Title: The Seven Stages of Rodney's Coming Out Process
Author: Kitchyy
Rating: PG-NC-17
This Chapter: PG
Pairings: Eventual Sheppard/McKay
Warnings/Spoilers: Upto the End of Season 3, just to be safe

Summary for this chapter: Eventually everything cracks under enough pressure.

Disclaimer: So not mine. Never will be. Please also remember, this is totally unbeta'd so, yanno, mistakes are mine and I take full responsibility for them.

Previous Chapter

Stage Five: Breakdown

Rodney stops jerking off. It's not like it's serving it's purpose, it's supposed to put him in a good mood, and it hasn't done that at all. He also stops dating. Finding someone to fall in love with when parts of him refuse to cooperate is too frustrating.

The feels the tension after a week. He's gotten into two arguments with Elizabeth, reduced three of his staff to tears and Radek has set up a temporary lab down the hall from the main lab, proclaiming he will work 'somewhere not close to that rozzuřený osel.' From the looks on the staff faces that speak Czech it can't be good.

"Rodney?" Elizabeth asks over the raido and of course she calls now, after he's finally started making progress on the new ancient research facility they recently found and what they used it for.

"What now?" He barks. He was enjoying the silence. He doesn't want to deal with idiotic pointless dribble that is human interaction. He wants numbers, formulas, something that makes sense.

"Drop whatever you're doing and head to the gate room."

"Is everything alright?" He asks with a hint of concern. He closes the laptop, picks up his pad and heads for the nearest transport.

"Major Lorne's team has found something... interesting. We'll need your help on this one."

"Figures." He mumbles. Then, louder, "My eta is five minutes."

"Good, Weir out."

Most of the senior staff is in the conference room along with Lorne's team when he gets there. He takes a seat next to Teyla near the end of the table.

When the doors close, Lorne stands. "Ok, as some of you already know, we were doing recon on M7R-382 since there were rumors of Genii activity in the area."

John sits up. "And were there?"

Lorne shakes his head. "Not that we could find. However, we did find this."

He presses a few buttons and the laptop in the centre of the table lights up. It's camera footage from one of the military guys, and they're filming the inside of a dark cave. Fascinating. "Please tell me it gets better?" Rodney asks sardonically.

Elizabeth glares him into silence. "If it wasn't important, I can assure you I would have left you where you were."

Rodney's chagrined enough to keep his mouth shut. The two lieutenants are heckling each other as they pass through the cave, and then, "Hey, Wong, hold on a sec, would ya? I think I saw something over there."

Lieutenant Will Wong goes perfectly still so everyone can see the faint blinking lights from somewhere ahead.

Lieutenant Steffanucci steps closer, her weapon up and ready. Lorne's voice when it comes through the speakers is distant and echoing. "Don't touch anything, we don't want to wake something up if we don't know what it is."

"Sound advice." John nods. Everyone on a gate team should have that as a first rule: If you don't know what it is, don't touch it until after you have more information. And even then, beware.

The camera jiggles as Lieutenant Wong walks forward and around the bend. The cave opens into a room with low ceilings, multiple readout tables and pods at the far end that could fit someone a little taller than a person. Rodney could have forgotten his own name and still recognize that technology.

"A wraith lab." He gasps. His hands are already itching for it. So far, the labs they've found planet side were from AWOL Wraith with bizarre ideas. Rodney can only imagine the information held in that room.

"Have you found what the lab's primary function has been in the past?" Teyla asks.

Lorne pauses the tape. "Not at this time, no. But we have a few ideas."

Rodney stands. "And I will actually be able to tell you for certain. Elizabeth, let me go down there and figure it out."

Elizabeth holds her hand up. "Hold on a second, Rodney, we know very little about this planet and the technology we've seen."

Ronon nods, approving.. "Could also be a trap. Ever thought of that?"

"Well then they made it a poor one, considering all of Lorne's team is healthy and unscathed." Rodney argues with a sweeping gesture at all the very healthy looking members of Lorne's team in the meeting.

