Warnings/Spoilers: Minor spoilers for McKay and Mrs. Miller, Miller's Crossing, Outcast -- oh, and maybe some fluff amongst the h/c
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
Back to Part 1
Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark. ~Rabindranath Tagore
Mike dropped John off out front one afternoon a couple weeks after that and cheerily said, "I'm back." When Madison didn't come pelting out from somewhere, John called, "Hello? Anyone home?"
Jeannie leaned down the stairs, "I'm up here. Madison's friend Natalie called and she went there for the afternoon. I'll be leaving shortly to take them to the library."
"Oh, okay," John answered. "Anything you need me to do?"
"No, thanks," Jeannie called. "Cookies in the kitchen."
"You're going to make me fat," John laughed.
She came down the stairs. "I'd give you five of my pounds if I could," she teased. She eyed him critically, "You're looking better, you know."
He stopped and thought about it. "Feel better," he admitted. "Thank you."
She glanced at a clock, "Okay, going to get the girls. Make some coffee, would you? I'll have some when I get back."
John was making coffee when the doorbell rang. He went to answer the door and the "Did you forget your keys?" died on his lips when he saw Rodney standing there.
"You!" Rodney almost shouted. "What are you doing here? Where is Jeannie? Does she know you've broken into her house? What is going on?"
John looked at the bag at Rodney's feet and closed his eyes. "Don't tell me," John said slowly. "Jeannie told you there's a crisis and she needed you to come here as soon as possible?"
"Yes. No," Rodney stammered. "What?" At least this was in a more reasonable tone. "What are you doing here?" he demanded again.
John sighed. "Come on in. I'm making coffee and there are cookies," he offered.
"I've been traveling for three days to get here," Rodney complained. "Where is Jeannie?"
"She went to pick up Maddie and a friend and was taking them to the library," John told the annoyed scientist but he now had his suspicions about that errand. "She should be back in a couple hours."
Rodney hrumphed and picked up his bag. "She better," he muttered. "And she better have a good story to go with this one."
The coffee was almost done as they came into the kitchen. John got out cream and sugar for Rodney and put the plate of chocolate chip cookies on the table. He put coffee mugs and paper towels on the table and snitched a cookie as he organized everything.
"Wait. How do you know where everything is?" Rodney asked. His eyes narrowed, "How long have you been here?"
"Hello to you," John replied. "Nice to see you. I'm better, thanks for asking. How are Teyla and Ronon?"
Rodney's mouth open and shut and John wanted to grin but he knew he'd be tempting the wrong reaction from Rodney. "Oh, sorry. How are you feeling? You're looking better than the last time I saw you." John winced at how bad that all sounded and he knew he was babbling.
"Okay, who are you and what did you do with John Sheppard?" Rodney asked as he reached for a cookie. "Next thing I know you'll be telling me you baked the cookies, too."
John did grin at that. "No, Jeannie made them. Just didn't know I'd be sharing them with you." Now her request for coffee made more sense. Not that they didn't have any in the afternoon, but it was a rare thing. Jeannie had to have known Rodney was coming. He poured Rodney a cup and passed it over.
Rodney put both hands around the steaming mug and inhaled. "You put the cinnamon in it," he exhaled.
"You taught me to do that," John admitted softly. He looked down at his hands, holding his own coffee cup. "Sorry." He couldn't raise his eyes, afraid of what he would see.
Just then the phone rang. "I, ummm.... suspect that's for you," John suggested. Rodney got up and answered with a suspicious, "Hello?" He listened for a moment and demanded, "Where are you? Come back here now and explain what you were ever thinking!" He winced as the other end must have been hung up on him. "Jeannie. She's, umm... not coming home just as yet. We're to manage dinner on our own and...... she'll be home later."
"Kaleb teaches a night class," John expanded. "He usually isn't home until after 10 pm. Maddie is evidently at a friend's and doesn't go to school tomorrow so no one has to get up too early." Jeannie had thought this through pretty thoroughly. Well, she was a McKay and a genius, he shouldn't be quite so surprised. Getting Rodney to arrive in this time window must have been the hardest part.
