Rating: PG - mostly for swears
Spoilers: Post "Enemy at the Gate" but no real spoilers.
Warning: Major character death. This is a 4-hanky story amongst the angst and sap.
Length: 11,500 words
Summary: For the mcsheplets It's Only Just Begun Fest - As much as things stayed the same, they changed.
Author's Notes at the end.
"I think there is something you should know," Radek Zelenka persisted.
"Unless you've discovered a ZedPM factory... oh, wait.... I already did that.... go away. I'm busy," Rodney dismissed the other man.
"It is the list of new scientists the SGC is sending us," Radek stood his ground.
"I don't care," Rodney snarled.
"Rodney," Radek said softly.
Rodney sighed and stopped typing. "Radek, I honestly do not care who the SGC sends us at this point," Rodney rubbed his forehead. "Most of them will wash out in two weeks and we will send them back and maybe.... maybe, one will be good enough to stay. I'm tired of it."
"I think.... I know. You need to look at the list," Radek suggested.
Rodney closed his eyes wearily. "I gave all of that over to you for a reason," Rodney answered. "I. Don't. Care."
Radek put a hand on Rodney's drooping shoulder. "I know, my friend, and do not think there are nights that I do not curse you for that," Radek said. "This time... you need to look."
"Rodney...." a note of warning in that one word.
"Yes, yes, yes," Rodney promised. "I will look."
"That is all I ask," Radek replied. Knowing he would get nothing more from Rodney, he left as quietly as he came.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Rodney thought to himself. With his luck, they were sending Kavanaugh back to them. Again. Even he was better than most of the recruits they had lately. He'd look after dinner....
Rodney was working at his computer when the lights of the city glowed brighter momentarily, like a sudden power surge. He tapped his keyboard and checked the main power logs and didn't see what might be causing the surge.
"Radek?" Rodney tapped his comm. "What's going on? I'm not seeing what caused the power spike."
"You did not check the list as I asked, did you?" Radek replied maddeningly.
"List? What fucking list?" Rodney snarled.
"The new scientists we were to receive from the SGC," Radek sighed patiently. "I asked you to check the list two days ago and you obviously did not."
"How is that related to the power surge?" Rodney demanded.
"Please," Radek asked. "Come to the gate room."
Rodney hadn't heard the signal for the gate activation since he had located his personal lab to a sea-level suite of rooms on the south pier and no longer monitored the command staff communicator frequency. It was two transporter hops and a short walk to his lab from almost anywhere and it kept him isolated from most of the residents of the city. Which is exactly what he wanted.
Radek called back quickly, "No, wait. Give us an hour and I ask that you come to the main lab." A hesitation. "Please."
"All right, all right." Rodney huffed. "There had better be a good reason for this."
"It will be," Radek promised.
Rodney set a timer to remind him when the 60 minutes were up and went back to scour the power logs for the source of the problem. He was startled when the timer went off but shut down his work and stretched some of the kinks out of his back. He strolled to the transporter and came out on the corridor outside the main lab.
Either his lab was getting dingy or the lights were brighter here today, Rodney thought idly. Voices came from the lab... Radek and Miko were talking to another person. The voice was familiar.... no......
John Sheppard looked up at Rodney as he stood in the door of the lab. Something flashed in John's eyes to be replaced by... concern?
"Rodney, are you all right?" Radek's worried voice came through the rushing noise in his head.
"If you think.... " Rodney started. "This is not..... " He was rooted to the spot.
"Hey," John drawled.
"Don't..." Don't you fucking hey me! Rodney stopped himself and took a deep breath. "What are you doing here?" He couldn't keep the hurt or accusation out of his voice.
Radek spoke up, "Dr. Sheppard is one of our new scientists from the SGC. A mathematician, to be exact."
Radek stepped closer to Rodney. "I told you to check the list," he said softly.
"No. No. No. No. No," Rodney gibbered. He turned and walked away.
"Rodney!" Radek's voice came from behind him but Rodney didn't stop.
Rodney slapped the door of his lab shut and locked it. Although Atlantis, the whore, would probably roll over and let John... no, Sheppard... it had to be Sheppard he thought firmly, in if he asked nicely.
