When The Levee Breaks – 3/3 – halestrom

Title: When The Levee Breaks
Author: halestrom
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Genre: Drama, Episode Related
Relationship(s): Rodney McKay/John Sheppard
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: * No Mandatory Warnings Apply
Word Count: 83,540
Summary: Six months after the events of Doranda, John receives a wake-up call that changes the course of events in Atlantis for everyone involved, for better or for worse. While John deals with his rude awakening, some friendships are made stronger, and some are broken. He just hoped he woke up in time for him to fix mistakes before he loses the one thing he can finally admit he wants.
Artist: SpencnerTibbsLover



Nine

John slumped back in his chair and dropped his head back with a groan. Ronon was back, the tracker was out of his back, and Rodney’s ass was healing. It should have been a good mission, but John was tired, and all he wanted to do was sleep, but Carson had asked for a meeting, which worried him.

Everything had been weird since the Lucius incident two weeks ago, but it had been getting better. Carson had been unable to meet his eyes for a week after it had happened, and even Rodney had spent a few days hidden in his lab. He didn’t know what the Doctor wanted to talk about, but he had a feeling it couldn’t be anything good, especially since they had just come back from Sateda. He heard his door open, and he forced himself to sit up, plastering a smile he didn’t feel onto his face as Carson stepped in.

“Heya Doc,” he said, taking in the drawn features.

Carson nodded but didn’t speak, but he walked in and collapse into a seat, looking worn out. John frowned and rested his elbows onto the desk, clasping his hands together and looking at the Doctor. “What’s wrong?” he asked, feeling worried.

The silence lingered, and John frowned more. “Doc?”

Finally, Carson looked up. He looked like the marines when they came back from their first Wraith encounter, their eyes haunted and troubled by what they had seen.

“You know that was the first Wraith I’ve ever killed. First anything I’ve killed,” Carson said softly. He paused for a second before blowing out a breath. “On purpose at least.”

John winced. “You okay?” he asked, keeping his voice soft. He might have had a lot of problems with the Doctor recently, but John could remember the first time he had killed someone and how drunk his team had gotten him. He didn’t think this was the time for alcohol, though, not yet.

Carson shrugged. “I dunnae.”

John didn’t know what to say to that. He knew how to handle this with his men, but they had known what they were getting into. Carson was a doctor who wanted nothing more than to help people, even if those people didn’t want the help. He wasn’t a warrior.

“I want to heal them,” Carson admitted softly, and John felt his shoulders tense as Carson kept speaking. “But after today, I don’t know.”

John blinked. “How come?” he asked, feeling a little bit wary about it.

Carson shifted in the seat and looked towards the window, out across the moonlight ocean. “I want to heal them, so they don’t need to eat humans to live. But that Wraith today, he didn’t wanna eat Ronon. He was playing with him for fun.”

“Yes.”

“And if he was human, he would have still made Ronon a runner?” Carson asked.

John sighed. “Yeah, I think so.”

Carson leaned forward, bracing his arms against his knees and pressing his hands into his face. John leaned back in the chair and let Carson have the space he needed. He couldn’t imagine what the other man was going through. John could understand the Wraith needing to feed. He would fight against it, but he understood it. They had to eat. Making some of the people of this galaxy runners was something else entirely, and he knew there had to be more than one hive that did it. It was the hallmark of a completely different sort of predator, and John could only assume that that was the human side of the Wraith, and it made him feel sick.

“I think Rodney was right,” Carson said softly, words muffled by his hands.

“Which part?”

“About the Wraith’s humanity. I dunnae think they’re human, even if we removed the Wraith. They don’t have compassion, do they?” Carson asked, looking up at John, his eyes red-rimmed and so exhausted John was tempted to call Marie.

John was silent as he thought about it for a long moment. “I don’t know. I think some of them could, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part.”

Carson dropped his head back into his hands, his shoulders shaking. John looked out the window, giving Carson the privacy he needed. He wasn’t good with this, but he would do his best because, for all of their problems in the past few months, Carson was a friend and had saved his life multiple times. He rubbed a hand over the side of his neck, the scar still sensitive even after all this time.

Carson finally raised his head and cleared his throat, his eyes swollen and his face blotchy. John reached down to the drawer in his desk, pulled out two glasses, and poured them both some of the whiskey that was slowly and surely disappearing.

“Here,” he said, handing it over, sitting back in the chair and raising his glass, waiting for Carson to raise his as well. “To Sateda and all the others.”

John took a sip, and Carson downed his in one go, carefully putting the glass back on the desk and leaning back.

“I can turn the retrovirus into a bioweapon,” Carson admitted softly. “It wouldn’t be hard, not with the research I’ve done so far.”

John stilled, the glass halfway to his mouth as he watched Carson with wide eyes. The other man looked pale, almost clammy now, and he could see the despair in his eyes, and he shook his head. “No.”

Carson’s eyes jumped up to meet his, and John shook his head again. “Give me the research, and I’ll get it to one of the military scientists,” he said softly.

“I’m the bloody idiot who made the retrovirus,” Carson said, but his argument was half-hearted.

“I know, but you’re a doctor. Look into a way to see if you can reverse the aging; there’s got to be something. But not a bioweapon,” John said.

Carson looked like he wanted to argue for half a second before he nodded, looking relieved. “Okay,” he said, sounding thankful. “Okay.”

John finished off his drink and set the glass down, linking his fingers together and resting them across his stomach as he leaned back in his chair.

“When I was helping Rodney with the arrow,” Carson started softly, looking down at his hands. “Dr. Weir came in and started asking him a bunch of questions. He was under a lot of morphine, and well, you know how Rodney gets.”

John’s lips quirked into a grin for a second. Rodney on heavy pain meds was hilarious, the man had no filter, and the sheer excitement that Rodney had for everything he saw was endearing. “I do. Why didn’t you put him under for it?”

“He doesn’t react well to the general anesthesia, so I try not to put him under if I can help it,” Carson explained.

“So what did she want?” he asked before realizing a more critical question. “And why did you let it happen?”

“I wasn’t thinking,” Carson admitted. “Captain Rutherford was asking him about the three of you so he could mount a rescue mission, and when he left, she took over. It didn’t even bloody register at first, and as soon as it did, I stopped her.”

Carson rubbed both hands over his face. “We’ve all been ignoring patient privacy as long as we’ve been here, and it’s on me for letting it slide as long as we have. Captain Rutherford had questions, and I understand, but Elizabeth shouldn’t have been there. It’ll change now. I’ve already informed my staff, and I’ll send out an email later.”

“Oh?”

Carson nodded his head. “Aye. I haven’t been the CMO that everyone deserves, and I need to change that starting now.”

John was surprised to hear the same resolution he had made. He understood where Carson was coming from. “I know. Sometimes I feel like the only person doing their job properly is Rodney.”

“Aye,” Carson grunted. “It’s bloody irritating.”

John made a mental note to keep an eye on what Carson would do moving forward and to mention it to Rodney. He wanted Carson to be telling the truth, but part of John was hesitant after the Michael situation. He fought back a grimace. Holding grudges wasn’t the answer.

“What did Elizabeth want?”

“She wanted to know who Rodney bribed to keep his job,” Carson said. “She kept on asking him that. Who his contact was. Who he was talking to behind her back. The same thing over and over.”

“Did she say why she thought that?” John asked with a frown.

Carson thought for a moment. “No.”

“What did Rodney say?”

“Mostly, he said her words sounded like the color red, and she needed to be blue,” Carson admitted. “She didn’t get far before I realized, but she got far enough. I dunnae what she’s aiming for.”

“She’s not aiming for anything,” John said wearily. “There’s nothing to aim for. She’s shooting in the dark and hoping to hit a target.”

Carson nodded. “Aye, I suppose so. I’ll keep an eye out, but Rodney deserved his bloody privacy, especially when he’s bare assed on the table.”

“Why are you telling me then?” John asked warily.

“You’re his medical proxy. He changed it a week ago,” Carson explained, and John felt like someone had punched him in the gut. He swallowed and tried not to look too hard into that piece of news, not until he could talk to Rodney about it.

“Mine is Elizabeth,” John said softly before he shook his head. Just the idea made him nervous, and he sighed. “I need to change mine as well. Fuck.”

Carson winced. “Aye, maybe for the best for the time being. I’ll make the change as soon as you send me an email.”

John rubbed both hands over his face and sighed. “Thank you,” he said softly, looking over at Carson. “For telling me.”

Carson nodded. “I am sorry, Colonel, for the parts I’ve played these last few months.”

John nodded. “We’ve all done things we’re not proud of, Carson. We just gotta keep moving forward.”

“Aye, easier said than done.”

“Well, at least Rodney’s there to kick our asses if we don’t,” John said, trying to make light of the situation as he stood up.

“Aye,” Carson said again, standing up with a sigh. “I just hope he doesn’t have to. The man doesn’t pull his punches. And it’s not his bloody job to keep us in line.”

John nodded. Rodney was a kick in the ass that they needed, but it was unfair of them to expect Rodney to make them do their jobs.

After dropping off the glasses in his room to clean later, John made his way to Rodney’s room, waving a hand and waiting to be allowed to enter. The door slid open, and he stepped inside, finding Rodney stretched out on his bed on his stomach, chin pillowed on folded arms, eyes on his laptop screen. John could make out tinny voices, and he walked over, perching on the edge, careful not to jostle Rodney too much. He glanced at the screen and tilted his head to the side.

“Is that Tombstone?” he asked, leaning forward.

“Mmhmm,” Rodney said. “I’m commiserating with Doc Holliday.”

“You’re also dying of tuberculosis?”

“Yep.”

John grinned and nudged Rodney. “Budge over,” he said, waiting for the man to move before kicking off his shoes, grabbing a pillow, and stretching out on the bed next to him. “Don’t cough on me.”

Rodney rolled his eyes, but he was smiling a little bit more. John settled next to him, half paying attention to the movie. It was almost finished, and John waited for the credits to roll before turning his head to look at Rodney. “You dying on me?”

“Not today,” Rodney replied, reaching out and closing the lid of his laptop before turning his head to look at John. “My ass is killing me. I can’t take another pain pill for another hour, though.”

“I bruised my tailbone once. It sucked,” John said.

“Here to make another pain in the ass joke?”

“Nope,” John said. “Maybe I’m here for the company.”

“Mmhmm,” Rodney said, closing his eyes and settling more onto the bed. “Try again, Colonel, it’s late, and we’ve all had a long day. Tell me the bad news.”

John sighed. “We could have just had a nice lay, you know.”

“A nice lay involves less clothing and a different sensation involving my ass,” Rodney muttered before he tensed up, eyes flying open to stare at John, his cheeks turning red.

John felt a slow grin cross his face, and he raised both of his eyebrows, not saying anything. Rodney’s cheeks turned red, and he closed his eyes with a groan. “Maybe that pill is still working.”

“Don’t look embarrassed,” John said, reaching out to run a soft finger over the bright red spot. “If we’re doing this, then I’m assuming sex is on the table at some point.”

Rodney stilled at the brush of his fingers and then opened his eyes. “Well yeah, but this is going slow.”

“Which is good.”

“It is for me,” Rodney said, shifting a little bit.

“Me too.”

Rodney hummed in reply, and John just kept watching him, finger still tracing over the redness of Rodney’s cheeks. “You made me your medical proxy,” John said softly, still a little bit amazed.

“I trust you.”

It was a mirror to so many conversations they had had over the past few months, and Rodney saying that one thing made something in his chest settle, and he grinned. “I’m going to make you mine as well.”

Rodney looked at him with wide eyes, a look of disbelief on his face. John leaned in to kiss him gently, the angle weird for a second before Rodney moved his head and their lips pressed against each other more firmly. He pulled back after a second and opened his eyes back up. Rodney was smiling at him, the disbelief gone. He smiled back, shifting to relax back down on the bed, content to watch Rodney for the time being.

“So what else?” Rodney asked, never content to let anything settle.

John sighed. “Elizabeth was questioning you when you were on morphine.”

Any happiness that had been on Rodney’s face was gone a second later, replaced by anger and sadness. Rodney turned his head and rubbed his forehead against his arm, and let out a long groan. “Of course she did. And Carson allowed it?”

“No.”

That got Rodney’s attention, and he turned to look back, eyebrows furrowed in question.

“Sort of,” John amended. “He was dealing with your ass injury, and Elizabeth took Captain Rutherford’s place, and he didn’t initially realize. And when he did, he kicked her out.”

“So what did she ask?” Rodney asked warily.

“More of the same. Who did you bribe? Who is your contact? That sort of stuff.”

“Right, because I can’t be good at my job, there’s got to be a reason for it,” Rodney muttered. “Great, just great. So she’s definitely paranoid if she thinks that. It looks like the IOA is going to get their wish.”

John felt sad, but he didn’t know what else he could do. “Maybe we should see if Heightmeyer will talk to her.”

Rodney was silent for a long moment. “Do we want to?”

The question was soft, and John wanted to deny it immediately, but he felt the words die in his throat. He let out a soft groan. “I don’t know,” he whispered, not wanting to admit it.

“We can’t keep doing this,” Rodney said softly. “If she can’t take a step back and see what’s happening, it’s just going to get worse. She’s going to have a psychotic break if she keeps doing this, and there’s nothing we can do. Assuming she hasn’t already had one. We tried to make it work, but she’s doesn’t want our help.”

“She’s our friend.”

“She was until she went crazy and no one diagnosed her.”

It was John’s turn to rub his face against his arm before he rolled to the side so he could watch Rodney easier, pillowing his head on one arm. He reached out after a moment, resting it tentatively on Rodney’s side, and when the other man didn’t move away, he scooted forward, pressing up along his side, being careful of his injury. Rodney eyed him, but didn’t say anything, just turned his head, so they were almost nose to nose.

“She is still our friend,” John said softly, curling a hand into Rodney’s shirt to keep them close. “She needs help, and she’s not taking it, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

“So we do our best?”

“That’s all we can do,” John said. “Our best.”

Rodney sighed and leaned in to kiss John again. “I don’t like this.”

“I know.”

John woke up half curled around Rodney, his face mashed against Rodney’s bicep and feeling a lot more rested than he had any right to be. His back hurt, his hips ached, but he had no will to move. At some point during the night, he had thrown an arm over Rodney completely, one leg half curled around Rodney’s.

“You awake?” Rodney asked softly, voice thick with sleep.

John hummed and rubbed his face against Rodney’s bicep. “Nope.”

Rodney grunted, and John felt a finger poke in his ribs. “You are. I gotta take a leak.”

John grumbled but moved at the poke, letting Rodney shift and stand up carefully, moving in a slow shuffle towards the bathroom. John took the time to sit up, tugging his clothing back into order. He heard the sound of the toilet flushing and the sink running before Rodney shuffled back into the room and right back to where he had been before.

“Do you have anything to do this morning?” Rodney asked, laying back down on his stomach.

John thought about it and shook his head. “No,” he said, smiling when Rodney reached out and tugged him closer.

He went easily, curling back around Rodney, careful not to jar him too much. He pressed his face back against Rodney’s arm and closed his eyes. “Don’t think Ronon’s gonna wanna run today.”

Rodney hummed softly. “Wanna get breakfast?”

“In a bit?”

“No rush,” Rodney replied. “I’m on light duty until I can sit properly.”

“How long?” John asked, opening his eyes and pushing up onto an elbow to look at Rodney better.

“Carson thinks it’ll be a couple of days, it was all in the meat, so it’s painful more than dangerous,” Rodney explained. “Annoying mostly.”

John rested a hand on Rodney’s back and smoothed it up and down, feeling the muscles bunch for a second before they relaxed. “So, how are we eating?”

“I can sit, sort of,” Rodney said, letting out a long sigh. “He gave me a donut.”

“A donut.”

“Yeah, one of those blow-up donuts so I can sit without putting pressure on the injury,” Rodney explained with a grimace. “So I was thinking you go and get breakfast, and bring it back, and we eat breakfast.”

“A date then.”

Rodney blinked up at him before he smiled. “Yeah, I suppose so.”

John found himself smiling wider, and he leaned down to kiss Rodney again, quickly finding himself enamored with the way Rodney seemed to relax even more every time John kissed him. “Gotta take the chances while we can.”

He kissed Rodney again for good measure before standing up, grabbing his shoes, and pulling them on. He ran a hand through his hair in an attempt to make it look less like he rolled out of bed. Rodney turned his head and watched him.

“Does that actually do anything?” Rodney asked, eyeing John’s hair.

He laughed and shook his head, crouching down next to the bed and leaning in to kiss him again. “Nope, but it’s a habit. Are you starving right now?”

Rodney paused for a second before shaking his head. “No.”

“Good, I’m going to grab a quick shower and change, and then I’ll be back. 30?”

He didn’t want to go. He wanted to soak up as much time like this with Rodney as he could, but he also knew he probably still stunk from yesterday. He hadn’t anticipated falling asleep with Rodney, hadn’t planned to stay longer than an hour or two, but they had started another movie, and John had fallen asleep before he realized it.

“Thirty is good,” Rodney said, pushing himself back up to standing. “I should as well and change the bandage.”

