Summary: That's what he decided the universe is like, folded up like a fan, and you can spread it out or close it up, and when it's closed that's when you can shift.
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Length: ~1200 words
Title, Author and URL of original story: [shift] Reality by gblvr
It probably isn't the first time. After all, the first memory you have of someone doesn't mean they didn't exist before. But the first time John remembers it happening is when he was six.
He's lying in bed. It's summer, still light enough outside that he wants to be out there playing. But he must be tired, because he yawns and closes his eyes, and there it is, this funny feeling like he's floating, a familiar itch under his skin.
He opens his eyes and he's not in bed. He's not in his room, not in his pajamas. He's at a playground he's never seen before and a boy he won't meet for ten, twenty, thirty years says, "Don't just stand there, push!" The swing comes back towards him. He pushes.
It's always like that when he's little, and it's a long time before he realizes that's not what other people mean when they talk about dreams.
He's in high school, maybe junior high. It's not just when he's sleeping anymore; it hasn't been for a while. He can almost make it happen, kind of zone out until he starts feeling that itch. It usually doesn't go anywhere, though. He usually doesn't go anywhere.
He tries a lot at school, though, and at the stupid shrink's when he's supposed to be talking about not paying attention in class or whatever. If he could just do it right then, let some other John take over or go on autopilot or whatever happens when he's not there, life would be so much easier.
Mostly it happens when he's not thinking about it. It happens once when he's jerking off. He's so close, this close, heels dug into the bed and hips pumping up to meet his hand and there it is, a snap like ropes breaking as he comes loose, shifts over.
It's not his room, not this him or any him. Somehow he knows that like he knows the name of the guy between his legs though he's never seen him before in his life. Brian, that's him. Brian who's on the football team with this John, Brian whose cheeks are hollowed around his dick.
He cracks his head on the headboard but it's still the best orgasm he's ever had. Does it count as losing your virginity when you were only there for part of it?
When he goes back to this John's house (he knows the way without thinking), there's a paper fan above his bed, just like at home. He made it in fifth grade. Not every him did, but this one is close, just one fold over. That's what he decided the universe is like, folded up like a fan, and you can spread it out or close it up, and when it's closed that's when you can shift. Jump, slide, whatever. One minute you're you, the next you're getting head.
It's a secret he shares with himself. He used to ask people, to hint around when he saw somebody more than once. Did they know? Could they do it, too? Nobody knew what he was talking about. They all looked at him like he was fucking crazy and maybe he is.
So it's just him and these other hims.
When things start going wrong with Nancy, he tunes her out, literally. He can do it without even trying anymore, like flipping a switch in his head, and if he doesn't like where he ends up (if someone else is chewing him out for not paying enough attention), he just moves on.
He was about twenty-five before he really got it down, and even then there was still the odd unconscious jump. Now it doesn't happen unless he wants it to. It still needs fine tuning, though, a way for him to choose where he wants to go instead of channel surfing til he finds what he wants.
Sometimes he wonders what happens when he's gone. Do they all shift over one place or does he switch with whoever's life he's borrowing now? No one seems to notice anything's different, so the other hims, they must be as good at this as he is.
Sometimes, not very often, but more than once, more than five or six or ten times, even, he gets these panic attacks. Because he wonders, he's always wondered, if this is really his world, here with Nancy now in bed, another round of make-up sex to try and patch together something they both know can't be fixed.
This is where he spends most of his time, this is what feels like home in a way that nowhere else does, no matter how long he stays. But maybe he's not John Sheppard, maybe he never was.
Maybe he's no one from nowhere, just borrowing his own body.
There have always been certain people who show up a lot. His parents usually. Dave, too, though not always. John liked those only-child universes when he was a kid.
The others he thought were just coincidences at first. The kid he meets when he's six sits next to him in algebra, smokes pot with him in college, is his boss or his neighbor or his boyfriend. A girl he dates for all of a week in seventh grade shows up a lot, too. A boy he babysits for. A kid at the pool the summer he teaches swim lessons. The woman he almost marries, maybe does, later. He hasn't gone back.
It sounds like a lot, but he meets millions of people. He has more lives than he could ever count. The repetitions that start to build up, they don't really even register at first.
But now it's almost always the same people, everywhere he goes. It's weird to meet someone and think I fucked you, you dumped me, you died. But it's familiar. He likes these people.
There's no Stargate in this world, or maybe there is, but he's got nothing to do with it. No, there isn't, probably, because Ronon and Teyla are here, from Earth.
He stays here, though. It's a nice break from Wraith and Replicators and things trying to kill him. And the nice thing about Rodney is he's rarely seeing anyone, in any universe.
The bad thing about Rodney (other than all the reasons why he's rarely seeing anyone) is that it can be hard to convince him. Sometimes it's easy. This is one of the hard times, but he likes a challenge.
And then Rodney goes and gets hit by a car and takes all the fun out of it.
John flips back to Atlantis, to his Rodney. He finds himself in the infirmary and his heart nearly stops when he sees Rodney lying there, bruised and bloody and way too still.
This isn't supposed to happen. This is definitely not how it works.
His knuckles are white on the bed's guardrail. He takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly, and then he's gone. There are other universes.
There are other Rodneys.