"Anything good to eat?" Rodney asked, "I'm starved."
"Well, mostly vegetarian things," John told him. Rodney made a face. "Hey! It's at least as good as some of the things they served back ho--...." He couldn't say it. "in the chow hall. But there's a great Italian place that delivers." The Millers hadn't minded John's occasional forays for non-vegetarian meals and having them delivered saved Jeannie from having to deal with the cooking issues. Glad to have something mundane to do, John called for chicken parmesan, a sausage hogie and a cheese and pepperoni calzone. "Throw in an order of the garlic bread sticks," John added at the last minute and saw the happy look on Rodney's face. John gave them his credit card number to charge the meal to.
"Ummm.... I just got in myself, I'm going to clean up.." John stuttered. He and Rodney had shared the room the last time they were here together. Not that he had many choices at the moment, he forged on. "Come on, we'll dump your bag upstairs and the food should be here in about forty five minutes."
John clomped with his walking cast up the stairs, suddenly remembering how hard it had been to get up these same stairs just a few weeks ago. He got towels out of the hall closet and set them into the bathroom. He found Rodney eying Mr Bear.
"Madison insisted," John admitted. "And... well....." He didn't know how to explain since he couldn't explain it to himself.
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Okay. Right," he scoffed.
John shrugged and grabbed fresh clothes from the dresser. "There's an empty drawer, if you want one," he offered as he went into the bathroom to clean up and change.
Rodney was gone from the room by the time John came back. John threw his clothes into the hamper, looked and decided it was time to do some laundry and brought the hamper down with him. Rodney was in the kitchen, staring out the window. John went to the laundry room on the other side of the kitchen and threw in the load. Once it was started, he came back into the kitchen. He got out plates and eating utensils and put them on the table.
The silence was just a hair from being uncomfortable. John didn't know what to say and Rodney didn't give him any openings. Rodney's indignation from earlier seemed to have evaporated and the easy moment they had over Mr Bear was gone like it never happened. John crumbled a cookie on a paper towel for something to do with his hands. Rodney being still like this wasn't something he was used to. John was grateful when the washed dinged to let him know it was done so he could legitimately get up and move his things to the dryer.
In a little over the promised three-quarters of an hour, the doorbell rang again. John got up and went to the door -- he signed the credit card receipt, adding a tip for the delivery kid, and brought the food into the kitchen. He took the containers out of the bag, opened the packages and divided everything into at multiple servings. "Dig in," he instructed Rodney.
It was too eerie sitting at a meal with Rodney eating silently. "How are Ronon and Teyla?" John asked casually. That seemed to work, getting Rodney to relax a bit and talking about their teammates. From there the discussion moved to the lab staff and on to the projects Rodney was working on. John only had to supply the occasional question to keep Rodney talking.
"Another beer?" John asked as they picked up after themselves.
"I know where it is," Rodney replied. "You want one?"
"Still on meds," John admitted. "Shouldn't. One's been my limit."
"Oh," Rodney exclaimed. "Okay."
"Want to watch TV?" John asked, casting desperately for something else to do. "I think there's a hockey game on." Since the game was on the East coast, it would be on this early in the day.
"Real live hockey!" Rodney enthused. He wandered out to the living room as the drier buzzed that John's laundry was done.
"Go ahead," John told him. "Be there in a minute." Rather than taking the time to fold his clothes like he normally did, he took them out, hung the shirts that needed to be semi-decent and put the rest back into the hamper he had used to carry the clothes down to the laundry area. He carried everything upstairs, upended the clothes into a drawer and tried not to look like he was hurrying down the stairs.
Rodney had sat on the couch where he would get the best view of the television. John sat down on the other end of the couch. He couldn't watch the television as well but he could watch Rodney. He paid enough attention to the game to argue with Rodney about whether the center had been cleanly hip checked or roughed, picking the other side just to hear Rodney rant.
