Recipient: Kimber, aka spikespet7
Pairing: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay
Author's Notes: Thank you to my recipient, as your request made me very happy to write this. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Plus many thanks to my beta! I know it's not your fandom, so your help was much appreciated.
Summary: Thinking of Atlantis still hurt, but not as much as it used to. Every day was a little better, or so everyone said. Personally, John thought they were all full of shit.
John couldn't keep his eyes open. He felt like he'd been wrapped in cotton batting and placed somewhere to the left of his own body. The room spun, and not in an understandable "I drank too much" way. The bed beneath him was hard, the covers thin, yet he still felt too warm, and his throat felt like shit.
He tried to breathe, but something was covering his-- He brushed his hand over his face. Right. A respirator. Respirators were shitty. John hated the noise, the way they made his nose itch, and the fact that his throat felt like ice was forming inside of it. He couldn't help trying to reach up and adjust it, just a bit--
Rodney's hand grabbed his and pulled it away. "You have to keep it in," Rodney said, staring intently at John as he waved at someone else in the room. "Anders can clean it out if you need him to."
"Sure, just takes a second." Anders was a dark-haired guy who looked like he worked out a lot, but he wasn't someone John really knew. Maybe he'd seen the guy in the mess, but John didn't spend a lot of time with the medical staff. The guy came at him with a stick or something, and John tried to shove it away. Rodney rubbed his shoulder again.
"Let him do it, John. Please."
"It won't take long, Colonel. You'll feel a little more comfortable when it's done." He fiddled with something, and John felt a scraping along the inside of his throat. "There you go." He patted John's wrist, and then the morphine machine kicked on. John closed his eyes against the overhead light and held on to Rodney's hand as the padded feeling gave way to complete darkness...
John didn't remember being shot down, or what happened after. Rodney told him they'd had to do emergency surgery after they found him and got him back to Atlantis, but there was no miraculous Ancient machine that could knit his bones back together, so once he was stabilized, they shoved him through the gate.
"There was quite a bit of damage, but we were able to repair it." The doctor was earnest and helpful, and John wanted to punch him in the mouth. "Given time and appropriate therapy, the chance of you recovering completely is high."
"Thanks, Doc." John kept looking at the X-rays of his back, staring at where they'd had to stabilize the spinal cord. It was there in black and white, and John knew he wouldn't be going back to Atlantis.
Thinking of Atlantis still hurt, but not as much as it used to. Every day was a little better, or so everyone said. Personally, John thought they were all full of shit. He wanted to be back in Pegasus and on Atlantis so much, the weight of it kept him in bed some days -- pressing him down, smothering him, leaving him unable to move.
There was a loud knocking at the door, and John ignored it. He could hear someone yelling indistinctly, then there was a crash as the door slammed against the front wall. "You might need to patch that."
"Doesn't matter," John muttered, barely able to hear himself, and pulled the covers over his head to shut out the light. He heard something rattling in the kitchen, then running water. The darkness quickly turned grey, and John guessed that Rodney had turned on a light.
"And you used to tell me my place was a pigsty." The blanket was ripped away, and John found himself staring up at Rodney. "Come on, get up. We need to get this place cleaned up."
"Leave me alone." John closed his eyes, but he could hear Rodney fold his arms and knew he was being stared at.
"If you don't get up now, I will keep talking. And I can be quite annoying when I want to. Did I ever tell you about my opinions on leadership?"
John groaned, levered himself up on his elbows, and opened his eyes. God, was it bright out.
Rodney held up a stack of 3x5 cards. "I have notes."
John let himself fall back against the bed. No use fighting Rodney at a time like this. "You see my underwear anywhere?"
The coffee bar at the hospital was noisy and crowded. People in scrubs lined up at the counter while the patients wandered through the place trying to find the bagels or juice or silverware, passing by about a dozen hand sanitizer stations along the way. Rodney was staring intently at his coffee while John pulled his bagel into tiny bits, and neither of them was talking.
Rodney looked up. "I could--"
John glared at him. "No." He cupped a napkin near the edge of the table and shoved the mushy bits into it, then wadded the whole thing up. His throat tightened, and he couldn't force the words out. He knew Rodney had to go, that he had to go back to Atlantis. John would just have to...do this on his own. He'd always known their ...whatever it was would have to end.
Rodney reached across the table and squeezed John's hand. "Come back with me."
John couldn't help the bark of laughter that escaped his mouth.
"I'm serious. We can make a case to the SGC and get you assigned back to Atlantis."
"I'm lucky they haven't discharged me already. What makes you think that you can get anyone to send me back to Atlantis?" He glared at Rodney. "Look at me." He fisted his hands together, wishing he could hit something. "I can barely walk."
"You can keep up with PT on Atlantis. I'm sure the SGC has someone on staff--"
John grabbed his cane and stood up. "Time to go," he growled, and headed for the elevator. "Do what you need to do, Rodney. I need to stay here."
Rodney had tried. He'd sent John email, letting him know what was going on in the city and how things were progressing, as if John would be coming back. But after a year of physical therapy and a couple of surgeries, John had to accept that it wasn't going to happen. There was no way he could pass the physical to get back into the Stargate program.
He'd let things grow quiet, not responding to emails as quickly as he used to. Rodney had yelled and prodded -- he'd called John several times when he was back in the states -- but John was an expert at letting relationships die a natural death. The letters became notes became brief check-ins. Finally, Rodney had stopped sending anything at all.