Beckett, sitting beside Ronon, clears his throat. "Aye, it's true, the team came back clean."

Teyla doesn't look convinced. "That does not mean the Wraith have not set traps. It has been known to happen in the past." She says evenly.

"Well, ma'am," Lieutenant Wong says from his seat beside Lorne, "there was no Wraith or Genii activity before we entered the cave or after. We did a four-hour search, too. We couldn't find any sign of recent sentient activity in the area. There were a lot of goat like things, though."

"See?" Rodney says. "Barring death by goat - which is highly unlikely - it's completely safe. Now, do we have a go or not?"

Elizabeth gives him a cursory look, then turns her attention to John. "How do you feel about it?"

John stares thoughtfully at the screen. "I don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind knowing what that place is, either." Rodney does a mental jig. "But," And honestly, why does there have to be a but here? "I agree with you, Elizabeth. Even though the place doesn't look like it's been visited recently doesn't mean it isn't so."

"Do you have a plan?" Elizabeth asks.

John chews on a thumbnail, Rodney can see the wheels turning. John likes to pretend he doesn't know what he's doing, but Rodney's played chess with him; under all that hair and cheesy smiles is a brilliant strategist. "We take two other teams. One in a cloaked puddle jumper orbiting the planet and the other split. Two men watch the gate and the other two at the mouth of the cave. I don't like the idea of getting caught with my pants down inside a Wraith lab."

Elizabeth nods, looking pleased. "Choose your teams, be ready tomorrow morning. Dismissed."

***

"You know what would be nice? If the puddle jumper could drop us off at the cave entrance." Rodney isn't complaining. He's simply stating a fact.

"That would kind of defeat the picture we want to paint." John reminds him.

Rodney snorts. "They have cloaking capabilities for a reason, Colonel. It would take five minutes."

"Well, consider this your weekly exercise, then." John replies and Ronon chuckles behind him.

Rodney knows if he pushes any more it will turn into an argument and it will change exactly nothing. He decides to spend the rest of the walk working out the Reymann Hypothesis. It's yet another millennium problem that has to do with prime numbers. It's something he fiddles with in his spare time.

He gets the entire mathematical formula laid out in his head and he's starting to pick at it when Ronon steps over a fallen log and points. "There it is."

Sure enough, the cave mouth is right there, partly hidden behind a curtain of plant life that looks suspiciously like poison oak. Rodney makes a mental note to not touch it. He steps forward but John puts a restraining hand on his chest. "I'm taking point. Teyla, Rodney, stay behind me. Ronon, I want you on our six. Lieutenants Steffanucci and Wong, guard the mouth. If anything, and I mean anything happens, radio us up."

"Yessir." Steffanucci says and despite himself, Rodney's getting excited. He feels the exhilaration of learning something new, the anticipation of discovering something alien and completely unknown to the human race, and it's all through that cave.

After the brightness outside, the cave is almost pitch black. The team stumbles around until their eyes adjust. There's only one way to go and Rodney's a little relieved he can't get lost. Five more minutes and he thinks he sees a distant, faint light flash somewhere up ahead.

"Well, this looks like the place." John says quietly from ahead. His gun is up, he looks interested and wary. Teyla's gun is also ready, and Rodney's hand his resting on his. He doesn't like to shoot unless it's strictly necessary.

They take a last turn, just like on the recording and there it is, a complete and untouched Wraith lab. The room is impressive, and Rodney does a slow turn just to take it all in.

"Steffanucci, Wong, you copy?" John asks.

"Reading you loud and clear, sir." Wong says over the radio. The message is full of static. If they went any further they wouldn't hear them at all. Rodney doesn't waste time, he pulls laptops and ancient devices out of his pack and gets to work.

An hour and thirteen minutes later and Rodney is vibrating. This place has centuries worth of material, learning this one system alone could be a lifetimes' worth of work, maybe for some Wraith long ago, it was. Rodney's disturbed at the idea that he or she might still be alive.

Wraith are so creepy.

Teyla, Ronon and John are all walking the perimeter of the room, Rodney turns to John. "Ok, I think I'm ready to turn it on."

