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Faith, Family, Forever (1/2) , G

Title: Faith, Family, Forever
Author: goddess47
Rating: G
Warnings/Spoilers: Minor spoilers for McKay and Mrs. Miller, Miller's Crossing, Outcast -- oh, and maybe some fluff amongst the h/c
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Summary: John Sheppard is sent back to Earth for treatment and recovery after a mission goes wrong and he is seriously injured.
Words: Darned if I know how it got to almost 13,000 words!
Beta: Many, many thanks for the lightning quick beta from fenchurch1 who loved it without seeing the ending -- any further errors are mine alone

For the flying_leap Challenge

Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark. ~Rabindranath Tagore

John watched as the airman rang the doorbell on the suburban home. He heard footsteps inside, a cheery "Coming!" and the door opened to a blonde woman in faded jeans and a t-shirt, holding a dish towel.

"Colonel Sheppard!" Jeannie Miller said with a question in her voice.

John looked earnestly at her and said carefully, "I know we're early, I hope that isn't too much of a problem?" He gave a silent prayer that she wouldn't give him away.

Jeannie gave him a look that he knew too well from Rodney -- he'd pay for this -- but she said, "No, not a problem at all. Come in, come in."

The airman on loan to John from the Canadian Air Force -- "call me Mike, sir" -- who had rung the doorbell picked up the duffel that was on the porch and said, "Where would you like me to put this, ma'am?" The bag was more awkward than heavy and it swung on its straps as he waved his arm.

Jeannie looked at the bag, then at John before she said, "Oh, just here inside the door. We'll take care of it... later."

John waited for Mike to move into the doorway of the house before he tackled the steps. He was better with the crutches than he had been when he first got them, but he still took steps carefully. Since there was no railing on the steps in front of the Miller residence, he had to focus on more carefully on what he was doing. Luckily, it was only two steps -- and not raining, wet steps made him cringe at the thought. Then another step up into the house -- the door frame helped keep him from wobbling too much.

The airman didn't leave until John was inside. "Just call if you need anything, sir," Mike reiterated his offer from the drive over. "Let me know when you have your PT schedule set up and I'll take you until you can drive yourself." He gave John a casual salute as he closed the door behind himself.

John stood in the entry of the home as Jeannie looked him over carefully. He knew what she saw..... he was thin, bruised but fading to a nasty yellow, and tired looking. The baggy sweatpants didn't quite hide the cast on his right leg. He eased the cast down gently to rest on the tile floor and adjusted the crutches under his arms.

"I'll get out of your hair, now that he's gone....." John started.

"You're not going anywhere, John Sheppard, until you explain what you're doing looking like hell, on crutches, on my doorstep," Jeannie said firmly. "You're going to go into the living room, sit down and explain yourself."

John sighed. He had been afraid of this reaction but it was a risk he had had to take. Once he explained, maybe he could get away.... He hobbled to the living room and looked at his options. He'd probably never get out of the sofa once he sat down there, and the rocker, well, rocked. He lowered himself gingerly into the side chair that he hoped he had a chance to get himself up from.

Jeannie moved the ottoman closer. "Put your foot up and don't move. I think we need some coffee," she directed. She eyed him critically, "And some food."

"Don't..." John started but stopped when she just stood there with her arms crossed. He lowered the crutches to the floor, tried to put them out of the walkway, swung the cast up on the ottoman and sat back.

"Better," she huffed.

Good going, Sheppard. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, he berated himself. It had seemed like such a good idea at the time....

It wasn't long before there was coffee in a mug next to his chair and a sandwich and cookies on a plate next to that. He took a cookie -- chocolate chip, one of Rodney's favorites, he couldn't help thinking -- and asked, "Where's Madison? She going to school now?"

"It's a two day a week pre-school," Jeannie told him. "She needs to spend more time with kids her age and it will help us decide how much we want to home school her. She'll be home in another hour." She watched John eat the cookie. "Kaleb has classes and meetings all day but he'll be home for dinner."

"I can go whenever you're ready to get rid of me, if you'd call a cab," John replied.