“Need any help?”

Rodney shot him a glance, and John blushed, shrugging his shoulders helplessly. It wouldn’t be the first time one of them helped the other change bandages. Sometimes it was more comfortable with a friend than going back to the infirmary. This would be the first time since they started dating.

“No,” Rodney said after a few minutes, holding out a hand.

John stared at it dumbly for a second before he took it and helped Rodney stand. He rested his hands on Rodney’s waist, pressing up against him carefully, his eyes on Rodney’s face to make sure it was okay. He wanted to take this at a pace both of them were fine with.

“Is it okay?” he asked, suddenly worried. “The kissing and stuff.”

Rodney frowned. “What gave you the impression it wasn’t?”

“The constant frowning,” John replied, reaching up to smooth a thumb over the corner of Rodney’s mouth, which had pulled down.

“That’s how my mouth is,” Rodney attempted.

John raised his eyebrows, waiting until Rodney sighed and glanced to the side. “It’s not that I don’t want you to,” Rodney said slowly, choosing his words with care. “It’s that I’m just worried about where this is going.”

“Where do you want it to go?” John asked carefully, eyeing Rodney and fighting against the urge to back away.

“Forward?”

“Are we not going forward?” John asked, confused. “I think we are moving in a great direction.”

“Which is what?”

John hated trying to put into words what he felt, and he failed more than succeeded when he tried. But he knew he had to try with Rodney, who was nothing but words and needed those words for reassurance.

“You and me, more solid, you know, partners,” John said, shrugging and glancing to the side feeling uncomfortable but not moving away. “You’re my best friend, and I want more from you.”

“Just sex?”

“Well yeah, sex is great,” John said, and he knew it was the wrong thing to say when Rodney stiffened. John tightened his grip and pressed up against Rodney, forcing himself to meet Rodney’s eyes. “But just more, and I don’t know what shape it’s going to be because we’re on Atlantis and things are hectic, and I’ve never done this before, not with someone I care about this much.”

John was hesitant about the word love, and he was going to avoid using it at least until Rodney stopped looking at him like he was going to run away.

Rodney’s frown deepened. “Never done this with a man?”

“Well, yes and no,” John admitted. “I’ve never dated a man, but I’ve had sex with men. More than a couple of times.”

“So this isn’t just sex?” Rodney asked carefully.

John shook his head, biting back a comment about his commission, getting the feeling that Rodney wouldn’t appreciate it. “Not for me, no.”

Rodney was silent for a long time before he sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Okay,” he said softly before looking up at John and repeating it more forcefully. “Okay.”

“Okay?” he said slowly, waiting for Rodney to elaborate.

“Then all the kissing and everything else is okay,” Rodney said before yanking John down into a hard kiss.

It wasn’t graceful, their lips smashed together, and noses bumping before John’s mind got with the program, and he tilted his head to the side, gentling the kiss as it deepened. John’s hands tightened around Rodney’s waist, and he felt Rodney’s hands settle on his shoulders. It was easy to get lost in the kiss and easier to let Rodney control the pace.

John had decided what he wanted on the pier months ago, and he wasn’t going to change his mind now. He just needed to make sure Rodney was on the same page now they were in the same book, and he wasn’t about to push him sooner than he was ready. He wanted this to work, and he was not going to be the reason it failed.

The hands-on his shoulders smoothed down his chest before he felt hands grip his hips, and Rodney pressed in closer, moaning softly as the kiss started to speed up, mouths opening as it deepened further.

John would have been content to stand there and make out for as long as he could until his lips were sore, but Rodney grunted in a non-fun way and shifted back, grimacing as he shifted from one leg to another.

“Sorry,” he said, voice a little hoarse.

“Okay?” John said feeling breathless, and more than a little turned on.

Rodney shook his head. “I think I need a hot shower, a painkiller, and some food,” he admitted. “Before I do anything else.”

John suddenly remembered that Rodney was injured, and he grimaced, stepping back a little bit, making sure that Rodney was still okay to stand. “Right, I should shower and get the food?”

He let his voice trail off in question, and Rodney nodded. “Yeah, uh yeah, that would be good.”

“Thirty?” John asked carefully, trying to figure out if he could jerk off, shower, and get food in time to get back.

“Forty-five?” Rodney muttered, blushing a little bit, and John couldn’t help the smile.

“Yeah, that works for me as well,” he said, finally letting go of Rodney and rubbing the back of his neck, well aware of how flushed he was right then.

Rodney glanced up at him, eyes flittering down and then back up again, his cheeks red again. Rodney sighed and pressed a hand over his face. “This is so ridiculous,” he muttered, words muffled by his hands. “We’re not in high school.”

John felt the same, and he reached up to tug Rodney’s hand down so he could kiss him again. “I know, but it’s important, and that’s a good thing.”

Rodney rolled his eyes but didn’t deny it, just nodded his head. “Right, forty-five?”

“See you then.”

With another quick kiss, John was gone, praying that he didn’t cross paths with anyone.

“Do you think she’s aware we’re here?”

John shifted from foot to foot, feeling uncomfortable as he watched Elizabeth in the isolation chamber fighting for her life. For a moment on Asuras, when things had been going well with the replicators, and they had been working together as they had during the first year and a half, he had allowed himself to hope that things were getting better.

Now, the thought of Asuras made him shudder. It had felt so real, seeing the hives firing, setting the self-destruct, and living through the explosion. He shook his head, trying to push that memory out of the way. It had felt so real. It had felt like he was dying, and he never wanted to feel that again.

“How can she be? She’s unconscious,” Rodney said, breaking John’s concentration. He glanced over at Rodney, who had his arms folded tightly, looking at Elizabeth uncertainty.

Carson shrugged and looked at John. “You may be right. You could try talking to her. Tell her to keep fighting.”

Rodney rolled his eyes. “And that will help exactly how?”

“In a coma, one’s sense of hearing is the last thing to go and the first thing to return. There are many cases where patients were actually able to hear others talking to them in the room.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Rodney muttered. “We’re not exactly her favorite people right now.”

John grimaced. “Do you think it would help?” he asked softly. “If we talked to her?”

Carson shrugged again. “Can’t hurt to try, can it? Her mind is extremely active for someone in a coma. Her EEG reads almost as if she were going about her daily life, which suggests she may well be able to hear us.”

Rodney looked over at John, who shrugged and stepped as close as he dared, not wanting to get close and get infected himself. He felt awkward talking with Rodney and Carson watching him, but he knew he needed to. For all of their problems, Elizabeth deserved his help. No one deserved what she was going through.

“You know, if Carson’s right and you can hear me, I suppose I should say something profound…. Okay, I’m not so good at profound. But you should know, we’re doing everything we can to get you through this. These, these nanites, I don’t know what they’re putting you through, I don’t know what they’re doing to you, but…don’t let ’em get to you. We’re doing everything we can to bring you back, but you’ve got to do your part. You’ve gotta fight this.”

“Oh shit,” Carson said suddenly, grabbing John and pulling him back.

“What?” John asked, looking over his shoulder and seeing Elizabeth’s stats were rising rapidly, the monitors beeping. “What?”

Carson shook his head and hauled John back again. “Her EEG, she’s bloody terrified.”

“Of me?” John demanded, jerking his arm out of Carson’s grasp and turning around, pinning the doctor with his gaze. “Of my voice?”

Carson glanced to the side before looking back at John and shrugging his shoulders. “I dunnae. It could be bad timing. It could be your voice. There’s no way for me to find out until she’s awake.”

“Fuck,” John said, rubbing both hands through his hair and turning and looking at Elizabeth. “Is there anyone she likes right now?” he asked, looking at Carson and Rodney, both of who shrugged.

“I don’t know, Teyla maybe,” Rodney said, rubbing a hand over his jaw. “If she responded like that to you, then I don’t know what she would do to me. She looks at me like I’m the plague right now.”

“Aye, we better not risk it,” Carson said, frowning before snapping his fingers in a manner that reminded John of Rodney.

“What?” John asked. “That’s the I’ve got an idea snap, right?”

“Aye.”

“How do you know that?” Rodney demanded.

“it’s the same thing you do,” John said, lifting his hands to snap his fingers, mimicking the motion he had seen Rodney do a thousand times.

Rodney looked put out for half a second before turning to look at Carson, who watched Elizabeth with a small frown. “You have an idea?”

Carson nodded and grabbed Rodney’s sleeve. “Let’s go. Colonel, don’t go near Elizabeth for the moment. Just to be safe.”

John sighed when the door to his room chimed. He thought about not answering for a second. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with people after everything that had happened. The door chimed again, and he sighed, standing up and walking over. He pushed his sleeves up his forearms so he felt less like a kid in the oversized sweater and opened the door. He was surprised to see Rodney standing there frowning at him. He didn’t speak, just stepped to the side and let Rodney into the room. He crossed his arms over his chest and walked back over to the bed and laid down, curling back up on the top, his eyes on the window to watch the ocean in the distance, so high he felt like flying. It was almost peaceful.

He hadn’t felt like speaking since Elizabeth had woken up with Teyla’s help, and they had found out that she had been imaging John as some sort of modern-day Nurse Ratchet, keeping her drugged up and locked away. Never mind that it had been a dream, Elizabeth had flinched every time she had looked at John, and after a two-hour debrief, John was done. It wasn’t military, Carson and Rodney assured him that nanites were inactive, and he had taken his leave.

He felt the bed dip behind him, and a pair of arms wrap around his waist and pull him in tightly. He struggled for a second, trying to kick Rodney away, but eventually, he went limp, letting Rodney pull him into a tight embrace. He didn’t want to admit how much he wanted the contact right then, not when he still felt raw and uncertain. It felt like an admission of the guilt he felt. Rodney seemed content to let the silence stretch, which made John glad. He wasn’t in the mood to talk.

“I wouldn’t,” he said softly after a while, his gaze still outside. Part of him wished there were birds, the sound of seagulls in the distance to fill the air. But he was also glad for the lack of bird shit everywhere.

He felt the arms tighten around him and a kiss pressed against the back of his neck. “I know, we all know that,” Rodney said quietly.

John snorted. “Not all of us,” he said bitterly. “Apparently to Elizabeth, I’m some sort of monster.”

Rodney sighed and held him tighter. “It’s not like that. The nanites, they were just fucking with her mind.”

“And the best way was to use my face?” he demanded, ignoring the way his voice sounded.

“Yes.”

John shook his head and closed his eyes for a second before he opened them, not wanting to see Elizabeth’s fear-filled face anytime she looked at him. He looked back out the window, needing to see something good. “It’s fucked up. This whole thing is fucked up. If she just, fuck. She keeps holding onto stuff she shouldn’t, and I don’t know what to do.”

Rodney sighed. “John, there’s nothing we can do. We’ve done what we can. It’s up to her now.”

He stayed where he was for a long moment before he turned, shifting so he could face Rodney, who had deep bags under his eyes, and more lines around his eyes. John thought he was the best thing he had seen in a while. “I wouldn’t do that,” he repeated softly.

Rodney grimaced and pressed their foreheads together. John felt exhausted, unable to come to terms that someone’s idea of a nightmare was him. He was a soldier. He knew he was dangerous, and he had killed people before. Elizabeth had been a friend who had walked through fire with him, and now she thought he was capable of holding her hostage. Seeing her flinch away from him had hurt, even after everything they had gone through recently.

“We all know you wouldn’t,” Rodney said softly, a hand rubbing up and down his back. “Elizabeth is just…” Rodney trailed off and shook his head. “She’s not functioning here,” he said softly.

John chuckled bitterly. “O’Neill is going to get his wish without us even trying.”

Rodney sighed. “Do you think she’s a good leader anymore?”

John was silent for a long moment, thinking over the past few months and comparing them to the first year. To Elizabeth, standing tall in the face of so many horrible things and never backing down. He shook his head. “Not anymore,” he admitted softly. It sounded a lot more final out loud.

“Yeah,” Rodney replied. “I’m no therapist, but she’s only going to get worse.”

“So what do we do? Wait until she has a complete breakdown before tossing her through the gate or trying to get her removed before it happens?” John said, pushing Rodney onto his back so he could push up onto an elbow and look down at him.

Rodney shrugged. “I don’t want her to have a breakdown.”

“Me either.”

“Have Lorne send a message to O’Neill, see what he says,” Rodney suggested.

John blew out a breath of irritation. “I could just do it. Under your encryption.”

“She’ll see that.”

“At this point, I don’t know if anything would make her less paranoid.”

Rodney let out a sigh. “Yeah. I’ll set something up. What are you going to tell him?”

John rested his head on Rodney’s chest, curling up around him. He felt a hand on his back, smoothing up and down and thanking Lorne, Teyla, Ronon, and Radek for getting his head on straight so he could have this. “The truth,” he said. “That she’s no longer functioning in her capacity as a leader, and she’s dangerous because of it. I don’t know what’s going to happen the next time we have a problem because I don’t know how she’ll respond.”

“I’m so mad at her, and I feel like an asshole for it, which makes me even madder,” Rodney muttered. “She’s crazy, and I’m pissed off at her for it.”

“I don’t know what to think,” John admitted. He was still hurt at what she thought of him.

Rodney hummed and plucked at his sweater, clearly wanting to change the subject. “Where did you get this? It’s a tent on you.”

John flushed and kept his gaze down. “It’s stupid,” he muttered, rubbing his cheek against Rodney’s chest for a second before he moved to flop onto his back and threw an arm over his eyes. “It’s my Dad’s.”

“What?”

John sighed. “Last time I was there, I had a broken arm. None of my sweaters fit over the cast, and David’s built like me. My Dad is taller and wider than both of us, so he let me borrow one. That was the night before we got into an argument about my divorce. I was still wearing it when I left.”

“And kept it?”

“He’s my Dad,” John said with a shrug. “We have a lot of problems, and we’re never going to see eye to eye, but he’s still my fucking Dad. And I miss him sometimes even though he’s an asshole, and wearing it reminds me that he did love me at some point. I don’t know.”

Rodney was silent for a long moment before he shifted, and John felt Rodney’s hand in his, their fingers curling together. “My sister’s a few years younger than me. Just as smart as I am, smarter in some respects. She can do things with engines that would blow your mind. But she met someone, got pregnant, and dropped out of school six months before she would defend her Ph.D. Hasn’t gone back since. She got married three months later. It’s why we fought. I thought she was throwing her life away, I still do. The last time I saw her was when she showed up at my apartment in Nevada with Madison and gave me the kid and left.”

“What?” John asked, sitting up and looking at Rodney.

“Her husband’s American and his Dad was dying. They didn’t want Madison to see her Granddad like that. So Jeannie decided that the best way to deal with it was to make me babysit,” Rodney explained, meeting his eyes with a frustrated but amused smile. “Madison was a year old, and I had no idea what to do, so I made Radek help me.”

“How did she find you?” John asked, fighting back the smile at the thought of someone thrusting a baby at Rodney and then leaving.

“Hacked my bank records,” Rodney replied with a proud smile. “Used them to buy the tickets for herself, Kaleb, and Madison.”

“Madison’s your niece, I’m guessing?”

“Yeah, Madison Meredith Miller.”

“MMM.”

“Yeah, they didn’t think that one through,” Rodney said. “Madison was for Kaleb’s mother, and Meredith…”

Rodney trailed off before he closed his eyes and let out a huff of irritation. “Meredith is my first name.”

John lifted his head, sure he had misheard, but he saw the twin spots of Rodney’s cheeks turn bright red, and he grinned. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Rodney said, not opening his eyes. “Old family name, my parents were assholes.”

“So, Meredith,” John said, causing Rodney to groan.

“Please don’t call me that. I hate it.”

John grinned, shrugging and dropping back down onto the bed. “I’m John Patrick Sheppard, Jr. My Dad called me JJ until the day I walked out.”

“JJ, really?” Rodney asked. “You don’t seem like a JJ to me.”

“What does a JJ seem like?”

“An idiot.”

John smiled wide, knowing the compliment for what it was. He felt a little bit better for some reason, Rodney’s soft story and first name somehow making him feel a little bit better with the shitty couple of days. “How long did she leave Madison with you?”

“Four days, came back, Kaleb’s Dad was dead,” Rodney explained. “We had about twenty minutes before we got into another argument, and she left.”

“Over what?”

“Funnily enough, I wouldn’t tell her where I was working,” Rodney replied. “I was working for the Stargate program at the time, and I couldn’t.”

“And she got mad about that?”

“Sort of. She was mad I couldn’t tell her and said I shouldn’t waste my life working for a government that didn’t care about me, but then she got pissed off when I told her if she wanted to know where I worked, then she shouldn’t have thrown her life away for a guy.”

John winced at that. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Rodney said with a groan. “I know.”

“Just wow.”

Rodney let out a long sigh. “I know.”

“If you know, why don’t you apologize,” John asked.

“A couple of reasons,” Rodney said after a moment. “First, she’s said some shitty things to me as well over the years. And second, I don’t really know where even to start. And it’s hard because we live out here now, and communication is harder. I don’t want to try and start something only to have her get mad because I only email once a fortnight. And third, I love my sister. I just don’t like her.”

“That’s,” John started only to trail off. “That’s that.”