Rodney called up the list that Radek had been trying to get him to look at and there it was. Dr. John Sheppard, mathematics. Without really thinking, he called up the attached personnel file.
Doctorate in applied mathematics... specialization in non-Euclidean geometry... fast tracked to return to Atlantis from the notations on the file -- they were still desperate for natural gene carriers, Carson's therapy worked on fewer and fewer new recruits for some unknown reason. Jennifer had started to work on that before... Rodney shut that train of thought down ruthlessly.... He called up the attached dissertation.....
Stunned, Rodney shut down the file hours later. His eyes were gritty with exhaustion... what time was it? He looked, it was going on midnight and he had been in the lab all day. He needed some food, a shower and some sleep.... Eat, piss and sleep when you can drifted through his head. John.... Sheppard had drilled that into him on missions. He shook his head to clear it.
Mechanically, Rodney shut down his computers and closed up for the night. He really didn't have to keep any special hours, especially since he had turned over running the labs to Radek, but he had been keeping 'normal' hours to keep Radek, or worse, Miko, from nagging him. Well, Miko wouldn't nag but she would tell Teyla, which was even worse.
Teyla! Did she know Jo.. Sheppard was back? He couldn't worry about that now. He let himself out of the lab and worked his way back to the center of the city. The cafeteria was open and staffed around the clock with the growth in population over the past three years. Between the growing military contingent and the expansion of the scientific staff, Woolsey had persuaded the IOA and the SGC to finally provide proper support staff in many areas. As a result there were real cafeteria workers, housekeeping staff and maintenance workers to take care of much of the drudge work instead of the soldiers and scientists having to do double duty. There was also a day care center and the beginnings of a school for the children that had started to appear over the past couple of years. Atlantis wasn't really kid-friendly yet but they were working on it.
"Can I get a ham and Swiss sandwich, chips and a bottled water?" Rodney asked the person behind the counter. Finding the ZedPM factory, even with its limited output, let them open the gate to Earth on a regular basis and get food and supplies they couldn't replicate in Pegasus. It also let them send personnel back and forth routinely.
"Dr. McKay! Haven't seen you at this hour in quite a while," the woman enthused. "Working on a special project?"
"Yeah, something like that," he evaded.
"I assume you've seen Dr. Sheppard," she went on cheerfully oblivious, "weren't you on a gate team together when he was here before?"
"Yes," he answered shortly.
"Isn't it great that he's come back?" she went on. "And you'll be working together again..." She stopped when she finally realized he was glaring at her.
"My sandwich?" he gritted out.
She handed the food to him in silence, curiosity in her eyes. He took it from her gracelessly and stalked away.
He took the meal to his room, no longer hungry but knowing he needed to eat. He had been eating regularly enough lately that his hypoglycemia wasn't going to be an issue but he knew better than to risk it. The sandwich sat like lead in his stomach and only the hot shower relieved some of the tension in his body.
He lay in the bed not really expecting to sleep but he must have since it was now daylight. He wasn't rested and really didn't want to get up. As he considered what few options he had, his radio chirped.
"Rodney." It was Teyla. "Torren wants to know if you will be joining us for breakfast this morning."
"Not today," he answered. "I have work that needs to be done."
"Rodney." It was the you cannot hide behind your work tone that he had come to know so well.
"No. Just no," he replied. At the silence, he relented, "Not today, please."
"Will I see you for your workout?" she asked. Even though he didn't go off of Atlantis unless there was something exceptional for him to work on, Teyla had talked Rodney into keeping up his training with her. They had not practiced in almost a week since she had been away on a diplomatic mission with Cadman's team.
He rubbed his eyes and gave in, "Yes, I'll be there."
He made coffee in his lab and ate the chips he hadn't eaten the night before. He stared at the computer screen for a while, shutting it down when it was time for his session with Teyla.
She nodded a greeting, "We missed you this morning. Torren wants to know when he will see his Uncle Rodney."
"I'll stop by before dinner," he offered. If he didn't come out, Teyla would come after him. Only Teyla still had the ability to make Rodney participate in anything resembling social activities anymore and she used that ruthlessly. Inside, he was grateful that of all the people he had let into his life that she had not left or given up on him.