"Rid of you?" Jeannie exclaimed. "You're as bad as Mer." John knew she saw the flinch when she asked shrewdly, "He doesn't know you're here, does he?"

John closed his eyes. "No. And..... well, I'd appreciate it if you'd not tell him," John asked trying to keep the desperation out of his voice. He didn't think he succeeded.

"I'll make up my mind about that when you tell me what the hell is going on," Jeannie threatened.

John took a sip of the best tasting coffee he had in days and set the mug back down. "The short version is that I shattered my ankle on a mission. Dr. Keller did what she could, but we really don't have an orthopedic surgeon and even the Ancient technology we had wasn't up to dealing with it efficiently. So they shipped me back to Earth for surgery. I'll never get through a metal detector again with the pins they put in to hold everything together but they tell me with work it should be mostly all right. The SGC and the hospital in Colorado Springs have done everything they can for the moment, and I now need physical therapy before they'll let me back through the gate." Back home. "But the docs wouldn't let me out on my own, I had to go somewhere where there would be someone to at least keep an eye on me." He looked down at his hands.

"And you had no where to go," Jeannie finished softly.

"Sorry," he mumbled, embarrassed.

"And exactly why am I not to tell Mer where you are?" Jeannie asked in that same soft voice.

John fidgeted but knew he had to tell her something. "We... umm... had a disagreement. He got hurt, too," he heard her gasp, "he's doing fine, but he wasn't in any shape to leave Atlantis when they shipped me back. And I knew he and Zelenka were close to figuring out how to recharge a ZPM so.... well.... I told him I didn't want him to come."


John picked up a sandwich and took a bite to avoid looking at the woman sitting across from him. He really should have known that this wasn't going to be as simple as he thought. Why he ever thought she'd just let the airman drop him off and then let him leave and go to a hotel was beyond him -- must have been the pain meds.

He finished the sandwich and drank the coffee without looking up. When he was done, he set the mug on the table and offered, "Thanks. That tasted good."

Jeannie was looking at him speculatively and told him, "Okay, you're not going anywhere. The extra room is upstairs, which will probably be good exercise for you and there are bathrooms on both floors. Tell me about scheduling physical therapy." It wasn't a request. In the back of John's head it was the same voice Rodney used on his minions when he was explaining something that should have been obvious to them.

"They gave me the name of a place the Air Force contacted about doing the PT with me. Since we're outside of the US here, the bean counters are in a snit about it but they dragged in the International Oversight Committee and worked something out," John shrugged. "Your Canadian Air Force is providing me a driver since I'm not allowed to drive." He wiggled his cast. "This is supposed to graduate to a walking cast in a couple of weeks and I figured I could manage on my own once that happens."

"I suppose you thought you'd find a hotel near the PT office and walk back and forth?" Jeannie asked, outraged.

"Well... something like that," John had to admit. The drugs must have made his forget that Rodney's sister was a genius in her own right.

She rolled her eyes. "What is it with you guys?" she asked rhetorically. She looked him in the eye, "I won't tell Mer you're here, but if he asks I won't lie to him."

"Fair enough," John agreed. Now he had to hope Rodney didn't ask.....

Running footsteps in the hall, "Mommy! Guess what we did today..." Madison came to a stop and then squealed, "Uncle John!" and threw herself into John's lap.

John winced, some of the bruising had yet to heal, but put his arms around the child, "Hey, Maddie, great to see you."

"Is Uncle Mer here, too?" she asked looking around.

"Nah. Just me this time. Is that okay?" John replied.

"Why didn't Uncle Mer come with you?" Madison demanded, sounding like Jeannie had a few minutes ago.

"He was busy and sends you a big hug," John gave her a squeeze. "Next time, he promised."

"Okay," Madison agreed. "What did you bring me?"

John laughed, ignoring Jeannie's "Madison!" "Wasn't sure I was coming, so I don't have anything just now," he said gently. "But I suspect we can do some shopping while I'm here."