Rodney snorted. “Yeah, she’s just like me. Except she’s a vegan hippie.”

“Who thinks you’re building bombs for the US Government?”

Rodney let out a long groan and nodded his head. “Yep. Technically not even wrong. It’s just a tiny part of it.”

“And for a good reason.”

Rodney rolled onto his side and propped himself up on his elbow. “I will, eventually,” he said. “Trust me. I know how hypocritical it is of me right now.”

“Families hard,” John said, pushing up on his elbows long enough to plant a quick kiss on Rodney’s mouth before dropping back onto his back.

Rodney smiled softly, and John smiled back. “Yeah.”

Rodney continued to watch him for a long moment, and John finally raised both eyebrows, feeling a little bit uncertain under the scrutiny. “What?”

“Just,” Rodney attempted before huffing and leaning down to kiss John.

This one wasn’t quick. It lingered longer, the two of them content to lay, softly exploring. John felt content with the closeness, too tired and worn out, and too hesitant to push for anything more.

Finally, Rodney pulled back. “So, JJ, want to watch a movie?”

John groaned and pushed Rodney’s face away, pushing himself up to sit against the headboard, his legs stretching out in front of him. “Fine Meredith, you choose.”

Rodney grimaced. “Point taken.”

“Good,” John said, grabbing for his laptop on the floor next to his bed and handing it over to Rodney, who got comfortable and settled in next to him.

“I like Rodney better.”

“You’re definitely a John.”

Ten

John hurt. Every muscle in his body ached liked he had just gone ten rounds with Ronon and lost every single one of them. He swore he could feel each fiber each time he moved, and all he wanted was a hot shower and to stretch out and forget the whole day.

But he also felt wired, his whole body one electrified thread. It made it hard for him to stay in bed even though he knew he had to.

He wanted to run, to stand up and move. He felt alive in a way he hadn’t in a long time. He felt like he was in his 20’s and flying a jet for the first time. He also felt hornier than he had when he was 20, feeling like his skin was burning and all he wanted to do was get some pressure and privacy.

“Colonel,” Carson said, stopping next to his bed with a worn smile. “You’re speaking out loud again. Do you need something for the pain?”

“Sorry, Carson,” John said, his throat sore and his voice hoarse. He didn’t want to think about the why. “I can’t go to my apartment?”

He bit down on his lip to stop from mentioning why he wanted to go to his apartment and instead pulled his knees up a little bit. Carson’s face didn’t change, but John swore he saw the man’s cheeks redden slightly. John was too wired and too fucking horny to care right then.

“Ah,” Carson said, glancing to the side, at the door that led to John’s isolation chamber. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Colonel. We dunnae what you’re going through, and I don’t want you to take a turn for the worse.”

“Please,” John said, clasping his hands together. He wasn’t far enough gone he would think about doing it in the infirmary, he hoped. “Checkups every hour?”

Carson shifted, looking to the side before he sighed. “Colonel, John, I dunnae if it’s a good idea.”

John sat up and leaned forward, ignoring how it pulled at his back’s muscles and made the scar on his chest hurt. The scar was the weirdest part, and he didn’t want to think about how it looked like an old wound instead of something new. “Carson,” John said softly, begging him. “Please?”

He didn’t want to say it, but he would if he needed to.

“Lad…”

“I’m so fucking horny right now I’m about to deal with it here anyway,” John murmured, trying to keep his voice down so only Carson could hear. He didn’t need those rumors flying around. “I’m dying here.”

His leg started jittering, pulling the scrubs over his dick, and it felt too good, and he forced himself to stop, feeling the back of his neck heat. “Hourly checkups. I promise.”

Carson still looked worried, but he nodded his head finally. “Hourly, and I’ll have Major Lorne drag you back if you miss them.”

John nodded his head and moved to get up, only to be stopped by a hand on his shoulder. He looked up at Carson, who shook his head. “No, lad. I think considering the circumstances,” Carson glanced down before looking back at John, “that you take a wheelchair.”

John wanted to argue, but he knew it would be for the best. He nodded, settling back into the bed, keeping his knees raised and his mind focused so he didn’t shove his hands into his pants and deal with it.

Thirty minutes later, John wanted to throw something at the wall when he heard someone knocking. He had just gotten settled, and Carson had finally left him alone. He decided to ignore it, dropping down onto the bed on his back and shoving his pants down to midthigh. He closed his eyes and wrapped a hand around himself, letting out a sigh of relief that turned into a soft moan as he began to jack his cock.

The knocking went away for a second before it came back, twice as quickly and more insistent.

John knew that knock, and he tried to ignore it, not wanting Rodney to come in. He didn’t trust himself right then. Memories of when he was a bug, of kissing Teyla, flashed through his mind.

“What?” he snapped when the knocking got more insistent, knowing it was futile.

“John, it’s me,” Rodney said. “Rodney.”

Despite everything, John couldn’t help but smile. “I’m not good company, McKay,” he said, even as his hand kept moving and his hips fucked up into his hand.

“I uh, you sure?” Rodney asked through the door, sounding worried. “I uh, I just wanted to see if I could do anything to help?

John bit back a groan, not wanting Rodney to hear so he would keep talking. Rodney’s voice turned him on even more, and he pressed his head into the bed and groaned. John had a long list of things Rodney could help him with right then, starting with shutting up and ending with giving him a hand. He kept silent, wanting Rodney to take the hint and go.

“You were helpful when I got shot in the ass, so I figured I’d return the favor? If you want?” Rodney said, his voice a little softer, but John could still hear it through the door.

He tightened his hand around his cock for a moment before letting go and standing up, knowing Rodney wouldn’t let it go. He pulled his pants up higher and tugged down his shirt before sitting and grabbing a pillow to press against his lap and telling the door to open. Rodney slipped in and looked at him, worried.

“You’re flushed,” Rodney said, walking over and pressing the back of his hand to John’s forehead. “Should you even be here? Carson let you out? Are you running a fever?”

“I’m fine,” John said hoarsely, even as he pressed into the cool hand. “Just uh…not good company right now, buddy.”

Rodney frowned and stepped back, crouching down in front of John, and looked at him, blue eyes worried. That was not the position John wanted Rodney in right then. It was far from helpful. “I figured, but I uh…I just want to see that you’re okay.”

John nodded and managed a smile, fighting against the urge to press the pillow harder into his lap. “Fine, Rodney, promise.”

Rodney was still frowning, and John didn’t know what to say to make him leave without hurting Rodney’s feelings. This thing was too new, and he might be hornier than he ever remembered being, but he wasn’t out of his mind.

“Do you have any of the Enzyme in you still? That can make you feel crazy. I remember that sort of. It’s all sort of a blur, you know, one moment you’re terrified and the next you’re throwing two people across the room and waking up in the infirmary in Atlantis,” Rodney babbled, blue eyes wide.

He reached out and forced himself to grip Rodney’s shoulder, which stopped the flow of words thankfully. “Enzyme is metabolizing properly,” he said, trying to get the courage. His grip tightened a bit only to loosen when Rodney winced. “I’m just horny as fuck, side product.”

He could feel his face heat as Rodney’s face heated as well. This close, John could see Rodney’s pupils dilate, and his eyes flickered down and back up again. John shifted and pressed the pillow down harder, unable to help himself. He swallowed. “I just need some time to deal with it.”

Rodney hummed, his tongue darting out to lick over his bottom lip. “Need uh…need a hand?”

John’s hand tightened on Rodney’s shoulder, and he shuddered. “I uh…not sure what’s gonna happen. Don’t wanna do anything in case it’s uh…bit intense? You know?”

He couldn’t bring himself to say no, and Rodney nodded his head, eyes a little bit more serious. “I uh…yeah no yeah,” he said, standing up. John’s hand dropped down to his side, and he tilted his head back, not trusting himself to stand.

“I uh,” John said, swallowing and looking up at Rodney, who suddenly seemed so much bigger and more solid than he had a second ago. He swallowed again, all thoughts gone from his mind. He wanted Rodney.

Wanting Rodney hadn’t been the big revelation. It had been the love that was. John had wanted Rodney since the moment he had laid eyes on him, loud and brash and with eyes so blue they seemed to shine. Like they were now, looking down at John. He opened his mouth, trying to speak again, only to stop and swallow.

“John uh,” Rodney said, swallowing, a hand reaching down to brush his shoulder for a second before he took a few steps back. “Right, I should um, go?”

John watched as Rodney stepped back, and his hand shot out, snagging Rodney’s wrist to stop him. “I uh…” he said, not sure how to get the words out.

“John?”

Rodney’s voice was soft, those blue eyes watching him a little bit worried. John tugged Rodney closer, keeping one hand on the pillow as he stood up and leaned in to kiss Rodney. Rodney stilled for a second before he kissed back, stepping closer only to be stopped by the pillow between them. John groaned into the kiss, pressing in closer, the pressure almost too good.

Rodney pulled back after a few seconds, and John felt more out of breath than the kiss had warranted. He watched Rodney, with his flushed cheeks and blue eyes taking him in. John didn’t know what Rodney was looking for or what he was waiting for.

“It’s uh…I’m all here. Carson made sure of it,” John said, his voice barely a whisper now, the pillow dropping so he could tap the side of his head. “It’s just uh…fucking with my hormones a bit.”

Rodney watched him for a second longer before John found himself yanked into a kiss that was more intense than any they had shared before. He felt hands clamp down on his waist, and he groaned, wrapping arms around Rodney’s broad shoulders, pressing in close. His mouth opened into the kiss, and he could feel himself spiraling out of control as he began to rub against Rodney.

The hands-on his hips tightened and yanked him in harder, and he moaned into the kiss. Rodney grunted and pushed them back until John felt the bed against the back of his knees. He dropped back, pulling Rodney down on top of him. John wrapped his legs around Rodney’s waist and began to grind up, feeling Rodney’s cock press against his own.

He tugged on Rodney’s shirt, pulling it up so he could touch the smooth skin of his back, his fingers alternating between running up and down and digging in. “Close,” he moaned, already feeling on edge. He ground up once, twice before he came with a loud moan, feeling lips press against his neck.

He shuddered his way through the orgasm, and when it was done, he still felt like he was going out of his mind. He moaned, his cock still hard. Rodney groaned against his neck and lifted his head. “Really?” Rodney asked breathlessly, and John shrugged, yanking him down into another kiss.

He felt a hand tug at his shirt, pushing it up, and the two of them broke apart long enough to remove their shirts, and then it was skin on skin. John felt greedy, his hands roaming over everything he could touch before moving down and grabbing Rodney’s ass, yanking him in harder, still grinding up against him.

Rodney shuddered against him, and John felt a hand between them, beginning to shove down the scrub bottoms, and John shuddered at the first brush of Rodney’s hand against his cock. He knew exactly how talented Rodney’s hands were, and he could feel it now as Rodney wrapped a hand around his cock and began to stroke.

“Don’t stop,” he said, dropping his head back onto the bed, one arm wrapped around Rodney’s shoulders and the other buried in his hair. “Faster.”

The hand speeding up made him shudder again and began to fuck up into Rodney’s hand, feeling greedy. Rodney kissed the side of his neck before pushing up onto his knees. It took John a second to realize that Rodney was watching what his hand was doing.

“I’m close,” he said, and Rodney grunted something that John couldn’t make out. “Harder.”

The grip tightened, and John shuddered his way into another orgasm, this one more intense and made longer as Rodney’s hand didn’t stop, jacking him until he finished. He dropped back down onto the bed with a groan, some of the need passing and his mind clear enough to realize that Rodney was still hard against his hip.

He reached down and undid Rodney’s pants quickly, pushing them down enough he could wrap a hand around Rodney’s cock, feeling the thickness and wondering what it would feel like in his mouth. Rodney moaned into his neck, and John began to jerk Rodney off, trying to pay attention to what made Rodney moan, wanting to make it good for him, but it was hard because he could feel the arousal pool in the base of his spine again.

“Fuck, seriously?” he muttered. He hadn’t softened, his dick still felt like a steel bar, and some part of him was sure that this was a bad idea.

Rodney raised his head and looked at him, knocking John’s hand away and wrapping a hand around both of them, beginning to stroke. John shuddered and yanked Rodney into another kiss. Everything seemed to blur together. Rodney’s hand wrapped around them both, the feeling of their mouths sliding against each other. Everything seemed heightened, and he was edging towards oversensitive, but he still wanted to come, wanted too badly.

“Fuck,” Rodney breathed out, his hips thrusting a few more times before he came with a grunt. It was enough to make John come again, a third almost painful time, arching up into Rodney’s hand, his whole body seeming to be one live wire.

Rodney collapsed on top of him, and John shuddered again, his dick finally going soft. “Fuck,” he said, keeping his arms around Rodney as his legs dropped to the side, liking Rodney’s bulk pressing him down, feeling like he was going to float away if Rodney moved.

“Fuck,” Rodney echoed, his breath hot against the side of John’s neck.

They laid there, their breathing slowly getting under control, and John felt less wired than he had been before, but he didn’t feel sleepy in the slightest. He could feel the waistband of the scrubs digging into his legs, and he felt gross, sweaty, and he didn’t want to move a single inch.

“Fuck,” Rodney said again sometime later, lifting his head to look at John. “Did you really come three times?”

The question was so incredulous and so Rodney that John burst out laughing, and he nodded his head. “I think so,” he said around the laughing, gasping as he tried to catch his breath.

He pressed a hand against his face as he felt the laughter turn a little bit more manic, the weight of the day finally catching up to him as he felt the last of the adrenaline leave his system. He had been fed on. He had been old, and he had seen the end of his life so clearly that to be here now felt a little unreal. He was alive. He was alive and healthy and a little bit younger, according to Carson.

“John,” Rodney said, a hand moving to tug his hand away and press their foreheads together. “It’s okay.”

John realized with a start that he was crying, adding to the laughter. He shook his head, and he felt a hand press against the side of his face, and he didn’t want to let the other man see the emotion on his face. It was too much, and he felt exposed right then. He turned his head away from Rodney, keeping his eyes closed as he felt the tears slide across his face.

“I…” he said, shaking his head when words seemed to fail him.

Rodney shifted and moved, and John missed the weight immediately. It was the only thing keeping him grounded right then. Strong hands moved him, and he didn’t fight, ending up with Rodney curled around him, an arm around his waist and knees pressed up behind his own. He felt lips press against the back of his neck as Rodney pulled him in even tighter. The arm around his waist felt like a band keeping him on the ground, and for the first time in his life, he was glad he wasn’t flying.

“I’m here,” Rodney murmured, holding him even tighter. “I’m here.”

John turned his head into the pillow, taking the comfort but not wanting Rodney to see his face. “He fed on me,” he gasped out, his mind whirring as the day seemed to fall into place. “Oh fuck fucking Koyla. He fed me to that thing.”

He felt Rodney nod against the back of his neck, and John shuddered, the memory of his life being pulled away, his bones and joints aching with each passing moment. He remembered how his heart had felt, beating oddly, and how everything seemed sluggish.

He shook his head again, unable to form words, and he realized he was keening softly.

“I’m here,” Rodney was muttering into his neck over and over again. “I’m here, and he’s dead. He can’t feed from you again. He’s dead. And as soon as I find Koyla, he’s dead as well.”

John began to shake, feeling Rodney begin to rock him, starting to murmur into John’s neck about the lab. It was easy to let Rodney’s words wash over him, taking comfort in the mundane of the day in the lab. He could feel the shakes subside, and his breathing slow down, even as Rodney continued to rock him, whispering.

“…and then Jones looks over at Backstrom and tells him that if he knew what he was doing, then he would know the difference between the bearing journal and the shaft diameter and hadn’t made the shaft diameter too small, we wouldn’t have this problem,” Rodney muttered against the side of his neck. “So Backstrom just looks back at Jones and tells him that he made the shaft diameter too small so Jones wouldn’t feel bad standing next to it.”

John snorted, feeling a ghost of a smile on his face. Rodney fell silent for a second before he felt lips press against the back of his neck, a silent question. John didn’t know how he felt right then, he felt strung out and worn, and he was so glad he had gotten Carson to let him go. He didn’t want to imagine having this breakdown in the middle of the infirmary, private room or not.

John pressed his face against the pillow, feeling another kiss as Rodney’s arm loosened slightly.

“We should shower,” Rodney said softly, patting his hip. “I can leave you alone, or I can help.”

“Help,” John said quickly. Being alone was the last thing he wanted, and his whole body felt like jello. “Please.”

Rodney nodded. “Can you turn the shower on?” he asked.

John nodded and kept his face pressed into the pillow, feeling Rodney pull away, and John was glad Rodney had never learned to be quiet a day in his life. The sounds of him moving around soothing, even as he began to mutter to himself under his breath. Rodney made the room comfortable without knowing it, and John had no idea how to tell him.

He felt hands on his arms, and he let himself be pulled up into sitting, blinking at the sudden light and looking up at Rodney, who was watching him with a frown. Rodney was shirtless, his pants pulled up, and streaks of come on his stomach. John blinked and was suddenly aware of the scrubs still around his hips, and he shivered, suddenly cold.