Rodney soon found himself in a familiar position, on his back looking up at the ceiling. He knew he had not been paying attention and should have known better than to work out with his thoughts as scattered as they were. He heard Teyla sit on the floor next to him.
"I do not know why you are avoiding him," she floated.
He couldn't pretend to not know what -- who -- she was talking about. "I can't....." Rodney stuttered. "I don't know what to say." He levered himself up to sit next to her.
"You could start with 'hello' and move on to 'how are you' and I think much of the rest will be simple," Teyla suggested.
Rodney sighed. "But then he will ask me how I am and.... even I don't know how I am," Rodney protested.
"Rodney," Teyla replied patiently, "we have been through this. You are fine and that is all that is required."
He rubbed his forehead, "Right now I am not fine and.... and I do not want to face him." Rodney sat up. "Have you seen him?" Rodney asked curiously.
"He was at breakfast and was disappointed that you did not join us," Teyla admitted. "But he seems to be doing well and is glad to be back in Atlantis." A pause. "John asked how you were doing."
"I know, I know," Rodney hung his head. "It's just that.... I've just gotten used to being single again since..." Teyla looked hard at him for a moment and he had to say it out loud, "Jennifer died. He left after the wedding and I still don't know why."
"Rodney," Teyla said firmly. "Jennifer would not want you to hide in your lab, you and I have talked about that. She asked me to make sure that you took care of yourself and your friends do want to see you. And I think if you ask, John would tell you why he left."
"It doesn't matter anymore," Rodney replied. He knew that didn't fool Teyla, he barely fooled himself.
Teyla answered, "I think it is something that has been left unfinished. John did not tell me the real reason why he left but I do think he owes you some explanation. You have to be willing to listen and for that you have to talk to him."
"You left!" Rodney accused. "You didn't tell me you weren't coming back -- I had to hear it from Woolsey!"
John sighed. "I couldn't stay." He rubbed the back of his neck, an unconscious signal that he was uncomfortable or unsure of himself. Rodney couldn't tell which... Maybe it was both.
"What? What happened?" Rodney demanded. He had been over and over it in his head in the weeks and months after John had left and he couldn't think of anything that would have caused the other man to resign his military commission and leave Atlantis.
"Don't push it," John warned, his voice strained.
Rodney needed to understand. He knew this was important if he was ever to know why John had stopped being his friend. "I have to," he answered, wincing at the whine that lay under the words. "I need to know why you left.... I need to know what I did that was so bad that you had to leave."
"YOU GOT MARRIED TO JENNIFER KELLER!" John roared.
"D'oh," Rodney replied automatically. "You were there... the best man." He looked at John's stricken face and stopped. "Wait. What.... No... No.... No.... Don't tell me you wanted Jennifer, too!" Rodney snorted. "I had enough problems with Ronon wanting Jennifer in the beginning." He pointed a finger at John. "I can't be happy, can I? Anyone I wanted you were always there taking her away from me. Don't deny it."
Rodney couldn't read the look on John's face and, as he watched, the other man sagged into himself and dropped his head. He watched John take several deep, ragged breaths.
John stood, slightly unbalanced, his face pale but giving nothing away. He walked to the door, stopped and with his back to Rodney said, "I'll turn in my resignation to Radek and go back to Earth as soon as he lets me leave. I'll.... I'll stay out of your way in the meantime."
"John! No...." Rodney protested, bewildered. "I don't understand...." He flinched at the hurt in his own voice.
A short bitter laugh then a soft, broken voice that Rodney had to strain to hear, "I didn't want Jennifer. I wanted you." John walked out.
Rodney only knew time had passed when he realized the shadows had moved on the floor. He had been staring at the closed door for hours.
"What did you do?" Radek demanded as he stormed into Rodney's lab.
"What do you mean 'what did I do?'" Rodney countered.
"John has turned in his resignation and has asked to leave Atlantis," Radek steamed. It was the quiet anger that meant Rodney had really pissed off the other scientist. "You had to have done something to cause this."
Rodney sat back in his chair and sighed. "I... He....." Rodney swallowed. "I don't know how to do this," Rodney confessed brokenly.
That stopped Radek. Rodney saw him take a long, hard look at him and then looked in amazement, "You've just figured it out? After all this time?"
