Summary: It started out just like any other day but then events happen that will change Rodney's life forever.
Genre: first time
Spoilers: general for the end of season five
Word count: 6,000
Disclaimer: The following story is a work of fiction. No claims are made on the characters. This is meant solely for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended.
1. For elementalv. Happy holidays - I hope you enjoy the story!
2. My grateful thanks to my fabulous beta elves, sgamadison & xanthe, for their help and support!
The alarm clock sounded with a loud and annoying buzz, and Rodney groaned and flung out an arm and smacked it off.
He rolled onto his back with an exhausted sigh.
It was only six-thirty, and he hadn’t gotten to bed until late. He’d been working on some tweaks to the sensor array until Sheppard had dragged him out of the lab sometime after one and suggested he get some sleep. Okay, he’d sort of made it more like an order, and ordinarily Rodney would have pointed out that being his team leader didn’t exactly make Sheppard the boss of him. Then of course Sheppard would have retaliated by saying that yes, actually it did, and things would have just gone downhill from there. He’d been kind of tired though, and so it had been easier to give in gracefully – well, maybe a little grouchily - and just head for bed.
He scrubbed a hand over his eyes and dragged himself out of bed, yawning loudly and switching on the coffee machine as he shuffled past on the way to the bathroom.
The heady scent of rich, Columbian roast filled the room when he emerged fifteen minutes later, freshly showered and marginally more awake. He filled his ‘Obey gravity – it’s the law!’ mug – a gag gift from Sheppard on his last birthday - to the brim and slurped happily. Thank God he’d been able to convince Woolsey that using some of Atlantis’s copious empty rooms for bulk storage of certain vital Earth supplies was a sensible, not to say essential, use of resources when they’d flown the city back to Pegasus from Earth. Okay, Sheppard had helped, a little, with his ‘a well-caffeinated geek is a happy, productive geek’ spiel, but the important thing was that Woolsey had agreed and now they didn’t have to rely solely on the Daedalus for their coffee supplies. They basically had a precisely environmentally controlled room the size of an aircraft hanger full of coffee and other consumables. There was easily enough coffee to last the expedition for the foreseeable future – or, as Sheppard had said with one of his ‘Aren’t I cute?’ grins, about enough for Rodney to pull a couple of all-nighters in the lab.
Rodney shrugged and took another soul-satisfying gulp and sighed happily.
Colonel Funnyman could say what he liked – there was no such thing as too much coffee.
He got dressed and then sat at his desk and called up his email. He checked the work related messages first as a matter of course, but there was nothing that couldn’t wait until he got to the lab and so he began to scroll through his personal mail.
Jeannie had written about the usual family stuff as well as an invitation for him and Sheppard to visit next time they were back on Earth. He knew it was less an invitation than a ‘visit or they’ll never find the body’ kind of thing and so he made a mental note to check with Sheppard and add it to the calendar. She’d also attached a picture from Madison. It was surprisingly well drawn for a six-year old, despite the somewhat exuberant use of pink crayon, and he hoped that Kaleb’s liberal arts genes weren’t corrupting her scientific potential. The picture was obviously meant to represent their last visit when they’d taken Madison to the funfair. It showed him and Sheppard – it had to be with that hair - on a Ferris wheel and was labelled ‘For Uncle Mer and Uncle John’. Huh, since when had his family automatically started including Sheppard in everything anyway? More importantly though, how the hell did a stick figure drawing of Sheppard manage to look cool and laconic while the one of him just looked fat? It was a stick figure for pete’s sake!
The next message was from Jennifer – just a brief ‘hi from Wisconsin’ - and it was good that they’d managed to stay friends, well sort of. Of course it was a lot easier when your ex-girlfriend was in an entirely different galaxy.
There were a couple of emails from Sheppard – more of those stupid LOLcat jokes that Rodney hated. Okay, they were actually pretty amusing, but he’d never admit that to Sheppard – though he had a feeling that he already knew somehow. Rodney berated him on regular basis for wasting his incredibly valuable time with such inanities as overly anthropomorphised cats with bad grammar, but Sheppard would just nod and grin and then the next time he checked his email there’d be another one waiting.