“Can you walk?” Rodney asked softly, and John nodded.

Rodney hummed and helped John stand, an arm looped around his waist and walked him to the bathroom, helping him sit on the bench before beginning to pull his pants off. John slumped back, his arms and legs feeling like noodles, and the heat and the steam from the bathroom were making him sleepier.

“This is going to be quick,” Rodney said once John was naked, standing up and removing his pants and helping John step into the shower, an arm around his waist to steady him.

John wrapped his arm around Rodney’s shoulders and held on tightly, the water rinsing both of them. They stood there for a while before Rodney’s hand began to move, running over John’s body softly, cleaning the both of them efficiently, before helping John back into the room and into clean pajama pants after he was dried off.

“Want your Dad’s sweater?” Rodney asked softly, rubbing over his head with a towel.

John pulled his head away to nod, slouching where he was sitting and fighting the urge to collapse onto the bed. “Radio?” he asked softly, taking the small radio when Rodney handed it to him.

Fitting it to his ear, he cycled through the channels until he found the right one. “Carson? I’m fine. I’m exhausted, so I’m going to sleep.”

“You sure, lad? Need me to come check-in?”

“No, I’m just exhausted. I should be fine.”

Carson hummed over the radio. “Fine. I’ll be by in eight hours just to be safe. Get some sleep.”

“Okay.”

John pulled the radio off and dropped it to the side, taking the sweater from Rodney and managing to pull it on before he collapsed back. “M’glad all the mess was on us,” he muttered, closing his eyes.

“Minor miracle that,” Rodney said softly, sitting down next to him.

John opened his eyes, looking up at Rodney, who watched him with a worried look on his face, and he tugged Rodney down. “Stay?” he asked, hating how weak he felt right then, mind, body, and soul.

“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” Rodney said but didn’t fight as John tugged at him again.

John felt worn thin, wrung out, and thrown away, but Rodney leaving was the last thing he wanted. “Trust you,” he said softly, closing his eyes and pulling his hands into the sleeves of the sweater, curling up into it even as Rodney curled back around him. “Don’t make me uncomfortable, ever.”

He felt the blanket pulled up around him and a kiss pressed against the back of his neck. Rodney was silent for a long moment, but John could feel the smile against his skin.

“Trust you too,” Rodney said softly, and John smiled, succumbing to sleep.

John rested his forehead against the desk, trying his best not to move so the ice pack on his back wouldn’t shift. He pressed the ice pack against his chest a little bit harder, wondering if he should have taken Carson up on his offer of stronger painkillers. Every muscle in his body ached, and not in a good way. He heard the door open but didn’t move, not giving a shit who saw him.

“Sir?” Lorne asked as the door slid shut. John felt the privacy mode engage, and he smiled, thankful for his XO right then. “You alright?”

“I don’t recommend being grappled, Major,” John said, keeping his breathing even. “The tac vest stopped most of the damage, but the bruising is spectacular. Coupled with the bruising around the feeding scar. Nothing is comfortable. You ever crashed?”

“Once, helicopter shot down,” Lorne said, the chair scraping as he sat down. “Whiplash?”

“Yep.”

“You okay?”

John fought down the urge to shrug. “I’m alive,” he said softly, glad Lorne couldn’t see his face and the blush that came up anytime John remembered his breakdown the day before.

He understood why it had happened, but he also hated that Rodney had been there to see it. At the same time, he was glad someone was around and that out of everyone, Rodney had been there.

Lorne sighed. “Yeah, somehow. You were old, sir.”

“Yeah, don’t recommend it,” John muttered, slowly lifting his head, reaching with a wince to hold the ice pack in place on his back as he leaned against the chair. He dropped his head back and looked at Lorne from under his lashes, who was watching him worriedly. “Just bruised Major, really bruised.”

Lorne nodded before prompting. “So the Wraith can return what they take?”

“Apparently,” John sighed, closing his eyes and wishing that Rodney hadn’t shot the Wraith. He had made a promise, and despite it being to a Wraith, he still felt a little guilty.

“Sir?” Lorne asked.

John shook his head, trying to get his memories and thoughts in order, knowing Lorne needed to know what happened. “We agreed to work together and then split up. Honestly, I figured being 60 was better than being dead at that point. So, we escaped, and I was old, but I could still fight. The Wraith did most of the fighting on the way out, and we were searching for the gate when the Genii found us. The Wraith fed on me, and I was…”

He trailed off and looked to the side, some part of him surprised to be able to see the ocean spread out in front of him. He had thought he was going to die on the planet, and the only thing running through his mind was his unfinished business. He had so many things he wanted to do, for Pegasus, with Rodney, with his family.

He sighed and looked back at Lorne, who was watching him, face drawn and pale. “I could feel the life leaving me, you know? I never imagined what it was like, and I don’t even know how to describe it. I feel for all the dust bunnies I’ve vacuumed in my lifetime.”

The joke fell as flat as John had expected it to, but he appreciated Lorne’s attempt at a smile.

“So, he drains me, I’m lying there, and then he comes back. I assume to finish the job, but I just tell him to get it over and done with. 60 is one thing, but 90 is another.”

John had to stop again, remembering the trembling in his hands, the way his vision was darkening at the edges. He had been dying of old age, and John shook his head, trying to banish the memories. “He told me I didn’t understand and then gave me back my life.”

“How?” Lorne asked, leaning forward, bracing his elbows on his knees.

“He drained the Genii,” John said softly, shuddering at the thought. “I don’t want to know what he gave me back. I don’t even want to think about it.”

“You might need to at some point. If they can give and take, that means it’s stored somewhere, and we might be able to do something about that,” Lorne said.

John closed his eyes again and leaned his head back. “Not yet, just…not yet.”

John heard Lorne bite back a sigh. “What happened next.”

John opened his eyes to look at Lorne, who was leaned back in his chair. “He wanted me to go with him. ‘You are strong, John Sheppard. You could do great things with my help.’ I told him no and told him we needed to break up. It wasn’t him. It was me.”

“Really, sir?” Lorne asked, looking at him incredulously.

John waved a hand in the air in front of him. “Not my best, I know, but in my defense, I just aged 60 years and then was deaged 60 years.”

“Right,” Lorne said. “Then what?”

“Then you guys showed up, and before I had a chance to tell anyone to stop, Rodney shot the Wraith,” John said softly, looking down at the ice back on his chest. He didn’t know if he felt more regret or relief at that moment. “I know I shouldn’t feel bad because he was a Wraith, but we had had an agreement, and he had honored his side of it, especially with giving me back my life. And we killed him for it.”

“Sir…” Lorne said, trailing off uncomfortably.

“No,” John said, looking up at his XO. “You saw a Wraith with me, and he got shot, and that is always the right response.”

“I didn’t, though,” Lorne pointed out. “McKay did. He’s getting an itchy trigger finger when it comes to the Wraith.”

“I’m not mad about it.”

Lorne shook his head. “I’m not either. I’m just pissed that he did it before I did.”

John snorted and winced as the motion jarred him. “Trust me, Major, I know exactly how that feels.”

“I think Ronon is pissed,” Lorne said, managing a wan smile. “McKay managed to get his gun again.”

“We really need to find more of those,” John said softly. “They kill the Wraith so much quicker than bullets do.”

Lorne hummed in agreement. “We brought the body back.”

John frowned. “Why?”

“When we came across you two, as far as we could tell, the two of you were just talking, and it didn’t look like you were being held hostage, so I wasn’t going to shoot unless you told me to.”

“But McKay wouldn’t know that,” John said softly. “Civilian.”

Lorne nodded his head. “As you said, don’t blame him. It’s a decent reaction to have.”

“I feel like there’s an also in there.”

“You were young again,” Lorne explained. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that what they took they could return after seeing you, especially since you do look younger.”

“Carson said my telomeres have extended since the last time he saw them,” John said. “So I did get some time back.”

“If we could bottle that up and sell it on Earth, we would make millions.”

John nodded his head and carefully raised a hand, pinching the bridge of his nose. “So, autopsy?”

“Yes, sir, Biro performed it last night,” Lorne explained. “They looked at everything. Every inch was recorded, documented, and witnessed by the biologists, zoologists, and that new Doctor, Keller. Every single part of him, clothing and body, was bagged, tagged, and all observations made.”

“Why is he special?” John said, feeling a little sick to his stomach, and he couldn’t put it into words, especially not in front of Lorne.

“No bullet damage, no trauma, no plague, nothing. Ronon’s gun kills as cleanly as a zat and twice as efficiently since it only needs one shot,” Lorne said. “It’s practically perfect.”

“Good.”

It didn’t feel right. The guilt still weighed heavily on him. John had always prided himself on his word and had he had broken it, unintentionally. Even though it had been a Wraith, he had still given his word. He shifted and reached out to drop the now warm ice pack onto his desk, moving so he could grab the one from his back. He might be younger, but right then, he felt like he was still 90.

“Sir,” Lorne said slowly.

“I don’t like that sir,” John muttered. “That sir doesn’t bode well.”

“Dr. Weir.”

John groaned and dropped his head back, wondering if he could stand up and walk fast enough that Lorne couldn’t finish. “What about her? If this is about her not giving in, I’m fine with that. She shouldn’t have.”

“Sir,” Lorne said again. John really hated that sir. “That wasn’t Dr. Weir. It was Captain Teldy.”

“What?”

Lorne looked uncomfortable and looked to the side as he shifted in his seat. “Dr. Weir, well, after she saw the first tape, she turned the whole situation over to us. Claiming it was a military situation and that I could handle it.”

“I…well I can see that,” John said with a frown. “Sort of? It’s one of the gray areas since she’s a diplomat.”

“I agree, sir, but that’s not the problem. Captain Teldy does have some experience with hostage negotiation, which is why I tapped her,” Lorne explained. “The problem is Dr. Weir has a lot of experience with hostage negotiation, and she should have been helping us working with Ladon even if she wasn’t talking to Koyla.”

“What was she doing?”

Lorne shifted uncomfortably. “She went to her office, locked the door, and read a book.”

“What?”

John hated how surprised he still felt. He knew he and Elizabeth had had their problems, but he didn’t think she would sink to something like that. He rubbed a hand over his face, feeling a weight on his shoulders like never before. “She’s….”

“I don’t think she wanted you to come back,” Lorne said softly. “We need to tell the General.”

John chuckled humorlessly. “You know one of the things Rodney yelled at her about was when she tried to override me in saving Sumner. The Military CO was kidnapped and held hostage. That is a clear military situation, and she was well within her rights to turn it over to you. Morally she was in the wrong, but per the charter, she did what she should have. She turned it over to the ranking military officer.”

“So she’s going to get away with it?” Lorne demanded.

“I know that by now, everyone on this city knows about it, and she will have to look them in the eye and deal with whatever they give her,” John said tiredly. “I know that we will report to General O’Neill and the IOA about the entire situation.”

He sighed and leaned forward, pressing his forehead against the table as he felt the last hope for some sort of reconciliation between him and Weir drain away. “I want to recommend her removal to the General and the IOA, but right now, I don’t know what grounds I have. Like I said, morally, what she did was so far beyond the pale it’s not funny. But she didn’t break any rules, she’s hiding behind the same charter that Rodney has been using in his Fuck This Campaign, and we cannot change the charter, not without making more waves than we can deal with right now.”

“So what do we do?”

“We talk to O’Neill first. He wants her gone for whatever reason, so he’ll have a better idea of what we can do,” John sighed, deciding right then and there he was going to take Carson up on his offer of a pain killer for the evening. Or a muscle relaxant. Everything still ached, and every time he breathed, he could feel the bruising over his ribs pull.

“He thinks that her ex-fiancé is a member of the Trust, and he’s been in contact with her,” Lorne admitted after a moment.

John blinked and forced himself to raise his head, frowning at Lorne. “Wallace?”

Lorne nodded. “We know he told Dr. Weir he had met someone, but that’s a lie as far as we can tell. The SGC keeps an eye on him because he knows what we do, and no one has found a romantic connection with any woman.”

“A man?”

“They’ve been watching for that as well and nothing,” Lorne explained. “About six months ago, he started emailing her again, asking her how she was and that he felt bad. So they kept talking, nothing crazy.”

“So what tripped O’Neill?”

“Wallace started talking about someone he worked with, who kept fighting with him trying to get him removed from his position, and how worried he was and all of this shit. O’Neill and the NID picked up on it because a lot of it mirrored what was happening on Atlantis with Dr. Weir and Dr. McKay,” Lorne explained.

“Let me guess. This was also the NID group that found out about the bomb?” John said wearily, doing the math in his head quickly.

“Yes.”

“So he’s Trust?”

“That’s the assumption.”

“And let me guess, she’s been bitching to him about her coworkers.”

“Yes.”

“Right, so. We know the Trust wants Atlantis to disappear, and since they can’t get an Agent in as easily now that we’re aware of them, they’re aiming to destabilize the command structure, hoping we fuck something up. And they’re doing that by playing into Dr. Weir’s increasing paranoia.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I really hate it when you call me sir. It’s never a good thing,” John said, putting his forehead back down.

“The General wants Atlantis to succeed,” Lorne explained. “Things with the Ori are heating up, and the technology we’ve been sending back has been helping them. With the information on Atlantis’s shields, they’ve been able to increase their shield technology, as well as start to work on implementing cloaking on the X-302’s for stealth missions.”

“Bully for them,” John muttered. “Let me take another guess. The General understands why I am mad with him, but he also wants to remind me of my duty?”

Lorne didn’t say anything, but the silence spoke volumes. John wondered how much more he could handle, the responsibility settling over his shoulders. For a moment, John hated Rodney for making him want to be a better CO. Things would be so much easier if he just shoved all of his problems onto Lorne and washed his hands of it. It passed, and he knew he could never go back to being the lazy, useless CO that he had been. His men, and women, deserved so much more from him.

“Right. Anything else?”

“No sir,” Lorne said, and John let out a long sigh and sat back up.

“Is there anything pressing I need to deal with today?” he asked, looking at his XO.

“No, sir.”

“Right, I got fed on by a Wraith yesterday,” John said tiredly. “I’m taking the day. If you need me, I’ll be in my rooms.”

“John?”

John had almost made it to his rooms before a trembling voice stopped him, and he turned, smiling when he spotted Teyla stepping closer. He moved carefully, bending to press his forehead against hers. She stepped back, and Ronon stepped forward, a gentle hand resting on his shoulder, and John appreciated it instead of a bear hug.

“I’m okay,” he said honestly, looking at the two of them. “You saw me yesterday. Nothing’s changed since then. I’m just sore. Let me tell you, you both have nothing on the Wraith when it comes to a workout.”

The joke fell flat, and he could see Teyla’s eyes shimmer with tears and Ronon’s scowl. “Bad joke, I know.”

Teyla shook her head and managed a smile. “No, it’s good you can still make them. Are you well?”

“Every muscle in my body aches,” John admitted. His balls ached as well, but he was 100% sure that that wasn’t Wraith-related. “And I’m both starving and exhausted.”

“I am not surprised,” Teyla said. “What you went through…”

“Was horrific,” he said. “But I’m here, I’m young, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Teyla nodded and stepped closer, wrapping her arms around him in an actual hug. John stiffened for a moment, wincing at the pain before he returned it, glad she didn’t squeeze too tightly. She stepped back and smiled up at him. “I am glad I caught you,” she said.

“No kata’s, no meditation,” he said, eyeing her.

Teyla smiled. “No, but Rodney asked that I find you and bring you to his room if you are amenable?”

John wanted nothing more than to sleep. “Why?”

“Come, you will see.”

“Ronon isn’t going to pick me up, right?” John tried joking again, glancing between his two friends.

Ronon shook his head, still somber and his face a blank mask. “No.”

“I’m okay,” John said, looking up at Ronon. “Seriously, I am.”

Ronon growled and shook his head, turning and walking a few steps before turning and walking back. John didn’t fight as Ronon drew him into a tight but gentle hug. “Glad you’re okay, Sheppard.”

John nodded, Ronon leaving before he could say anything else. “That was nice of him.”

Teyla smiled. “He was worried, as were all of us.”

John pushed his hands into his pockets, moving slowly, so he didn’t hurt himself anymore, unsure of what to say. Part of him wanted to apologize, but he knew that wouldn’t be well received. And his jokes hadn’t been going well, and so he just shrugged.

Teyla sighed and stepped forward. “You have more lives than Kyil, my friend.”

“Who?”

“An old Priestess from Athos who survived a fire, a hurricane, an earthquake, and a tsunami,” Teyla explained. “And went on to lead our people well, free from the Wraith for many generations.”

“She got any tips for me?”

Teyla smiled and pressed their foreheads together. “Unfortunately, her story has mostly lost to time, so no. She cannot.”

“Shame, I could use some advice right now,” John said with a smile.

Teyla nodded. “She was a great warrior. Now come,” she said, linking their arms together and beginning to walk. “Dr. McKay requested I bring you to him.”

John bit back a smile at the thought of seeing Rodney again, and he went, Teyla telling him about the last news she had from the Athosian’s until they reached Rodney’s door. To his surprise, Teyla kissed him on both cheeks before leaving. John watched her go for a moment before he turned and waved a hand over the door.