Rodney looked up, "All this time? What? How long have you...." Rodney gritted his teeth, hating to have to ask. "How long have you known?" .... and who else knew?
Radek lay a hand on Rodney's arm, "Known? There was always talk and I was surprised when you married Jennifer. But.... the Colonel.... John and you? A long time, my friend. A long time."
"Oh, make me feel even worse about the entire thing," Rodney muttered softly.
"You have to fix it," Radek persisted.
Rodney sighed bleakly, "I don't know how."
As the door shut behind Teyla, Rodney offered, "I think we've been set up."
"You think?" the other man replied solemnly and suddenly Rodney missed the easy grin and the laid back John that had gone away almost four years ago. It hit Rodney just how much he had missed his friend.
"I'm sorry," Rodney offered into the growing silence. "I.... I've behaved badly and..... " A deep breath. "Don't leave. Please."
John took a step closer and stopped. "I don't know if I can. Stay, that is," he replied. "I don't want to cause more problems.... for you."
Rodney looked up into hazel eyes that in an unguarded moment were full of pain -- then it was gone to be replaced by a blank look. Rodney didn't know which was worse. "You have to go a long way to be any more trouble than I have been," he snorted. "They've put up with a lot of shit from me over the past couple of years and I'm still here."
"They need you," John answered softly.
"And they need you, too," Rodney countered quickly then stopped before he could add anything incredibly stupid. Rodney brought out his clincher, "Worst of all, Teyla will be disappointed."
John flinched at that and looked down at his feet. "And you?" he asked softly.
Fuck it, pride was overrated. "I need you," he admitted.
"Knowing that I...." John waved a hand between them.
Rodney's turn to look at his feet. "I was surprised and..... yes.... please stay."
John was silent, standing across the room.
Filling the silence, Rodney went on, "I don't know how to do this. I spent the better part of the first year you were gone wracking my brain, reading mission reports and watching security tapes to see what I had done to make you leave. Then..." a deep breath, "Jennifer got sick. Damned Hoffan drug got to her after she spent all that time trying to find a cure. She figured she slipped up in the lab and contaminated herself and... we spent a year fighting it. The SGC wanted to bring her back but she wanted to stay.... She died one night, peacefully... Then I was alone. And I've been alone long enough that I don't know how to do this."
"We could..." Rodney's head jerked up in surprise at the roughness in John's voice. "We could start over," John hesitated. He walked closer to Rodney and stuck out his hand, "Hi, I'm Dr. John Sheppard and they tell me I work for you."
Rodney stared at the hand and found his own moving to take it. "Dr. Rodney McKay," he replied automatically. They shook briefly and, when John let go, he noticed that his hand was cold and missed the warmth of the brief contact.
"Nice to meet you, Dr. McKay," John answered solemnly.
Two days later, Rodney stood at the door to John's room and pressed the bell. He shuffled his feet nervously while he waited. John opened the door and looked at Rodney but didn't say anything.
"I.... thought...." Rodney took a deep breath. "Thought maybe we could get something to eat.... dinner.... it's dinner time. And maybe..... " Rodney stopped himself from babbling any further. "Join me?"
John took the invitation as the peace offering that it was and nodded, "Sure. Was getting hungry."
"Okay. Okay then," Rodney responded. "I hear there's meatloaf."
John snorted. "Hope it's better than the purple stew from yesterday." They walked to the transporter that would take them to the cafeteria.
"Oh my god! No one warned you about the stew!" Rodney exclaimed. "Never eat purple anything -- any other color stew is actually pretty good, but the purple stew has some nasty vegetable that someone insists is good for us so they try to serve it regularly but no one really likes it. I think it's a contest to see who gives in first.... either the cafeteria will stop serving it or someone will actually eat it."
"I wondered what Teyla was laughing about. Any other color food I should know anything about?" John asked.
Food was a safe topic, Rodney knew, so he babbled on about some of the experiments that the cafeteria had run over the past couple of years that John would have missed. That got them to the cafeteria and choosing their meal. The meatloaf was the good kind... not that one really knew what 'meat' was in the meatloaf but it had a familiar texture and a good taste and was always popular.
