Oh, The Places You'll Go

Faster Than Your Guardian Angel Can Fly

Notes: Beta by isiscolo and zabira, for which many thanks. Any remaining mistakes are entirely my own. Written for picfor1000.


Rodney buys his first car exactly twenty-four hours after he gets his license with profits from the homework factory he's been running since grade three. Hey, if he's going to have to put up with the general stupidity of the populace he might as well benefit from it. Every other sixteen-year old boy could tell you the mark, model and manufacturer of their alleged dream machines; Rodney could tell you his is ... green. It's green and clunky and drinks gas like an alcoholic drinks hard liquor, despite Rodney's best — and, frankly, genius — attempts to turn the damn thing into the vehicular equivalent of a teetotaller.

He doesn't care about wheel trim, about whether racing stripes are a mark of cool or just another sign that he's a geek with no taste, about the shabby state of the interior. All Rodney cares about is that the car goes. It takes him away from the fights and their freezing aftermath, away from Jeannie picking out simple tunes on the piano he hasn't touched in years — not that he lets her baby attempts at Mozart bother him; he has more technicality in his little finger than she will ever have — away from all the expectations.

He heads towards open skies, lies back on the hood and watches the stars for hours at a time, blanket wrapped around scrawny shoulders, thermos of coffee by his side. It empties his head of anxieties and fills it with equations and what-ifs, possibilities and promises. One day, he vows, one day I'll get there.

The car always seems to drive smoother on the way back.

The seat belt sticks in a random pattern that taxes even Rodney's brain, the passenger well is ankle-deep in candy wrappers, occasionally the car smells as if something died in there, but Rodney loves it all the same. It sees him through to grad school, and he spends thirty seconds seriously contemplating giving it a Viking send-off before deciding too much caffeine and insufficient sleep clearly make him too romantically inclined. The next day he trades it to a Physics undergrad for his entire Genesis collection.

Two days later when he sees no-longer-his car go by in a cloud of black smoke he acknowledges that he got the better deal. It doesn't cost him a single twinge.

***

Somewhere, back on Earth, Rodney has a car. Silver, sleek, functional, A/C to die for, dull as Kavanagh. No, be fair, duller. At least Kavanagh excites feelings of contempt and despair; the car, on the other hand, barely registered in Rodney's consciousness even when he drove it.

If Rodney were to get all metaphorical about it (and why not? Athosian ale always seems to make him wax lyrical) he could say that the dullness of his car represents the dullness of his life before Atlantis. It's like comparing his car to a puddlejumper. Zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds, or an invisible spaceship that can take him into the night sky where the stars shine so differently? Reverse, park, drive boredom or a beautiful flying machine that he can control with his mind? Seriously? With all that out there, how can anyone want to stay earthbound? Fools and idiots, all of them.

Yes, yes, he'd had adventures before he came here. He'd rubbed up against the comely Samantha Carter, he'd been exiled to Russia for being right — still not over that, not even close — he'd exposed people to his startling intelligence on a regular basis, but nothing compares to Atlantis. Everything he experiences here is sharper, brighter, magnified a thousand times over. Fear, exhilaration, sadness, joy: everything in brilliant focus.

Rodney decides to send a message to his neighbour in the next databurst to Earth. She deserves a little something for taking care of Quixote; the car should do.

***

The Future was supposed to be all silver suits, jet-packs and flying cars. Rodney'd had the flying cars and even (on one weird occasion) something vaguely resembling a jet-pack. The silver suits had needed work, though. Now he finds himself in the alleged Future yet still back in the past, flying cars long left behind, four wheels still turning.

At least they've managed to forward the technology as far as making the crazy horses carbon-neutral. Rodney likes this. It makes him feel invisible and that makes him feel safe. Safe is good. Safe was always good.

The engine of this car hums like it's glad to be alive. The sound dances around the edges of Rodney's consciousness as his arm drapes over the door, air resistance tugging it and freezing his fingers despite the summer heat. The seat moulds around Rodney as if it was made for him. Rodney stretches out his legs and tips his head back into the sun, perfectly comfortable. He fits; it's a strange sensation.

It has taken a long time to adjust to life back on Earth, to admit that Atlantis is truly gone and the best years of his life are behind him. But it turns out that isn't entirely true. On days like these ... on days like these, the omnipresent silvery thread of pain — the residue of the lopped-off Pegasus Galaxy — recedes into memory. Rodney hears the wheels as they sing against the road. "You are not alone," they say. He knows.

"You're quiet today," says his companion. "Feeling okay? Are you having a hypoglycaemic fit? Are you dead? They charge you extra for dying in a rental."

Rodney's lips twist in a smile.

"Home," he says.

He doesn't have to see the eyebrows furrow.

"You never lived here."

"That's not what I mean," says Rodney, twisting and placing cold fingers against his companion's neck.

"Fuck, Rodney!"

"Mmmmmm," says Rodney. "I'd like that, but I think we forgot to bring your heart medicine."

"Are you calling me old?"

"You're saying you're not? I've heard you creak when you climb stairs."

"Yeah, well, you're bald."

"Oh, please!" Rodney snorts. "Is that the best you can do?"

The car wheels turn.


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