It opened almost immediately, Rodney standing there looking worried and nervous, wringing his hands together.

“Teyla and Ronon are acting kinda weird,” John said, stepping into the room.

“We thought you were dying,” Rodney replied, his voice uncharacteristically emotionless.

“I’m here,” John said, stepping forward, wanting to be closer to Rodney. He was a little disappointed when Rodney didn’t reach out and draw him into a hug as well.

Rodney watched him for a long moment, the same look Teyla and Ronon had given him.

“You’re sore, right?” Rodney asked suddenly.

“Extremely, why am I here?” John asked. “Not that I don’t like it, but I’m exhausted.”

“Right well,” Rodney said, taking him by the arm and gently steering him towards a room. “So I noticed in your bathroom last night you only have a shower.”

Rodney stepped into the room, and John followed, his eyes drawn to the large tub in the corner, filled with steaming water and looking out a window that had a view of the ocean. “Oh fuck yes.”

Rodney snorted but smiled happily. “Did you know you can change the controls, so it filters and heats the saltwater from the ocean?”

“Is that good?

“Yeah, saltwater helps with sore muscles,” he explained. “Don’t worry about the window. It’s one way. I made sure when I moved in here.”

John nodded, looking at the bath and feeling something warm settle in his chest. He looked over at Rodney, frowning a little bit when he saw him take a step towards the door. “Where are you going?”

“Oh, I thought you might want to be uh…alone?” Rodney asked. “Some privacy?”

John thought about it for a second and remembered the conversation with Lorne, and he shook his head. “No, not really. Join me?”

Rodney blinked and smiled at him softly, nodding his head. “I uh..yeah.”

John couldn’t help the groan as he sunk into the almost too hot water, and he leaned back against Rodney, feeling the arms wrap around him. Already he could feel some of his muscles relaxing, and he was doubly glad Rodney was there, sure he would drown if the other man had left.

“This was the best idea,” he said, dropping his head back on Rodney’s shoulder. “Every single inch of me aches, even my dick.”

Rodney chuckled. “Not surprised, not after last night.”

John hummed, closing his eyes and let the water warm him up and wash his aches away.

“You okay?” Rodney asked. “I mean all things considered?”

“Sure,” John muttered. “A little creeped out by the fact that I have life because the Wraith drained other people, and I don’t ever want to know how they do that for my own peace of mind. Lorne also updated me on what happened while I was being fed on, so that was fun. I ache all over, and I’m a little worried that I took advantage of you last night.”

He felt Rodney inhale sharply, jostling him slightly, and he winced. “Rodney…”

“No,” Rodney said, tightening his arms around him. “I could fucking kill Weir for the shit she pulled.”

John could hear the anger in his voice, and he dropped a hand, squeezing the arm around his chest. “Can we not talk about her today? Not while we’re naked in a tub?”

“Like you have the energy to do anything,” Rodney muttered.

“Not the point.”

Rodney sighed and shifted, and John felt the two of them sink a little bit more into the tub. He had never actually bathed with anyone, not even his ex-wife, and he wondered why he hadn’t. He had showered with them, and he had been in pools and spas but never in a bathtub. For some reason, he felt closer to Rodney in this moment than he ever had before.

“So, there’s a lot I can’t help. But you didn’t take advantage of me. I feel like I did with you. You weren’t in your right mind.”

“I was,” John said. “Carson had that neurologist test my mental acuity before he would even consider letting me have privacy.”

“Brain science is barely a science,” Rodney muttered. “They don’t even know everything the brain does.”

“You just talked a lot of shit for someone who said brain science instead of neurology,” John pointed out.

“The ologies suck.”

“What?”

“Biology, neurology, physiology, psychology, yadda yadda. All of them. The ologies suck,” Rodney replied matter of factly.

John let out a bark of laughter at that, and then he groaned, curling slightly. “Don’t make me laugh, please. It hurts.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Rodney replied, rubbing a hand up and down his side before settling back around his waist and squeezing. “I’ll endeavor not to be my charming self.”

“Don’t be hasty,” John said softly. “Your charming self is doing more to help me right now than anyone else.”

“I hope no one else is seeing you naked,” Rodney muttered, and John smiled at the hint of jealousy in his words.

“Sorry to break it to you, buddy, but Carson probably knows my body better than both of us at this point.”

Rodney sighed. “Me too, I think. He definitely knows my brain better than most.”

John hummed, relaxing even more against Rodney’s broad chest. He could feel the tension still, and he placed a hand over Rodney’s and squeezed. “Carson said I was okay. I remember everything, I knew what I was asking, and I don’t regret it.”

Some of the tension seemed to leave Rodney. “Promise?”

“Yes.”

He felt the arms around him tighten, and Rodney kissed the side of his neck. “Okay.”

John opened his eyes then, looking out across the window and out onto Atlantis. “It was good, right?” he asked softly.

“Yeah,” Rodney replied instantly. “I’m not surprised your dick hurts, though.”

“How long?”

“Oh, we went for twenty minutes max.”

John blinked and turned his head, raising an eyebrow at Rodney, who nodded. “Jesus,” he said. “Is there a world record?”

“Don’t know,” Rodney replied. “You’d need to be filmed and watched by people for it to count, though.”

“Nah, that’s only if I want people to know. I’m fine with us knowing.”

Rodney hummed and kissed the side of his neck. “Just you and me.”

“Seems so.”

“That’s fine with me.”

Eleven

“So…I have glasses? And I’m a Doctor?”

John leaned back in the chair, crossing an ankle over his knee only to put his leg down when he noticed Rod sit the same way. It made him uncomfortable to see someone who looked like Rodney but had similar mannerisms to his own.

“Yeah, it’s really odd to see you as a Colonel. I have a hard time picturing it,” Rod said, leaning back and hooking an arm over the back of his chair. “And you don’t have a Doctorate?”

“Nope, just the Masters,” John replied, glancing over at Rodney, who had his arms crossed and was glaring at Rod. He had been doing that a lot since Rod had shown up.

“You’re nicer, though. My Sheppard is a grade-A dick,” Rod said, shrugging his shoulders and reaching for his cup. “Really smart though, have a hell of a time keeping up with him when he gets in the mood for math.”

John nodded, feeling out of sorts at the thought of another version of him, except this one couldn’t fly. “And he’s happy?”

Rod shrugged. “I suppose. He’s not so good with letting me in with the emotions.”

“So not that different then,” Teyla said with a smile, leaning over and pressing a hand against John’s arm, taking away the sting.

“Well, he is smart. He’d know the value of playing it close to the chest,” John said, pushing out a leg so he could press his ankle against Rodney’s worried that the man was going to break his teeth if he clenched his jaw any harder.

“I guess so,” Rod said, eyeing John a little bit too closely. “It’s the damnedest thing to see you without glasses. Your vision is perfect?”

“20/10.”

John felt Rodney’s leg begin to jitter, and he pressed harder. He hadn’t seen Rodney in four weeks since he had gated back to Earth to bring his sister here, and John hadn’t realized how much he’d come to rely on Rodney until he was gone. Suddenly, he was facing Elizabeth’s scorn alone, and it wasn’t a comfortable position. The meetings were emotionless affairs, words clipped and to the point. It was a stark contrast to the meetings from before, where they would linger and talk. John had taken to emailing Elizabeth what he was going to talk about before the meeting and only met up if she had questions she wanted to ask in person. John had met with her once since Rodney had left.

Elizabeth hadn’t left him to die, but she sure as hell hadn’t helped, and John could never forget that. And he knew there was no way to come back from that.

“That’s amazing. I wonder what’s the difference. I mean, obviously, you’re not as smart as he is,” Rod said with a frown before grimacing. “That’s not what I mean, sorry. You’re just as smart. You just use it differently.”

John froze with his mouth half-open at the apology, feeling awkward in the face of Rod’s sincerity. “Uh, yeah. That.”

“Rod! There you are!”

Bless Jeannie Miller. At least at that moment. John’s opinion had formed with her opening salvo, and he had a hard time letting go of it. He knew Rodney hated his first name, so he assumed Jeannie knew it as well. John was also ashamed to realize that he would have teased Rodney mercilessly if things had been different between them.

“Jean!” Rod said, brightening at the sight of her. “What’s up?”

“So I got an idea I need your help with,” she said, speaking fast and quickly and so much like Rodney that it threw John. Not for the first time since she had arrived.

She kept on talking, and John looked over at Rodney, who was frowning more and more as Jeannie spoke. “Think you can do it?” she finished, a little breathless, and now Rodney looked pissed.

“Ms. McKay,” John said, getting her attention.

“Miller,” she corrected with a frown.

“My apologies,” he said insincerely. “Now I’m just a Lt. Colonel, but I do think to do what you want to do, you need the permission of the CSO, which is not Rod, but Rodney.”

“Oh, right,” Jeannie said, at least looking a little bit sheepish. “Mer?”

Rodney had been looking at him with gratitude, but it was gone the instant Jeannie said Mer. “Talk to Zelenka about it, and make sure you have Payne and Munn double-check before we initialize.”

Jeannie rolled her eyes but nodded. “Yeah, sure. C’mon Rod, Mer, you joining us?”

“Rodney has to help me with something, sorry, Ms. McKay,” John said, standing up, ignoring her frown. She might be a McKay by birth, but she had nothing on Rodney.

“Miller,” she corrected again, this time through slightly gritted teeth.

“Sorry again, you know us pilots. High altitude sickness,” he said, reaching down and tugging on Rodney’s sleeve. “Let’s go, McKay, you’ve got real work to do. Sorry, you can’t play.”

It said a lot that Rodney didn’t argue, just stood up and nodded to the both of them before heading out of the room without another word. John smiled, the same smile that he had used to get out of trouble with his parents when he was a kid, and unlike with his Dad, it worked perfectly on them.

“See you kids around,” he said, nodding and following Rodney.

He managed to catch up to Rodney right before the transporter doors closed, and he slipped in, frowning at the close call. “Where’re you going?”

“Anywhere,” Rodney replied, hitting the button that would take them to the jumper bay. “Away from them.”

John crossed his arms over his chest and followed Rodney, down past his jumper to the one they had rescued from Olesia a few months ago, to replace the one on the bottom of the ocean. Assuming Rodney and Zelenka could get it running again. No one wanted a repeat of what had happened to Rodney. They had torn the inside apart to fix it, wires and crystals everywhere, and in some order only the two of them understood. John picked his way through it carefully, not wanting to disrupt anything, following Rodney to the front of the rear cabin where there were two clear seats.

He sat down and took the bundle of wires Rodney handed over to him and picked up the wire stripper, used so they could integrate with the Atlantis technology easier. He knew Rodney needed a moment. The man could change physics while talking but add in emotions, and he needed a moment. John empathized.

“Why do you keep calling her Ms. McKay?” Rodney asked, sooner than John had expected.

John kept silent for a moment before shrugging. “She looks like you. It keeps throwing me off,” he lied, glancing up to see what Rodney was thinking.

Rodney was looking at him, eyes shrewd. “Mmhmm,” he said softly, picking up a few of the crystals and beginning to inspect them, using the jewelry loupe so he could see closer.

John didn’t speak, letting Rodney do whatever he needed to do right then. It was easy enough work, and he was listening in the all-hands channel on his radio, allowing the inner workings of Atlantis to wash over him.

“You remember what I told you about friends and how nice it was having them?” Rodney asked after a couple of minutes of the two of them working in silence.

John nodded. It would be hard to forget since it was also when Rodney had kissed him. For more than one reason, John was annoyed with Jeannie. The main one was that he hadn’t had a chance to kiss Rodney since he had gotten back.

“I always thought it was because I couldn’t, that I was bad with people because I was too smart. It’s what everyone told me actually,” Rodney said, still inspecting the crystals instead of looking at John. “And I was fine with it, I was in Atlantis, and it’s amazing, and who cared who liked me.”

John had a feeling he knew where this was going, and he looked up, his hands stilling as he waited for Rodney to finish.

“Except Rod makes friends easier, and he’s got the same job, the same team, a lot of the same experiences,” Rodney said, sounding sad. “He’s got a better relationship with his Jeannie and mine, I guess, but it all boils down to me and my choices.”

“Can’t compare McKay,” John said immediately. “It’s not the same.”

“Isn’t it?”

“No.”

“Their universe is just like ours.”

John sighed. “You know when I was a kid, and my Mama needed to find an earring she lost in the carpet, she would call for me. I could find it immediately. I never understood why people couldn’t find things they’d dropped. I would be camping and point out something in the distance that no one else could see.”

“What has that got to do…”

“His Sheppard can’t see for shit,” John interrupted. “Not joining the Air Force, that’s one thing. But my eyesight has always been above perfect, and as far as I can tell, his Sheppard’s isn’t. And it’s not an injury. He’s just got shitty eyesight.”

“What has that got to do…”

“It means that genetically his Sheppard and I are close, but we’re not the same. And I can guarantee that the two of you aren’t either. Similar, but you’re not the same,” John replied, putting the wire cutters down and glancing out the door to make sure they were still alone before reaching out ruffling Rodney’s hair.

“You have more hair than he does,” John said. “You’re a lot fitter, and did you see what he was drinking?”

“Coffee?”

“No, that fucking decaf tea that Teyla showed us,” John replied. “What’s your blood pressure like?”

“A little high but Carson isn’t worried yet,” Rodney replied immediately. “Why?”

“I bet he’s not supposed to drink caffeine. That tea has all the Doctors in a frenzy because it lowers blood pressure better than any drug we’ve got,” John explained, sitting back in his seat. “You and Rod are very similar in a lot of ways, but you’re not the same person. He might make friends easier, but that’s not because of you. That’s because genetically, you’re different.”

“So what? He still makes friends easier.”

John snorted. “You two have the same friends. Me, Teyla, Ronon, Zelenka, we all like you as you are, warts and all McKay. Some of us more than others.”

Rodney slumped back in his seat and rubbed a hand over his face. “And Jeannie?”

“You told me she married an English professor. There’s no accounting for taste.”

Rodney snorted and shook his head, looking down at the crystal he was holding. John looked back at the wires he was stripping, picking up the wire cutter again to finish off the bundle he was holding.

“Thanks,” Rodney said after a long moment. “I’m being stupid.”

John shrugged. “We’d all react the same way to other versions of ourselves.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I bet Dr. Sheppard still talks to his Dad,” John said softly.

Rodney sighed. “Right, so we’re both fucked up.

“Two orphans sitting in a jumper,” John muttered. “It’s a little fucked up, you know.”

Rodney sighed and stood up, moving to sit next to John, it was a tight fit with the one seat, but John didn’t mind. “Yeah, well, I talked to my sister. It’s your turn now.”

“Right, I’ll just get on that,” John said, trying to picture how that would even go. “From Atlantis.”

Rodney snorted and finally put the crystal down, dropping his head back with a sigh. “Rod’s stuck here.”

“Send him back to Earth,” John suggested, not wanting to deal with Rod, not when he had Rodney right there. “We keep the better version. Jeannie gets the used car salesman.”

Rodney snorted again. “He’s not that bad.”

“He is that bad,” John muttered, putting down the done bundle of wires and reaching out to squeeze Rodney’s hand. “He’s not staying. We don’t need both of you. And I want you. I’ll take you even over him and a ZPM any day.”

Rodney slumped against John and nodded his head. “Good.”

Suddenly he sat up and looked over at John with wide eyes.

“What?” John asked warily, his whole body tensed and ready to run.

“I know how to send him back,” he muttered, grabbing John’s face between both hands and kissing him quickly. “You’re a genius.”

“Mer? Did Rod make it?” Jeannie asked into the darkness of the room.

The lights slowly started to flicker back to life, and John let out a relieved breath. He hadn’t been looking forward to dealing with finding the generators in the dark.

“I don’t know. There’s no way to tell,” Rodney said, looking down at his tablet. “I kept it open as long as I could.”

“ZPM?”

“It’s drained,” Rodney replied, looking up. Out of the corner of his eyes, John could see Jeannie slump, and he didn’t know if it was in relief or resignation and didn’t want to ask.

“Fuck,” he muttered, rubbing a hand over his face.

That was not going to be an argument he enjoyed having with Elizabeth later, even if she had agreed to the plan before making herself scarce again. “Right, McKay, do we have enough generators to get hooked up so we can send Ms. McKay back?”

Rodney blinked and looked at him before nodding. “Yeah, we should be able to. Especially with the new Mark VI’s we just got. We’ll need to send a message to the SGC and see if we can get some more generators here on the Apollo or Daedalus. We’re gonna burn one or two of them out.”

“Colonel Sheppard?” Jeannie asked suddenly. “Can you take me back to my room so I can begin to pack? I’m afraid I’ll get lost in the dark.”

John glanced up at the lights that had come on before looking back at her. He saw a glint in her eye he knew all too well from dealing with Rodney. “Of course. Rodney, keep me updated?”

He looked up and smiled as Rodney waved a hand already deep in conversation with Radek. He nodded to Jeannie, the two of them heading out. They had made it to the transporter before Jeannie whirled on him and planted her hands on her hips, glaring at him.

