The tiny slump of John's shoulders told Rodney volumes. It had been John who had taught him *Learn who they are; it's easier, and harder, that way.* Rodney knew from personal experience exactly how hard that was. He wanted to go to John and talk to him, but he was being dragged in the opposite direction by Carson Beckett to be treated for his own injuries and to oversee the return of the members of the expedition to the city. Rodney's last glimpse of John showed he hadn't yet moved.
By the time Beckett let Rodney out of the infirmary, it was late and Rodney needed food and sleep, in that order. A detour through the gate room showed that John was gone, as were the bodies. In fact, the gate room was cleaned up and no sign of the struggle remained. Rodney briefly wondered who had taken care of that.
Since everyone was busy cleaning up from the storm or had returned from a planet that had a different time-of-day, Rodney was glad to see the kitchen was open and had soup and sandwiches available. He grabbed a sandwich that looked to be near-turkey and a bowl of he-didn't-want-to-know vegetable soup, as well as the inevitable coffee. Beckett had been nagging for him to cut back, but this wasn't the time to go through caffeine withdrawal. Rodney took his food and sat to eat.
While debating whether he had the energy to get another sandwich, Rodney heard footsteps approach. He forced himself to focus and found Sergeant Bates and Dr. Kusinagi sitting with him. Kusinagi gave Rodney another cup of coffee and pushed a muffin across the table for him.
"Thanks," Rodney mumbled. They let him take a bite of the muffin. "You guys had the gate room cleaned up?" They nodded. "Good job." *Say thank you* ghosted across his memory. It wasn't good for morale for those coming back through the gate to immediately come face-to-face with evidence of the struggle that went on there.
"What do we need to know?" Bates asked.
Realizing that they were concerned about both cleaning up and security, he should have thought to brief them before this. Since they were coming to him, they probably hadn't talked to John yet.
"Major Sheppard took care of the Genii running around the city. There probably are bodies to clean up. Check the generator rooms and…," he rubbed his eyes. "I guess I don't know where else." He thought for a second. "Sora may know where anyone was. Ask her if you can't find Sheppard," Rodney directed. "And ask her about returning any bodies back to the Genii homeworld."
"Why would we do that?" Bates growled. And added after a beat, "Sir."
Rodney sighed. It was confusing in his head, but he owed them something of an explanation. "After what they did to us, I normally wouldn't. But, well, we wouldn't be here at all if Sora hadn't helped in the end. So, while I don't want to let her run loose, it's one way of acknowledging that. She can escort the bodies back and we're rid of them all," Rodney outlined.
Rodney felt as much saw the look Bates and Kusinagi exchanged. Rodney didn't like it any better than Bates did, but he hoped that Kusinagi would be able to make it work. It was times like this that he appreciated the team they had become.
While Rodney truly and passionately hated the Genii as a race, he knew that the bodies in Atlantis were fathers, brothers, sons, friends to someone back on their planet. He couldn't do anything about those that died in the wormhole, but these few bodies he could return. He didn't have the words to convey that to the two sitting with him, but he hoped that Kusinagi would understand.
"We will take care of it, then," Kusinagi said softly. "Anything else?"
Rodney finished up what they had brought. He thought for a minute, "I don't know. I need some sleep – it's been a long day."
"Go then," Kusinagi directed. "We will be fine."
"Anyone Sheppard didn't get should have died as the energy ran through the city, but have your people on alert for stragglers? We don't know exactly how many came through the gate, and if someone is hiding…" Rodney didn't need to finish that.
"We already have our people on alert," Bates assured Rodney. "Go," he repeated Kusinagi's command.
"Yes, mom," Rodney said, without heat. He got up and nodded at them.
Rodney woke to full daylight. For a moment he was confused – he should have been up hours ago – but realized that everyone had probably conspired to let him sleep in. If anything had been serious, he hoped they would call, but he had to admit to himself he needed the sleep.
After showering and dressing, Rodney figured that while the world may come to an end some day later in the week, this was Pegasus after all, it wouldn't end this morning if he got some breakfast first. He needed coffee and food before he was ready to continue with the clean up.
Rodney looked around as he sat down to eat. Most of the residents evidently came back during the night and things were almost back to where they had been before the storm. His inbox was probably full but he wasn't ready to face it. No one had called him on the communicator, so everything was relatively quiet – for the moment.
After returning his tray, Rodney didn't go up to his office but started to wander around the city. He made a conscious effort to visit as many different areas as he could. He didn't stop long in any one place, but simply said hello, asked if anyone needed anything and answered what questions he could.
After about the sixth stop, Rodney realized he was looking for John. He hadn't seen the other man since the night before in the gate room and there was a frisson of worry going up and down his spine. Rodney resisted using the communicator to page John, but he planned his route to come through the gate room and the mess as he could, the additional stops in the mess let him grab coffee and a sandwich on the go, to increase his chances of running in to John 'accidentally.'