It wasn't until they had set their trays down that Rodney realized they had sat at what would have been their 'team table' before John left. He looked down at his tray in confusion and started to say something when John put in, "It's okay, Rodney" and he could relax.
They ate in relatively comfortable silence and it wasn't until they were done that Rodney realized he had run out of things to say. There was only so much he could talk about the food and he didn't know where to start.
"I'm sorry about Jennifer," John said into the silence. Rodney looked up at the other man. "She didn't deserve..." John trailed off.
"..to die," Rodney finished softly. He took a swallow of coffee to give himself a moment to compose himself. "Teyla's been making me talk about her.... since the funeral. It's not easy but..... it's just not so hard anymore."
"You were happy," John replied. "That was what was important."
"I... I don't know what I was," Rodney answered honestly. "She... she did make me happy. The idea of getting married made her happy and.... I didn't know I could do that for anyone...." Rodney paused. "Make them happy, that is." He sighed.
Rodney looked up at John, "I'm sorry. I ... I didn't know."
John flushed. "You weren't meant to know," he admitted. "That's my fault. I didn't want to give up Atlantis and then.... it was too late and ...."
"So now what?" Rodney asked.
"I don't know," John admitted. "I.... sorry about earlier. It's just that.... well...." That trailed off into silence.
After staring at his tray for a minute, Rodney snorted. "We're a fine pair."
John laughed and the tension that had been growing didn't totally disappear but it was less uncomfortable. "Since I seem to remember that I work for you, how about if we do some work?" John asked.
"Radek's taken over running the labs," Rodney countered.
"You're technically still the Chief Science Officer?" John asked.
"He wouldn't take the title when I.... " when I wanted to give up, "so, I guess I am..." Rodney answered. He thought for a second. "We can work on that dissertation of yours, you know. You're close to solving Hodge there..."
John looked startled. "You think so?"
Rodney snorted disgust, "Who was your adviser and he should have known that."
John shrugged. "He was a statistician and the only one who would work with me on the schedule I wanted to finish on," he elaborated. "I didn't get along with the geometry guy and Friehnd was the department chair so he pretty much got stuck with me."
"And they say I don't play well with others," Rodney grumped but smiled to take the sting out of that.
"What makes you think I'm close to solving Hodge?" John asked.
"Okay, we need to look at your work," Rodney decided, "and I need a computer and a white board."
"Your lab?" John offered.
"My lab," Rodney agreed. "Come on."
".... see? You've solved a particular subset here and this takes care of some specific cases, but you're missing a couple of key pieces to generalize the work," Rodney pointed out.
"Let me try this," John took the marker from Rodney and wrote on the board. "Does this help?"
"That's closer," Rodney admitted, eyes narrowing as he thought.
"I wanted to do something with that, but Friehnd talked me out of it to keep the defense cleaner," John explained. "And I can't explain it but I know that has something to do with the solution."
"Well, the Millennial problems are out there for a reason, they aren't easy," Rodney offered. "But this.... this is closer than I suspect anyone has come." Before he could stop himself he asked, "Why MIT?"
John looked at the marker in his hand. "It was about as far from Colorado as I could get at the time," he said slowly. "They have a handful of Air Force contracts and Sam Carter knew the head of the admissions committee. Since I wasn't looking for an assistantship, I could get admitted mid-year." A rueful grin. "The advantage of being able to pay my own way."
It was one of the few references he had heard John make to the Sheppard money and Rodney suspected the location near the ocean also had something to do with it but wisely kept all of that to himself. Now was not the time to bring up delicate topics. "Okay, work on that in your spare time," he directed. "I need some work on the ZedPM factory done to decide what it will take to get it into full production."
"Can I see it?" John asked eagerly. "The factory?"
Rodney shrugged, "Not much to see. Which is why it was so hard to find. 'Factory' is a misnomer but someone called it that early on and the description stuck. The real guts of it are on a moon back in the other solar system... one time the Ancients thought about safety. The piece that's here is just another lab. A closet, actually."
"That makes sense," John agreed.
"For once," Rodney scoffed. "The 3 to 4 ZedPMs per year we're getting from it at the moment are more than helpful but the database indicates we should be able to get at least a dozen or more. If we had that many we could send even more back to Earth as well as spread them out here in Pegasus."