“Why do you keep calling me Ms. McKay? My last name is Miller.”

John watched her for a moment before shrugging. “It’s annoying, isn’t it? To be called by a name you hate no matter how much you correct them?”

Jeannie opened her mouth before she shut it with a click, her cheeks blooming red, and she looked to the side. “It’s his name.”

“And it’s his right to be called by what he wants,” John replied evenly.

“I’m his sister.”

“My older brother used to call me Johnny. I hated it, still do. I asked him to stop, and he did,” John said. “Because he’s my brother, and he respected me enough to honor my wishes. Especially when it pissed me off.”

Jeannie’s cheeks darkened. “You don’t know…”

“I think I know your brother pretty well, Mrs. Miller, maybe not who he was then, but I know who he is now, and he’s worth that respect,” John interrupted, hitting the button for the transporter and stepped inside, waiting for Jeannie before hitting the right destination.

He was suddenly glad the transporters still worked. He didn’t want to imagine walking up a couple of flights of stairs with Jeannie mad at him.

Rodney is selfish,” Jeannie muttered. “He always has been. Always talking about his accomplishments.”

“Why is that a bad thing?”

“Because bragging isn’t the way to do it,” Jeannie replied. “Just because he’s smart doesn’t mean that he needs to lord it over everyone else!”

“You ever told him he did a good job when you guys were younger?” John asked, heading down the hallway when the doors opened back up. “Did your parents ever tell him good job? Do you never tell Madison she did well on something?”

“That’s different!”

“Not really,” John said, coming to a stop in front of the door and folding his hands behind his back. “Look, you seem mostly nice. But you seem to be under the impression that Rodney brags, and he sometimes does. But, have you ever seen him when someone else tells him he did a good job?”

Jeannie stopped and raised her chin in a move John knew all too well. “No, why?”

John smirked. “He’s surprised.”

“What?”

“When you tell Rodney that he did something good, or that you’re proud of him or anything like that, he looks at you like you’re lying. It’s constantly a surprise to him, and he never quite believes you,” John explained. “So, as far as I see it, it’s less that he brags about his accomplishments and more that he’s learned that no one else will congratulate him. And I’m willing to bet that is a lesson he learned when he was very young. Rodney McKay is the bravest person I know, and I will always tell him that because he deserves to know.”

Jeannie looked to the side and stayed silent, and John almost felt bad about it, but he had only known Jeannie for a short while, and Rodney had saved his life. Rodney had his respect and had it before John had realized how in love he was with the man.

“Have a nice night Mrs. Miller,” John said when she didn’t speak.

He turned and left, glad that she didn’t call him back.

The room was silent.

John could swear he heard the slap echo around the room. Even Elizabeth looked startled at what she had done, pulling her hand back against her chest and curling it into a fist as if that would protect her from her actions.

Rodney was still as a statue, his eyes boring into Elizabeth before raising a shaking hand and pointing at her, his lip curled up into a snarl.

“I am done dealing with your incompetence.”

John half expected the argument to continue to get louder, but Rodney just turned and left the room, the door’s barely opening in time before he was gone. For a second, no one moved before John was up and following Rodney, only stopped by Weir’s sharp tone.

“Colonel Sheppard, where do you think you’re going!”

He whirled and pointed a finger at her, causing her to flinch away. “That was unacceptable,” he said, deadly calm, but there was no doubting the anger.

“He wasn’t listening to reason. All he does is argue with me,” Elizabeth attempted to argue.

John had reached the end of his rope, and he glanced over at Lorne, who nodded his head once.

“Rodney would argue the existence of God with God,” John said, looking back at Elizabeth, her face flushed. “It doesn’t matter how much you argue with him. You do not slap people, Dr. Weir.”

“He failed and cost us the ZPM,” Elizabeth snapped, unable to back down even when she was in the wrong. “If the Wraith come, we could die. And he doesn’t seem to realize that.”

“He realizes it, Elizabeth,” John replied, fighting to keep his voice even. “He knows the cost of that just as much as the rest of us, but if you want to assign failure, then let’s assign failure. Everyone failed. Every single scientist on that project and Mrs. Miller failed. Colonel Carter failed as well. You failed in allowing the project to go forward. The IOA failed for allowing them to go forward. Yet, out of every single person who was part of the project, you focused on Rodney, and you berated him and him alone.”

John felt antsy and pissed off with this conversation. He wanted to see Rodney and find out if he was okay. John also wanted to make sure Rodney wasn’t going to kill someone, namely Weir. With the way things were going, John was long past caring what happened to her.

For a moment, it seemed like Elizabeth was going to argue, but she just crossed her arms over her chest and raised her chin stubbornly. John still had no clue why she was so angry with Rodney and why she focused on him. He knew what O’Neill thought, and he knew about the Trust, but whatever thread of rationality that Elizabeth possessed was long gone. Lost to paranoia, and John didn’t believe she was a member of the Trust.

John could see the need to continue to argue on her face, and he didn’t want to deal with it. “This meeting is over,” he said, voice hard and cold. He waited for everyone to nod before he left.

For a second, John thought about heading to the lab, but it was late, and he knew Rodney was pissed off enough that he wouldn’t want to be around the lab equipment. The crystals shattered satisfyingly enough that he wouldn’t want to be near the temptation. He started to head to Rodney’s room but diverted at the last moment and headed to the hallway they used to race cars, something pushing him in that direction.

Stepping out of the transporter, John was glad to find Rodney pacing back and forth, muttering to himself under his breath and working himself up even more than he already was.

“Rodney,” he started to get out as he walked closer, but Rodney whirled and poked a finger into John’s chest, the words dying in his throat.

“I am done dealing with that woman. I’m pressing charges. I don’t give a fuck if she doesn’t like me! That doesn’t give her the right to slap me!” he yelled, stabbing the finger into John’s chest again and again.

The last thing John could do was blame Rodney for his feelings, and he nodded, reaching up and curling a hand around Rodney’s wrist. He squeezed gently, trying to calm him down. “Hey, hey Rodney, it’s okay, yes, okay, I agree.”

That got Rodney to stop in his tracks, and he frowned, tilting his head to the side. “What?” he asked, sounding confused.

“What she did, that was outta line.” John shrugged. “Lorne’s writing up a report right now. She’s crossed the line, and we both know it.”

“She’s insane. She’s fucking batshit crazy,” Rodney muttered, looking like John had taken the wind out of his sails.

“Yes,” John said with a shrug. “Slapping you was not okay, not at all.”

“Not the first time someone’s slapped me.”

John’s frown deepened. “It’s never okay, not even the fact that she did it over an argument about work. She’s supposed to be in charge of this expedition, which means she should be able to handle opposition and arguments. There’s over 200 people here, and she should be able to control her personal feelings when it comes to them, but she can’t anymore. She’s failing, and this is just the last nail in her coffin.”

Rodney’s turned his head away, looking at the wall, and John could see the faint reddening on Rodney’s cheek. He sighed and cupped Rodney’s jaw, leaning in to kiss the reddened spot softly. John wanted to throw Weir off the pier for what she had done. “You okay?”

Rodney sighed and leaned into the hand. “I’m fine, annoyed more than anything else.”

John rubbed his thumb over the reddened skin. “Good.”

“Is this happening, or did she actually manage to slap me into a daydream where we can do this in public?” Rodney asked, breaking the silence.

“It’s happening.”

“Oh.”

John took a careful step forward. “Is it okay?”

Rodney’s free hand curled into the front of his jacket, and he nodded his head. “Yeah, uh, it’s fine with me as long as you’re fine. It’s pretty private down here. But it’s your career? Fucking American’s.”

“I’m a fucking American.”

“I like you better than most of them. Actually, all of them?” Rodney paused and tilted his head to the side. “Officially, you’re my favorite American.”

John grinned and stepped closer until all that was separating the two of them was Rodney’s hand. “I’m going to kiss you.”

John knew he was taking a risk with his career if anyone found them, but he didn’t care. This close, John could see how Rodney’s eyes widened imperceptibly, and Rodney nodded his head, tongue licking over his bottom lip. He smiled and moved his hand to cup the back of Rodney’s neck, leaning in and tilting his head to press their lips together, his eyes sliding shut. Rodney pushed back, letting out a soft sigh of happiness as he gripped John’s hip.

The kiss lingered before John pulled back, smile widening as he opened his eyes to see Rodney blinking in shock at him.

“Okay?” he asked, some part of him feeling like he was dealing with a skittish animal. It was odd since John figured he should be the worried one.

Rodney shook himself before nodding quickly. “Yes, good, fine, fantastic, brilliant. Great first public kiss,” he said, before forcibly stopping himself by shaking his head. “Again?”

The question came out a little bit plaintive, and it made John smile, leaning in to kiss him again. He kept it soft, enjoying this moment for what it was in the wake of everything else. When he pulled back, Rodney was smiling softly, his eyes remaining closed for a long moment before he opened them, looking happier than John had seen in a long time.

“This is good,” Rodney said, a statement, not a question, but John nodded regardless.

“This is good,” he agreed, squeezing Rodney’s wrist gently. “I want this. You’re worth the risk to me.”

Rodney dropped his head forward onto John’s shoulder and let out a long sigh, not speaking for the first time in his life.

John dropped Rodney’s wrist to wrap both arms around Rodney and hug him tightly. He wanted to enjoy the moment before real life crept back in. Finally, he bit back a sigh and stepped back, fingers gripping Rodney’s arms so he could look at him intently. “You need to go and write a report, and I need to as well. We’ll send them back with your sister when she leaves in the morning.”

Rodney grimaced. “You think it’s enough? It’s just a slap.”

“Assault,” John corrected. “Don’t call it a slap. She assaulted you. Lorne’s writing his own report, and you need to make sure Zelenka writes his as well. I’ll talk to Teyla and Ronon.”

“Should we…?”

“No, we need to write them on our own and differently. This needs to happen according to the books,” John said, letting go of Rodney completely. “Which is why I’m going to go to my office to write there instead of in your office.”

“After you drop me off,” Rodney replied, crossing his arms over his chest. “Yes?”

John smiled. “Yes, of course.”

He darted in and kissed Rodney again quickly. “One for the road.”

John pressed his thumb against the tablet, locking it for General O’Neill’s eyes only, and nodded his head. “This will go through in the morning,” John said, slumping back into his chair and looking at Lorne. “The General gets what he wants. Weir’s gone.”

Lorne sighed, dropping his head back to stare at the ceiling. “He’s not going to be happy about it. Not really. He wants her gone, but he’s not going to be happy about how.”

John could understand. Elizabeth had stepped through the gate with them, and in the end, it had broken her. “I just hope he gets Elizabeth the help she needs.”

“She will.”

“How does leaving the SGC work?”

“You don’t. Not technically,” Lorne replied. “Once you’re in, you’re in until you’re dead or in a hole off-world where no one can find you because you’re not trustworthy.”

“So, where is Elizabeth going?”

“Off planet rehab center, all the comforts of home. There’s a lot of problems with nightmares and PTSD after what we see, so the SGC built a facility off-world. Can’t have them in with the regular folk, just in case,” Lorne explained.

“And it’s safe?”

“Yeah. Milky Way has its problems, but nothing like the Wraith,” Lorne explained. “Not perfect but not any worse than Earth sometimes.”

“Good.”

John pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “I know this was inevitable with how Weir’s been, but I hate that this is how it ends for her.”

“John?”

John looked up at Teyla’s voice and noticed with amusement Lorne sitting up straighter almost immediately. “Hey,” he said, waving for her to come in. “What’s up?”

She glanced at Lorne, who smiled at her, her cheeks a little bit red as well, before looking back to John. “I am concerned about Elizabeth. She, well, I don’t think I need to explain what’s been happening.”

John winced and nodded. “I know,” he said, waving for her to sit down.

He saw Ronon slip in behind Teyla, and he mentally prodded the door shut. He clasped his hands together and rested them on his desk, leaning forward and taking a moment to try and figure out what he wanted to say.

“She’s going to be removed,” John said, going for broke. He saw the sadness cross Teyla’s face, and he sighed. “Teyla.”

“No, John,” Teyla said, leaning back and looking as worn as John felt. “I do not disagree, but I am sad about it.”

“She’s not functional. Hasn’t been for months,” Ronon spoke up, crossing his arms and walking over to perch against the windowsill. “Why is she still here?”

John grimaced. “Not enough to remove her, but today was the last straw. And it’s shitty. I’m not happy about it. The Elizabeth we knew our first year deserved better, but that version of Elizabeth is gone. This Elizabeth needs help and less stress.”

“John,” Teyla said again before she stopped herself with a sigh. “I keep wondering if there is something I could have done to help her.”

“Nothing,” Lorne said, leaning forward so he could catch Teyla’s eye. “You were there for her when she let you. You can only help people if they want to help. At any point, she could have reached out to one of us or someone at the SGC, but she didn’t.”

“So it is her fault?”

“It’s no one’s fault.”

John kept his face blank. He disagreed with that. He could easily place a lot of blame if he wanted to, and it was all squarely on Elizabeth’s shoulders. “You two filed your reports?”

“Yes,” Teyla said.

Ronon shrugged. “Still learning English.”

“Your English is fine,” John shot back, glaring at his teammate, who grinned back.

“You don’t need mine,” Ronon replied, still grinning. “Not for this.”

John opened his mouth before he closed it with a grunt. There would be enough reports that they didn’t need Ronon’s. “I’m telling the SGC that your English is progressing quickly. You’ve got six months, Chewie.”

Ronon glared at him, and John shrugged. “Those are the rules. I’m sure you did reports when you were on Sateda.”

“Sure. But I was also getting market credits.”

“And you’re getting paid here. Talk to Zelenka or Lorne about it. They can show you how to use it,” John replied evenly. “Or Teyla, she’s ordered some things.”

“When will she go?” Teyla asked, looking up at him.

John shrugged. “I don’t know. It could be tomorrow, could be a month from now. It’s up to the IOA now.”

Teyla nodded her head and stood up. “Then I’m going to go and see if she’s okay.”

John frowned. “Why?”

“I don’t know what’s going on, and her behavior is frustrating, but I will not leave a friend behind just because she annoys me,” Teyla replied evenly. She grimaced. “Even if she annoys me a lot.”

John nodded, watching as Teyla left and waiting until the door closed. “I don’t know how she does it,” he muttered. “I can’t.”

“Differently worlds, Sheppard, never know when your last day will come,” Ronon said, standing up. “It’s why you need to grow a set and talk to her, Major.”

Lorne blushed a bright red that made John grin. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yeah. Sure,” Ronon replied, clapping Lorne on the shoulder hard enough to make him wince. “Two hours Sheppard, you owe me a fight now that you’re healed.”

John waved a hand as Ronon left, looking over at Lorne. “He’s not wrong, you know.”

“Sir, respectfully,” Lorne said, and John held up a hand to forestall Lorne.

“I’ll shut up,” he said, moving to stand with a sigh. “We’ll send the reports when Mrs. Miller goes back in the morning, and in theory, everything should move on from there. O’Neill will be happy, maybe I’ll get an X-302 wing, and life will be good.”

Lorne stood as well, grabbing his tablet and folding it under his arm. “Are we due to meet tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I need to go over Teldy’s request for her own team and then shuffle everything around when she gets it,” John replied. “We’ve also got the fucking Quartermaster reports to go through. I don’t know where all the fucking towels are going.”

“I think biology keeps using them for seed drying,” Lorne replied.

“Well, if I find out they are, they’re not allowed any more towels,” John muttered. “Some of us want to be dry after a shower.”

Lorne nodded. “If that’s all, I’m going to go see if Teyla wants to grab dinner.”

“Dismissed,” he said with a smile. Double-checking his tablet, he checked off a few more things before powering it down and left, making sure his office was locked to his DNA code only.

He tapped his radio to get ahold of Rodney. “Hey, you up for a chess match?”

John dropped his head back with a groan as he came, thankful for the hands gripping his hips, holding him in place so he couldn’t fuck up into the wet heat of Rodney’s mouth. “Oh fuck,” he gasped, an arm thrown over his eyes and the other gripping the sheets by his head.

He felt Rodney pull off and lips press kisses up along his stomach. He moved his arm to looked at Rodney, who was still fully dressed and very smug. “Why are you dressed?” he asked after a few seconds, trying to get his brain back in order.

“You were distracted,” Rodney replied, straddling his hips and sitting back, reaching to pull off his shirt.

John felt a little more awake at the sight of Rodney’s pale torso, moving to run his hands up and down Rodney’s sides. “You attacked me.”

“Blowing you isn’t an attack,” Rodney said, planting hands on either side of John’s head, still looking smug.

John tugged Rodney closer. “Grabbing my arm and throwing me on the bed is.”

Rodney dropped onto his elbows and grinned at John, looking unrepentant. “So?” he said softly, dropping his head down to kiss John.

John pressed into the kiss, trying to deepen it, but Rodney pulled away, keeping it chaste. He growled a little bit, his hands dropping down to undo the button of Rodney’s pants, still trying to deepen the kiss, foiled by Rodney pulling back anytime he tried. He opened Rodney’s zipper and pushed a hand inside, twisting until he could grab Rodney’s cock and squeeze carefully.