"I guess," she agreed, disappointed there wouldn't be an immediate present. Since John hadn't planned to stay, he hadn't thought about getting anything for Rodney's niece.

"Uncle John was in an accident, so you have to be careful around him," Jeannie explained. "Since there's time before dinner, how about if you and Uncle John see about going to the guest room. You can come back and tell me about school since I suspect Uncle John would like a nap."

"Yes, mom," John grinned. He sobered, "Thank you."

While John was untangling himself from Madison and figuring how to get out of the chair and on the crutches without falling, Jeannie took his bag upstairs. "Madison can show you the room -- yes, I know you know where it is -- and I've put extra towels in the bathroom for you," she said as John hobbled across the room. "I'll give you half an hour's notice before dinner is ready."

John ended up handing one of the crutches to Madison and he used the railing to hop up the stairs. He was puffing slightly by the time he got to the top. Exercise, indeed, he thought to himself. Madison pushed open a door near the top of the stairs and announced, "This is your room."

As John shuffled into the room, Madison ran off but quickly came back with a stuffed bear that was as large as she was. "You can have Mr Bear to sleep with," she announced.

"Well, that is very nice of you, Maddie. Thank you," John said looking longingly at the bed. "Bathroom still across the hall?"

"Yes," she replied, pointing.

"Okay, I'm going to wash up before I take a nap. Okay?" John told her. "You're supposed to go back to your mom, aren't you?"

"Okay," Madison said happily. "See you later!"

John used the towels that had obviously set out for him in the bathroom and when he returned to the room he lowered himself gratefully on the bed. Kicking off his shoes and taking off his shirt so he was in a t-shirt and the sweat pants he thought maybe a short nap....

It was dark when he woke and Jeannie must have thrown a blanket over him. He could hear the television on downstairs. Looking at the clock on the bedside table, it was after 8 PM. This was the first he felt... rested.... since he broke his ankle. The sandwich and cookies were more than he had really eaten in a while and since he wasn't hungry he rolled over, moved Mr Bear to the side of the bed, wrapped himself more into the blanket and fell back asleep.

The next time John woke, it was 4:37 am. Too early for the Millers to be up but he had slept long enough that he knew he was now up for a while. And he had to go to the bathroom, so that made his decision for him. He untangled himself from the blanket and Mr Bear, who seems to have climbed into the blanket with him, and sat on the side of the bed to get his balance. He levered himself up with the crutches which was easier than it had been a week ago now that he could at least put the broken ankle on the floor for balance. He wouldn't have been able to climb out of the bed otherwise. Moving slowly to create as little noise as possible, he crept to the bathroom.

Once he was done and had at least splashed water on his face not wanting to do much more, he debated. Figuring with Madison around there might be cereal, he grabbed his shirt from yesterday and worked his way down the steps. Once he got down the first step, he sat down and eased himself from step to step on his rear -- figured since no one was watching he could get away with it. In the kitchen, he flipped on a light to be able to see what he was doing.

Kaleb was the early riser in the house and just before 5:30 am said, "Morning," to John as if they did this all the time. He poured himself a cup of coffee and leaned against the sink with it. "Nice to not have to make it for myself once in a while," he commented.

"Figured it was the least I could do," John shrugged. "Rodney made sure I knew how to make 'proper' coffee so I figured it wouldn't be too different from what you make around here." John's idea of coffee before Rodney had been equivalent to 'warm, brown liquid' as far as Rodney was concerned. John teased Rodney regularly by longing for a cup of instant coffee, just to watch the scientist shudder in horror.

"Breakfast of champions," Kaleb commented, indicating the box of cereal on the table.

John shrugged, "It was easy. Got to the point we missed things like corn flakes and milk." They never did find anything like dry cereal anywhere and almost-cow milk wasn't the same. The Athosians had something like oatmeal that wasn't too bad but without milk and brown sugar, it wasn't quite the same. "Didn't want to bang around too much and wake you all up," he elaborated. "And... ummm... thanks for letting me stay."

