Recipient: for abrokencompass, who wished for a slightly angsty John centric fic with a happy ending...
Word count: 12 000 words total, in two parts
Disclaimer: Borrowing the characters for fun, they are not mine... Oh and Johnny Cash let me borrow lyrics for the title, too (but I don't think he knows!)
Author's Notes: A heartfelt thank you to my friends jaydblu, cynthia_arrow and petit_rhino who helped me make this readable! Set post season 5, with slight spoilers for the whole series.
Summary: Severe solitary confinement is a bitch. Ask John.
John remains as still as he can as consciousness comes back in waves, making his stomach roll with nausea. He's most likely concussed; he's gotten pretty good at self-diagnosis with the level of grogginess upon waking up. Okay, so the pounding headache helps with that one, too. John tries to keep his breathing even, not to alert his captors that he's back as he takes inventory of what's around him. No sounds, not even breathing, save from the faint hum of ventilation. He's inside, then, and after careful stretching he has to conclude that he isn't restrained in any way and is on a slightly giving surface that is probably a cot.
But no sound means he's alone, so where are...? As he remembers how he got captured, John has to just clamp down on the dread filling him and bury it as deep as he can. He needs to see where he is, if and how he can get out, and there will be time for freak-outs later. He gets his breathing back under control once more, and after a couple of minutes, John risks opening an eye slightly... and closes it immediately, stifling a pained groan. Fuck, way too bright in here, he has seen nothing but white.
It takes a couple of minutes before John can stand keeping his eyes open so he can assess the room clinically. Roughly ten feet by eight, it's without a doubt a detention cell or an isolation room. The walls and ceiling are a uniform white color, made from a composite that glows like those X-ray readers back on Earth. John thinks hard about dimming the lights, but it doesn't work. The floor, pale gray, doesn't glow but is like a gym mat. No windows, no door that he can see either at first glance, even if the walls are covered with deep grooves, and suddenly John thinks of those padded rooms in the movies, where you lock up the crazies. When he gets up, he realizes that the ceiling is not quite seven feet high and it makes the whole setting suddenly more claustrophobic.
There's some equipment in a corner that upon closer investigation turns out to be a basic vacuum toilet device, much like the ones in the jumpers, and a sink with a motion activated water faucet. All in fashionable white, too. The water is lukewarm and smells fine, but John passes for now, even if his throat is so dry he feels like he's swallowing glass.
He can still hear the air circulating but there are no visible vents, so it probably comes from the grooves at the junction of walls and ceiling. No obvious cameras either, but with the level of technology the room hints at, John figures he's observed closely. Maybe the walls are see-through from the outside. The idea makes him wince, hoping that he's not a glorified fish in a bowl for some wacky aliens.
Now that he has thoroughly examined his new domain and concluded he can't escape - for now - John sits down in a corner and checks what his captors left him. He still has his watch, his black uniform and TAC vest on, jarring in the whiteness surrounding him, but his boots are gone as well as the gun, ammo, matches, knife, detonators and C4. John finds his dog tags, chain free, in a pocket. The bad guys have been thorough and removed everything John could have used as a weapon, including the chain and his boot laces... a good move because he wouldn't hesitate to strangle someone to get out, right about now.
As he rifles through the other pockets, he finds two power bars (opened but otherwise intact), most of the first aid stuff although the drugs are gone, including the EpiPen, and for some reason four black sharpie pens. Annnnd that's it. Okay, so all in all, he has nothing to pull a MacGyver with and the only choice is to wait for what comes next.
The problem is that waiting means time to think and now that he has no distraction, all of the thoughts he's dutifully repressed since waking up come back with a vengeance.
Chaos, that's what he remembers last. They had gone to that stupid planet in the usual four-member team because Rodney said he had a hunch, had been pushing for this address for weeks now after reading something cryptic in the database. It was supposed to be deserted, dammit, but from one moment to the next they'd been badly outnumbered by guys with high technology firearms and stunners and no problem with using them.
