Author’s Note: Written after “The Siege” Part II aired and before it could be Jossed by Part III. Not that the show ever would’ve gone this way anyway, but I can fantasize.
Letting him go is the hardest thing they’ve ever done. Watching Rodney learn this after the fact, hearing John’s voice on the radio, is the second hardest thing she’s ever done. When he meets her eyes, for one terrifying moment she’s afraid he won’t ever forgive her for being the one to make that decision for all of them. For having the chance to say goodbye that he was denied. But then she sees understanding slip into his eyes, supplementing if not supplanting the devastation, and she knows somehow they’ll survive.
Theirs has been a strange relationship from the beginning. They’ve never said anything, not aloud, never acted on the strange connection that hums between the three of them, but if not physically then emotionally they’ve been together almost since the day Sumner died. The day that the three of them became the triad of power that Atlantis depended on as much as it had once depended on its trio of ZPMs. She is the apex of it, she knows, and not just because they are technically still her subordinates, but also because both men have always identified themselves as too stubbornly straight to be quite comfortable with how important they are to each other. But the truth is, both in governing Atlantis and each other’s hearts, they are far more equal than any of them would ever admit.
Only looking into Rodney’s eyes now, she thinks maybe for the first time he’s admitted to himself how lost they will both be if John does not return. They’ll survive; they’ll go on because they still have each other, but they’ll never be the same. The endless knot will be broken, the threefold cord unraveled, and every moment of laughter will be marred by unshed tears, by the memory of his smile or the snappy retort that would’ve been on the tip of his tongue.
She still loves Simon, but what she has with these two men is different. In some ways, it’s almost more than love. It’s a perfect synchronization of three disparate souls united by a common goal and a common burden unknowable to all those below or outside of them. They don’t always agree, or even always reach a detente, but any outside threat to the fragile balance of power they’ve erected is always met with a unified front. They are her right and left hands, and losing them would cripple her as badly as losing a limb.
She can feel the knife at her wrist even now, and by the weary, broken look in Rodney’s eyes she can tell he feels it too. Feels the hand wrapped around their hearts, just waiting to rip them out.
If by some miracle John does survive, she’ll let them hold her. She’ll need both of their strength to warm her bed and soothe her grief when she finally lets go and lets herself mourn for Peter, for the Athosians, for their City.
If that miracle does come to pass, or even if it doesn’t, a part of her almost pities Everett. He may have stepped aside for her, in a moment of surprising graciousness, but he won’t step aside for John. And she knows he’ll never be part of the heart of the city like they’ve become, but rather the grudgingly accepted leader of a foreign occupation. He’ll never be the first one she looks to for military guidance as long as even John’s memory remains to advise her. Even though she knows that Everett is the better military man.
Everett will never be part of her soul. He would not give his life in a heartbeat, even defy her to try to save her, like John or Rodney would. And if he did, she wouldn’t hesitate to let him. She wouldn’t be gripped by this fear. Her grief for Peter wouldn’t be tempered by gratitude that it was him aboard the station and not the man who is, despite his sometimes abrasive nature, one of the better thirds of her heart.
She can’t even imagine how she would cope if she lost them both.
Hesitantly, Rodney’s hand creeps out to cover hers where they stand side by side, neither of them caring for once that someone might see and draw the right conclusion. I’m going in, John’s last words still ring in her mind, and she closes her eyes and lets her fingers twine with that lifeline. All that exists in that moment is that voice and that touch. Her anchors.
Holding her breath, she waits to be cut adrift and prays for a miracle.