"So, you know what it does?" John asks.

"Actually, its fascinating. It's some kind of medical room from what I can tell, kind of like a hospital for the Wraith."

Teyla and Ronon tense up. "Should we not be concerned that whatever illness they have come upon in their past could affect us?" Teyla asks.

Rodney shakes his head. "I thought of that as well, but it doesn't look like it. From all the scans I've taken, and with all the equipment in here, it's more of a growing room... But different."

"How different?" Ronon asks.

Rodney's getting impatient. He wants to turn it on and not get fifty thousand questions that he may or may not know the answer to. "Different as in it doesn't grow Wraith goons. Or soldiers." Rodney snips. Everyone is uneasy and John looks like he wants to call the whole thing off. He can't have that. "There are only three chambers along the back wall, two of them are damaged from age. From what intel we've gathered, it takes months to grow a Wraith. Turning this on for a few hours will be perfectly safe."

John nods and taps his earpiece. "Alright, guys, the show's about to start. Stay sharp, let me know if anything out there changes, got it?"

"You got it, sir." Steffanucci replies. John nods to Rodney and he turns the machinery on.

It takes another fifteen minutes hashing through Wraith code and pointless information, but Rodney has a gut feeling and follows one of the lab readouts and all the information it gathered last time it was used. "Oh my God." Rodney whispers as he reads.

"Oh my God, good? Or oh my God, we need to go before we die horribly and painfully? " John asks.

Rodney snaps his head up. "I know what they were working on down here." He goes to a second workstation and hits a few buttons to confirm the data he's found. Rodney's hands start to tremble. "John, if this information is correct, this lab is for creating Queens."

John's eyes go comically wide. "How is that possible!"

Rodney taps buttons and turns knobs to get all the pertinent info showing on the screen. "It's all right here. We know how the soldiers and the grunts work, or at least how they're grown, it's all due to the Queen. Beckett has a working theory that they grow Queen Wraith similar to how bees do it, where the grunts take care of a specific pod, possibly even give it food as we've seen with your little friend Todd, there. Wraith aren't supposed to be fed while still in the pods. It has to change their body chemistry in some huge way."

"And after a time, you get a lovely bouncing Wraith Queen." John looks grossed out. Rodney sympathizes with him. Beckett was way more in-depth about how it worked. Rodney still can't eat honey, and he liked it, too.

"But with the information held in this lab we're going to need a new theory. In fact, I'm pretty sure it won't be a theory at all after this."

John looks over the read-outs. "You're that sure about this lab?"

"Yeah, I am."

John nods and smiles. "Good job, McKay."

Rodney feels that smile in his chest and belly, warm and comfortable. Then the ground shakes, a few small rocks tumble from overhead and Rodney thinks of all the things he's turned on. He thought he scanned all of them for homing beacons and boobie traps. What if he missed one and a hive ship is overhead now?

"Sir? You ok in there?" Steffanucci asks over the radio.

John puts a hand to his earpiece and looks uneasily at the roof. "Lieutenant, how long were you in this cave before you left to check the surrounding area?"

"I don't know. Maybe half an hour. Why?"

"Because it feels a little unsafe just now. Did you guys feel a tremor?"

"No, but we heard rumbling from inside. Hey, if you're feeling tremors you should get out of there. We can do a ground check for the cave's stability before you go back in."

The ground shakes again and this time it's worse. Rodney grabs for his laptop before it smashes. "You know, I'm starting to like that idea." If this place was left perfectly untouched for thousands of years, then what could once have been a stable environment might be a little too old to handle multiple feet stomping around, vibration from multiple voices and the hum of machinery at the same time. Rodney looks at the roof and does a few calculations in his head. "In fact, I'm all for it. Pack up, we need to leave."

Rodney is always amazed at how fast Ronon can move. He grabs what few electronics are hanging around and stuffs them in Rodney's pack before Rodney's done closing and stashing his laptop under his tack vest. He normally has a lot of things to say about that, but he can save the lecture for later. "Here." Ronon unceremoniously throws him the pack. It smacks him hard in the side of the face.