It was enough, and Rodney finally kissed him deeper, his hips thrusting into John’s hand. He smirked, his free arm hooking around Rodney’s neck to keep him close. The angle was horrible, and he could already feel his wrist cramping, but he just squeezed a little bit tighter, letting Rodney fuck his hand.

“Pants off,” he gasped, pulling back from the kiss and pulling his hand out.

Rodney groaned, moving to stand and pull his pants off, hopping a little bit. John watched with wide eyes, one hand reaching out to tug Rodney back to where he had been before.

“What do you want?” he asked, one hand dropping to wrap a hand around Rodney’s cock, beginning to stroke now that he had room to move. “I could blow you, could fuck me.”

“Think you could get it up again and fuck me?” Rodney asked, kissing John again, swallowing up his moan.

“Oh, I think I could rise to the occasion,” John said, pulling back.

Rodney pulled back, raising both eyebrows at him. John grinned and reached up, tugging Rodney down into another kiss, rolling the two of them until he was on top.

“That was so bad,” Rodney complained, pulling back from the kiss. “So so bad.”

“Maybe, how do you want it?” he asked, already beginning to feel the arousal building up. A second time wouldn’t be an issue at all.

“Like this is good.”

Rodney’s legs wrapped around his waist, and John nodded, entirely on board with the idea. “Lube?”

“Side table.”

“Condom?”

“Same place.”

John nodded again and pulled away from Rodney long enough to get what he needed before he was pulled back into another kiss. He ground down against Rodney, their cocks rubbing together as both of them moaned. “You’ve done this before, right?” he asked, trying not to fumble too obviously as he reached for the lube.

“Yeah, been a year or so since I was with another man,” Rodney replied, and John ignored the stab of jealousy he felt.

Rodney spread his legs and planted his feet, making room for John, clearly content to let him do all the work. Rodney melted as John pushed a finger in, letting out a little sigh of pleasure that went right to his cock.

“Fuck, that feels good,” Rodney murmured, his eyes closing as he wiggled, getting comfortable.

John smiled, watching as he worked a second finger into Rodney, who moaned again, rocking his hips down. John bit his bottom lip, wanting to keep quiet so he could hear Rodney, not wanting to miss a thing as he began to fuck his fingers in and out of Rodney’s hole.

“You really like this,” John muttered, pressing a third finger in, trying not to rush, but he wanted to push into Rodney, to feel him clench around his cock. “A lot.”

“Uh-huh, so much better when it’s someone else,” Rodney said, spreading his legs wider. “C’mon, not gonna break. Do this to myself at least once a week.”

“Fuck,” John breathed out, stilling at that mental image of Rodney finger fucking himself. He wondered if he could get Rodney to let him watch at some point. “Jesus.”

“C’mon,” Rodney demanded. “I’m ready.”

Pulling his fingers out, he fumbled with the condom before he managed to get it on. He looked at Rodney, who was watching him through half-lidded eyes, and pressed his cock against Rodney’s hole. He couldn’t help but lean down and kiss him until they were both breathless.

“Yeah?” he asked, waiting for the nod.

Rodney’s head dropped back with a moan as he pushed him, his hands gripping John’s biceps tightly. He shuddered when he bottomed out, feeling strong legs wrap around his waist and heels dig into his ass. It was enough to get him to move, pulling out and fucking back in, beginning to set up a steady rhythm. He dropped down, needing to kiss Rodney, already addicted to the way Rodney kissed him, bossy and so intent on feeling good.

John did his best to focus on fucking and kissing Rodney, wanting to make it good for him. Rodney pulled back from the kiss finally, arms wrapping around his neck as he began to mutter instructions.

“Just, no there, right, harder, a little bit to the…fuck there, there!”

“Bossy, bossy, bossy,” John muttered, planting both hands onto the bed and beginning to fuck into Rodney harder, right where he wanted it. He couldn’t look away, watching as Rodney’s face went slack with pleasure, his whole body shuddering each time John fucked into him.

“Just know what I like. Harder,” Rodney managed to gasp out, digging his heels in, trying to get John to speed up. John’s gaze followed Rodney’s hand as it dropped to his cock and began to stroke.

John grunted and braced himself, his eyes moving between Rodney’s hand and his face. He had already come once, and he wanted to fuck Rodney as long as he needed, but he could already feel his orgasm building.

“Fuck, c’mere and kiss me,” Rodney demanded, wrapping a hand around the back of John’s neck and pulling him down into a hard kiss. John grunted, dropping down onto his elbows, feeling him clench down around his cock each time he thrust in.

“Close,” Rodney moaned, breaking the kiss. “Keep right…there fuck. Harder.”

“Sir, yes, sir,” John panted, sitting back and gripping Rodney’s hips, pulling him down into each thrust, hearing the slap of skin against skin. John couldn’t look away from the flush that was beginning to spread down Rodney’s neck and over his chest, his hand almost a blur as he worked his cock.

“John, Jesus, oh fuck,” Rodney moaned, his back arching as he came, his hand still moving as he clenched down around John’s cock.

“Oh fuck,” John gasped, fucking in deep a few more times before he came as well, slamming into Rodney and shuddering. His vision went blurry at the edges, and there was a roaring in his ears.

He collapsed on top of Rodney, unable to keep himself up anymore. He felt a hand on the back of his neck, nimble fingers playing with his hair, and he turned his head, pressing his face into Rodney’s neck and just inhaling deeply, trying to get his breathing and heart rate to slow down. Eventually, he raised his head and kissed Rodney again before he could talk, smiling a little bit.

“Good?” he asked, pushing himself up on arms that felt shaky.

Rodney nodded, eyes still half-lidded and looking a little drunk. “Oh yeah.”

John smiled and kissed Rodney again before pulling out carefully and dropping to the side, laying on his back. The bed was small, but John didn’t mind, the two of them shoulder to shoulder and legs still tangled. He knew he needed to get up and dispose of the condom and probably shower. But he was warm, comfortable, and the tension from the day had left his shoulders.

He turned his head to watch Rodney, who seemed to be just as disinclined to move as John was. Rodney looked content and as relaxed as John felt, and considering the past couple of months, both of them were a welcome sight and a little amazed that all it had taken was an honest apology.

If someone had asked John before, he would have assumed that Rodney would be someone who could hold a grudge for years. But an honest apology was all it took. It made John a little sad to realize, and he forced his mind away from that path. It, all things considered, had been an excellent ending to a shitty day.

“We ever going to talk about this?” he asked softly, forcing himself to sit up and look down at Rodney.

“Not a fucking chance,” Rodney replied, eyes still closed and lips barely moving.

John snorted and leaned down, kissing Rodney again. “Fine by me.”

Twelve

John stood next to Rodney in the gateroom, blinking away the light’s after-effects to show Colonel Ellis and Mr. Woolsey standing there. “Colonel, Mr. Woolsey,” he said, nodding to the both of them. “Welcome to Atlantis.”

“Colonel, good to be back,” Ellis said, stepping forward and holding out a hand.

John shook his hand before turning to Woolsey, who shook his hand absently, looking around the room they were standing in. “This is amazing,” he said softly, looking up at the ceiling in awe, his eyes wide behind his glasses.

They had chosen an excellent day to come. The sun was bright, streaming through the windows and making everything sparkle. “It really is,” he said, smiling. “Do I need to introduce Dr. McKay?”

Woolsey’s eyes snapped towards them, and he shook his head. “No, we’ve met before.”

“Always a good time,” Rodney said, obviously lying through his teeth as he shoved his hands into his pockets. “Dr. Weir is in the conference room with Major Lorne.”

Ever since Weir had slapped him, Rodney had gone out of his way to avoid any situation that involved her. The two of them hadn’t talked in the three weeks since it had happened, and John wasn’t inclined to push either of them about it. Word had gotten out quickly, the line had been drawn, and no one stood with Elizabeth.

Woolsey nodded his head. “Very well. If the two of you would join Colonel Ellis and I, we can get the proceedings started.”

John nodded and led them to the conference room, stepping inside with a nod towards Elizabeth, who was studiously ignoring everyone until Woolsey stepped in. She stood up, holding out a hand towards him.

“Mr. Woolsey, welcome,” she said, a forced smile on her face.

“Dr. Weir, thank you,” he said, shaking her hand. “Atlantis is beautiful.”

“Yes, it is,” Elizabeth said, moving to sit down and clasp her hands in front of her tightly.

Over the past three weeks, Elizabeth seemed to shrink in on herself, her cheekbones gaunter and the bags under her eyes even deeper. She looked exhausted, and John had long since stopped thinking there was a damn thing he could do for her. She had left him to die, she had hit Rodney, and he could never forgive her for either of those.

“Dr. Weir,” Woolsey started as he sat down and opened his briefcase, pulling out a sheaf of papers and placing them in front of him.

“Get to the point, Richard,” Elizabeth said with a tight smile. “I can’t assume it’s good news. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.”

Woolsey sighed and folded his hands in front of him. “The IOA has decided that you will be removed as Atlantis’s commander, effective immediately.”

The room was silent, and John could feel the tension and the relief in equal parts. He didn’t need to look at Lorne and Rodney to know what was on their faces, and instead, he kept watching Elizabeth, at the look of defeat and resignation on her face. For a second, she seemed to fold into herself before her shoulders straightened. She turned to look at Rodney with a look in her eye that worried John.

“Are you happy?” Elizabeth demanded, her hands tightening until her knuckles were white. “You got what you wanted.”

John tensed, wondering if he would have to intercept another slap, but Rodney just slumped into his seat, shaking his head. Rodney watched Elizabeth for a long moment, weariness making him look a lot older than he was. John hated that look on Rodney.

“Elizabeth,” Rodney said, rubbing both hands over his face. “All I wanted was for you to stop treating me like a child, to understand that science fails and stop heaping everything that went wrong onto my shoulders. That’s it.”

“And instead, you got me fired,” she spat, her face red with anger.

“You got yourself fired,” Rodney snapped. “By failing every single person in this city time and time again.”

Elizabeth took another step forward, and John tensed again, and this time he wasn’t the only one. He noticed Lorne and Ellis both tense up as well. “I never failed!”

“Yes, you did,” Rodney said, looking around the room as if asking for someone else to take up this burden.

“Elizabeth,” John snapped, getting her attention. She looked at him with anger and betrayal, and he returned her look evenly. “If it had been Major Lorne, or Captain Teldy, or any person other than Rodney or me being fed on by the Wraith, would you have done what you did? Handed the whole thing over to Major Lorne and washed your hands of it?”

Elizabeth opened her mouth to deny it but shut it at the last moment, breaking eye contact. “It was a military situation.”

“It was, and one that needed your experience as a diplomat with Koyla,” he replied. “And you chose not to give it. I was being fed on by a Wraith and you did nothing.”

He couldn’t keep the recrimination from his voice, the anger he still felt weeks later, and John swore he could feel the Wraith draining his life again, but he knew that was impossible. The Wraith was in pieces around the city, and John still didn’t know how he felt about that. He fought the urge to rub a hand over his chest and looked at Elizabeth, waiting for the answer.

She collapsed back into her seat, staring at the table. Finally, she looked up at Woolsey, who was watching the whole thing with shrewd eyes. “When do I leave?”

Woolsey adjusted his glasses and looked down at his notebook. “You have three days to pack your things and say goodbye before you return with the Apollo,” he said.

“And you’re…?”

“I’ll be the interim head until the IOA decides on a replacement,” Woolsey replied, looking Elizabeth directly in the eye. “Overall, you did a good job here, Dr. Weir.”

Elizabeth snorted. “That’s not what he’s saying,” she said with a venomous look at Rodney.

Rodney sighed. “You kept us together the first year when we were alone and dealing with everything. You kept us alive and had our backs,” he said. “You did a good job until you didn’t. And there are over two hundred people on this base who rely on the command staff to do their jobs, and you’re not doing yours.”

“Is that your medical opinion, Doctor?” she spat out.

“No,” Rodney sighed, sounding exhausted. “But it’s what I see when I look at you. Go home, Elizabeth.”

“This is home,” she snapped.

“Not for you, it’s not. It hasn’t been for a while.”

Rodney was almost gentle when he spoke, and John could see him curling a hand into his fist as if stopping himself from reaching out and taking her hand or something. The amount of compassion Rodney hid behind snarky comments and loud words was sometimes staggering, and John was proud of him.

Elizabeth watched him for a second before she stood up and stalked out of the room, not saying another word to any of them.

“Is she going to be fine?” Ellis asked, eyeing the door as it closed.

“I had Teldy check her rooms for weapons,” John said softly. “And any medications.”

Rodney let out a long breath and pressed his hands into his face. “Mr. Woolsey, if you have a breakdown while here, can you focus it on someone else?”

John knocked his knee against Rodney’s and kept silent, looking over at Woolsey, who was consulting the papers he had pulled out.

“Dr. McKay—”

“—How did you keep your job?” Rodney interrupted, raising his head and straightening up.

“What?”

“The IOA got replaced because they sucked. Why are you still around?” Rodney asked, eyeing the other man warily.

Woolsey smiled. “I work for the IOA, but I am not a member of the IOA. Officially, I’m one of the many lawyers the US employs for the SGC. I prefer to think of myself as an impartial observer.”

“NID?”

“I was part of the NID, yes,” Woolsey replied. “Until I realized what Former Vice President Kinsey was up to and then helped President Hayes remove him from office.”

That seemed to shut Rodney up, and he sat back and crossed his arms over his chest, looking at Woolsey. Woolsey just smiled at him and looked back down at his notes. “Now, as I was saying. Dr. McKay, you started pushing back against Dr. Weir, and I’d like to know why. ”

Rodney blinked and frowned. “What? Should I not have? Was I out of line?”

“No, you were well within your rights. However, I would like to know what changed.”

John looked at Rodney, who was frowning at Woolsey. The tension that had left with Elizabeth was back. He didn’t blame Rodney. The wording was eerily similar to what Elizabeth had demanded from Rodney while he was in the infirmary.

“Two things,” Rodney said, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms over his chest. “First, sometimes it was easier to back down to keep the peace. And second, I wanted an apology,” Rodney said softly, looking down at his hands.

“For what?” Woolsey asked, putting his pen down and folding his hands in front of him.

“After Doranda, she kept acting like I had personally failed her, as if I had gone there with the intention for it to explode. She yelled at the time and fine. Emotions are a thing. I understand that, but she kept pushing and kept acting like I failed, which was unacceptable. I’m not a child. I don’t need to be managed like one. I apologized for my actions, and that should have been enough. But every time something bad happened, it suddenly was my fault. And that’s not ok.”

“And if she files wrongful termination charges with the IOA?” Woolsey asked, looking at him intently. John glanced at Lorne, who was frowning slightly and at Ellis, who watched the exchange with a blank look.

“It won’t go anywhere, and you know it,” Rodney replied. “She’s been getting worse and worse. In the past few months, she’s become more and more erratic. Sure, she hit me, but it was the final nail in her coffin. I have over a hundred scientists working under me, and I’ve gotten into arguments with all of them. Not a single one of them has hit me, and I’ve never hit them. It’s not acceptable. ”

“Why are you cross-examining Rodney?” John asked suddenly, butting into before Woolsey could speak. Everyone turned to look at him, and he sat up a little bit straighter, looking at Woolsey.

“Dr. Weir still has some powerful friends who could make a lot of very nasty waves in the SGC, so it is best to prepare,” Woolsey replied.

“And you think they’re going to target me?” Rodney demanded.

“I think that we need to prepare for any possibility, Dr. McKay.”

“Oh joy,” John muttered, rubbing his forehead and letting out a long sigh. “You said you have a background as a lawyer?”

“I do. I’ve had experience with most US Military branches when I worked in DC,” Woolsey explained before looking at John. “I even had the opportunity to work with your Grandfather when I was younger.”

“John’s Grandfather?” Rodney asked with a frown, looking between John and Woolsey.

“My Grandad was the Air Force JAG when I was a kid,” John said absently, watching Woolsey.

Ellis sat up a little bit straighter. “You’re one of those Sheppard’s?”

John hid a smile. “Yep. Elizabeth would be an idiot to file charges. She hit Rodney, and that’s not gonna fly. But if she did, how long until something comes of it?”

Woolsey adjusted his glasses. “Dr. Weir will be returned to the SGC, where General’s O’Neill and Landry, as well as Dr. Lam and a few mental health professionals, will interview her and see what is happening.”

“Do you think she’s lost it?” Ellis asked, looking between them.

“I think the Dr. Weir I knew when she was in charge of the SGC would not allow her irritation with one person to interfere with her job performance, no matter who it was,” Woolsey replied.

The silence in the room felt oppressive, and John did his best to stop from fidgeting.

“Do we need to do this right now?” Rodney asked. “She won’t be back on Earth for three weeks, at which time it’ll take six weeks minimum to process her out.”

Woolsey shook his head. “You’re right. We don’t know what’s going to happen and so worrying about it right now is useless. However, I would keep abreast of the situation in case it does arise.”

“Do you think it will?”

