I mean that to sound as condescending as it does. Because McKay is condescending and arrogant and, on more than one occasion, a total prick. But if he only remembers me and Teyla and Ronon and a handful of others, then that just means a trace of that same demeaning attitude that considers everyone else beneath him is still in there somewhere. That means a glimmer of Rodney is still holding on.
“No, no, you did the right thing,” I assure, even as I scrub at dry, tired eyes and stand to drape the blanket up over Rodney’s shoulders. “You’re right; he does like it when you bring Torrin around.” Although McKay had leaned over and asked me quietly what his name was again when Teyla had first brought the baby in the room.
When Torrin starts to fuss, Teyla shifts him up to her shoulder and pats his back. Large brown eyes that seem too big for his small face stare around the room and I’m struck with how similar that expression of wide-eyed wonder is to the one I’ve been seeing more often on Rodney’s face over the past couple of days. It’s as if he’s seeing thing for the first time, only he knows they should be catalogued away in that big old genius brain of his and, no matter how hard he tries, he can’t find them.
Torrin’s irritable cry has Rodney shifting on his bed, his own face forming a frustrated scowl, and he whimpers quietly in his sleep. Placing my hand on his shoulder, I rub a small circle. Not exactly a mother’s touch, but it seems to work regardless.
“Hey, it’s okay. John and Teyla are right here.” 
It’s John now. Not Sheppard, not Colonel… John. I’m pretty sure he’s forgotten my last name. Not that I’d ever call him on it, not that I like to consider the possibility, but after our talk a few nights ago out on the pier, I’ll answer to any name he decides to call me, even Arthur. Plus, even I’ll admit that Sheppard isn’t nearly as snappy as Dex.
The lines on Rodney’s forehead fade and he mumbles incoherently before his breathing deepens once again.  Teyla and I both exhale in relief. His internal clock has pretty much short circuited. Keller says it’s something like a syndrome called sundowners that she’s seen in elderly patients where they get night and day confused. Teyla says it reminds her of the first few weeks she had Torrin home and he would sleep all day and want to stay up all night. Either way, it’s damn exhausting to all of us who have been taking care of Rodney since we never know when he’ll wake up and want to talk or try to play a video game and when he’ll just fall asleep when you’ve set aside a few hours to do just that. Teyla apparently sees that weariness on my face as I sink back down onto the couch.
“Torrin is hungry. Let me go feed him and leave him with Kanaan and I will return so you can go back to your quarters and get some sleep.”
“Nah, that’s okay.” I try to sound casual about it. “You go ahead and stay home. I’ll take the shift tonight. Ronon will be back at first light anyway.”
“You have taken the night shift for three nights in a row now, John. You need your rest.”
I think of telling her I wouldn’t sleep any better if I was in my own bed, not after the way Rodney woke me in a panic when we left him alone that one night. Not after I swore to myself that I’d never let that happen to him again. What he’s going through has to be terrifying enough without waking and not knowing where you are. But I don’t tell her, because I’m not ready to openly admit to that sort of weakness in either McKay or myself.
So, instead, I lie to her. “I’m fine.”
The rise of one finely arched eyebrow tells me she thinks that is a complete crock of shit. “John, I promise, if he becomes too agitated, I will not hesitate to call you back.”
Rodney has… hell, I don’t know what to call it… bonded, imprinted, whatever the term is, on me. Whenever he’s the most freaked out, he wants me to be there. It’s like I’m his equivalent of home base, a place where he feels safe, like he knows I’ll always have his back, I’ll always have his best interest at heart even when he’s unable to do that for himself. And that kind of trust is flattering and terrifying and fucking overwhelming all in one. But it’s also something I can use to intervene and maybe keep the freaking out to a minimum. Whatever his reason is for picking me, I’m determined not to let him down.
“It’s just… easier if I’m already here,” I confess honestly. “Besides, Keller’s already clambering for him to start staying in the infirmary more so she can keep a closer eye on him. I figure one, maybe two, more nights and he won’t be staying here anyway.”
“Which means you will be sleeping in a chair instead of on a sofa,” she accuses.
“Not necessarily,” I protest. When she simply stares at me in disbelief, I mumble, “They have extra beds they can move into his room.”