"I suspect there was no 'letting' involved. Jeannie told me you had some hair-brained scheme to go to a hotel and once she makes her mind up, there's no changing it," Kaleb laughed. "Not sure I approve of a lot of what you do, but for Jeannie's sake you are always welcome." He poured himself another cup of coffee and topped off John's cup. "Well, as long as you're not here to take my wife off to parts unknown or get her kidnapped -- again."

John raised his hands. "No! I have my hands full with Rodney," he protested. "The two of them together are dangerous."

"I heard that," Jeannie said as she walked into the kitchen.

"I meant that in a good way," John backpedaled.

Jeannie laughed, "Don't forget I know my brother." She looked around, "Breakfast?"

"Don't do anything special for me," John told her. "I'm fine."

"I suspect you should be eating more and you slept through dinner last night," Jeannie said, getting out a griddle and utensils. "Since Maddie will be home today, I think some pancakes will be in order." She bustled about the kitchen as Kaleb wandered out with coffee in hand. In short order, John found himself eating pancakes. Kaleb wolfed down a plate and left for school as Madison was just making an appearance.

"Morning," John said to the little girl.

"Good morning!" she chirped back.

John looked at Jeannie, "She must take after Kaleb's side. Rodney's not even conscious until he's had coffee, much less cheerful."

"Well, Maddie is pretty easy but Mer wasn't quite so bad when he was younger," Jeannie told him, ruffling her daughter's hair.

Sitting back, John took a last swallow of coffee and put the mug on the table. "I'm going to.. umm... get dressed and call the PT place for an appointment. I'll let you know when I'm going."

Jeannie reached over to a board near the back entrance. She dangled a key chain in front of John, "House key so you can come and go as you need to."

"Huh. Haven't needed keys for anything in a while," John admitted. "Either the doors are keyed to us, or we're breaking in by messing with crystals." He took the key chain and put it in a pocket. "Thanks."

Getting back up the stairs was even harder than he remembered from yesterday. He had to sit on the bed for at least two minutes to get his breath even again. He grabbed clean things from his bag and hobbled into the bathroom.

John was ready for another nap by the time he was done cleaning up. He didn't realize how.. convenient.. hospital bathrooms were. Thank god for fiberglass casts so he didn't have to worry about getting it wet. That would have been a total disaster and he wouldn't get a shower for weeks. He felt better for the shower and clean clothes and sat down for just a minute.....

The nightmare jerked him awake, his heart beating fast and his breathing heavy. He closed his eyes for a minute to drive away the last of the horror and to re-orient himself. Looking at the clock, John realized he had been asleep for a couple of hours -- laying back on the bed with his feet on the floor was not comfortable and he was going to pay for that when he went to get up. He forced himself to sit up and focus, groaning at the stiff muscles in his back.

Once he had woken enough to feel coherent, he rooted through the duffel for the cell phone he had been issued as he left the SGC -- 'no communicators where you'll be at' was the comment made to him as it had been handed to him. He called the number he had been given for physical therapy and set up an appointment for the next day. Then he called Mike, the airman who had brought him to the Miller's, and set up a pick up. He understood enough of his own frustration to not take it out on the cheerful airman, he just didn't like having to rely on someone else for transportation like this.

Working his way back downstairs, he was assaulted by Madison, "You're awake!"

Grinning sheepishly, he agreed, "Yeah! All I've done is sleep since I got here."

"I suspect you needed it," Jeannie put in. "We'll have lunch shortly. I'm taking Madison to the library, if you want to come."

"I just had breakfast," John protested. Seeing Jeannie roll her eyes, he added, "I guess I can at least be sociable. But I'll pass on the library. Not sure I'm ready for that."

"Not a problem," Jeannie replied.

"Play with me?" Madison asked hopefully.