They watched the one game and found a second game just starting on the West coast so it was local time. The third period was just starting when Jeannie and Madison came home and Kaleb arrived before they had their coats off. Jeannie gave Rodney a quick peck, "Good to see you, Mer, let me get Madison off to bed," and disappeared. She called down a few minutes later, "John? Madison is insisting on being read to, if you don't mind a couple of pages."
Rodney looked at John, who replied, "Learned to read a long time ago, Rodney. Like riding a bike, never forgot." John went up to Madison's bedroom, where she giggled at him, "Is Uncle Mer mad at mommy?"
John ruffled her hair, listening for shouting from below. "I don't think so," he told her. "But we better not push our luck or he will be." He picked up the book they had been reading, "Only a few pages since it's way past your bedtime."
There wasn't shouting but tense whispering when John got back to the living room. Kaleb had wisely disappeared and it was Jeannie and Rodney standing toe to toe with the hockey game unheeded in the background.
"Oh, look, they tied up the game," John announced. Both McKays looked at him, Rodney rolled his eyes and Jeannie grinned.
"Do you know what she said..." Rodney started
"Please, Mer," Jeannie interjected. "You so owe me...."
"Do not," Rodney insisted. "I bought...."
"Buying things isn't the same as being here," Jeannie interrupted.
"Well, I have a job to do," Rodney added, "an important...."
"Blah, blah, blah," Jeannie mocked. "Genius, two galaxies, been there...."
Rodney scowled at her.
"She's right, you know," John had to put in.
Rodney turned and hissed, "You're siding with her?"
John grinned, "Hey, I'm here on charity. I have to be nice to your sister."
"Exactly why are you here, again?" Rodney demanded, turning to face John with his hands on his hips.
Oops. John hadn't wanted to discuss that.
"He had no where else to go, Mer," Jeannie told him. "I wasn't going to throw him out."
John wished she hadn't said that and looked down at his feet.
"John?" Rodney asked quietly.
John felt his ears turn red and could only nod in answer. He couldn't look.
Rodney sighed and came closer. "You idiot," he said softly. Without warning, he put his arms around John and brought John into a circle of warmth. Without thought, John's arms went around Rodney and his forehead rested on a broad shoulder.
"I'm sorry," John whispered.
"Nothing to be sorry about," Rodney said firmly.
John wasn't going to give in so easily. "I said some pretty unforgivable things..... before I left," John admitted shakily.
"Before they made you go away," Rodney countered. "Don't think I don't know you didn't want to go and Keller had you on some weird shit. I hacked your file after you left and they gave you no choice -- if you hadn't gone peacefully they were ready to knock you out and send you back unconscious. I wasn't bad enough for them to send me back with you but I wasn't well enough to come, either. I didn't know that then but I figured it out once Keller took all the good drugs away from me."
"Genius," John laughed into Rodney's shoulder. Then sobered, "I couldn't help you..... I ..... watched them hurt you and...."
Rodney's arms tightened around him. "They were hurting you, too, you know. How do you think that made me feel? I was wishing for a P-90 so I could take them all out. Teyla kept me sane. She had more faith than I did that we'd be found."
John lifted his head from Rodney's shoulder and rested his forehead against Rodney's. "You saved us," John said gently. "I almost got us killed."
Rodney huffed. "You almost got us out of there. If that guard hadn't come when he did and smash your ankle...." Rodney let that trail off. "Hey. How are you feeling? Ankle getting better?"
John had to laugh, "I think I need to sit down before I fall down." He looked around and they were alone, Jeannie had ghosted away at some point. Rodney yawned and John asked, "And how long have you been awake?"
"Don't know anymore. Less than 48 hours," Rodney admitted. "Done worse."
"Well, the world's not coming to an end," John told him. "I have PT in the morning and the doctor in the afternoon but we can.... we could go out tomorrow and maybe get some dinner."
"If you want some company," Rodney offered hesitantly, "For the PT, that is... I'll come with you. Moral support and all."