There was a message from Teyla reminding him about their meditation session tomorrow evening. He had no idea how he’d gotten roped into it, but he was too scared to stop going – he’d seen what had happened to Ronon when he’d fallen asleep that last time. Plus he did always seem to be able to sleep better after their sessions for some reason – though that was probably just a coincidence as all this new-age stuff was just a bunch of hooey. Maybe there was something in the Athosian tea that they always drank at the end of the evening? He ought to get one of the organic chemists on to it – they had to be good for something, after all.
He quickly scanned the rest of his messages and then checked his watch. Crap - he’d better hurry. He didn’t want to be late for breakfast with the team – plus there were always fresh sweet berry muffins on a Friday, and he didn’t want Ronon to get to them first.
He tucked his laptop under his arm and headed towards the mess.
“I can’t believe all the muffins have gone already,” Rodney complained as he slid his tray onto the table and sat down next to Sheppard.
“Too slow, McKay,” Ronon grunted, and Rodney was sure those were sweet berry crumbs in his beard. “Should get up earlier.”
“Not everyone is insane enough to voluntarily get up at the crack of dawn and run multiple circuits of the city before sneaking into breakfast early with the express purpose of bogarting all the muffins,” Rodney huffed and started to eat his oatmeal. It tasted like wallpaper paste, and he silently cursed Carson and his patronising ‘och, it’s time you began to think about your arteries now, Rodney’ speech. He sprinkled some sugar on the oatmeal. Great, now it tasted like slightly sweeter wallpaper paste. Stupid oatmeal – and stupid Carson and his stupid concern for his health.
“You know you could always come along, Rodney,” Sheppard said. “That way you could get here early too.”
“Oh, please – like I have the time to waste running around in circles.”
“You mean like I do?” Sheppard said.
“Exactly!” Rodney nodded and then began to back-peddle at Sheppard’s dangerously raised eyebrow. “I mean, no – obviously not! Being military commander of the base is a very busy job and….” He could see the grin threatening to curl the edges of Sheppard’s lips. “Oh, of course – it’s the kidding….”
“Face it, Rodney – you do make it kind of easy.” Sheppard winked and then dropped a piece of bacon on to Rodney’s plate.
Ronon’s laugh was a low rumble, and Teyla smiled impishly. Rodney just rolled his eyes and waved them off. “Yes, yes – take advantage of the starving man.” But he couldn’t help smiling as he tucked into the bacon.
“Your life is indeed very difficult,” Teyla said solemnly.
“You have no idea,” Rodney sighed, and then grinned as everyone starting laughing again.
“So, we all set for the mission this afternoon?” Sheppard asked when things had settled down. “Gear up at twelve hundred hours, Rodney. It should be pretty routine but, according to the database, BUD-168 only has a few hours of daylight at this time of year and we want to get there right after sun up.”
“I was at the mission briefing, thank you, Colonel,” Rodney huffed. “In fact, I was the one who suggested this planet as a possible source of interest in the first place.”
“I know you did - but you know how you get once you’re in the lab,” Sheppard said. “You kind of lose track of time. We wouldn’t want you to say… totally forget that we have a mission today, now would we?” His voice was teasing.
“Oh, come on,” Rodney whined. “It was just that once! I’ll have you know that I’m renowned for my exemplary timekeeping, and, anyway, I was busy with possibly life-saving research….” He wound to a halt as Sheppard stared at him with that irritating ‘oh, really’ look on his face. Okay, so he’d lost track of time playing with some holographic educational toys that they’d found down in the lower levels – but they’d been really neat! “Twelve o’clock – I’ll be there,” he sighed, “and that means that I’d better get to the lab now and see what disasters I need to avert before we leave.”
“You do that, buddy.” Sheppard cocked a finger at him. “That ‘life saving research’ won’t play with itself.”
Rodney pulled a face. “Ha, ha. You’re so funny.”
He got up, sighing just a little as he remembered his sadly muffin-deprived state – though the bacon had been nice - and then waved as he headed out. “See you later.”
It was time to go check on the minions.
Actually, most of the science staff didn’t tend to drift in until sometime after eight, but Rodney always liked to use the quiet time alone to check the overnight logs and make sure the city was running smoothly.