Which only proved that John had been right, and that a long distance relationship just couldn't work out.
Except he couldn't let Rodney go. Losing Atlantis had left him hollowed out, and he only ate, dressed, and kept on because Rodney was there, steadying him and helping him focus on what was important. He was used to compartmentalizing, so it should have been easy for him to box up his thoughts and feeling and shove them onto one of his mental shelves, but the walls kept breaking down. He couldn't watch TV without something reminding him of Rodney. He tried dramas, but a mental image of Rodney would pop up to deride the science of anything he saw. Comedies were just as bad, with Rodney adding his thoughts on laugh tracks and whether something was truly funny or not. Even sports was off limits, as mental Rodney compared everything to hockey, just for the hell of it. John felt as cut off as he had back when he'd been stuck in the time vortex; the only saving grace was that here on earth, everyone expected him to be depressed and gave him pills to help deal with it.
The less said about his daily activities, the better. It was understandable that coffee reminded him of Rodney, but even spam email felt like it had a Rodney connection. He missed the guy more than he wanted to say.
And then one night he found himself pounding on O'Neill's cabin door, demanding to know how to contact Rodney. It hadn't been his best idea in a history of bad ideas, but O'Neill had been willing to talk over a midnight beer, and let him know that Rodney had requested some leave over the holidays. "I hear he's seeing his sister up in Toronto or something. You might be able to catch up with him there."
Jeannie was willing to put in a good word for him, and John was able to find a room not too far from her place, in a time-share that catered to skiers. He'd left her with the address and his phone number, but Jeannie didn't know when Rodney would arrive. In theory, he would just show up, beamed down onto the back porch by whichever ship was currently on duty, but no one knew an exact time. She promised she'd call once she knew more.
At loose ends, John spent some time picking up some supplies for the room -- Purdy's chocolates, some good coffee, popcorn, and a log for the fireplace -- without thinking too hard about what he expected. He did a few laps in the heated pool and tried out the sauna. He felt great, and too wired to sleep, but Jeannie never called.
Lying in his hotel room, stomach in knots and light years from sleep, John hoped that tomorrow he would see Rodney, though a part of him kept whispering, "What if Rodney doesn't want to see you?" He shifted around on the bed, trying to find a comfortable spot and pushing the darker thoughts from his mind. The bed was too big and too soft for him to really get comfortable -- comfortable usually meant someone was trying to kill him-- and John was seriously considering moving onto the floor of the hotel. He'd slept in worse places.
Resigned, he tugged the quilt and pillow off the bed, shifting carefully out of habit. He still expected muscles to twinge on him, and for there to be a shooting pain on occasion, but he was doing better now. He wasn't as flexible as he'd once been, and while it hurt to stay in one position too long, he could walk without a limp on most days.
Little victories, right? That's what his therapists said. John tried to live with that.
He maneuvered around the blue bolster that was set up just to trip him in the night, and pushed the chrome and beige cloth desk chair out of the way before pulling the curtains open so he could look out at the world around him. His room had a great view of the lights of the city, but lying on the floor, John had an even better view of the snowfall against the night sky. There was still a lot of light pollution, but the angle made the snow easier to see. It was beautiful, little puffs of white falling gracefully from the sky.
The snowfall was soothing, and he wasn't sure how long he'd been lying there when he heard the hesitant knock at the door. His eyes had adjusted enough that with the light from the moon and the snowfall he could see pretty well without the lights. He didn't bother turning them on as he levered himself upright, his stomach turning corkscrews as he slowly padded across the carpet toward the door.
He didn't even bother to check the keyhole, he jerked the door opened and smiled slightly at Rodney. "Rodney."
Rodney was looking at him, his eyes wide, mouth open slightly. "John."
It was the easiest thing in the world to tug on Rodney's camel-colored coat and pull him inside. It was easier still to press him up against the wall after the door closed and feel the softness of Rodney's mouth pressed against his own. The occasional graze of stubble from around his lips only made him aware of how much he'd missed this. Rodney's arms folded around him, pulling him in tight as the kisses became deeper and more urgent.
"God, I missed you." Rodney's voice was rough they pulled apart; John leaned his forehead against Rodney's briefly.
"Same here." He cut a glance at Rodney who was busy pulling off gloves, scarf, and coat and piling them on the nearest chair. He looked around, then stepped outside and grabbed a black suitcase that John swore hadn't been there earlier. "I thought you were staying at Jeannie's house."
"Oh." Rodney halted, confusion written large on his face as he gripped the bag. "Jeannie said-- and I thought--" He waved at the room. "I thought, since you had a place...." His voice drifted off, and his face crumpled. "Yeah, I could stay--"
John kicked himself. "Yes." He walked over and took Rodney's bag, sliding his arm around Rodney's back. "I want you to stay here."
He shoved the bag in the closet, while Rodney settled on the couch in front of the fireplace. He must have caught sight of the Presto-Logs as he gave a smothered laugh, then knelt down to start a fire. John filled up the coffee pot, joining Rodney as the fire took hold. He tugged Rodney's hand, and the two of them settled back onto the couch, wrapping around each other. It felt so right to be there.
He may have lost Atlantis, but being with Rodney felt a lot like home.