"And it'll let you hide from Jeannie," John filled in. "Sure, come along."
Instead of waking up to find himself wrapped around Mr Bear, John found himself wrapped around a sleeping Rodney. John didn't want to examine why this didn't bother him as much as it probably should and gently extricated himself from the other man.
"Coffee," John offered, setting a cup down on the table next to Rodney's side of the bed.
"I'm up," Rodney answered sleepily, without moving.
"You have some time but Jeannie's making pancakes...." John dangled.
Eyes opened wide at that. "Real butter and real maple syrup?"
John grinned, "Is there anything else? Oh, right, there is. Come down when you're ready."
John was eating his second helping of pancakes when Rodney appeared. He winked at Madison, "Ooops. Looks like we ate them all."
Madison giggled and Rodney rolled his eyes. "A comedian you're not. Don't quit your day job," he commented dryly as he poured himself another cup of coffee.
"Sit," Jeannie directed. "Hot pancakes in two minutes." She had a plate in front of Rodney and he dug in eagerly.
He eyed Madison, "Don't you have a job yet? You look old enough."
"Uncle Mer, don't be silly! I only go to school," she laughed.
"School! When I was your age, I had a job," he teased her. She giggled.
Breakfast was full of laughter as Rodney teased Madison and Jeannie and even got a swipe in at Kaleb. He took their outrageous replies and made even more outrageous claims. John was sorry when the doorbell rang to announce Mike's arrival to take him to his PT session.
"You coming?" John asked.
"Let me see where this is," Rodney replied getting up. "I can take you."
"I can show you..." John started.
"Oh, no. I'm not going to let you give directions. We'd never get there!" Rodney declared. He went out to the front where John introduced the two. "I'll take the Colonel to his sessions for the next few days," Rodney told the airman once he knew where they were going.
"No problem," Mike answered. "Call me when you need me again, sir!" He casually saluted and left.
The physical therapist threw Rodney out of the room before they were fifteen minutes into the session. Between Rodney's ceaseless questioning of everything the therapist was doing and John paying more attention to Rodney than to his exercises, the therapist threatened, "If you ever want to be cleared for duty Colonel, you have to focus."
"But I've been focusing," John whined, "for weeks. The cast is about ready to come off anyway." John bargained, "Let me go early today and I'll make it up tomorrow."
The therapist hung in. "You have an appointment after this with Doctor Ramirez, so you're not going anywhere early," he pointed out reasonably. "Unless your friend is going to tag along there...."
"Umm...." John hesitated. Last thing he wanted to do was get Rodney in a small room with the shrink. Although he had to laugh at his own play on words... he's save that for another day. "No," he capitulated. "Okay. Let's do this again..."
Rodney came back promptly as the session ended and John apologized, "Shrink appointment right after lunch."
"No problem," Rodney shrugged. "Lunch?" he asked brightly.
"Hospital food," John warned. "No time for anything else. You can go and come back in a couple of hours, if you want," he offered.
"Nah," Rodney answered. "Not worth it. Hey, I like hospital food. They tell you what's in everything," Rodney reminded him.
Since it was a full medical center, the cafeteria had a reasonable variety of food. John had been eating lunch there pretty regularly for the past couple of weeks and had eaten his way through the entire menu but Rodney made several happy noises at the offerings which John took as a good sign. John automatically took a desert to hand over to Rodney at some point.
"Do you want to wait here or should I meet you at the car?" John asked when he was ready to leave for his appointment.
Rodney considered. "At the car, I guess," he decided. "About an hour?"
"Yeah," John replied.
John was thoughtful on his way to meet Rodney. Dr. Ramirez' remark, "You're looking much better today, what brought that on?" had John talking more about Rodney than he had in the weeks they had been meeting. Ramirez wasn't cleared for information on Atlantis but knew that John was stationed 'on a dangerous base' and had assumed somewhere in the Middle East -- John didn't correct that assumption. Listening to himself talk, John realized that having Rodney here, even if it turned out to be only for a couple of days, made John.... happier. He realized that having had a chance to apologize to Rodney took a huge burden away that he hadn't realized he was carrying.