By the time they were running for the gate, it was too close, too late and John could only yell for everyone to just go go go while he tried to buy them a minute more. It came so close that they'd get out of trouble by the skin of their ass once more as Teyla dialed Atlantis and the blue puddle was right there to jump through. But then John saw Ronon go down not even thirty feet from the event horizon and Rodney, instead of running safely home, chose to backtrack to help the big guy. If someone somewhere suggested Rodney thought of himself more than others in John's vicinity ever again, John would make sure to punch their nose right in.
As Rodney showed once again his very particular brand of courage, Teyla was yelling for everyone to hurry while the bad guys closed in fast. With a detachment brought by witnessing a horror too big to comprehend, John then saw Rodney jerk back as he was hit to the chest. Rodney looked down and seemed almost surprised at the red blossoming on his shirt, standing there for a second before his legs gave out. John thought of running to him but he stopped dead in his tracks, turned around, and fired and fired some more to do as much damage as he could. He remembers a cold all-encompassing rage, a mantra of nonononohellno, and you don't get to hurt my team, fuckers, and that he was advancing on them because the situation was just not acceptable.
The only thing that managed to stop him was the hit of a blast that made his heart seize up, which was followed by a faint yell of "John, John!" For a fraction of a second he had had the sudden hope that maybe Rodney was okay, it sure sounded like Rodney, but then John had face-planted way too fast for the ground and everything went black.
Just thinking about it makes John's pulse speed up and his stomach churn. Fuck. He has to believe Rodney's okay, that they're all maybe a bit bruised but perfectly fine and taken care of. Maybe they made it back after all, or possibly they're in white fishbowls, too, with a small toilet and a soft floor. John can't think of this being it, losing Rodney and Ronon so suddenly, maybe even Teyla. His hands are shaking and he needs to get a grip. He jumps up, looks at the four walls in turns and says out loud with a smirk, trying to look way more confident than he is:
"Hey, I'm awake, if you hadn't noticed. I'd like to go now."
Nothing but silence, but he had expected it. If he's alive, it's because they want something out of him, either getting intel or as hostage or trade material. He knows Woolsey won't negotiate with terrorists, so all he has to do is to hang on until someone gets him out of here, or he finds a way to escape. In the meantime.... he's going to take a nap. Making a big production out of it, John goes to lie down in a corner, links his fingers on his stomach and crosses his ankles. He then closes his eyes, willing it all to fall away.
John has never been a people person, but being left in total isolation for four days and counting is starting to take its toll. He's fed twice a day, every twelve hours, through an automated trap that opens in the wall to reveal a compartment with a plate of beans and sort some of rice. John hadn't touched it the first day and ate his power bars, suspicious that the food could be drugged. But after trying the water and not feeling anything weird, he had given in to hunger. The rice and beans weren't in any way tasty, but it was enough to fill. John had wondered if he should keep the plates at first but gave up on the idea because they were useless for building anything and not strong enough to be used as weapons. He has 45 seconds to take the new plate and put in the old one when the trap opens, or else he has to wait for another twelve hours. He'd gotten soap, too, which frankly was a relief. No razor, though, so he's getting pretty scruffy.
Since there's absolutely no distraction whatsoever, not even a sound out of place except for the swish of the food compartment twice a day, John's left to manage his time to avoid going nuts. He knows the basic theory about the effect of solitary confinement, and that he could be in for nasty side effects if it goes on for too long. He has very few options to pass time: playing mind games by himself, which is pretty boring after a while, exercising and sleeping. He sets a schedule and tries to stick with it.
Basically he tries to sleep as much as he can, but sets the alarm on his watch to be sure not pass the food distribution. When he's up, he goes through a quite demanding workout: crunches, push-ups and the combat moves he usually makes in training. For the mental gymnastic, he tries to come up with the most pointless lists ever just to have something to think about, from all of his past phone numbers to wondering with which letter of the alphabet he can list the most fruits. But still, it's boring as fuck, and more and more he finds himself pacing around the room. He isn't sure he'll go to the zoo or the aquarium ever again.