"As long as I can sit down," John answered. "In the living room?" He followed the girl into the living room, decided he might be able to work his way out of the couch using the coffee table as a lever and settled in with coloring books and crayons. John let Madison chatter away, quickly realizing that it wasn't too different from listening to Rodney. Nodding at intervals, asking an occasional question and humming agreement seemed to work for both of them. Madison had colored a pony a variation of plaid for him and John had her working on another for Rodney when Jeannie brought lunch out to them. John found himself eating tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

"My ride's picking me up at 9 am tomorrow," John told Jeannie between mouthfuls of sandwich. "The PT office is across town and they want me there early for the first time. Between the paperwork and getting going, I should be getting back mid-afternoon."

"No problem," she assured him. "Maddie goes to school tomorrow, so she'll be leaving about the same time. Kaleb leaves earlier than that so we should be all set." She picked up the dishes. "Come on, Maddie. Pick up so we can go to the library."

After they left, John stayed on the couch cycling through the daytime television options. He ended up on the Food Network, watching in fascination an explanation on how various candies were made. He fell asleep as they started on the making of Sweet Tarts. He closed his eyes during a commercial....

He woke suddenly, swinging and fighting -- he felt himself hit something at the same moment he realized where he was. He saw Maddie, stunned, laying on the floor next to him a book in her hands. He rolled off the couch and gathered the child into his arms. "Sorry," he crooned softly."Are you okay?" He patted her gently, checking her over for any red marks, cuddling her in his lap.

A shuddering breath -- please, don't cry, John thought to himself -- and Madison said accusingly, "You scared me!"

He put both arms around her in a hug, "Sorry. You scared me, too!" John tried to smile but wasn't sure he was doing a good job of it. He put her head on his shoulder and rocked her gently. Jeannie came into the room and he explained, "We startled each other. I was dreaming and when she woke me...."

Jeannie sat next to them and put her arms around them both. "Then I guess we get a stick so we can poke you when we need to wake you up," she replied with another one of those we'll talk about this later looks he knew he'd be getting until she wormed the entire story out of him.

When Madison started to wriggle, John loosened his grip on her and asked, "So what did you get at the library?" hoping to distract her.

"Bunnicula," she showed him proudly.

He looked up at Jeannie -- vampire rabbits? Just what he needed -- who just gave a mom-shrug. What can you do? it said.

"It's about a bunny," Madison pointed out. "I can almost read it, but you'll have to help me with some of the words."

"You can almost read this?" John should not have been surprised, being Rodney's niece and all. "Okay, let's get back on the couch and you can read to me."

Madison moved into his lap, putting her back against his chest and opened the book. "I shall never forget the first time I laid these now tired old eyes on our visitor. I had been left home by the family with the ad- ad," she stumbled.

"Admonition," John inserted for her.

"Admonition," she repeated. John could see her fixing it in her mind and suspected once she had learned a word she never had to ask about it again. "What's that?"

"Telling someone to do something," John expanded. "See? 'With the admonition to take care of the house until they returned.' He's supposed to take care of the house for them."

"Okay," Madison chirped. She continued reading. They worked their way through the first chapter until Kaleb came home. John didn't have to explain too much and he was impressed with her reading ability. He knew he shouldn't be surprised, the McKay genes were coming through clearly.

The alarm the next morning startled him awake, hugging Mr. Bear. This is getting embarrassing, John thought to himself as he carefully put the bear on the far side of the bed. He struggled cleaning up in the bathroom, trying not to inconvenience Kaleb and Jeannie too much, getting ready for his first PT session.

The IOC and the SGC didn't do anything in a small way, John soon realized. Mike arrived on time and took John across town to the physical therapy office. He should have known that, the "PT office" was a full medical center. The therapist who outlined what he was doing acknowledged that he had doctor and psychiatrist appointments as part of his 'therapy' schedule and handed him a schedule for the next six weeks. John sighed knowing that he really had no option but to go along.

By the time he arrived back at the Millers, John was exhausted. The physical therapist ran him through a full diagnostic session to see what progress he had made to date and then walked him over to the psychiatrist office for an initial meeting. After working with Kate, Doctor Raphael Ramirez was a change although not together too different from ones he had dealt with in the Air Force over the years. They exchanged greetings and confirmed John's appointment in two days.