Years before, he’d appropriated a smaller lab, accessed via an adjoining door from the main lab, as his own personal space. There were lots of other labs, of course, used by the various teams, but most people checked in at the main lab before going off to whatever project they were currently working on.
Radek arrived first and called out a greeting. Rodney waved back, and Radek came through and watched the simulation he was running on the sensor modifications as it scrolled across his laptop.
“Ah, I see you were able to boost the range by 0.7 percent. That is good.”
“Yes,” Rodney nodded, smiling as the ‘simulation successful’ legend popped onto the screen. The galaxy was pretty peaceful since the destruction of the Replicators and the virtual disappearance of the few remaining Wraith, but it never hurt to stay alert. “I’ll get Simpson and Ngo to run a recalibration across the grid once I’ve uploaded it to the system.”
He glanced through into the main lab - the rest of the staff were beginning to filter in, and there was a small group of people congregated around the coffee machine.
“You have a mission today?” Radek asked.
“Hmmm? Oh, yes – later though, checking out those energy readings the aerial MALP sent back from BUD-168. Should be fairly straightforward – the planet’s uninhabited – but the readings were interesting and worth further investigation.”
“Good, good.” Radek nodded. “Then you have time to look at the data Miko’s team has compiled from the surveys of RAS-411?”
“Oh, they’re done already? Excellent.” Rodney stood up, clapping his hands briskly. “What are we waiting for? Come on.”
They headed into the main lab.
“Hey, Rodney. How’s it going?”
Rodney jumped in surprise. “Sheppard? What the hell? You could’ve given me a heart attack!” He’d been completely immersed in an analysis of the power logs and hadn’t heard Colonel Ninja creep in. “What are you doing here anyway?” He looked hastily at his watch. It was nearly eleven. Wow, how had that happened?
“Relax. You’re not late – yet,” Sheppard grinned. “I just thought I’d check in on you though and make sure you remember the mission….”
“Oh, for God’s sake – it was one time,” Rodney groaned. “I know, I know – gear up at twelve o’clock, I’ll be there.”
“I know you will.” Sheppard winked.
“And you could have just used the radio, you know,” Rodney sighed. “You didn’t have to come all the way down here to interrupt me.”
“What would be the fun in that?” Sheppard smirked and headed towards the door. “Anyway I was in the area. See you in an hour.”
“I know,” Rodney shouted, but Sheppard just waved casually over his shoulder.
“It was one time – it’s not like I need a keeper….” Rodney muttered and then stopped as he saw the small but perfect sweet berry muffin sitting by the side of his coffee. Oh! Had Sheppard? That was really… kind of nice actually. He smiled broadly and reached for the muffin.
Rodney barrelled into the ready room and looked conspicuously at his watch. “Twelve on the dot,” he said smugly.
“Never doubted it,” Sheppard grinned and passed him his TAC vest.
Ronon and Teyla were already geared up, and Rodney shrugged into his vest and stowed his laptop in his backpack.
“We still on for chess tonight?” Sheppard asked.
“Hmmm?” One of the straps of Rodney’s backpack had gotten caught on the back of his vest, and he couldn’t quite get to it.
Sheppard reached over and freed the twisted strap and patted Rodney’s shoulder. “There you go.”
“Oh, thanks. Yes – chess tonight. Sounds good.”
“Feel like joining us, guys?” Sheppard asked Ronon and Teyla. “Want to watch me make McKay cry like a little girl?”
“Oh, as if you could,” Rodney sniffed, but he could see Sheppard’s eyes were bright with mischief.
“That is very kind,” Teyla smiled, “but Kanaan and I have planned a family evening with Torren. They have just returned from visiting our people for a few days, and I am eager to spend some time with them.”
“Cool,” Sheppard smiled and turned to Ronon.
“Can’t,” Ronon said. “Got a date.”
“Hey, how’s it going with Amelia?”
“Good,” Ronon nodded, and he smiled almost shyly. “She’s nice – and she can split a schaentik staff with one kick.”
“I’m sure the two of you will be very happy,” Sheppard laughed. “Looks like it’s just you and me then, buddy. I promise I’ll be gentle.”
Rodney snorted. “Talk’s cheap, Colonel.”