On the sixth day, John realizes he's been talking out loud for a little while now and that more and more he re-enacts conversations he once had with various people. Or even better, he makes up new ones. It's pretty much always with Rodney, which is not a surprise since they've had an easy banter for over five years now. It's not hallucinations, John isn't that far gone, it's just daydreaming and playing what ifs, or What Would Rodney Say. For the most part John forces himself not to think about the disastrous minutes before he got caught, because when he does he's suddenly taken with white hot anger again. If his knuckles are a bit sensitive, what happened is between him and the frigging white walls.
John's not so sure anymore that he's being observed. Even more unsettling, he thinks that the people on the other side probably just don't care at all and will never ask anything of him. He starts to worry that he's been left here to die of old age or until he jabs himself in the eye with a pen to the brain just to end it all. John stops pacing at once, dumbstruck and heart beating fast. He hasn't felt anything like excitement in so long; it's as if he's six years old on Christmas morning all over again. He dives to his knees to his TAC vest and takes out the four markers as if they're the most precious gifts in the world. McKay's always trying to squirrel those away, paranoid at the dwindling of office supplies, and had started to use his teammates as caches. His argument was that no one would bother to look in their pockets, especially not Ronon's, and that the pen could always be useful off-world, especially if they found something interesting that needed to be labelled. Of course, by labelled, Rodney means writing "DO NOT TOUCH" or "CAREFUL" or "DROP IT AND DIE" and other outright menaces on stuff.
Once he uncaps the first pen, John just goes with the flow, drawing long lines on the ceiling. The apparition of black on white so satisfying it's almost physical. It's only when he has traced the fourth line and is curving to go towards the back of the room that he realizes just what he's drawing: the schematic plans of an F-111.
He grins, and then starts measuring with his hand to make it an accurate 1:10 model, or close enough. He's always been quite good with a pencil, and technical drawing had been among his favorite engineering classes. Even as a kid he used to draw airplanes all the time, fighter planes from WWII onwards, so much that he could do it with his eyes closed, and tiny planes still appear in the margins of reports and requisitions when he doodles. The F-111 had always been one of his favorites with its sleek lines, and well, swing wings. He's been lucky to fly one before they'd been retired and the Aardvark still holds a sentimental value as his first love. He's never done a sketch of one so big, though, taking almost all of the space he has available, and he's so engrossed in his work that he's taken by surprise when the alarm on his watch reminds him it's almost time to eat.
He forces himself to stop and wash his hand - belatedly realizing how much his arm hurts from being constantly up in the air - and as he eats he can't help but smile at his handiwork.
"Still got it, Sheppard."
The basic structure of the plane is well underway. If he says so himself, it looks pretty cool. He counts the beans on his plate when he gets it and isn't surprised that it's exactly the same as always. John shrugs and takes his time eating while he ponders what he should do now. The temptation to draw some more is high but he has to space it out, keep something fun to do in his otherwise boring days. He includes it in his schedule - between washing up and the evening meal - which he dutifully notes on the wall just next to where he's gotten into the habit of lying down.
Later, he dreams of flying.
It's the tenth day and John isn't sure how long he can go on pretending to potential observers that he's doing fine.
"I'm just peachy," he lies to the room at large.
Well, if you put aside the fictional - and more and more frequent - conversations, of course. John shivers, wondering why the only parameter that's changing is the slowly lowering cell temperature. John objectively knows that it's just in his head, but sometimes he has the feeling that something is moving at the fringe of his vision, making him jump, and his heart hammers so hard he wonders if it's not going to just give out. He'd never suffered from such a non-invasive form of torture before, but it proves to be way effective. John's pretty sure he would strongly consider sharing any and all info he ever knew if only someone would be there to listen to him and make encouraging noises.
"Come on, I'm sure you guys can't be that ugly! Let's chat, I don't bite!"
This is a big fat lie because John's started to imagine gradually more horrific fates, in excruciatingly vivid details, to the people holding him here. They will pay for shooting Ronon and Rodney; he'll make sure of it. The only way to shake those thoughts is to exercise until he hurts so bad he crumples to the floor, panting. He's gotten into the habit of stripping before his workout, not to drench his clothes in sweat. He washes up, although at this point he wonders why he bothers at all. It's not like anyone would notice and he doesn't care all that much anymore. John has more and more problems keeping with the schedule, and often realizes he's been hunched in a corner staring at nothing for hours on end. After days of sleeping almost 16 hours, he's lucky if he manages two hours straight now and then, and his mood swings are getting so bad it's like suffering from whiplash. He shakes his head.