"Ow?" Rodney says and holds his cheek as he heads towards the cave entry. "You know, next time can you do me a favor and hit me right in the face? I think there's an inch around my left temple you missed."

Ronon chuckles and Teyla follows him through. The tremors start again, the ground shakes under his feet; all around him there's crashing and yelling. Everything goes horribly dark and something heavy and warm hits him through the middle hard enough to knock him back a few feet.

"Rock slide!" John yells and Rodney should know this, but he can't breathe with the wind knocked out of him and he's dizzy with the lack of oxygen. He breathes shallowly and coughs at the thick dust.

He can't see a thing when the dust fades. He gropes around in the dark, finds his pack and snaps a few glow sticks. John lies next to him, his arms are tight around his middle and he's propped up against one of the cave walls. Where the exit out of the lab should be is a dense load of rock.

"Oh no." Rodney feels panic rising and he scrambles to his feet. He's never been stuck in a room with no way out and a limited amount of air, food and water. Even the jumper had CO2 scrubbers when he ended up at the bottom of the ocean. He has no idea how deep the rock goes and he feels the weight of the roof bearing down on him, the closeness of the walls.

Rodney hates confined spaces.

"Teyla? Ronon!" Rodney shouts nervously over the radio. All he gets is static. The panic rises up anther notch. This can't be happening. The walls feel as if they're pressing on his skin. He can't breathe, Oh, Christ...

Rodney is three seconds away from total hysteria and he can't have that. If he doesn't get his shit back under control then they're as good as dead. He closes his eyes, thinks of open fields, imagines wind on his face, clouds float slowly by. The hysteria ebbs, and Rodney uses the peace from that vision and holds it in his mind when he opens his eyes.

The walls and ceiling are still nauseatingly close but the hysteria is fading. It's not the best fix, but it will have to do.

"We're in here!" He shouts at the wall of rock, but he doesn't hear a reply. "You hear me? We're alive!"

"Rodney?" John asks, haggard and breathless. Rodney turns, John's still lying on his side, gripping his ribs. between his fingers Rodney sees a flash of dark wetness and Rodney's blood runs cold.

"How bad is it?" Rodney asks and carefully peels away John's torn shirt to look at the mess. There's a lot of blood, but most of it's surface damage, it looks messier than it is. One cut along the line of his ribs will need stitches, though.

"I've had worse." John tries to sit up and freezes. "Then again..." John groans and breathes shallowly. "I think my ribs are broken."

"It looks like it. Where's your pack?" Rodney asks and follows the nudge of John's chin to his pack lying a few feet away. Rodney pulls out all the things inside, cataloging and planning as he goes until he finds the med kit. "Ok, we have at least three MRE's, a bunch of power bars, two and a half canteens of water, an ancient life signs detector, my laptop, a thermal blanket and a change of clothes." He rattles these off as he cleans the wound. John's face goes very, very pale when he cleans it. This is yet another reason he never became a doctor. Sometimes a person has to hurt to heal and Rodney doesn't want to hurt anyone, especially John.

"Sounds like we should be good for a few days, at least." John grits. "Here, tie the bandage tight, like this." Despite the pain he must be in, John shows Rodney how to tie the bandage around him to help the cut and the ribs at the same time.

Rodney ties off the bandage and stands as he looks over the room. "Well, our food and water problems are fine, yes, but I'm not so sure about the air. Judging from the size of this place we probably have a day and a half, maybe two, tops."

"Always a glass half full kind of guy, huh?" John says sarcastically and Rodney helps him lie down so he can take some pressure off his side.

"I think of myself as more of a realist, thank you." Rodney pops the cap off a half drunk canteen of water and holds it to John's mouth. "Here, drink this. It'll help with the fluid loss."

John gives him a dirty look and holds his good hand out. "I'm not a quadriplegic, Rodney. I can give myself water."

Rodney stands back up. "I try to be nice, and no one responds the way I think they should. If I'm myself, everyone reacts the same."