“Do you…?” She hesitates, shushing Torrin with gentle words when he fusses again. “Do you think Jennifer can find a cure for this?”
My answer is definitive. I won’t think of an alternative. I won’t consider that the best medical staff in two galaxies can’t come up with a way to get a goddamn bug out of the brain that’s saved us time and time again. I won’t do it, and I sure as shit won’t give in to the constriction in my throat that’s threatening to cut off my air flow into my tightening chest whenever I consider the possibility like I am now.
Teyla nods with a sad smile then says, “Ronon said he mentioned the Shrine of Talus to you…”
“It’s not going to come to that,” I stop her before she can go further. Ronon has told me about this mysterious shrine place, a place that offers a person a chance to say goodbye to friends and family. Rodney already tried to pull that bullshit on me a few nights ago and I said no then. I’m not ready to give up hope that Keller can find a way to fix this. Not fucking yet. “That’s last ditch, no hope left kind of talk. I’m not at that point and neither is McKay. Are you?”
Torrin cries a little louder at my gruff response and Teyla shifts him again, giving him her pinky to suck on to quiet him for a minute more. “John, I am as hopeful as you that Jennifer can find a cure. But I have never seen anyone recover from the Second Childhood, nor have I heard of such a thing. I do not wish to lose Rodney any more than you, but we cannot ignore what we have been seeing. Nor can we wait too long to take him to the shrine when the time comes…”
“And that time hasn’t come,” I insist, lowering my voice again when Rodney rolls over on his bed. “Keller still thinks she has a week before… things get desperate. A lot can happen in a week.”
The expression on Teyla’s face is disappointed and sympathetic at once. “Of course, you are right. If you need anything in the night, call me and I will come.”
The stress is getting to all of us, and the last thing I want, any of us want, is to be turning on each other when we should be working together, so I call to her before she reaches the door.
“Teyla, wait.” When she stops but does not look back, I give a frustrated sigh that I’m even considering this plan. Because, in a way, it feels like I’m admitting defeat when I’m honestly not ready to do that. “Does Ronon have the gate address for the planet?”
“He does,” she confirms, finally glancing over her shoulder. “As do some of the Athosians.”
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to at least see what we can find out about the planet in the meantime.”
But it does hurt. It hurts like hell to even consider that we might get to that point.
Her lips curl but there is no happiness in her smile. “I am hopeful we will not need to use the address, but it is always best to be prepared in these situations.”
Scrubbing my hands up into my hair, I slouch down and lean my head back against the back of the couch that will once again serve as my makeshift bed for the night. “Yeah, yeah, plan for the worst, hope for the best. I’m familiar with that sentiment.”
“I will see you both in the morning,” she tells me, the smile a bit more genuine this time.
I close my eyes and wave her out the door. “Morning. You got it. Goodnight.”
“If you need anything…” she starts again and I crack open an eye.
“Hey, at least McKay’s asleep. You can’t say the same about Torrin. I think you’ve got your own problems to worry about.”
“True,” Teyla concedes. “Sleep well, John.”
Then she’s gone, leaving me alone with a peacefully sleeping McKay. As I lower the lights, I wonder absently how long that will last.
It ends up, not that long at all. I haven’t even had a chance to drift off again before I sense, more than hear, Rodney sit up suddenly. My own eyes fly open at the same time I hear a wary, “John?”
“Right here, buddy,” I assure him in the dim light cast by the twin moons. 


"Your quarters," I tell him, thinking  I should start leaving the lights on.  “You doing okay?”
He lies back down and exhales heavily. “I had a weird dream. Someone was singing.”
“Teyla just left a little while ago. She had been singing to Torrin. Maybe that was it.”
There’s more than a hint of fear when he asks in confusion, “Torrin?”
Rodney had said it himself; he’d be getting worse by the hour.   I couldn’t deny the truth of that.
“Teyla’s baby, Torrin. You delivered him.”
I can feel my heart pounding faster as the silence grows as Rodney struggles to remember. And when he finally says, “Oh, Torrin, right,” I can hear the lie in it.
“That’s okay,” I tell him, trying to force him into the memory without him realizing it. “It’s not like she named him after you or anything.”
The face of a cute baby may slip away from McKay, but he can hang onto outrage longer than anyone I know.