"Get a grip, man, get a grip."
He has to stay focused and someone will come for him soon. They have to. John carefully traces his markings again with the sharpie and dresses up, buttoning up his shirt and pulling the sleeves down against the cold. Uncapping his pen once more, he goes to the wall near his bed to add Lorne to the collection of figures he has drawn there. The hardest is to refrain from sketching Atlantis; he knows he has to keep their location a secret.
"Wouldn't want to go and make a map while I'm at it, right?"
Once satisfied that he has the Major as nice and proper as he can make him - with a little smirk for good measure, the man is getting a bit insolent over the years - John turns to the opposite wall.
It's his Therapy Wall. At first he had written profanities for his captors, not caring that the people maybe spying on him would not understand a thing. And if they did? Well, they could just suck it, and maybe if he insulted them enough, they'd come and protest. A guy could hope. By then he had gone through two of his pens and the third was starting to have problems. Reasoning he should stop using the ink for stupid stuff, John had then dutifully started to write everything he had ever wished he had said but never got out.
"I bet you'd have approved, Kate. Sharing. Expressing myself. Ironic that it's when there's no one to listen."
John had started in a corner with the regrets about his father, then Dave. Wrote 'I love you' for his mom, he hadn't told her enough. In fact he hadn't told it more often then not to the ones who had mattered all through his life, and sometimes he'd said 'I love you' when he didn't really feel it, which was even worst. Nancy was next because she had been short-changed in the whole marriage fiasco; he still felt bad about that. Holland, Mitch, Dex, everyone he'd ever let down on Earth.
Then he'd started working on the expedition, going chronologically, he had so much to atone for (and found much more to say each day). Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. It went on and on: Sumner, Ford, Elizabeth, Kate, everyone they lost, all those worlds that had been culled by the Wraith, had to deal with Michael or were destroyed by the Hoff virus. To Teyla, who had to deal with Michael for too long and lost so many of her people. In the center of the wall was the space he'd dedicated to Rodney. He traced the words with his index.
You're the best friend I've ever had.
Every time you've beaten me at chess, I let you. I don't regret it.
I should have protected you better. You better be alive, you SOB.
I hate that you have less time for me now.
I want you happy but it killed me to see you with her. Them. I'm not sorry you're heartbroken, I'm a dick.
I never had the guts to tell you how I felt.
He's ready for the real kicker now, to put it down, black on white - John snorts at the image - as much for himself than for everyone who'll see this. Or not. What he feels for Rodney is not just admiration or a very persisting crush. It goes all the way and it's time to admit it. The irony is that the fucking sharpie decides to start giving him grief and dies on the "I".
"You've got to be kidding me!" John says, staring at the offending marker.
It's his last one, too, and anguish hits him right in the solar plexus and he almost loses his breath wondering what he'll do now, how he'll pass time. Those pens have kept him sane for several days now, but if he doesn't have them anymore he's going to lose it. Although... John looks at his hand, figures he could bite a knuckle and use blood. Messy, alright, but appropriate, he reasons, since all he's got left to say is 'I'm sorry' and 'I love you'. He's still considering it, pen up, when the wall before him slides away into itself to reveal some sort of door. Suddenly John is assaulted with sound, the staccato of automatic weapon not that far away and a relieved exclamation:
"Finally, oh my god! I knew I'd get you opened, Ancient piece of shit!"
On instinct, John jumps back, his hands going to cover his hears because fuck, he's lost it, it's too much. He backs up until he hits the wall and Rodney, Rodney, appears in the door-frame, looking inside and grinning when he sees John with so much relief that John just falls sitting down on the floor at how much it is all at once. It puzzles Rodney, who frowns.
