Reader's DVD commentary for
Two Dimensions
by frostfire_17

I'm supposed to be vacuuming. And cleaning the bathroom. Lord help me, I'm addicted to doing commentaries. We're having people over and I'm still in bed. It's worth it.

This story is pretty much entirely the inside of Rodney's head. It's one of my favorite looks at Rodney, and one of my favorite gen SGA stories. So here goes.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

You don't make mistakes. You don't fucking make mistakes, because everyone's out there just waiting for it, waiting for you to screw up so they can move in and shove you down, get ahead of you. Rodney knows this, has known it since high school, when he was at one of the top schools in the country and still a couple years younger than everyone else and ten times as smart. If he'd made one mistake, just one, Cory Simmons or Delilah Hartley or fucking Mr. Tindley would have moved in and taken him down. No happy life of geekdom, blowing up the chemistry lab and hacking into the system, because everyone from the freshmen to the principal hated his guts and if he'd left them a single opening, one little illegal slip, he would have been lost. He learned that lesson real fast after Delilah's mom called the fucking CIA on him when he was twelve years old. I like how fast and hard and frantic and paranoid this is. I don't think Rodney forgives himself intellectual mistakes, I think he puts his entire ego on the line every single time, and it shows. And the paranoia makes sense - of course people are going to be threatened by the wunderkind. Because Rodney has gone through school at an accelerated rate, he's failed to gain the one thing that elementary and secondary schools really provide: socialization. So he lacks the tools he would need to defuse their resentments, and his reactions to them actually ramp things up, make them worse. I don't think that's always the case, as in canon we actually get some good examples of him working with people well, and even of managing people on the science team well - but I think that's only possible where the people he's dealing with have decided to ignore the hard parts of Rodney's personality, to not take it personally, or to mock his arrogance rather than fighting it. When threatened, Rodney strikes out at people, and it makes things worse.

And then college. Youngest one in a field where youth was more valuable than brains, where you wanted to be there first, where speed was everything and you had to charge in and get there and trust that you were smart enough not to have screwed up on the way. And he was, and he knew it, and that just made it worse, because everyone who had to stop and fix their mistakes was giving him the finger as he blew past them, and he knew they'd be running after him to try and grab him by the shirt collar before he got to the finish line. Desperate and breathless. It's amazing how this story manages to go so fast, and deliver so much adrenaline, while still keeping the volubility of Rodney's voice.

It's a stupid metaphor, but it's real.

He's always had to trust that he has everything right, everything worked out, and just go, because anything else and everyone will be running him down. No errors, no mistakes, no fucking wrong answers, because you can't afford it in this field. One mistake and you're sent to Siberia and have to spend years making your career back up from the ground. Usually I don't think of Rodney as valuing his career as such, and I'm not sure exactly why. I suppose because he's in it for the science and the discovery, a compulsive need to be right. But he desperately needs recognition as well, and that's what the career is all about. Also, if his career isn't going well, he isn't in a position to do what he wants, to make those discoveries or get access to the tools he needs.

In Siberia, everything stood still. He nearly lost his mind. I think Siberia was a lesson for Rodney in politics, and it really was the most horrible punishment possible - it restricted the scope of his work to things that he didn't actually find very challenging, kept him away from the research where he might make breakthroughs and new discoveries, and forced him into a role that he knew he wasn't very good at - training others and directing their work rather than focusing on his own. People who resented him and with whom he couldn't communicate properly, people who had been stuck with him. And all because he had essentially made a political mistake, a misjudgment in priorities. His science was valid, but his interactions were wrong.

He wonders what Pegasus' Siberia is going to be.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

It's worse than the last time. Last time, he didn't have as much prestige, didn't have as much seniority, and he didn't have any trust to lose. Yes. Oh, Rodney. Realizing that this isn't something that makes him vulnerable to his enemies, but rather something that makes him vulnerable to his friends. That he actually cares about these people, and that they are personally disappointed in him. That this is not just a professional fuckup.

John's face. Jesus fucking Christ.