Rodney was leaning against the car when he got there. "Are you done?" Rodney asked.
"For the day," John said. "Let's do something."
"What did you have in mind?" Rodney looked curious.
"Well, we owe Madison a gift. I didn't think to bring anything with me when I came and I don't think you brought anything, so we can go shopping," John suggested. "Then, maybe, I don't know.... a movie in a theater?"
"Real popcorn? With butter?" Rodney's eyes lit up.
"Sure," John agreed. "There's a multiplex outside the mall, we passed it on the drive over. We can see what's playing and cruise the mall for a toy store." As Rodney hesitated John put in, "I'll bet there's an electronics store, too."
Rodney beamed, "Okay, you win. But no whining at how long I take in the electronics store."
John grinned. "Maybe we can find something for Madison there instead of a toy store," he suggested. He called Jeannie to let her know of their change of plans and to not plan on them for dinner.
As he saw that there was not only a 'big box' electronics store as well as whatever would be in the mall, John gave up the thought of seeing a movie. He happily followed Rodney around the store but John knew he was as bad as Rodney when he threw several variations of hand held games into their cart. Wandering through the movie section, John picked up more than a couple of handfuls of new and old movies to take back with them to Atlantis. Things he didn't like would work as trade or as presents for some of the others. New entertainment was always at a premium even with the Gate Bridge and regular Daedalus runs.
He found Rodney in the camera section. "Do you think Madison would like a camera?" Rodney asked as John leaned on the counter next to him.
John looked at the camera and took it from Rodney's hands. "She'd figure it out, but not sure it's right. But Jeannie would like it," John decided. "I should get her something for taking me in and she can send us pictures."
Rodney gave John a look he couldn't interpret but said, "Good idea. Now, what about Madison?"
They settled on a portable DVD player and a handful of children's movies. Rodney was cataloging the defects in a number of them as they checked out. As John reached for his wallet, Rodney said firmly, "Nope. I got this one. I know most of this is to take back and I can charge it to my budget."
John reached in to the basket and took out the presents for Jeannie and Madison. "You're not charging these to your budget, Rodney. I'll pay for them," he eyed the other man firmly.
Rodney rolled his eyes and grinned, "Oh, all right. Have it your way."
They loaded everything into the car and John asked, "Movie?"
Rodney shook his head. "How about we get something to eat. Real food. Steaks?" he asked wistfully.
Looking around the mall parking lot, John spied what looked like a steak house. He pointed, "It'll be a chain but it's real cow. And beer."
"Good enough," Rodney decided, locking up the car. "Let's go."
John laughed as his eagerness. He mentioned some of the other movies that were in the stack they had bought, knowing that Rodney would react to it. The conversation carried them through dinner where Rodney was thoughtfully eying the dessert menu.
"Hot fudge brownie sundae," Rodney moaned. "Haagen Das ice cream."
"Order it and I'll help you eat it," John offered.
"No you won't," Rodney countered immediately.
"Too full to eat one by myself," John batted his eyes at Rodney playfully. "Only want a couple of bites."
"Yeah, sure. I've heard that one before," Rodney snarked. As John pretended to be devastated, Rodney gave in. "Only a couple of bites," he threatened.
"Yes, Rodney," John promised with a grin.
The concoction brought to the table, with two spoons, was almost more than they could finish between them. John watched as Rodney ate his way through most of it, making what John thought of in his head as 'porn noises' over the dessert. The moans and the licking of spoon were starting to distract John -- he so did not want to go there.....
Being a weeknight, the restaurant wasn't busy and when the waitress kept bringing coffee after the dessert, they lingered. John looked around and said, "I think we're the only ones here. We should be going," John mentioned.
Rodney also looked around, startled. "What time is it? My watch is still on Atl-... base time," he asked.
"Going on nine o'clock," John laughed. "Not that late, but I have more PT again tomorrow."