Jeannie took one look and said, "Upstairs, hot shower, aspirin." She eyed him critically. "And a nap. I'll wake you for dinner." At least she didn't laugh at him as he sat on the stairs and bumped his way ungracefully to the top rather than try to negotiate with the crutches. He took a deep breath in order to be able to stand up again and had to grab the railing to steady himself.

The hot shower sounded good but the reality was that it was going to be too much to try to do. He took some aspirin and crawled into the bed and fell asleep as his head hit the pillow.

He woke grabbing something.... and woke fully to a snort of "Figured" from somewhere nearby. It was late afternoon and cloudy but he could see that he had a yard stick in his hand and opened his eyes to see Jeannie a couple of feet away from the bed. "Suspected as much....." she told him. "Dinner in an hour. You can bring your friend if you want."

Huh? He looked to see that he had wrapped himself around Mr Bear again... what was it with this animal? He felt himself blushing. "He doesn't eat much," he offered with something that he hoped approximated a smile. "Thanks," he handed back the yardstick. "That was a good idea."

"After Maddie startled you yesterday, I wasn't going to take any chances," Jeannie explained much more calmly that John would have given her credit for. Then she went on, to John's dismay, "And you're going to tell me about it sooner or later. If you don't pick a time, I will." The look she gave him was familiar -- it was the same look Rodney gave his minions when they had done something particularly stupid but he hoped they still had some redeeming qualities. John was normally immune to Rodney's looks but coming from Jeannie....

"Okay," he gave in. "After Maddie's gone to bed?" This was not a conversation he wanted to have with Madison around, not that he wanted to have it at all.

John and Jeannie ended up sitting at the kitchen table. Madison was in bed and Kaleb was in the study grading papers. John figured Jeannie would fill him in later, anyway. Jeannie poured herself a glass of wine and handed John a beer. "I suspect this will help," she explained. "What happened?"

John took a swallow of the beer. He had been trying to figure out where to start all during dinner and decided that treating it like a mission de-briefing, one where he actually told more of what really happened then they sometimes did, was probably the best.

So John reviewed the mission as if it were someone else's missions -- here on Earth it almost felt that way. Routine meet-and-greet to friends-of-friends where they hoped to establish allies and trade for food. Rodney wasn't too hopeful for any technology but was keeping his eyes open on the trek to the village. Turned out that the 'welcome ceremony' which looked to be innocuous -- you would have thought they would have learned better by now -- was a test for the Ancient gene, which John and Rodney passed with flying colors. They didn't realize until too late that the initial enthusiasm at finding ATA gene carriers was a sign of trouble. At least by this time Rodney had learned to tone down his "I'm a genius and can fix anything" bragging when away from Atlantis to draw less attention to himself.

John did gloss over some of the violence but recounted that they all ended up, somewhat battered but not seriously hurt at that point, in separate rooms under guard and their weapons taken away from them. Well, except for a couple of Ronon's knives. Ronon was able to escape in the middle of the night and John knew he would go for help.

Early in the morning, when Ronon's escape was discovered, was when the first organized beatings occurred. The beating was more demoralizing than serious at that point. John had even snarked, "The beatings will continue until morale improves," but the locals either didn't get the joke or weren't impressed. They were also moved to cells in an underground cavern that had Ancient technology around the edges but John had faith in their subcutaneous transmitters that anyone coming for them would easily locate them. He didn't know then that the little bit of Ancient technology that was still working in the facility cut off the transmission and to the search party it looked like they had most likely been taken off planet.

John also skipped over the gory details of the 'stud service' that the natives wanted him and Rodney to perform -- evidently the number of ATA gene carriers in the native population had dwindled to such a small number that it was almost non-existent. There was a combination of drugs and torture that invariably ended in more beatings when they couldn't 'perform' as desired. The good news was that the natives focused on John once they figured out his gene was stronger and they didn't realize that Rodney's genius might also be passed on. The bad news was that they used Rodney and Teyla as hostages against John's good behavior. Teyla was actually treated relatively well since she was not a gene carrier and she was female, so that Rodney ended up taking the brunt of the mistreatment.