Sam never trusted him like John did. She did her own thing. She does her own thing, and he hates her a little bit for that. This race has been Rodney's entire life, and she doesn't even realize it's happening. Crosses the finish line without even trying, and watches bemusedly as Rodney run himself into the ground. He caught himself, afterward, wanting to step through a quantum mirror into her reality, where publishing is secondary and academic standing is tertiary and she just likes playing with gadgets and saving people's lives. She doesn't need to run. Sam, on the other hand, is very well socialized. She knows how to interact with people, and when to stand up for herself, and how to play politics - she has not just school as a background for this, but also the military. And here's the thing about Sam as a scientist in the military - she knows that while she will always get credit, the research doesn't really belong to her. It belongs to the group, a group that she is an acknowledged and publicly valued member of. Rodney, as a civilian contractor, has no public value, no automatic recognition, and no in-group status. It puts him in an entirely different position, and means his priorities are nothing like Sam's priorities. Going to Atlantis, becoming part of Sheppard's team, changes that for Rodney, but in a sort of tenuous way, and he has to feel that he needs to work to retain that team position. Rodney likes playing with gadgets and saving people's lives, too - he just can't assume that the people he works for are going to allow him to keep doing so, despite his claims that he has both the right to do so and the ability.

Like John, flying his helicopter in circles in Antarctica. John's Antarctica, Rodney thinks, was like Rodney's Siberia, all white and still and silent, but John fucking liked it there, wasn't even trying to leave, and then planted his ass in a chair and suddenly there he was at the finish line. Yes. Okay, I think there's some hero worship at play here. Yes, John liked it there. But I'm not so sure that was a good thing. John liked it there because it was a respite from horror, a quiet time after some very bad experiences. And possibly because John is a marvel of compartmentalization and detachment and it suited him to like it there. And we know what Rodney doesn't know, that John, at least at first, maybe doesn't see his inclusion in the expedition as a positive thing. John has misgivings, and he's not the best guy to be in command, and he's got issues writ large, and I think it's a struggle for him. But Rodney buys the breezy laid-back act, the cool. Rodney thinks it all rolls right off John's back, and he envies that.

Rodney's Antarctica was his way back into the race, running full tilt and dizzy with it, knowing he was at the head of the pack. Grad school all over again, and him the wunderkind of the physics world. The finish line was Atlantis. And he got here. And here is the best race of all and the hardest run ever. And he was winning. Yes. I think Rodney's Antarctica was a joy, a gift. He wasn't just at the head of the pack, he was way out in front, knowing and understanding things that no one else could, tripping over himself to make the next breakthrough, and the next, just because they were there, not because he was afraid that someone else might make those discoveries first. And in Atlantis, he's got peers, people who like him and work with him pretty much happily and sure, he still twitches with paranoia from time to time, but he's starting to trust them too. His shift in priorities, his work on a team that goes on missions, has shown him that it's possible that he can work that way.

Until he made his one fucking mistake, and John watched him with betrayed eyes as the Durandan system went nova. Yeah. Here's the thing - Rodney didn't just convince Sheppard professionally to back him on that - he made it personal. He made it about friendship, and once he did that, failure was no longer a mistake or an accident, but a betrayal of trust.

John doesn't have a fucking clue. Oh, Rodney. Neither do you.

Sam. John. God. Like they've got a wormhole set up, and can cross light-years in a single bound, while Rodney has to run every. Single. Fucking. Step. And he can't trip once, or--a solar system blows up. According to Rodney's world view, Sam and John are cheating at life. Because they understand things that he doesn't about how life works.

He lost, again. And this time he lost more, because he had more. And now he's going to have to start from the beginning again, work his way up from a standstill, from his labs where no one will look him in the eye, from the briefing room where Elizabeth will never take one of his suggestions without a grain of salt, from--here. This is just so painful. And very well said, the way Rodney feels like this one mistake has destroyed everything. And he doesn't get tat it isn't the mistake he thinks he made, the miscalculation, the scientific error - it's that he failed at the social parts. The social parts are what he's really lost, and he can't recognize them as such.

"At the very least, I hope I can earn that back," he says, and John just looks at him for a second.

"That may take a while," he answers, and here, this is the Siberia of the Pegasus galaxy. Rodney can feel the room going white and blank already. And there he sees it, I think. That it isn't his career that's in a shambles after all. He's been thinking science is his life, and it turns out? His whole life is his life, every aspect. The science is just a part of it.

"But I'm sure you can do it, if you really want to try," John continues, and smiles. The transporter doors close behind him.

Rodney takes a breath. He can do this. He's started over before. But seeing it doesn't mean he gets it.

John Sheppard and Samantha Carter have found a third dimension to move in. Rodney's still stuck in two, but God damn it, he is going to make it back to the finish line. Oh, Rodney. You have that third dimension, you really do. And you're getting better at moving in it all the time.

This story just tears me up. I think it's spot-on.


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