"That would make things easier for a lot of people," John agreed. "Okay." He yawned. "I'm calling it a night," he mumbled through the yawn. "You coming?"
"In a bit," Rodney replied. "I have a couple of things I need to set up for tomorrow."
"Don't stay late," John told him.
The casually voiced concern was somehow both familiar and warming, Rodney thought.
Rodney realized they both were over-cautious at first. They worked together and ate occasional meals together, mostly breakfast with Teyla and Torren. John went running by himself most mornings and Rodney would sleep to what he considered a 'normal' hour and Rodney soon realized that Teyla simply adjusted her schedule to theirs.
On the tour of the ZedPM factory, John looked around and agreed, "You're right, it's not much." The single console in the room had a handful of indicator lights and a small video screen.
Rodney shrugged. "When this indicator," he pointed to one of the lights, "turns green, there's another ZedPM ready. Press the button next to the light and it sends itself to Atlantis through the gate."
"Anyone been out to the moon?" John inquired, scanning the information on the screen.
"Yeah, but nothing to see," Rodney answered. "The moon barely has enough gravity to stand on, no atmosphere, the facility is sealed and we didn't want to break anything so we've left it be. But the information in the database shows that regular capacity should be at least triple what we're getting and maximum capacity is beyond that. Not that I'm complaining." He rolled his eyes at John's disbelieving snort. "Really. We have enough power to pretty much do what we want at the moment."
"Okay," John replied. "I'll do what I can with it."
"McKay! Where's Sheppard?"
Rodney looked up at the question. "Ronon! Welcome back!"
"Good to see you," Ronon answered. He waited.
Rodney grinned, "Sheppard's doing some work with the biologists. They wanted to try his super gene in a greenhouse they're restoring. Go find him there or he should be back here for lunch."
"I'll go there," Ronon declared.
Rodney yelled after the retreating form, "Let him finish before you drag him away!" He had to be satisfied with a vague wave but figured John would be able to get Ronon to wait.
Rodney thought back to Ronon's leaving, not long after John went back to Earth. Ronon at least stopped by to say a proper 'good bye' before he left, explaining he was going back to Sateda to see what he could salvage of the planet now that the Wraith were less of a danger.
It was Teyla that had talked Ronon into taking refugees. There were too many worlds that didn't have the resources to survive on or had too small of a population to be viable for any length of time. At least on Sateda, Ronon could help them find homesteads and to use the ruins as a resource to build new towns and cities. It was a project that would take decades but at least it was a beginning. Rodney had gone to Sateda a couple of times -- mostly at Teyla's insistence -- to give Ronon help with technical issues or to supposedly supervise the engineering crews. Rodney knew it was Teyla's way to keep him busy and get him out of his lab.
Rodney found John and Ronon, and Teyla, at lunch. He grabbed a sandwich, fruit and coffee and moved to join them. They were laughing over something Ronon had evidently said.
In a moment of déjà vu, Rodney was thrown back to happier times and for a nano-second expected Elizabeth to walk in. He shook his head and sat down, simply glad that they were alive and together.
Ronon stayed for a week before going back to Sateda. On his last night, they had a team movie night with Torren and Kanaan. With regular contact with Earth they had new television shows and movies routinely. They sat through the newest Dr. Who episodes -- Rodney had to put in, "I liked Nine better, this kid is so.... young."
"You're getting old," Ronon teased.
"More mature," Rodney shot back. God, it felt good. He had missed this.
They waved Ronon off in the morning but not until he had extracted a promise that they would all come to help in the next few weeks. He was negotiating with two more refugee groups that should be arriving in the next month and he could use some help with getting them settled somewhat further from the Stargate than previous groups. "We're ready to start moving across the mountains and the roads need more work than we can manage. Was hoping you'd be able to help," Ronon asked.
"Shouldn't be a problem," Rodney replied. "I have to clear it with Woolsey but he's been supportive so far. We'll send word in the next day or so."
It took a lot longer than Rodney had figured it would but he couldn't say he hadn't thought about it.
"But, Rodney..." John all but whined.