"That's one way of looking at it." John chuckles but it turns into a wheeze.

"Don't laugh. It isn't good for you." Rodney goes to find the life signs detector.

"I'll try to keep that in mind."

He notices the screen is cracked when he gets a better look at it. He thinks 'on' and it doesn't respond. "Great. Just great." Rodney chucks the detector in a fit of frustration. It lands with a crash on the other side of the room. "The life sign detector is broken."

"Because you threw it, or before that?"

"Before that. Why would I throw a perfectly good piece of equipment?"

John tries to shrug and stops half way with a wince. "You get angry at things?"

"Your powers of observation are truly one of a kind. Thank you very much, Einstein. However, you are sadly mistaken."

"So... You're saying you didn't throw it because you got mad?"

Rodney's mouth hangs open for a moment too long. "You know what? I need to concentrate. Stop talking."

Rodney turns from John's knowing smirk and paces the room while looking at the rock fall. If he picks at it he could cause a secondary slide and use up their air faster, possibly damaging himself in the process. If he leaves it alone, they will die in two days anyways. Maybe there's something in here that can help. He snaps his fingers as an idea sparks. If there's a medical scanner maybe Rodney can jimmy-rig it to scan through rock so digging them out could be a little easier and a lot safer.

He finds the scanner but its damaged, being on one of the consoles closest to the rock slide. He finds his own pack, finds a kit, pulls off a piece of the console plating and finds that the damage isn't too bad. He can get this fixed in an hour or two.

Rodney takes a deep, steadying breath. "Ok, I think I have a plan."

John looks from the ceiling to him. "That's good, because I can't do much in my current condition."

He hates seeing John like this. He's always the one in charge, all movement and orders and easy smiles, not broken and bleeding in a corner. "What you're going to do is lie back and be amazed at my genius." Rodney tries to smile, relays the plan and John looks doubtful and thoughtful in turns.

"Can you be sure you won't cause another slide?" John asks.

"No, that I can't do. But like I said, the chances will be greatly decreased."

John nods. "Alright, do it, but be careful. The last thing we need is another ton of rock separating us from the exit."

Rodney nods and starts fixing the scanner. It takes three hours to fix and then rig it to scan through rock. All the information shows up on one of the Wraith screens.

"What were you able to find?" John stands and carefully walks over to the read-out screen, where Rodney has turned stone still. John knows enough Wraith to know what it says.

The fallen rock goes on for meters. There's no way Teyla and Ronon could have survived the collapse.

"They're resourceful." John says quietly. His hand grips Rodney's shoulder too tightly. Rodney can't talk around the lump in his throat, only nods.

All he can think about are things he hasn't done yet. He's supposed to introduce Teyla to the world of cartoons next week, and he's going to show Ronon what a balanced meal actually looks like. They can't be gone. Not like this.

His eyes burn and his stomach is knotted. Rodney can't think of this now. If he does, he won't fit anything else inside his head. "You should lie down." He says.

John looks like hell but he stands his ground. "I've had broken bones before."

"So have I, so just go and sit, I'll figure this out."

"I can't sit there and do nothing!" John snaps. "Now, you said something about moving those rocks, right?"

Rodney thinks about shouldering John out of the way, but he doesn't. The help would not come amiss. "We have to try." He doesn't say that the air will be used up long before they reach the end of the rock fall. "At least take something for the pain, John, the med kit has-"

"If I do that I won't think straight." John says wearily. "And I need to be alert."

Idiot. He's such an idiot and Rodney wants to yell at him, get him to sit and recover, but Sheppard is stubborn as a mule when he's got an idea in his head, and the tilt of his jaw tells Rodney that arguing will get him nowhere. "Fine. Don't whine to me when you pass out from the pain."

"I can't do much," John says, the closest he will get to admitting he's damaged and in pain. "But I can give you readout information as you go. Make sure you don't knock out anything that makes things worse."

Rodney gives him a once over. He's leaning heavily on the console, his mouth is a hard line and he's sweaty and pale, but his eyes are clear. "Ok, just try not to pass out over the read-outs. We need them to get out."

