Length: 700 words
Pairing: John & Rodney
Now on my Dreamwidth page: all three stories in reading order and with edits on the rough spots that were bothering me... so please read that version!
Sequel to: Where the Heart Is, written for casa_mcshep. Best to read that first.
This is utterly self-indulgent, but if you want to get weepy with me, then forge ahead. Warnings at the bottom.
John's out of bed early to watch the sun rise over the mountains. As long as they've been on this world, he and Rodney have watched the sky together. He needs to see the sun come up today; it might be the last sunrise of Rodney's life. The days are getting short, and cold, and Rodney's been sick since the spring. Almost half a year. He doesn't have much longer.
John had thought he'd be out of his mind when they got to this point, but he's okay. He feels strong. He has things to do. He's calm.
Rodney's still asleep and seems comfortable, so John heads out to the spring to wash, taking two buckets along to haul water. The path to the spring is easy, even in the half-light of dawn. Thirteen years, every day, back and forth from the cabin; they've worn the path wide and smooth.
Back inside, he pours a cup of water for Rodney and hooks one of the buckets over the cookfire. Small flames dance around the metal as he watches.
They don't have any way to treat Rodney's illness. They're lucky to have something for the pain, but even so Rodney's lost weight, too much of it. It's been weeks since he could keep down anything but broth and watered-down fruit juice.
Rodney stirs a little and John goes to him, sitting on the edge of the bed. He cups Rodney's face with one hand, and the blue eyes - God, always so blue - open slowly. "Hey there buddy," John says, smiling. "Up and at 'em. You ready to face the day?"
Rodney hmms a little, and John waits patiently. "Another day?" Rodney asks finally, and John leans down to kiss him.
"Yeah, another day," he says gently, brushing the hair from Rodney's forehead. "There's water heating so I can help you wash up. Then, you know. I thought maybe breakfast in bed?"
Rodney smiles faintly at the little joke. "Just like the Ritz."
"Yeah. Just like." John stands and checks on the water. The pot over the fire is boiling; he pours it into a basin and adds cold water until the temperature is right.
It's not long before Rodney's clean and dry and back under the blankets. He's lying quietly with his eyes closed now, breathing shallowly: the pain's starting up again. John gets out the mortar and pestle and the bowl of chai beans. He picks out two, grinds them to powder, and lets it dissolve in the cup of water.
It's the best drug they have. Back in the first year they'd roasted the beans to make a hot drink - it tasted more like vanilla chai than coffee, to Rodney's disappointment - and discovered the pain-killing properties when John's sprained ankle abruptly stopped hurting. The side effects are like morphine, so they use it sparingly.
Rodney's staring at the ceiling, expression strained, when John brings the chai over. He slides an arm behind Rodney's shoulders and holds the cup to his mouth. "Small sips," he murmurs, and wipes Rodney's mouth with his fingers when he's done.
Rodney catches his hand when he starts to get up. "Could you - come back to bed with me? Please?"
"Yeah, 'course I will, buddy." He bends down to kiss Rodney's forehead, strips down to shorts and t-shirt and slides under the covers. Rodney relaxes into his arms.
They lie together in silence for a few minutes, and it sounds like Rodney's breathing is getting easier. "How're you feeling now?" John asks quietly.
Rodney turns, his eyes meeting John's, and he's smiling - a rare, heartbreakingly sweet smile John's only seen once or twice before. "I feel safe," Rodney says clearly. "Peaceful. I feel good."
John has to clear his throat, and his chest hurts, but the pain might be happiness. "That's good," he says, voice rough. "That's good." He pulls Rodney a little closer and holds on tight.
John sits outside to watch the sunset, until it's dark enough to see the stars. It's peaceful, and the forest sounds are familiar. In his hand there's a cup of chai - strong, so strong it's bitter, all the beans they had left.
When the cup is empty, John goes back inside, to join Rodney.
Yes, this is a deathfic. I hope it doesn't distress anyone too much. For myself, I've found that I don't mind a sad ending (and sometimes that's what I actually want to write) as long as they're together.