"John? Are you okay?" He then cries out, which makes John curl on himself involuntarily. "I got him! Over here!" Rodney's eyes dart right and left, John sees him look up and his jaw drops a bit, before focusing back on him and he's walking forward slowly, hands up as if afraid to spook him. "Oh, shit. John, it's okay, we're going to bring you home now. It's me, you know me, right? Rodney, I'm Rodney McKay, I'm your friend, I swear. Holy shit, what did they do to you?"
That he doesn't shut up is a relief, comforting like a blanket, and too fucking much at the same time. John tries to calm his breathing down and does his best to sit up and uncover his ears, manages to croak.
"Nothing, they did nothing. I'm okay, really. Just..."
And then Ronon bounces in and John is hit with another wave of gratitude so sharp that he thanks a God he hasn't believed in since he was 12. He just can't stop staring at them, at them both full of life and color, in stereo surround. He knows he's grinning like a loon by now and he babbles.
"Alive, you're both alive!"
Rodney rolls his eyes.
"Well, duh! Of course we are, or who would manage to get your skinny ass out of trouble, huh? Come on, we've got to get out of here. We need to get you to Carson, have you checked out. Chop chop."
He gestures with his hands, hovering near John but seeming reluctant to touch him, as if he's afraid he'll break. Ronon looks around the room, and then grins as he points next to John.
"Is that supposed to be me?"
John smiles and looks at his little cartoon family, then back at the big guy.
"I'm not sure you got the looming right, he only looks constipated," Rodney says before finally getting a hand on his shoulder very lightly but John still flinches at the jolt that goes all through his body, real, so real. Rodney's face falls and John just can't take it. He grabs Rodney's hand maybe a bit too hard and climbs to his feet.
"Can we get out of here, please? I'm kind of sick of this place."
Rodney nods and squeezes John's hand but doesn't let go.
"Sure, sure, come on."
Ronon produces a 9mm from the back of his pants and presents it to John, handle first. As soon as he grabs it with his free hand, thankfully his right so he doesn't have to let go of Rodney, John feels a bit more settled and nods gratefully. Rodney mutters.
"Yes, how touching, thank you, Ronon. And now that you've got your metaphorical penis back, Colonel, let's be on our way."
Ronon grins and shakes Rodney's shoulder, before drawing his blaster and checking the corridor before gliding right out. Rodney is pulling on his hand towards the exit when John suddenly digs his heels in, metaphorically-speaking since he's only in socks.
"Wait, wait." Something is wrong. "Teyla?"
Rodney squeezes his hand once more.
"She's fine, but she had to go on MDP-746 as scheduled, or we'd have lost the trade with the Roodishans. Believe me, she wanted to come and kick those fuckers' collective asses more, but I could not promise that today would be the day we finally got in. She was pissed that Woolsey made her go to the trade negotiations. In a very dignified way, of course, but if I was him? I wouldn't let my guard down." John nods and Rodney adds. "Can we go now? There's a jumper waiting for us outside."
Now that he CAN get out, John is not so sure he wants to. No, scratch that, he really wants to go and never see this place again, that's official, but there's important stuff here and someone, Rodney in particular, needs to know. He points at the Therapy Wall, but realizes that when the door swished open by embedding somehow in the wall? It basically took all of the space where he had written about Rodney and the irony makes John start to laugh hysterically. Rodney is visibly shaken, not knowing what to do.
"Huh, well, this room seems very interesting, Sheppard, but I just don't have time to examine your graffiti right now, if that's OK? Can we talk about this later? I told you there is a puddlejumper right outside... Why don't we go there and use a drone or twelve to blow up this place?"
It sounds awesome, it sounds better than that, even, but if he walks out of here right now John's not sure if he's going to be able to say all he HAS to say. But there are still people shooting and orders about going now now right now and there is no TIME, so John nods, follows Rodney out of this nightmare and into the corridor. Even there everything is white. John thinks that color will haunt his nightmares from now on. Rodney is hurrying down the corridor, towards the gun fight, and on instinct John pushes him aside and behind him, still clutching his hand.
"I'm pretty sure we're not going to have to fight to get out now, Colonel. The place was basically deserted and they're fleeing like rats. You're lucky that we even managed to find you, by the way. Those fuckers had a shield."