"I had finally worked my way out of my cell and was going to free Rodney when a guard with essentially a crow bar swung at me to stop me. I tried to move out of the way but I was in pretty bad shape by that point and the bar smashed into my ankle," John went on as Jeannie listened wide eyed. "The pain pretty much knocked me out and I don't remember a lot from there. Teyla told me later that Rodney finally convinced them that he could talk me into, umm.., participating if they let him fix the equipment they were trying to use. He took the shield down without their understanding what he was doing and that let the rescue team find us and rescue us."

John didn't describe Rodney's broken ribs and arm, not wanting to worry Jeannie any more than she already was but he knew she figured out that Rodney was pretty seriously hurt. When John had left Atlantis, Rodney was out of the infirmary and moving around with help but essentially restricted to his quarters. Since he could do most of his work from there, and John knew Ronon and Teyla were checking on him regularly, Rodney was relatively happy. He had Ronon help him to the infirmary once to check on John but the pain meds -- the good stuff -- had him falling asleep once he had berated John for being suicidal. "You should have gotten out of there and left us, you idiot," Rodney had whispered.

"Don't leave you..." John had tried to say.

Rodney waved dismissively, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. You don't leave anyone behind. We get it. Look where it's gotten you." But it was said softly and John could hear the worry.

When Rodney heard that Keller had decided to send John back to Earth for further treatment, Rodney had stormed the infirmary demanding explanations. John wasn't off the really good drugs yet and had picked a fight with Rodney for not realizing there was a shield on the facility sooner. John didn't tell Jeannie that he had played dirty and told Rodney that the ankle break was Rodney's fault since John had already essentially rescued himself and he figured Teyla could take care of herself better than Rodney could.

"They shipped me back to Earth and, well, here I am," John finished, tired. He hadn't told the SGC psychiatrist all of this and it was the first time he really thought about the fight with Rodney. It hadn't been planned but John was in pain and the decision to send him back to Earth at all had already depressed him that it was easy -- too easy -- to lash out at the one person he knew he could hurt... Rodney.

John played with the empty beer bottle as he and Jeannie sat in silence. She took the bottle from him and asked, "You want another? I think I need more wine."

John shook his head. "Probably not a good idea with some of the meds I'm still taking. Thanks," he replied.

She refilled her glass and sat back down at the table. "Thank you for telling me that much," Jeannie told him. "It explains a lot."

John looked at her quizzically. Jeannie just shrugged and sipped her wine.

"Then if you don't mind, I'll call it a night," John decided. Talking about the mission had exhausted him more than a physical therapy session. He knew it was an emotional exhaustion as much as physical. "It's been a long day."

"Not a problem," Jeannie assured him.

Over the next couple of weeks, John slipped into the Miller household like he had lived there all his life. He and Madison finished Bunnicula and progressed to The Chronicles of Narnia, which John realized he had never read beyond the popular The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Explaining some of the more philosophical and religious points to Madison's questioning was interesting. She grasped the stories easily enough but asked for endless explanations that John struggled with. As bright as Madison was, she didn't have the maturity or experience to understand some of what he was telling her but John didn't know how to break it down any further and Madison had to be satisfied with a number variations of "When you get older you'll understand more." He knew Jeannie frequently listened to their discussions but never broke in or asked John to stop.

John's sleeping was still broken, but not as badly as when he first arrived. Interestingly enough, Madison wouldn't take Mr Bear back from John's room and the couple of times he tried to put the stuffed animal on the floor, Madison would matter of factly move the bear back to the bed. John gave up and found himself, well -- cuddling wasn't a term he would use -- sleeping with the bear regularly. He'd never admit to even himself that it made him sleep better.

John graduated to a walking cast and celebrated by insisting he treat the family to dinner. They ended up at a local pizza place where Madison could play with her friend Natalie they brought along to keep her company and John could eat cheese, pepperoni and sausage pizza without feeling guilty. "Another month and I'll be rid of this," John was pleased with his own progress. They toasted him with their sodas.

Part 2 here
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