The corner of John's mouth wears the ghost of a smile and Rodney turns away from it, feeling guilty. He can't think when John is trying to make him feel better, especially when he most likely got hurt saving Rodney.

Moving rocks is a tedious, slow, back-breaking job, and after every few minutes he has to wait for John to tell him if anything changed, where to go next, and make sure he doesn't get hurt, either. John gives him pointers, tells him the angle he should pull the next rock to make sure others don't come tumbling down.

It's surreal. He should be the one at the read-outs, and John should be doing this. Every once in a while John gives him a look that says he's thinking the same thing. Somehow, that helps.

After what feels like days of work Rodney moves a rock and it rolls over his foot. He swears loudly and sits down hard on the floor, holding his ankle. "You've been at this for hours, Rodney. You need to take a break." John says softly.

Rodney nods. The adrenaline has worn off and all the little bumps and bruises are screaming for attention. His knees feel bruised, his elbow hurts and his hands are scraped raw. He wants to sleep for days.

John goes slowly to the corner where they originally landed and opens an MRE. He takes a seat next to John and drinks carefully from a canteen. They share an MRE in silence and Rodney decides to take a nap. Only a short one, because his eyes refuse to stay open. When he lies down next to John, all he can hear is shivering. "You cold?" He asks. He knows that isn't a good sign. Although the room is damp, it isn't overly cold.

John looks grimly at the ceiling. "I'm fine. Just go to sleep."

"Like hell I will." He gets up, ignoring his aching muscles and wraps him and John in the thermal blanket. John's hands are cold, and Rodney feels his forehead. He doesn't have a temperature. He thinks that's a good sign.

"Will you quit mothering me?" John growls and tries feebly to smack his hand away.

"You're in pain, I get it. You refused the meds and that's your choice, I'm just trying to help, here. Be nice, say thank you and shut up."

"Yes, mom." John sniffles into the blanket near his neck, close enough that Rodney feels it over his skin.

Rodney lies there, thinking about Teyla, about Ronon and how he almost lost John, too. Rodney's been alone for most of his life. He has few friends, and the ones he has aren't exactly what he would call close. But his team is different, they're like family, the closest thing he's had since-ever.

To think Teyla and Ronon are gone-his chest feels empty, like with them he was whole and didn't realize it until they weren't there. He doesn't want this to be the end, he wants Ronon's deep, teasing voice annoying him until he's old and grey, wants Teyla's thoughtful insights into other worlds nattering in his ear for years to come, wants their sturdy weights walking beside him, behind him, hemming him in and keeping him safe. Keeping him whole.

"Damn it." Rodney whispers as his eyes prickle with tears.

"They got out. I know they did." John's good hand slides over Rodney's middle. He knows it's for comfort, but he still stiffens at the contact. No one touches him, not even his team. John picks up on the strain and moves his hand back.

Rodney feels incredibly scared. He doesn't want John's last thoughts to be that Rodney doesn't want his touch. It's so far from the truth it's laughable. He grabs John's hand, pulls him until his head is resting in the crook between Rodney's head and shoulder, their bodies pressed tight. Their legs tangle together and that wide, gaping hole recedes so Rodney can breathe again.

"A lot of things aren't certain, John." Rodney murmurs as he runs dirty fingers through John's unruly hair. Maybe he's starting to understand putting more than one meaning into a statement. John's body melts into his and Rodney's breathless with how right this feels.

"I know." John agrees. Rodney can feel his breath, warm and moist over his collarbone. "But we know them. They got out. We have to keep believing that, you hear me?"

Rodney nods but a tear slips out, and Rodney is glad the glowstick light has died. No one can see him fall apart.

It feels almost too good, holding John in the dark. He's anchored to something alive and breathing and real, to the one person he feels connected to like no other. All the self imposed rules and the lies he's told himself don't matter here, not when the wide mouth of death looms over them. He curls into warmth and life, careful of the broken ribs and the gash and just holds John in sleep, running greedy fingers over hair and skin and dirty clothing.