“Bastard. Would it have killed her to throw in Rodney along with John? It’s not unheard of to have more than one middle name.” 
A grin replaces my disappointment at his initial forgetfulness. “Yeah, but then Ronon would feel left out and you just can’t pin that many names onto a kid that small.”
“I suppose you’re right,” he grumbles from across the room.
“Of course I’m right. I’m always right. Remember?”
“I most certainly do not remember that, and it has nothing to do with a…. thing in my head. I’m a sick man, and here you are making stuff up trying to fool me. You should be… shit, what’s the word?”
“Commended for helping you remember something?”
My grin disappears when I hear him rolling the word around on his tongue, testing it, trying to find the records associated with it in a file cabinet that just won’t open.
“Ashamed,” I tell him quietly. “I think the word you’re looking for is ashamed.”
He snorts softly, “If anyone should be ashamed it’s me. I mean, hell, you’re camping out in my room so I don’t come and try to bash your door down in the middle of the night.”
“That’s not why I’m here and you know it,” I counter.
“Oh, yeah? I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to remind me what it is, exactly, that I know about why you’re here.”
“Because you’d do the same for me if the situation was reversed,” I snap back at him. “And you better damn well not forget that.”
He pauses and I find myself staring up at the dark ceiling, fearing that he already has started to forget all the things that have come to define us over the years.
“What if I do?” he finally asks so quietly that I almost don’t hear him.
But what I do hear is the same thing I had heard when Teyla was singing to Torrin, I hear the inherent threat of the lullaby, the underlying fear that Rodney will forget why we’re friends, will forget who I am, will eventually forget who he is. I can hear the minor chords of the hopelessness lurking out there in the night that make me wonder if Rodney ever will return to us. And I hear that looming final goodnight when the lullaby will come to an end.
When I don’t answer him immediately, he calls my name again. “John?”
I clear my throat then tell him, “We’ll deal with it if it comes to that.”
“You mean when,” Rodney corrects.
“No, I mean, if. I know what I’m saying, McKay. I’m not the one with the faulty memory.”
He barks a laugh. “Faulty? Christ, there’s a word for what you are and if I could just remember it I would say something very clever and put you in your place.”
“Funny, you never were able to do that before you had a parasite in your brain, why would you think you could do it now?”
“You don’t have to stay here, you know,” he tells me in a huff.
“I know,” I lie.
“You can just say goodnight and go back to your own…” he struggles for the word before settling on, “bed.”
“You’re right; I could,” I dismiss with a yawn.
Truthfully, I can’t do that. Even if he really wanted me to, I couldn’t leave. And the main reason is the argument we’re having right now. Rodney’s scared to death he’s going to wake up one morning and everything is going to be gone, and I’m scared to death of the same thing happening. So, if it means sleeping for an hour or two at time on his sofa so I can wake up and argue with Rodney, I’ll do it. Because one of these times, the argument’s not going to come.
“But you’re not going to go, right?” The worry in his voice is obvious and almost childlike in its insecurity and self doubt.
“Not going anywhere,” I promise. 
Rodney exhales in relief. “Good.”
I wait a minute, listening to hear if he’s going to nod off again or want to stay up for a while. Evidently he’s trying to decide the same thing because a few minutes pass before he finally notes, “Teyla has a pretty voice when she sings.”
“Yeah,” I agree, “she does.”
“Will you tell her I said that… you know, if I forget to do it myself?”
“Sure. I bet she’d sing for you again if you want her to tomorrow night.”
“I can’t remember the last time I heard someone sing a lullaby. It must have been years.”
Three weeks ago, I think to myself, when we all had dinner with Teyla and Kanaan. You complimented her on her voice then.
But I don’t bother to correct him. “Me either.”
In the darkness, I hear him settle back down into bed. “Are you ready to say goodbye yet?”
“No,” I tell him simply.
“Let me know when you are.”
“Not going to happen,” I swear yet again.
Rodney sighs in resignation. “Then, I guess, I’ll just say goodnight.”
I’m not ready to say goodbye, and I’m sure the hell not ready for that final goodnight.
“See you in the morning, Rodney.” It’s an order as much as a salutation because he damn well still better be there when he opens his eyes again.
I wait until he starts to snore quietly before finally closing my own eyes, and make a mental note to ask Teyla if the father’s hunting party in the lullaby ever does make it home. 