They carried on bickering through the usual equipment and weapon checks and then they were ready, and they all headed for the gate room.
“Ah, Colonel!” Mr Woolsey met them by the steps. “All set?”
Sheppard nodded. “Yep. Raring to boldly go.”
“Good, good. Check-in in three hours please. Chuck? Dial the gate.”
They stood back and waited and then the gate opened, and they walked forward into the wash of blue light.
They stepped out of the gate on BUD-168 just as the sun was rising over the mountains in the distance. It was a typical Pegasus kind of landscape with plenty of trees and greenery and a temperate climate. The stargate was in a clearing with woods and hills off to the side, and Sheppard and Ronon fanned out, weapons raised, as the wormhole winked out behind them.
Rodney got out his scanner and made a sweep of the surrounding area. There were no visible life signs. “Looks like it’s just us. The MALP scanned a radius of several miles around the gate without finding any signs of life bigger than small mammals.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any,” Sheppard said, “so let’s keep our eyes open, okay? Now how about those energy readings?”
Rodney checked his data pad. “Okay, there’s a spike in that direction,” he said, pointing to the forested hills to the east. “We sent an aerial MALP, but the signal was coming from a densely wooded area and it couldn’t get a view of what the source might be.”
“Right, so nowhere to land a jumper….”
“Exactly, hence us having to walk,” Rodney sighed. Why were energy readings always in the kind of inaccessible places that involved walking or climbing? Just once he’d like to come through the gate and find whatever it was they were looking for neatly laid out in front of them – perhaps with a comfy couch nearby… and an Espresso machine.
“Okay, let’s check it out.” Sheppard lifted his P-90. “Ronon, you’re on point. Teyla, you’ve got our six and Rodney….”
“Stay in the middle,” Rodney said. “Yes, I know. Thank you, Colonel.”
“Just don’t want you wandering off,” Sheppard grinned and bumped Rodney’s shoulder as they headed towards the woods. “I have to beat your ass at chess tonight, remember?”
“In your dreams,” Rodney huffed, but he was smiling.
“Sheppard,” Rodney yelled, panic making his voice break. “Can you hear me? Come in! Sheppard!”
It was just supposed to be a routine mission checking out some lousy energy readings. A damn cakewalk; nice and easy with no life-sucking Wraith or even angry villagers chasing them with spears – not another opportunity for Sheppard to go and get himself killed.
Rodney felt his chest go tight. No. There was no way that Sheppard was dead. He was unconscious or his radio had gotten broken in the rockslide or the signal was being blocked by some mineral in the rocks or… or something. Whatever the reason he wasn’t answering there was no fucking way that Sheppard was dead.
He just couldn’t be.
They’d been following the signal from the energy readings for a few miles, and the trail had gradually grown steeper and more difficult as it wound up the side of a rocky ravine. They’d found the opening to a tunnel – definitely manmade, possibly a mine of some kind, though long abandoned – and a scan had shown that the source of the readings was inside. A further sweep had shown no obvious danger, though the handheld sensor only had a very limited capacity, but everything had looked okay and so they’d headed inside. The passage was fairly narrow, and they’d been walking in single file with Sheppard in the lead playing the light from his P-90 on the path ahead, when the roof in front of them had literally just given way with no warning - and Sheppard had disappeared in a roar of falling rock and choking dust.
“Sheppard! Sheppard!” Rodney shouted into his radio again, coughing through the dust still swirling in the air. “John! Can you hear me?”
There was still no answer, and Ronon and Teyla were both scrambling at the rocks now blocking the tunnel, trying to pull the stones away.
“Stop,” Rodney shouted. “We don’t know how stable this place is.”
“Sheppard’s trapped,” Ronon grunted, but he and Teyla both stopped what they were doing.
“I know, I know! And I want to get him out just as much as you do.” Rodney shone his torch on the jumble of rocks now completely blocking the passage. “But we can’t just go yanking stuff around in here – the whole place could come down on top of our heads and then we’d never get to him.”
Ronon nodded stiffly, a shower of debris falling from his hair and shoulders and echoing eerily as it hit the ground.
“What do you suggest, Rodney?” Teyla said softly. She had streaks of dust smudged across her brow and cheeks.
