He knew all of that. He just couldn't make himself care.
The real stinger was that even if he'd wanted the company (which he really didn't) no one really knew what he was going through. No one had been told, no one had seen them. It had been what they both wanted, out of fear, or maybe embarrassment, who knows. The point... the point was that people wondered how he was doing after his friend had died, when really, really what they should have been wondering was if he was still alive inside after his lover had died.
He couldn't stop the sob that wracked his body. Couldn't stop the gut-wrenching sensations that thinking that name caused. Couldn't help hearing, over and over and over again, that voice over his headset, suddenly cut off by the sound of an explosion, quickly fizzing to nothing but static and... and then silence.
He was curled on the cold floor of his quarters. He'd been there for hours this time, dead eyes staring at the wall, seeing his face, his hands, his smile, hearing his laugh. It was a torture like he had never known before. How could one man's life, one man's... death... fill him up and drain him out? The empty space inside was like nothing he'd experienced. It overwhelmed him, consumed him.
There was nothing left in him. He'd barely made it back to his- their- quarters after it happened before he broke. He'd screamed and thrashed, breaking anything he could get his hands on, tearing at books, slamming equipment into the walls, the window, the door controls... Finally he'd collapsed in the midst of everything he'd destroyed, barely noticing the broken glass that bit into his knees. There was nothing left. Nothing mattered anymore, and he wasn't there to hold him above the surface.
What killed him more than anything else was that he could have prevented it. Fishing wouldn't have been that terrible, really, and why should he have cared that people had been wondering about them? There'd been whispers, gossip; they spent too much time together, argued like a couple in the mess hall, and isn't that weirdly funny? Ha ha.
He did care. Or he thought he'd cared. He'd made excuses, run off to prove his manliness by trying to reaffirm that he was dating Dr. Brown, and because of that, he'd lost the light, the love of his life.
There were no more tears, but that just made the sobs more painful.
Someone had to clean out his quarters. He knew that, knew that John was planning on doing it in a couple days. Right before the funeral. Right before they carried him back to Earth, back to Scotland. To his mother, his family. Away from Atlantis, away from Rodney.
He'd found himself in Carson's quarters that afternoon. He took his time, slowly folding the clothes Carson left there for appearances, packing the fishing gear into a crate, stripping the bed, smelling him on the sheets, in the clothes. He couldn't feel anything, moved on autopilot, completely numb.
Then he found the framed picture of the two of them, walking in a field right before he and Cadman got scooped up by the Wraith dart. He picked it up, stared at it. Carson had been happy, laughing, teasing him, keeping up the fašade that they were only friends. "You have a date, Rodney? With a woman?" He'd laughed for Cadman's sake, but had given Rodney a slow, secretive smile when her back was turned.
He was still staring at the picture when the door opened. Ronon was only trying to help, but Rodney couldn't really talk to him. Elizabeth had cornered him the day before, had asked him to go see Heightmeyer, but he couldn't do that either. When Ronon left, Rodney stayed in the packed up room, as barren as he felt inside. He stared at the crates that held a man's entire life.
He kept the picture, kept a homemade blanket, a couple of his shirts. The photo sat on his bedside table, between the one of his sister and niece and the one of his cat. He put the shirts in his closet, then curled on the bed under Carson's blanket, nose buried in its folds.
He stared at the picture for over an hour.
On the day of the funeral, John came to see him. He didn't speak, just sat with Rodney for a while. Finally, he muttered something about going to check on Teyla in the infirmary and he left. Rodney barely noticed.
He wasn't sure how he got through his speech, staring at the flag draped coffin. He'd buried himself, let his mouth go on autopilot, his chest ached, burned, but his voice stayed fairly steady. Walking back to his place with the pallbearers, his hand brushed the side of the coffin and he nearly stumbled. He kept his eyes straight ahead, couldn't look, couldn't see. What else could he do?
Elizabeth gave a very nice speech, John told him later, but at the time he wasn't listening. He stared at the box that held his lover, and drifted back to that day, to the aborted fishing trip. He'd been so happy to get out of it, had been let off the hook so easily that he just knew Carson was going to make him 'pay' for it that night. He'd been looking forward to it.
Everyone had been so happy that day. Even he had not felt too weird to be away from the labs. It had made for a nice change. He'd been with Katie when he heard the first explosion.
The bagpipes and the kawoosh of the gate brought him back to the task at hand. He and John shared a look, stepped forward, one of Carson's doctors, Radek, Ronon, and Lorne all following. Standing beside Carson, he almost couldn't do it. Almost couldn't pick up the coffin, step through the gate. He owed him this and so much more though.
They'd been talking about taking some leave, going back to Earth so Rodney could meet Carson's family. Now he was going to. But it wasn't the same. Gripping the coffin so hard his hand ached, he and John nodded to each other.
They took Carson home.