He presses his lips to John's forehead, breathes him in, caresses the back of his neck. And for the first time since Rodney was very, very little, he closes his eyes and prays.

***


He wakes to rocks crashing in the distance. Rodney is awake and instantly alert. "What's going on?" He yells.

John looks wide eyed at the blocked entrance. "I don't know, I think it's-"

"Never thought I'd be this happy to hear those voices, but I am." It's Ronon.

Ronon is alive!

Rodney scrambles from under the blanket and towards the noise. "Oh thank God you're ok! Hows Teyla?" He shouts.

He hears more rocks sliding away just up and to the right and Rodney starts doing the same on their side, heedless of the pain in his hands. "It was damn close for both of us. She got a rock to the head so she's out of commission for a while. You guys?"

"John's hurt, he'll need a medical team." And just there is a crack of light. Rodney's never been so happy to get a flashlight beam in the face until now.

***

Rodney doesn't like hospitals, however, he likes hospital food. Maybe that's the universes way of making his stay palatable.

He bruised his elbow bone and his ankle's sprained. Beckett kept him overnight to make sure he didn't miss anything and he's finally released today, after two helpings of breakfast. John isn't doing as well. He broke three ribs and cracked another two. He has seventeen stitches and a mild concussion. He's sleeping in the bed next to the one Rodney vacated earlier today.

Beckett was clear about Rodney not going back to work for three days, and with the pain he's in, he's in total agreement. After showering and changing he's back in the infirmary. He wants to check up on John.

He doesn't want to admit it, but when they were in that cave he thought Ronon and Teyla really were lost in the rock slide and John was the only one left. His one pin-point in a sea of cold, formidable strangers. Not that the people in Atlantis were strangers anymore, but still. Intellectually, he knows everyone is ok, but it's like the rest of Rodney hasn't caught up yet. He needs to see John once more, make sure he's here and alive and breathing.

He stands next to the bed. John is sleeping; he looks peaceful, innocent and impossibly young. Rodney pushes a lock of hair off John's forehead and smiles.

"Mmmf?" John mutters. His eyelids flutter and open. His face creases in pain, and then wakefulness, and there he is, the face Rodney knows so well. "Rodney?"

"Hey, John. How are you feeling?"

John frowns. "Ok, I guess, all things considered. Well, as long as I don't move." His eyes sharpen on Rodney. "How are you?"

Rodney pats his crutches. "Sprained ankle, bumps and bruises. Nothing overly spectacular."

John nods and smiles. "Good to hear."

Rodney returns the smile and takes a deep breath. "I want to thank you for, you know, keeping me together back there. I'm an incredibly intelligent person so it may shock you to know, but some times my emotions can get the better of me. I mean, I remember once in first year university when I met my Physics teacher, I mean, wow, that was-"

John's eyes glitter with amusement. "Rodney. You're welcome."

"I guess that's what I was getting at. So, yes." Rodney clears his throat and looks at the wall just above John's head. "Thank you."

"You know, it goes both ways."

Rodney stares at John, confused. "It does?"

John nods and smiles again, only it's the one Rodney doesn't understand. It's secretive, small and incredibly sweet. It makes Rodney feel strange; it's that panicky-warm feeling and he doesn't know what to do with it. "If it was just me in that place, how far do you think I would have gotten?"

No matter what, John can get out of any situation. But now that he thinks of it, John wouldn't have gotten out of there in the time he did without Rodney. "Huh." Rodney says. John takes his hand and squeezes. "I never really thought of it like that."

"Well, now you can. Thank you, Rodney."

Rodney squeezes back. "You're welcome, John."

They stay like that for a few more moments with John's hand in his and Rodney feeling warm. When a nurse comes around the corner John lets go and slides his hand under the blanket. Rodney frowns at his empty hand.

"I should go. Get some sleep. Radio me when they let you out, ok?" Rodney asks.

John nods. He looks tired. "Ok. See you."

*** 

Translation: rozzuřený osel - infuriating ass

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McKay/Sheppard Slash

May 2017

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