“Some of these bigger rocks will probably need lifting gear. We need a team of engineers – and Carson. Teyla, go back to the gate and dial for help. Ronon and I will stay here and try to figure out what we can do in the meantime.”
“Of course,” Teyla nodded. She pulled Rodney’s head down and pressed their foreheads together briefly. “We will get him out, Rodney.” Then she was gone.
Rodney felt winded. Of course they’d get him out – there was no other option. He nodded briskly to himself and then turned back to Ronon. “We need to approach this cautiously – just moving things a little at a time once we know it’s safe.” He grabbed the scanner from where it had fallen in the panic of the rockslide and played it over the wall of rocks now blocking their path. He couldn’t find a life sign, but that didn’t mean anything – there must be something blocking the signal, just like with the radio. That was the reason he couldn’t pick up Sheppard’s life sign – it had to be.
The scan didn’t show any area of particular instability either – though it wasn’t really set up for geologic surveys – but it was still showing the source of the original energy readings, though markedly attenuated.
Rodney snapped his fingers. He could use the pattern of the energy distribution through the rocks to give a rudimentary image of their relative depth and thickness and to highlight any fissures and hence areas of possible instability. It was incredibly basic, but it was all they had. Who knew how long it would take Teyla to get back with help… or how much air - and time - Sheppard had left?
“We should start here,” Rodney said, pointing to the top left corner of the rock pile.
“Good,” Ronon nodded, getting straight to work.
They’d been shifting rocks and debris for over an hour. Rodney had been trying to reach Sheppard on the radio every few minutes but with no response. His arms and back were aching, his hands were scratched up and bleeding, and sweat and dirt was running into his eyes, but he kept going, helping Ronon to move rock after rock.
Things weren’t looking good. The rock fall was much more extensive than he’d first thought. If Sheppard hadn’t managed to throw himself clear then there was a good chance he was buried directly under the whole crushing mass. The odds of surviving that were slim to say the least.
God! He couldn’t stop thinking of the irony of it all. They’d survived everything that Pegasus had thrown at them over the years, and now here they were on a simple little ‘follow the energy reading’ afternoon adventure, and a twist of fate – just plain old-fashioned bad luck – might have done what the Wraith and the Genii and even Michael couldn’t. John Sheppard might actually be dead.
Rodney swallowed past the choking dust and dryness and dragged another rock free.
They’d faced death so many times before, and Sheppard had always made it through – the man was a master at surviving suicide missions, for God’s sake. Perhaps it had made Rodney complacent – perhaps he’d begun to believe that Sheppard really was as indestructible as he appeared and that he’d always be around.
The Team – Teyla, Ronon, Sheppard – meant so much to him, and they’d become like family, but in this moment he realised that Sheppard – John – meant even more. Somehow, without Rodney realising it, John had come to mean more to him than perhaps anyone in his entire life. He couldn’t even explain it to himself. He’d never been particularly self-aware when it came to emotions and right now he didn’t really understand the complexity of what he was feeling. He did know though, with a sudden and blinding clarity, that he didn’t want to - couldn’t - contemplate a life without John in it. This wasn’t just about friendship anymore either – suddenly and viscerally he wanted more. He wanted everything from John, and with some kind of weird insight he thought that John might just want the same from him. He couldn’t really describe it, but it was like a mosaic of scattered memories – looks and smiles and touches – all slotting together like puzzle pieces in his head. There had always been more between them than simple friendship, but he’d just been too blind to see it.
Of course his timing totally sucked – epiphanies could be like that - but he could tear a strip off himself for being so monumentally dense later, and John too, for not just coming out and saying something!
Some genius he was – he’d had everything he’d ever wanted staring him right in the face for five years and he’d only just figured it out. Now – when it might be too late.
He paused for a second, his eyes suddenly hot and itchy.
No. They were going to find John. They were going to find him, and he was going to be okay and then Rodney was going to stop being an oblivious idiot and make sure he didn’t waste any more time.
“McKay!” Ronon’s shout wrenched him back to the here and now. “I’m through.”
“Oh my God! Sheppard! John? Can you hear me?” Rodney was keying his radio and shouting through the small gap that Ronon was quickly making larger.