“Potentially, but I can’t say for certain. Dr. Weir’s actions were well documented, so nothing might happen. But, they don’t pay me to think of the happy outcome,” Woolsey explained, standing up and shuffling his papers together. “I am going to take the day to settle into my quarters once they are assigned. Tomorrow I would like to meet with Dr. McKay and Colonel Sheppard so we may discuss what happens next.”

“Sounds good,” John replied, leaning back in his chair. “Should Major Lorne come as well or just me?”

“Just yourself, for now, Colonel Sheppard. I want to get a clear picture of how things work here and how I can best help you so that Atlantis may thrive.”

John nodded, pushing aside his misgivings. He knew he shouldn’t compare Woolsey and Elizabeth. They weren’t the same, and John had to go into working with Woolsey with an open mind. He was no better than Elizabeth if he didn’t.

“Sounds great,” he said with a smile. “Chuck and Amelia are the people you want to talk to for rooming. Amelia is on gate duty, so Chuck would be your best bet. I can get him to get you a welcome package.”

“Welcome package?”

“Room, radio, and recommended reading,” Rodney explained.

“Recommended reading?” Woolsey asked slowly, looking between the two of them.

“It’s a tablet, sir,” John replied. “Maps, parts to avoid on the city, who to call in case of certain emergencies.”

“If it glows, get Colonel Sheppard. If it ticks, get Dr. McKay and if it does both, run the other way and tell both of them,” Lorne explained, speaking up for the first time. “It’s a Travelers Brochure for Atlantis.”

“Ah, well. That is good to know,” Woolsey said, nodding his head and suddenly looking more worried. “That would be wonderful, thank you.”

“Did you see the message the General sent about the IOA and Woolsey?” Lorne asked without preamble, stepping into John’s office and pausing when he noticed Rodney. “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were here, Dr. McKay.”

“Come in. I haven’t had a chance to look yet. Rodney knows what you’ve told me so far, so you might as well tell both of us,” John said, grabbing his tablet and pulling up the file to read as Lorne gave them the highlights.

Lorne nodded. “It’s what you’d expect. The IOA unanimously voted to remove Dr. Weir. As Mr. Woolsey said, he is the interim head until they appoint someone else. The General wants Atlantis to remain a safe place from the Trust. He doesn’t like Woolsey, but according to him, Woolsey has always played his cards honestly, and he’s better than most lawyers.”

“Well, that’s good to know,” Rodney muttered, rubbing his forehead. “We got an honest lawyer.”

Lorne nodded before looking at John. “So what was he like?”

“Who?”

“Major General Sheppard.”

“Is he a big deal?” Rodney asked, looking between the two of them.

“Major General Sheppard was one of the top pilots during World War II, and when he joined the JAG Corps, he was like a dog with a bone,” Lorne explained. “There’s still stories told about him, a lot of them.”

“Yep,” John said, crossing his arms over his chest, feeling uncomfortable. He had hated that part of basic and had been glad when people hadn’t made the connection between them.

“Is he why you didn’t get discharged?” Rodney asked, looking up.

John shrugged. “No, most people don’t realize he was my Granddad.”

Lorne frowned, and John sighed, knowing what Lorne was thinking. “Lorne, if my Granddad hadn’t been dead when they tried to court-martial me, then he would have come out of retirement just to prosecute me himself. He hates people who defy orders. According to him, there’s a chain of command that we need to follow. Otherwise, the ranks will descend into mayhem and murder.”

“Are you adopted?” Rodney joked, raising his eyebrows at John. “You’re not so good at following the rules.”

“He would say that was my mother’s bad influence. She didn’t come from a ‘good family,” John replied, complete with air quotes. “Too much spunk.”

“Right,” Lorne said, still frowning.

“Anything else from the General?” he asked, wanting to get the topic away from his family. “Aside from keeping Atlantis spic and span for when he decides what to do with it?”

He knew he still sounded a little bit bitter and a lot frustrated but to Lorne’s credit, he just shook his head. “No, sir, that’s it for the moment.”

“Good,” John said, looking down at his tablet and writing a couple of notes. John waited for anyone to comment, and when no one did, he looked back at Lorne. “Don’t you have a mission soon?”

Lorne grimaced. “Do I have to? It’s the plant planet again.”

Rodney shook his head. “It’s Parrish’s last opportunity to go. It gets kicked down the line after today because he’s got other things to do. Be nice.”

“Have fun,” John said without sympathy.

Lorne shot him a glare, and John waved at him, not feeling an ounce of sympathy for him. He was glad that Rodney wasn’t a biologist and that most of the planets they went back to were for weapons. Or power. John kept hoping to find a shipyard.

Lorne glared once more at both of them before he left without another word. John waited until the door shut before looking at Rodney, who relaxed back in his seat.

He watched Rodney silently, taking in the breadth of his shoulders and the way his shirt made his eyes even bluer. John had never been an overly emotional person. Even as a kid, he preferred to keep things close to his chest and knew he didn’t always have the right reactions. So it scared him to feel as much as he felt for Rodney. Sometimes it felt like his heart was overflowing, ready to burst.

He told Atlantis to lock the door, and the feeling of privacy dropped around them. He knew he needed to tell Rodney about that trick now that they were dating. He was worried about DADT, especially since he knew people wanted him gone. He didn’t need to give them a reason to kick him out.

He stood and walked around to the front of the desk, wanting to be closer. When it was just the two of them, John didn’t want to pretend to keep the distance between them. He perched on the desk in front of Rodney, their knees touching. “What’s on your mind?” he asked once Rodney had glanced up at him.

“I’m just wondering what’s going to happen next,” Rodney said after a moment, rubbing the side of his neck. “How long is Woolsey going to stay? Is Weir going to try and stab me in my sleep tonight?”

“We’re stationing people outside her door, just in case,” John admitted, hating that they had to do it but knowing it was the right choice.

“Good,” Rodney said softly, chewing on his bottom lip, deep in thought. Rodney still looked tired, but there was a sudden lack of tension in his shoulders, and John was glad.

“You think she’ll ever forgive us,” John asked softly.

“No.”

The reply was instant, and John agreed. He rubbed a hand over his face before crossing his arms over his chest, looking up at the ceiling as he tried to come to terms with what had happened. “Yeah, me either.”

John glanced out the window, feeling like he was mourning the loss of someone he had considered a friend sitting deep in his chest. He had a feeling that it would have hurt less if she had died.

“I don’t want to be in control of Atlantis.”

John frowned. “Why do you think you would?”

Rodney sighed. “I’m not against Woolsey, and so far, it seems like he wants to work with us, but I’ll be damned if I let some other bureaucrat come in and kill people through ineptitude. If he doesn’t work out, I’m going to see if I can get Civilian command. I’ll hand CSO over to Radek and help the city that way.”

John’s frown deepened, and he crossed his arms over his chest. “You would hate it.”

“Yes,” Rodney said, crossing his arms over his chest. “But, if it’s something we need to do, I’ll do it.”

“I could give the command to Lorne, and we could co-command,” John offered, frowning when Rodney shook his head. “Why not?”

“So, back when this whole thing was still in the planning stages before Jackson found the gate address, there were a lot of long meetings. O’Neill wanted a provision that would allow Sumner, or whoever was in charge of the military, to take control of the city if there was a threat,” Rodney explained. “But, the IOA didn’t want American military in command, which is why we ended up with the shit show of the Charter and the command potentially switching between Military, the Expedition Leader and the Sciences depending on the situation.”

“That explains my position and Elizabeth. How did the sciences get roped in?” John asked.

Rodney snorted. “That’s unintentionally my fault.”

“How come?”

“Sumner and Elizabeth were American, but the IOA and Atlantis are international. Because I’m Canadian, they wanted to make sure a non-American had some say,” Rodney explained with a shrug.

“And what if you had gotten killed?” John asked, voice feeling a lot tighter than he had expected even at the thought.

“Have you seen my chain of command? Technically, Radek has dual Czech-Canadian citizenship, then it’s Miko, who is Japanese. After her is Simpson, who was born in England but has dual citizenship with the US,” Rodney explained. “Parrish is next, and he’s the first American citizen. So four of us would need to die before an American was in charge. And if the four of us died, then we have other problems.”

John rubbed a hand over his jaw. “How much hassle would it be to have a new Charter.”

“Too much.”

“Right,” John said with a groan. “So, more problems to worry about? With Woolsey, I mean.”

Rodney shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. But who the fuck knows? I think I’m paranoid, and it’s hard to think about trusting him after Weir.”

“Right.”

Silence fell. John wanted to reach out and tug Rodney closer. Drag him into a room and hide from the world and their responsibilities for one single day. John leaned forward, bracing his hands on the arms of Rodney’s chair, and brought his face in close, wanting to kiss him.

“I’m going to set up space, just for you and me,” Rodney said, gripping John’s forearms and squeezing gently, leaving his hands there.

“What do you mean?”

“Unfortunately, we can’t spend all of our time together, and I don’t want anyone else to accidentally see our conversations on the intranet, so this will be a little virtual space for us,” Rodney explained.

“What about Teyla and Ronon?” John asked softly, feeling something warm bloom in his chest.

“I’ll set up two spaces,” Rodney replied, smiling at him. “I know it’s stupid, but I kind of like the idea of carving a little part out just for us.”

John didn’t bother to stop the soft smile, and he crossed the last inch between them to press his forehead against Rodney’s. “I’m fine with that.”

They didn’t have many places on Atlantis where it could just be the two of them. Even now, in the office, John was hyper-aware of his command, and he knew he should pull away. They had their rooms, and that was it. Everywhere else, they were Dr. McKay and Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard. They didn’t get to be John and Rodney often, and one more place, even online, was better than nothing.

“Good,” he said, kissing Rodney quickly before pulling back, crossing his arms over his chest.

Rodney followed him for a second before slumping back with a half-assed glare. John just smirked.

Rodney sighed. “What was she like?”

“Who?”

“Your Mom. You said she had spunk?”

John tilted his head to the side, a little surprised at the question, but he didn’t want to back away from it. He wanted to share things with Rodney, to be open about his past even if he hated talking about it. Especially his Mom. His ex-wife would be so proud of him. “She wanted to be an actress but never made it, so she worked as a mechanic with her Dad. She met my Dad when he was on leave at a bar, and they fell in love, got married, had me and Dave.”

“An actress?” Rodney asked, frowning. “Well, that explains why you’re so fucking attractive.”

John smirked. “You think I’m good looking?”

“Yes.”

John had been expecting Rodney to roll his eyes and tease him, but the honest, open answer shocked him, and he felt his cheeks heat a little bit. He glanced to the side, unsure of what to say. People had called him attractive all his life, and he knew he was, but Rodney’s honest answer made it feel more real.

“You’re a lot like her, aren’t you?”

John nodded. “I like to think so. Fast cars, Johnny Cash, old country music, and Ferris Wheels. All of those are things we both loved. She taught me how to punch and how to fix a car. Drove my Dad and his family wild because she always fixed things around the house before anyone else would. The door wasn’t working right? She would get a level, a hammer, and a ladder and fix it. Lights not working? She would fix it. She liked working with her hands. She hated football, though, so that was all my Dad.”

“Let me guess. Your Dad thought she would settle down as she got older?”

“I guess? I don’t know. She never did, not as long as she was alive,” he replied with a smile. “He did love her, which is why he couldn’t ever find another wife he liked enough to stay with.”

Rodney nodded. “What happened?”

“Cancer. She smoked like a chimney since she was like fifteen,” John replied. “Caught up to her, and it was quick, so that was good. Beginning of the summer, she was there, and by the end of it, she was gone.”

Rodney frowned and tilted his head back. “I’m sorry,” he said softly, looking a little uncomfortable, and John didn’t blame him. Most people never knew what to say.

“Your parents are dead? Right?”

“Yeah, car accident when I was twenty-four,” Rodney said, rubbing a hand over his face before he continued. “My Dad was a philosophy professor, and my Mum was a herbalist, and all they did was fight.”

John was surprised, of all the professions he had expected Rodney’s parents to be, those two were not even on the list. “A herbalist?”

“Yeah,” Rodney said softly, looking down. “I don’t think they were in any way prepared for me and Jeannie. Especially me. I could never understand why they believed in what they did because it never made sense to me. They couldn’t answer most of my questions because they had faith in things that you couldn’t prove.”

“And I bet you kept asking questions, over and over again, trying to get an answer that made sense?” John asked dryly.

Rodney nodded his head. “Yeah, I never know when to quit when I sink my teeth into something.”

The last was said, looking at John intently, and he felt something warm bloom inside of him, and he smiled, knocking his knee against Rodney’s. “Good, I don’t either.”

Rodney smiled widely at him, happiness obvious in his eyes, and John felt his smile widen. He knocked his knee against Rodney’s again.

Rodney stood, squeezing John’s shoulder as he headed to the window and leaned his forehead against the glass, looking out. After a second, John joined him, looking down at how high they were, and for a second, he felt like he was in freefall, and for the first time in a few months, he felt like his parachute would open.

“They’ll drag me out of this city over my dead body,” Rodney muttered, turning and looking at John with a determined look in his eyes. “This is my city.”

John watched him for a moment and saw the same fire in his eyes that he felt sometimes. “Ours,” he replied, leaning over to kiss Rodney hard and fast. “It’s our city, and we’re not leaving.”


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26 Comments:

  1. Wow!!!! Halestrom you are amazing! I love this story so much! It’s one of my favorite tropes, with Doranda and everything else and having to face the consequences of their actions and treatment of McKay.

    I loved the characterizations, the weave of personalities, and you did an awesome job of fixing issues down the road, killing Todd and Michael, actually making it to where Elizabeth gets off Atlantis and gets the help she needs so she doesn’t become worse.

    Leaving the ending open so we can ponder on what’s going to come next for them. I loved this. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I enjoyed this! Thanks so much for writing and posting!

    • Thank you so much for for this story. I love a good Mcshep and this really was a damned fine piece of work. One of the best fix it fics that. I have read. All the characters were not one dimensional, all had good character arcs and love that each one was flawed but redeemable in some way. Your John Sheppard is a wonderful work in progress human and one of the best things was to see him self-realise all his shortcomings as a Co and actually admit that.

  3. Thank you! That was so great! I love Sheppard’s growth through this.

  4. A fantastic read from start to finish. Thanks for sharing.

  5. This story was great. I really enjoyed your characterizations. Thank you!

  6. I very much enjoyed this story. I was rooting for John & Rodney throughout, but you also successfully made me feel bad for Weir who was clearly suffering. Let’s hope she can find some peace away from the SGC.

    Great work, thanks!

  7. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t stop reading this! Stayed up waaaay too late lol. But oh, it was worth it. I love that there are still things left unsaid – what’s up with O’Neill, and will they be able to trust Woolsey, but. SO satisfying. Thank you! xxx

  8. Thank you so much for sharing. This was a most satisfying fix it.

  9. Thanks for sharing with us!

  10. that was a fascinating study of how paranoid someone can grow, I loved the repercussion over the rest of the Expedition and how they reacted to the next canon situations!

  11. Great story! I liked seeing John step up and take responsibility for things. I felt so bad for the deteriorated relationship with Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  12. Loved it! Great way to deal with Doranda. Love how John hunkers down and decides to be better. And then Carson does the same. Rodney is awesome! Thank you for sharing.

  13. What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it with us! The evolution of John and of his relationship with Rodney is great. I’m sad for Elizabeth and hope someone will be able to help her.
    I’m still grinning about the Doctor Who reference in there!

  14. I very much enjoyed how you focused on the spaces in between the episodes instead of rewriting them entirely, it created a very interesting dynamic and tension that kept pulling me on! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Awesome!

  16. This was kind of bittersweet. McShep holding fast and true, but sad about Elizabeth and their situation. LOVE this story. Thank you so much!

  17. This was great! What a treat to read SGA post-Trinity fic! Great job!

  18. This is a wonderful twist on canon, beautifully written, thank you

  19. This story was amazing! It really enjoyed your exploration of John’s leadership and his role in command. I loved John and Rodney coming together and rebuilding trust and then actually talking to each other. It felt real and solid and lovely.
    Thanks for sharing it with us!

  20. Great read. Thank you.

  21. A brilliant story.
    I love that John saw the error of his ways and set about remedying things, not an easy thing to do, but Rodney didn’t deserve the prolonged cold shoulder and John needed to become a good leader.
    The relationship development was lovely.

  22. This is wonderful. <3 Thanks for sharing

  23. Nataly Montalva

    You are so brave, Doranda consequences are hardcore and you handled it masterfully. Thank you very much.

  24. great great great

  25. greywolfthewanderer

    fucking awesomesauce!! I like your solution to a lot of this way better than canon. it always bothered me how the writers made Carson basically Dr. Mengele, and how Elizabeth was willing to negotiate with the Go’a’uld, and the Wraith, when they were for killing and for only smashing. and I could see the bones of your Elizabeth in the canon version, too. she got skinnier and shakier, and coped less and less well with things. this was truly a satisfying and very enjoyable fix-it fic, and I’m grateful to be able to read it. e molto bene, molto molto bene! may thy Muse be ever generous with thee, and if ever you get royalty checks, may they all have commas in them! bravo, O author, bravo!

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