"Don't. Just. Don't," Rodney snapped. He took a deep breath and looked John steadily in the eye. "As your friend, I need to tell you that what you're asking has dangerous and stupid written all over it and I would try to talk you out of it." Deep mental breath. "As your supervisor, I'm telling you no and don't want to discuss it until you show me it can be done safely."
John's look of hurt pained Rodney but he couldn't show it. Rodney wanted to beg John to understand but he was on his own for this one and if John wouldn't give him the authority he needed, they might as well both quit now.
Rodney could see the realization in John's eyes that Rodney indeed was the boss and trying to get around protocols and rules based on friendship was unfair to both of them.
"Safely?" he grinned ruefully.
"Safely," Rodney affirmed. I don't want to see you get killed by something stupid, he thought to himself.
"Okay, I get it," John agreed. He ducked his head and then looked back up, "Thanks."
Rodney breathed a bit more easily. "No problem."
Trips to Sateda became a part of their routine. John and Rodney would help Ronon with some of the endless list of projects -- rooting through buildings for salvage use, helping refugees construct homes, clearing land for planting and just helping the variety of people integrate into the population.
Jeannie sent yet another demand disguised as an invitation to come to Earth to visit that Rodney reluctantly accepted. He generally let Radek deal with the SGC and IOA reports that needed to be done and he avoided all but the most cursory contact with those entities but Jeannie could not be ignored. It had been almost ten years since Jennifer died and eight since John had come back and Rodney had spent several vacations on Earth with Jeannie's family. Madison was growing up and just about ready for college, which was the only reason he accepted this particular invitation.
"Come with me?" Rodney asked John over breakfast. "You only take the week that Woolsey makes you take and he shouldn't have any reason to not let you go."
John looked up in surprise. "I don't want to intrude..."
"Jeannie and Madison would love to see you," Rodney declared. "I just need someone else there to play referee. Madison's going off to college soon and.... she's so bright that I want to make sure she goes to the right school."
John leaned back, "If she's as bright as you think, what makes you think she wouldn't know what she was doing?"
"Well, okay, if you must," Rodney admitted, "I know she wants to go somewhere that Jeannie and Kaleb can't afford. Even with what the SGC's paid her for consulting over the years, Kaleb's never made that much and...." Rodney flushed, "I'd like to pay the bills." He threw a look at John, "But Jeannie's not to know until it's too late."
John laughed, "Okay, that's easier than you think. Let me put you in touch with David and the lawyers can set up a tuition fund that's anonymous to Madison, the school can make it look like a scholarship. No one besides you needs to know until you want."
Rodney beamed, "That's perfect." He hesitated, "Ummm... You talk to your brother?" Even after all this time John never talked about his family willingly and Rodney had no reason to ask since he wasn't terribly forthcoming about his.
John's turn to look at his tray, "We keep in touch. By email mostly. I spent some time with him when I was... away... and we agreed to disagree and leave it at that. But there are family things I need to do occasionally and he tells me about his kids." A shrug that could mean anything. "But he'd help you if you want."
Deciding that this was as much as John would ever say, Rodney agreed, "Thanks. That will help." He pointed a finger, "But that doesn't mean you're not invited. Jeannie does ask after you and, well, it's easier if you just come."
A real smile this time, "Sure, I'd like to come."
"Rodney, what did you do?"
Rodney looked up at John and answered, "About what?"
"Rodney...." John drawled.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Rodney answered but he had a suspicion.
John sighed, "I got an email from the Clay Institute. They wanted to confirm that my proof solved the Hodge Conjecture and when can I come for the award ceremony." He pointed at Rodney, "I know I didn't send it in and so you must have."
Rodney had to swallow a grin. "Me?" he tried to sound aggrieved. "Why would I do anything like that?"
He couldn't keep a straight face and the grin oozed out. "And what's so bad about that?"
"I.... it wasn't ready," John protested.
"And it would never be ready if I left you to it," Rodney pointed out. "Evidently, it was fine."
"No buts," Rodney was firm. Then smiled, "Congratulations."
John rolled his eyes. "For that you have to come with me to the ceremony," John pointed at Rodney.
Oh. For a moment Rodney regretted the Nobel he knew he'd never win but he couldn't let his own dreams infringe on John's accomplishment. "Like you could keep me away," he confirmed.