"You need to see the shrink again?" Rodney asked.
"No, but I have to get x-rays done," John thought through his schedule. "The cast is supposed to come off soon so they need pictures. But that won't take long, so we should be done without having to stay for lunch."
"Good," Rodney decided. "Maybe we can see that movie."
Jeannie tried to refuse when John handed her the camera. "I have a perfectly good camera," she protested. "I didn't want anything."
"Let me do that much," John said softly. "Send us pictures of Maddie more often."
"Thank you, then. If you'll send any pictures back," she replied sternly. "What you can, anyways." John knew she was thinking of the secrecy involved in their expedition but he suspected they could do something.
John woke at some point in the middle of the night, his arm across Rodney's waist and head on the other man's shoulder. This time Rodney's arm was around John, holding him in place. As he moved to extricate himself, Rodney tightened his hold and said softly, "Talk to me."
Damn. He had hoped Rodney would be asleep. He should have known better, Rodney never slept more than a few hours a night in Atlantis -- the previous night was an anomaly. John knew Rodney wouldn't let him get away with "I'm fine" and if he refused, Rodney wouldn't push. The warmth of the arm around him made him want to try. "I.... I don't know where to start," John had to admit.
"Then tell me.... why did you come to Jeannie's?" Rodney asked.
"The docs wouldn't let me out on my own and I wasn't going to go to my family. Not like this," John started. "Not as bad as I was, anyway. I would have had to explain too much and.... well.... Wasn't sure I'd even be welcome." He paused. "David and I.... well, we agreed to disagree after dad's funeral. He didn't like what little I could tell him and I really don't care about dad's business. Margarita, the cook, she would have taken care of me well enough, but I'd still have to be around David. I'd've rather stayed in the hospital." Saying that, John felt an odd combination of guilt and relief -- guilt that he should care more about his family and relief that he didn't have to any more.
"I had this insane idea that after I got dropped off, I'd just go to a hotel and manage from there." Rodney snorted at that. "Yeah, I know. Jeannie gave me hell, too. I was tired and miserable and, well, this was the closest I could come to.... to being with you." The last almost a whisper.
Rodney's free hand came up, under his chin to bring John's head up. "Good thing you're pretty, sometimes you aren't so bright," Rodney murmured. He leaned in and pressed his lips to John's. Soft, warm lips touched his, gently. Once. Twice.
Rodney was kissing him! As Rodney started to lean back, John wriggled a couple of inches up the bed and leaned in for more. He moved the arm that was across Rodney to the side of his head and Rodney leaned into the hand. John tilted his head the other way and pressed their lips together. Rodney's mouth opened under him and John's tongue slipped in.... to taste.... to feel.....
The alarm was beeping and John tried to turn it off when he found he couldn't reach the clock. He pried his eyes open to find a sleeping Rodney firmly wrapped around him. A naked sleeping Rodney. Damn alarm, John thought, wishing they could stay like this all day. John almost left it beep except that Rodney stirred and mumbled, "Get that before I break it."
John grinned and wriggled enough to finally reach the clock and turn it off. He wrapped his arms back around Rodney and sighed contentedly. One hand stroked Rodney's arm... it felt so good to touch......
"If you don't move soon, we'll have to explain to Jeannie," Rodney threatened.
"Would that be so awful?" John teased.
"Not for you, maybe, but I don't want to listen to it for the rest of my life," Rodney replied. He leaned up, kissed John thoroughly and then drew back. John leaned back in but Rodney put a hand on his chest. "That's a promise for later. Go!"
"Slave driver," John answered good-naturedly. He'd have to keep moving for them to be ready to leave on time. Damn this physical therapy anyways....
Rodney seemed to be able to ignore what had happened between them last night better than John did -- he had to work hard to keep a silly grin off his face. Even with that he saw Jeannie give them a speculative glance as they were finishing up coffee and getting ready to leave. "John owes me a movie, so don't wait dinner on us," Rodney informed her. "We won't be too late but since I don't know what we're going to see, don't know when we'll be back."