There was still no response, and Rodney scanned the area. Dammit! There was still no life sign. He grabbed his torch and shone it through the gap. Oh, God…. Was that? “Over there! I think I can see something!”
There was a mass of rubble and debris littering the area on the other side of the rock fall - and a body slumped on the floor.
There was no movement, and Rodney scrabbled frantically at the rocks still blocking his way.
“Easy.” Ronon put a firm hand on Rodney’s arm. “This way.” He carefully moved some more rocks and suddenly the gap was just wide enough for Rodney to crawl through. He didn’t care if it was dangerous – he had to get to John.
He scrambled and squeezed his way through the gap. It looked like this part of the passageway had been pretty much sealed off by the rock fall, and the air inside was stale making breathing difficult.
Rodney clambered over to where John lay covered in dust and rubble. His eyes were closed, and Rodney quickly brushed away the worst of the debris and touched his fingers to John’s neck.
“Is he okay?” Rodney could hear Ronon moving more rocks, and he breathed in gratefully as fresh air gradually began to flow into the small space.
“I don’t know – I’m not….” Rodney pressed his fingers harder, but he was shaking a little – adrenaline probably – and the soft skin of John’s neck was grey and gritty with dust and his fingers kept sliding. Was that a pulse? He thought so, but he wasn’t sure.
John seemed so still, and Rodney couldn’t tell if he was breathing. He slid a hand down to John’s chest, but the heavy TAC vest made it hard to feel any movement. He had to do something. Surely it had to be better to have more air than none at all, right? He eased John’s head to lie back and leaned forward and pressed his mouth down and exhaled. John’s lips were slack against his own, and this was hardly the way he’d imagined them kissing for the first time. Though he never actually had imagined it before - not that it mattered now. Right now all he cared about was feeling the rise and fall of John’s chest under his hand.
He drew in another breath, but before he could exhale he felt John’s lips move and heard a soft sigh. Oh, thank God…. He couldn’t help himself and pushed forward, kissing John like he’d always wanted – if only he’d known that this was what he’d always wanted.
“R-Rodney?” John voice was hoarse - just a whisper moving against Rodney’s lips.
Rodney pulled away a little, wanting more but suddenly conscious that this could all be one-sided and his ‘weird insight’ might be just be that – weird and completely off track. Plus there was the fact that John was injured and probably needed to use his mouth to actually breathe.
“Oh, God - I’m sorry. Are you okay? How do you feel?”
“’M okay,” John coughed, but he sounded stronger already and was cautiously moving his arms and legs. “Don’t think I’ll be needing the kiss of life again though, buddy.”
It was a joke and a get out all in one. Rodney knew it, and it would be so easy to laugh it off as just that - plausible deniability. He pulled away further but as he did he saw a flash of emotion flicker in John’s eyes, vanishing as quickly as it had come. Rodney had seen it though, and suddenly he knew that he’d been right; his epiphany, the ‘weird insight’ – it had all been right. He wanted John – and John wanted him right back.
This whole situation had underlined just how fragile life was out here - and that they’d already wasted enough time. He grabbed his courage in both hands and leaned slowly back down until his mouth was almost touching John’s.
“Rodney?” John’s voice was hesitant, but there was something in his eyes.
“It wasn’t just that.”
“Wasn’t what?” John murmured, gaze still locked on Rodney.
“It wasn’t just the kiss… of life. It was…” Rodney floundered. What if he was wrong though, and he’d misread five years of what had never been said? What if he was totally on his own with this and about to screw everything up?
He was about to pull away but then John smiled at him – a warm, gentle quirk of lips - and Rodney remembered how John had a thing about never leaving a man behind.
“It was a kiss?” John prompted. “A real kiss?”
“Yes,” Rodney sighed in relief. Of course John hadn’t left him behind.
“And if I need another?” There was a familiar, comfortable tease to John’s smile now, and suddenly it felt so easy. Remarkably, unexpectedly - wonderfully - easy.
“That won’t be a problem,” Rodney murmured and pressed their lips together. They were both covered in dust and the angle was a little awkward, but John’s mouth was warm and sweet, and it felt amazing….
“Back up’s coming,” Ronon shouted through the gap.
Rodney froze. Oh, God! He’d pretty much forgotten that they were in the middle of a life or death situation here.