"Had?" John asks, figures that's why it took them so long to get him. He looks back and sees the way Rodney's mouth goes flat, angry, and his eyes glint like polished gun metal.
"Once I'm done with them? They'll have nothing at all. Mark my words."
That steely resolve should maybe worry John, especially about what it will do to Rodney, to have an outpost or possibly the remains of a civilization wiped out or rendered helpless. But if he's totally honest? The only thing that he feels right now is deep sated satisfaction and a warm feeling in his gut. Rodney would destroy the world to get him back, or spend the rest of his life for a rescue as his trip to the future had showed him last year. It means something, not exactly what John would wish for, but it's a kind of love and he's going to take it all.
Adrenaline holds John up all the way until they're in the puddlejumper. But as soon as his brain registers that they're safe, that they'll make it and everyone is here, John sags, knees giving out, and Rodney manhandles him until he's sitting on the bench in the jumper's back section.
"I wanna fly," he protests.
He's missed it and it would probably make him feel a lot better but Rodney splutters:
"What? Are you out of your mind? You've been with those wackos for a week and a half now, doing whatever they did and you insist on driving?"
He has a point, of course, and everyone is looking at him with concern which is frankly starting to piss John off. He's not going to fall apart, even though he has to concentrate to keep a grip on the whirlwind of sound and people all around.
That makes Rodney throw his hands in the air.
"Sure, sure, everything is just fine. What was I thinking, as if you'd let people help you, for a change."
"Let me, sir," Lorne says, so earnestly that John just slumps against the wall and gives up. If they insist.
"Take us home, Major," John says softly and Lorne smiles widely.
"Yes, sir. Buckle up, gentlemen."
Rodney goes to sit in the co-pilot chair, followed by Ronon and Finn who take the back seats, while Davis and Wilson stay in the rear compartment with him. No one seems to have been hurt and the marines are grinning, obviously pleased that the mission went well.
"Thanks, guys," John tells them with a double thumbs up. They almost start to glow, as if he'd just thought on to Ancient tech.
"Just doing our job, sir. Happy to have you back."
John can faintly hear Rodney mumbling under his breath as he punches on his tablet, then fiddles with the jumper's interface. John cranes his neck when he sees that he's pulling up the weapon screen and remembers Rodney's oath to make it all burn.
"Hey, wait up," John says as he rises to his feet a bit shakily, and then goes up front. Rodney's watching him come over with a frown, but for once he's silent. The jumper is hovering maybe two hundred feet high above an ancient outpost, the building made of several block-like structures. John can imagine rows and rows of perfectly white cells. He puts his hands on the dash board and asks for life signs, and there are maybe a dozen, all in movement. Seems like he was the only prisoner, then, or that they were all executed and this is the captors fleeing. John's first instinct, fueled by his delusions in the cell, is to kill every one of them. But he breathes deeply, because he doesn't want for Rodney to live with the guilt of making all of those dots vanish. Rodney might thinks he wants to do it right now, but it will come back to haunt him in one way or another. John still thinks about those Geniis in the wormhole, sometimes.
"Let me do the honors," John says and Rodney gestures towards the compound.
"All yours, Colonel."
Deliberately, John sends the first drone towards an unoccupied section, waits three seconds then hits another block. The dots are moving faster, going for the exits and John methodically destroys the whole complex right on their heels.
"They don't deserve mercy," Rodney says, voice rough. John doesn't look at his face, gives Rodney time to compose a facade.
"Maybe they do. The cook wasn't bad."
The adrenaline is crashing really hard by now, and with it John feels bone tired. Rodney is right there at his side when he sways, and he moves as to make him sit in the co-pilot seat. But now that Lorne is flying for the gate, there's too much at once, seeing the landscape zooming past the windshield. John's dizzy with information overload and he stubbornly refuses to sit there, locking his knees.
"Not here," John says. Rodney looks puzzled, so John elaborates. "I don't feel so great. I think I'll go lay down in the back."
"Oh. You're not going to be sick, are you? That is so not a good idea. See, when someone is sick, I get sick and it's a neverending loop of vomit."
John snorts, but at least Rodney is leading him in the rear compartment now.
"Not helping with this imagery, McKay."
