Title: The Box
Author: Keira Marcos
Big Short Prompt: Cave
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Characters: Rodney McKay, John Sheppard
Word Count: 1,000
Warnings: No beta
Summary: John and Rodney get stuck in a cave and have a little heart to heart.
– – – –
“Fine,” Rodney said and jerked a little as a boom of thunder resonated through the cave they’d taken refuge in. It was a deep cave, so they were far enough back to avoid the rain.
John scooted closer to him until they were shoulder to shoulder in the dark. “It’ll be okay.”
Rodney huffed. “The last time I was in a cave, Jennifer drilled a hole in my head.”
“Right.” John sighed. He slouched back against the cold wall and stared out into the darkness. “I didn’t understand what it meant to be in the dark until Afghanistan.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Out in the dessert—no light pollution to offer a glimmer of brightness in an empty sky. I hated those nights when the clouds were thick, and the moon was nowhere to be seen.” John cleared his throat. “Before the thing with the parasite, the last time I’d been in a cave was when I retrieved that Iratus bug for Carson.”
Rodney pressed against him briefly. “Right.”
“But I was so focused on you and what was happening to you that when we went to Ronon’s shrine—the location wasn’t a concern.”
“And now?” Rodney retrieved an LSD from his pack and flicked it on. It lit up the area around them. He fiddled for a minute. “We’re the only two life signs of any note. I think there is a family of rodents in a nest just outside the cave.”
John laughed and took a deep breath. “Right.”
Rodney put the LSD away and took a deep breath. “Can we talk?”
“Nature is holding us hostage so I guess we can,” John murmured. “Miss her?”
John blinked in the darkness and looked toward Rodney. “What?”
“The thing is, John, is that I’m an asshole.”
John snorted. “McKay.”
“No, really, I am. She’s been back on Earth for weeks, right? She sends me several emails in each data burst, and I can barely remember to respond to one. She’s talking about jobs on Earth now and living closer to her father because he’s ill and getting older. Try to picture me living in Nebraska. Just try it.”
“Are you blaming your commitment issues on geography?”
“I don’t have commitment issues,” Rodney protested.
“I’d have ruined her,” Rodney muttered. “She’s such a sweet woman, John. What did she even see in me?”
“Fuck if I know,” John admitted. “I mean, well.”
“Right. So what does it sort of work with Jennifer when it didn’t work at all with Katie and why don’t I miss her?”
“Well, Jennifer is…” John frowned. “Are you going to get mad at me for being honest, here?”
“No, just tell me what you think.”
“Katie Brown saw you—knew you and tried to be with you anyway because despite your temper and your arrogance and utter lack of social graces you’re a brilliant man. She liked that about you because she couldn’t deal with the other parts and she knew it. Keller sees you, too, but she’s divided you into parts. Parts she can handle and parts she can’t. She probably has a list somewhere of all the things she’s going to train you not to do.”
“I’m not a dog!” Rodney protested, clearly outraged.
John laughed. “A naughty dog who regularly pisses on her kitchen floor.”
“You asshole,” Rodney muttered. “She lectures me a lot.”
“I noticed.” John stretched his feet out in front of him. “I like Katie—she’s smart and pretty, and she never tried to change you. She just tried to fit herself into a space beside you and when she couldn’t she admitted defeat. Keller built a box, and she’s doing her damnedest to shove you in it so you’ll be an appropriate husband for her on Earth. The doctor’s husband—who is smart, kind, even-tempered, and friendly. You’ll teach at a university close by; she’ll open up a practice, and there will be a house too big for you both, but it’s okay because she wants a bunch of kids.”
“You’re going to give me nightmares.”
“That’s what that road heads, McKay,” John exclaimed in a huffy tone. “She’s not going to spend the rest of her life on Atlantis or even in the SGC. Jennifer doesn’t have the heart for that kind of sacrifice. You know that, right?”
“I guess that I didn’t let myself think about it. I just thought I needed to be with someone, and Jennifer appeared to be a good choice. She’s smart and pretty.”
“And young,” John pointed out.
“Maybe,” John admitted roughly. “She’s far too young to be CMO. She doesn’t have the life experience even if she doesn’t have the brains for it. The SGC should’ve never sent her out here, but then there are a lot of people on the city who shouldn’t be. It’s only gotten worse since we returned to Pegasus. You’d not believe how many people Woolsey rejects on a weekly basis under the assumption that they would just get themselves, and probably the rest of us, killed.”
“I broke up with Jennifer in an email in the last data burst,” Rodney blurted out.
“Real classy, McKay.”
Rodney laughed, but it was sharp and bitter. “She told me she was leaving the SGC and attached a resignation letter she’d written for me to sign and send in. She just assumed I’d walk away from all of my work without even a discussion. It was ridiculous. She wrote back and told me she hoped I died old and alone.”
“That was pretty dickish,” John murmured and nudged McKay. “You might get old, McKay, but you won’t be alone. I’ll be there.”
“Yeah,” John promised, and a deep sense of relief settled in his bones.
“There’s no one else I’d rather grow old with.” Rodney scooted closer and leaned against John. “Or blow shit up with.”
John laughed. “Yeah, okay, I’ll grow old with you and blow shit up.”
The Big Short is a short-form writing challenge hosted on Rough Trade’s forum, The Workshop. The prompts come in two forms — a word challenge (the theme) and a single character challenge. I post my responses to the prompts on the forum first and eventually they’ll make it to my website. Each is a stand alone piece with no potential for expansion.
These short works are NOT prompts! These are my responses to the forum prompts. No, you cannot use them as prompts. No you cannot continue my short work with a longer work or write a sequel. For fuck’s sake.