“Hey,” John said softly and wrapped a hand around the back of Rodney’s neck. “It’s okay.”
“I’m sorry – I’d forgotten - and you’re hurt and….”
“It’s okay, Rodney,” John repeated, more firmly this time and then added with a grin, “but I’d kinda prefer not to have Lorne and a squad of marines walking in on us, okay?”
“Yes, yes - of course.” Rodney nodded and pulled away.
“Help me up, will you?” John held out a hand and grimaced.
“Are you sure you should move? What if there’s spinal damage or internal injuries or… or something?”
“I’m fine - and way to go with the bedside manner there, buddy,” John snorted. “I managed to jump out of the way of the worst of it, but I think I hit my head going down or a stray rock might have got me. My radio was smashed, and I went a little woozy and then the air got kind of bad and I think I must have passed out for a while. I’m fine though – just a few scrapes and bruises.”
Rodney wasn’t so sure – John’s hair and face were heavy with dust, and there was blood drying above his temple. “I still think we should wait for Carson.”
“Alright, alright,” Rodney muttered and wrapped an arm around John’s shoulders and carefully helped him to sit up and then slowly stand.
“See? Told you.” John smiled, but he was bent over a little and the smile looked strained.
“Hmmm, we’ll see what Carson has to say about that,” Rodney tutted, and he slid his arm around John’s waist. It felt really good to have John pressed against him, and Rodney pulled him closer and squeezed gently.
John smiled again – real and warm this time - and draped an arm around Rodney’s shoulders. “Thanks.”
“Coming to get me.”
Rodney didn’t know what to say to that - any other action was simply unthinkable – and so he just nodded and pressed a quick kiss to John’s mouth. “Idiot.”
Carson, predictably, had quite a lot to say. Once they got back to the city he handed the rest of the team over to Doctors Cho and Rodriguez for their post-mission check ups and whisked John away for a full body scan.
With a clean bill of health, Rodney, along with Teyla and Ronon, quickly found himself banished from the infirmary - once they’d established that John’s injuries weren’t too serious, of course. Rodney had wanted to stay, but Carson had been adamant. Not that he usually paid much attention to that, but then John had smiled and told him it was okay and that he should go eat and take a shower.
So that’s what Rodney had done, and now it was getting late and he was back in the infirmary clean, fed and sneaking past Carson’s office door.
Damn, Carson had ears like a bat. “Look, Carson – I just want to see that he’s okay. Okay?” He wasn’t wheedling – he was just concerned. Yes, intellectually he knew that it really was just a few bumps and bruises and that John was going to be fine, but he wanted – needed - to see him, dammit.
Rodney wasn’t sure what Carson saw in his face – and he hoped he wasn’t that transparent – but he relaxed and nodded. “The overnight observation really is just routine, Rodney. The Colonel’s going to be as right as rain in no time.”
“I know. I just….”
“But I’m sure he’d welcome a visit,” Carson said and then added with a smirk. “Even if it is from you.”
“Oh, thanks a lot, Carson,” Rodney huffed, but he was going to see John and couldn’t help smiling.
He headed along to the small curtained alcove at the side of the main infirmary that acted as a private room. John was sitting up in bed looking way hotter than a man in scrubs and with butterfly stitches along his hairline ever should.
The last couple of hours had given Rodney time to worry that John might have changed his mind about this whole thing, but now John was sitting there and smiling at him, and the smile was so warm and open that he felt himself melting inside – just a little. It was going to be okay.
“I thought that as you couldn’t come to our game then I’d bring the game to you,” Rodney said, holding up his travel chess set.
“Cool,” John nodded and then added with a carefully studied indifference, “So… is that the only reason you came by?”
And suddenly it was all right there, and Rodney could see everything that John had kept hidden for so long; except, it turned out, from him – if only he’d realised.
He dropped the chess set on to the bed. “No,” he said and shook his head fondly. “That’s not the only reason.” Then he leaned over and brushed a soft kiss to John’s mouth - and it was… perfect.
Rodney could feel John’s smile against his lips and then John was cupping Rodney’s cheek with his hand and urging him in closer for another kiss.
“Glad to hear it, buddy.”
The chess set slid to the floor, forgotten.