"Can I come?" Madison asked hopefully.
"Not today," Rodney told the crestfallen girl. "We're going to see a movie for adults. How about on Saturday? We'll all go."
"Okay!" she chirped. "But be home before my bedtime so Uncle John can read to me tonight."
"We'll do that," John promised.
The car ride was mostly silent, John fighting to keep his hands to himself and let Rodney drive. Rodney stopped in front of the hospital and said, "Call me when you're done and I'll meet you here. I have some errands to run and I'll see what movies there might be." John didn't want to go and didn't realize how much must have been showing on his face when Rodney sighed and said, "Come here, you." He put a hand on the back of John's neck and proceeded to check to see if John still had his tonsils. John found himself panting slightly when Rodney drew back. "Go. Before we embarrass ourselves in public." John scrambled out of the car and watched Rodney drive away.
Ten minutes into their session, the therapist asked, "You okay? You're concentration is especially bad today."
John flushed, remembering the kiss Rodney left him with and took a deep breath. Focus. The better I do here, the faster I can go home....home to Atlantis.... home with Rodney.... A couple more deep breaths and he said, "Sorry. Didn't sleep well last night." The therapist had to have heard thousands of variations on that and seemed to accept it. John focused on the work he was to do and the morning flew by. He went to the x-ray department for the scan of his ankle. He fidgeted in the x-ray waiting room and thought that it was a good thing Rodney hadn't come, there would have been chaos by now. Rodney didn't do well in the infirmary, waiting rooms like this where patients were called with no obvious rhyme or reason had to be a particular hell.
When John finally was able to call, Rodney only replied, "Good timing, I'm just on my way back. I'm about fifteen minutes away in this traffic." John had to stand outside almost the full fifteen minutes before Rodney showed up. "Done for the day?" Rodney asked.
"Yeah. What did you have in mind?" John asked, curious.
"You'll see," Rodney answered. John had to be satisfied with that since he knew that Rodney in this mood wasn't going to tell him anything else but he radiated a smugness that piqued John's curiosity. He settled back in the seat and watched Rodney drive.
Half an hour later they were pulling into the driveway of what looked like a private home - a single story brick ranch, big yard and nicely separated from its neighbors. John wasn't sure but he didn't think they were too far from the Miller residence but the route Rodney had taken wasn't in his limited familiarity with the area so he couldn't be positive. John asked, "Rodney?" but wasn't surprised when Rodney shook his head. John figured he had waited this long, he could wait a few more minutes. They parked in the back and got out.
A tall woman dressed in -- even to John's eye -- obviously upscale casual clothes came out of the back door, "Dr. McKay?" she asked, looking them both over.
"That's me," Rodney answered her. "Everything all set?"
"There were a couple of things we couldn't get on such short notice," she answered. "I'll have them delivered tonight if that will be all right with you?"
Rodney shrugged. "Fine," he said. "Anything I need to know?"
"Anything not obvious is labeled," she told him, "but if you have any questions, just call the office and someone will be able to help you."
"Okay, then," he shook her hand and she walked down the driveway.
"Rodney? What did you do?" John drawled, suspicious.
Rodney turned and put his hands on John's hips and pulled them close together. "Well, see, the problem with living at Jeannie's is... well... Jeannie... and Madison..... and, well.... they're always there. And I want some time alone.... with you..... and not have to worry that my nosy sister or very young niece will interrupt what I've been wanting to do forever...." Rodney waved one hand around vaguely but John had a good idea. "So, I've rented us a house for the next month and... well...... hmmmmpppphhhh...."
John didn't let him finish, sealing his mouth over Rodney's. Rodney broke away long enough to pant, "Bed... inside."
Wandering around late in the afternoon in the bathrobe he found in the closet, John found that the kitchen was well stocked -- in addition to the miscellany of foods in the cupboards, there were the makings for sandwiches in the refrigerator as well as beer and cold drinks. "I think we missed lunch, want anything?" John called.