Even so, Rodney frowns.
"I... Hey, are you okay? Did they hurt you?" He spins John around and peers at him with concern, squinting as he observes his pupils, then drags a finger left and right. It's kind of adorable and John smiles.
"I told you, they didn't do anything. I woke up in that cell and that's it. Nothing until you came and got me. I'm fine." He tries his best to sound convincing, because it's true. Physically he's a-okay, and once he gets his head in order he'll be as good as new. The fact that he's shaky and nauseated is just because it's a shock to the system to be suddenly plunged in so much movement and sound; he's not used to that anymore. Rodney hums, still peering intently into his face, not really convinced, but it doesn't look like he's going to try to call him on his bullshit. John sits on the jumper's bench and it's already better, here in the corner.
"We're not going straight to Atlantis," Rodney announces and some of John's dismay must show on his face, because he quickly adds, "Well, we are, but we'll jump through a couple of gates before we do. Those fuckers are a bit too advanced for my liking and I want to be careful so they can't trace us."
That makes sense, John thinks, and he nods. Rodney gently but firmly manhandles him until he's lying down on the bench, even lifts his legs up, pausing to squeeze a socked foot lightly. That simple contact makes John's throat close up. It's caring human contact, and believe it or not, he genuinely has missed it, he's missed Rodney so much.
"Just rest now. Should take about 30 minutes," Rodney adds, and turns to go back to the front, but without any conscious thought John grabs at his pants and clings. Rodney looks down at John, worried. John wants to say 'don't go', 'don't leave me,' but he can't do that. Davis and Wilson are right there, although too engrossed in their conversation that they haven't even seen John's pathetic clinging yet. How do you explain something like that? He IS fine. John opens his mouth but nothing comes out, so he closes it again, manages to uncurl all of his fingers and take his hand back to his chest. Rodney doesn't make a big deal out of it, though, and instead of asking more questions or leaving he sits down on the floor, his back to the bench right next to John.
"Hey, hum, Sergeant?" Davis snaps to attention, immediately on alert, and John decides that he might be pretty new, a couple weeks in Atlantis at the most, but he likes him a lot already. That's exactly how you should respond to the Chief Scientist of Atlantis.
Rodney points to the front of the jumper.
"Get me my tablet?" After a beat too long, "Please?"
Davis nods, immediately on his way and back with the requested item that Rodney almost snatches out of his hands.
"Thanks." He immediately starts typing and pulling up screens of data that John has no desire to try to understand. Davis shrugs, realizing that he's dismissed and goes back to talk with Wilson. Rodney's right there, between him and the world, and somehow that's exactly what John needs. He's tempted to turn towards the wall and try to focus on bringing everything back together, but he craves something more. Rodney's right there, solid and whole, close enough to touch, and right now John doesn't have the strength to fight that impulse.
He turns on his side but to face the cabin and slowly inches his hand forward until it's splayed between Rodney's shoulder blades. Rodney freezes for a fraction of a second, but that's it. The damn TAC vest is too thick to feel any body heat, though, so John angles his hand until the tip of his fingers go over and touch the soft skin of Rodney's neck, then he stops, heart hammering. He glances towards the Marines and sees that they are totally oblivious of the fact there is surprise touching on his part (John suspects there's a briefing to new personnel detailing the sanctity of his personal space, and he's pretty sure it's given by Lorne). Anyhow, even if they'd look this way, the way they're angled wouldn't show anything, ditto from the front compartment. Since he's not being shaken off by Rodney, John keeps his fingers there, immobile even if he'd wish to caress, but that would be going over a line he's pretty sure he's not welcome to cross.
After a minute, John closes his eyes and bends the arm he's using as a pillow over his face to block out the light, keeping the other one glued to Rodney, who's grumbling among other things about 'sadistic ancients not even having the decency to possess power sources in the form of ZPM available to steal,' and the vibrations are soothing enough to lull John in a state of relative security. If there's an 'I'm fine, yeah sure, a whole lot of bullshit but what else is new?' somewhere in the litany, John doesn't even try to protest.
( A Truth For a Truth - Part 2 of 2 )