Right about now, I could sure use a happy ending.
The End
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Date:August 25th, 2008 01:31 am (UTC)
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Aw, wonderful missing piece fic!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:30 am (UTC)
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Thanks so much! So glad you enjoyed it.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:30 am (UTC)
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Thanks so very much!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
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This is an excellent tag for the ep! I can so see all of this happening.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)
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Thank you! When Rodney said they had all been there and then were gone when he woke, this idea just popped into my head, because you know John wouldn't let that happen again.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:33 am (UTC)
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Thank you so much! I got a little choked up writing it. *G*
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Date:August 25th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC)
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Awwww! That was so sweet! I Just love them. Slash, or friends, I don't know how anyone can deny how much they love each other.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:34 am (UTC)
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Thank you very much! I'm with you... slash or gen there is just this definitive love between them.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)
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Wonderful missing scene! Thank you for sharing it with us.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:34 am (UTC)
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So glad you like it. Thanks!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 03:51 am (UTC)
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Great missing scene. You captured the heartbreaking feel of the pier scene here. Just breaks my heart to see the pain and John trying to protect Rodney and remain positive. Made me tear up. Excellent heart tugger.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:36 am (UTC)
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Thanks so much! It's almost impossible to write a missing for this ep that doesn't have the potential to break your heart because the whole ep just about broke mine. *G*
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Date:August 25th, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)
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Oh, Oh, this is wonderful!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:37 am (UTC)
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Thanks so very much!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 03:58 am (UTC)
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Very beautiful and sad. Sounded just right.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:37 am (UTC)
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So glad you enjoyed it. Thanks!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:06 am (UTC)
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You made me cry again, damn you! What a lovely story, thank you for sharing!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:38 am (UTC)
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Awwww, have a tissue... I needed one myself just thinking about this fic. *G* Thanks so much!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:23 am (UTC)
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But what I do hear is the same thing I had heard when Teyla was singing to Torrin, I hear the inherent threat of the lullaby, the underlying fear that Rodney will forget why we’re friends, will forget who I am, will eventually forget who he is. I can hear the minor chords of the hopelessness lurking out there in the night that make me wonder if Rodney ever will return to us. And I hear that looming final goodnight when the lullaby will come to an end.

Okay, this, right here, made me cry. The whole thing with the menace in lullabies fits so very well with the mood and story of The Shrine, and of course, it's true, too, though not the type of thing a person generally spends much effort thinking about. But yeah, as a symbol of John's almost superstitious reluctance to say goodbye, it's just lovely, and very suitably heart-twisting!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 04:41 am (UTC)
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Thank you so much! When I originally started thinking about this fic, I wanted to draw that parallel of Teyla caring for Torrin and John caring for Rodney, and the idea of lullabies and how they are comforting and heartbreaking at the same time just sort of hit me. So, I'm so glad it worked for you.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 06:43 am (UTC)
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Wonderful, even though you made me cry!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
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::hands you virtual tissue:: Thanks so very much!
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Date:August 25th, 2008 08:54 am (UTC)
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It never ceases to amaze me - the way you write them and make their voices sound absolutely real.

It was wonderful "missing scene" and made my eyes sting all over again.

"The Shrine" was the final proof, that John is the most important person in Rodney's life. And Rodney in John's.
And it's true no matter if taken from slash or friendship point of view.

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Date:August 25th, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)
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Thank you very much! And I agree, this ep really did cement the bond the boys have. I don't think anyone can deny that after this one.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
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Beautiful little fic. You really captured John's fears here.

I love the reason why John doesn't want to go to The Shrine. It's not that he doesn't believe that it does what Ronon and Teyla say it does - it's because that means that Rodney really will die and Rodney can't die.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 01:40 pm (UTC)
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Thanks so much! I really do think John would have held out until he didn't see any hope left. I can only imagine how hard a decision that would have been for him.
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Date:August 25th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC)
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Marvelous! I loved The Shrine, and this fic fits so well with it. The concept that John has been imprinted on Rodney as 'safe' is just perfect.
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Date:August 26th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
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Thanks so much! I really do think that's exactly what John was to Rodney in this ep... John was someone Rodney knew instinctively that he could trust.