"What time is it?" Rodney called back.
John wandered back toward the bathroom, "Just after five-thirty. Why?"
"Dinner's being delivered between six and six-thirty," Rodney explained. "Didn't think we'd want to cook."
"We have to go back to Jeannie's after, then," John reminded him. "Promised to read to Madison tonight and I'd like my things if we're going to stay here..." John trailed the last part off uncertainly. Damn, he hated sounding needy like that.
Rodney came out and put his arms around John. "What part of renting this house for the two of us didn't you get?" When John didn't respond, Rodney whispered, "Some day you'll have to tell me who hurt you so badly. Not today, though. Okay?"
John leaned into the offered warmth and understanding and just held on. This was more than he ever expected and he didn't know how to handle himself with someone who had worked their way into his heart like Rodney had. It was easy before, they were friends. Now.... now it was too close to what John really wanted to be truly believe it. "When, not if, I do something stupid, let me know?" John asked.
"Oh, don't worry," Rodney soothed. "You'll be the first to hear. Now that I have a personal stake in you, you're not going to do quite so many stupid things."
John laughed. "Tell that to Pegasus, then," he snickered and sobered. "I can't promise not to try to protect you. And Teyla. And Ronon."
"And the entire damned galaxy," Rodney finished for him. "Just maybe not so often. Okay?"
"Okay," John said softly. He sealed that promise with a kiss.
John went up to read to Madison and left Rodney to explain about moving out. As he came out of Madison's room, Jeannie was waiting for him. Instead of being upset, she surprised him by hugging him fiercely and saying, "About time."
Not knowing quite what else to do, John awkwardly hugged her back. "Thanks," he said. "Thank you for taking me in, and.... for calling Rodney......" It was his turn to glare at her as Jeannie tried, but failed, to look innocent. "Yes, you did. Thank you."
"Now pack up and get out of here," Jeannie told him. "We're on for a movie on Saturday, don't forget!"
"Pick something Maddie can see, would you?" John asked her. "Let us know and we'll work out the details?"
"Not a problem..." she answered happily.
Three weeks later, John's walking cast had been removed and he was released from physical therapy -- he wasn't allowed to be on full active duty but he could go back to Atlantis. His ankle was ready for a mild jog -- it would be a while before he'd be running with Ronon but he knew it would just be a matter of time. The SGC had his therapy records and he was sure that Keller would make sure he kept up with the exercises the therapist had given John at their last session.
Three weeks under Rodney's constant care helped John come to terms with some of his own emotions. They didn't as much talk as just be together and John found the constancy comforting. Rodney didn't let him get away with anything less than honest answers the few times they did talk.... when John replied with "I'd rather not," Rodney rarely pushed and John knew his... best friend... lover?.... would accept that there were some things John never was going to share.
Their last night in town, they spent with Jeannie, Kaleb and Madison. John and Rodney brought a variety of pizzas to share and Rodney somehow ended up in a 'sword' fight with Madison using breadsticks. When it was Madison's bedtime, John read one last story to her.
"You going to come back soon?" Madison asked.
"I don't know," John had to tell her. "But your mom is to send us pictures and we'll send some to you. Okay?"
"Okay," she said. She sat up and threw her arms around his neck. "It was fun to have you here."
"It was fun to be here," John told her. "And thank you for Mr Bear."
Rodney tapped on the door, "Aren't you done yet? What are you reading, War and Peace?"
John laughed, "No we're done here." He tucked Madison into the bed and kissed her forehead.
"Hey! What about me?" Rodney asked. John stepped aside so Rodney could say good-bye to his neice.
As they were leaving, they had an early flight to Colorado Springs the next morning, Kaleb shook their hands telling them they were welcome any time and Jeannie hugged them both. "Take care of each other," she said softly to John. He knew from Rodney's flush she had told him the same thing.
"Thank you," John told her. "For everything."
"Ready to go home?" Rodney asked.
"Yes," John answered. Home was wherever Rodney was.... together.......