By late afternoon, Rodney still hadn't come across John. Without conscious decision, he found himself in front of the door to John's room. He hesitated, not knowing what to do next. As he dithered, an uncomfortable feeling, Rodney found, the door opened. He took that as an invitation and moved into the room. The door closed behind him.
Rodney blurted, "I was starting to worry about you." Then stopped because that wasn't what he had intended to say at all. Damn. Deep breath. "Umm… You okay?" he tried again.
John gave a short laugh. "No, not really," he admitted. He looked up at Rodney and said, "Sit, already." He sat up on the bed and made room for Rodney to sit on the other end. They really needed more furniture, Rodney thought and put the thought aside to deal with later.
"Um… How'd you know…" Rodney floated.
John held up the life sign detector he had used to track the Genii. "Figured you'd be the first one to really look for me," he shrugged. "No one else has missed me."
Rodney looked at John, startled. Then he frowned and snorted, "Well, that's your own fault. You've trained everyone to come to me, so they did. Anything that couldn't wait, and there's a lot that could, I invented answers to. So you're stuck with whatever I did since you weren't there to decide for yourself. There's plenty that needs your attention." Rodney stabbed a finger at the computer on the desk and said, "Check your messages once in a while, would you? Geez."
John flushed at that. It was then that Rodney remembered how alone John was here. The Air Force Major leading a group of Marines after the death of their commander wasn't exactly what John had been anticipating when they came to Atlantis. Leadership for John had been just as unexpected as it had been for Rodney. John had just seemed -- better -- at it. Eyes narrowing, Rodney took a good look at his friend and didn't like what he saw. Rodney asked himself, how did he, the world's worst people-person, end up in this situation of needing to help someone else?
"Who were they?" Rodney asked gently.
"Martins and Boxler," John replied. "Martins was divorced but had a kid he had hoped to see again someday. He had faith that we'd re-connect with Earth and he could go home." John shook his head.
"How have you managed?" Rodney had to ask. "They aren't the first…." Rodney didn't finish that to include *and won't be the last.* That went without saying.
John was silent for longer than Rodney liked. Forcing himself to wait John out and not leave him off the hook for an answer, Rodney started to calculate the value of pi in his head and got to about 75 digits before John spoke again.
"They teach you what to do, just not how to deal with it," John said slowly. "You write letters to the family, you do the paperwork, you have someone to contact to arrange a service. But you're usually on a base where someone else makes the arrangements and there's an XO to take care of the paperwork. And a chaplain to do the service. Here? I've pushed some of the paperwork on Stackhouse, but I've done everything else myself."
Rodney asked, "Have you thought about talking to Kate at all?"
John shot him a glance that told Rodney that was unlikely to happen. Rodney had grown up going to a variety of psychiatrists and psychologists and was more-or-less comfortable with it. It didn't surprise him that John wouldn't talk to Kate. On the other hand, that put Rodney in the scary position of trying to keep John talking to him. Well, nothing like jumping in with both feet. "Then talk to me," Rodney directed. "I wouldn't have survived this long without you, you idiot. Least I can do is try to return the favor."
Rodney got another 50 digits into the value of pi before John started talking. John didn't look at Rodney, but down at his bare feet on the bed.
"The Genii on the pier and in the generator rooms, they were easy. They were the enemy and out to get me," John said baldly. "That made it even. It was when I closed the shield on the gate. I had never heard that sound before…. The sound of a body hitting the shield." Rodney saw John closing his eyes, re-living the horror. "I lost count after about a dozen and…. I couldn't….." John looked up, Rodney held his breath at the pain in the hazel eyes. "I heard Sora say that there were over 50 Genii in that contingent. I was glad..then..they hadn't gotten through. Now that it's sunk in, what I did, I don't know what to feel." John shifted in place.
Rodney had to remember that John had never been through a Stargate before coming to Atlantis. Flying for the Air Force, even in ugly places like Afghanistan, didn't prepare anyone for the up-close-and-personal effects of a Stargate. Rodney realized he was fortunate in never having to deliberately put up a shield when people were in transit. Fighting with Samantha Carter about whether they could get Teal'c out of the buffer of the Stargate didn't even come close.
"But then, at the end, with Kolya in the gate room. That was easy again. Too easy," John gave a short, sad laugh. "I wanted him dead for what he had done to… us. To Atlantis. When he had his hand on you, ready to take you through the Stargate, I knew that wasn't going to happen. I wasn't going to let that happen," he said with more control in his voice. "He had already hurt you, I wasn't going to let that bastard take *you*," John said, with a look that Rodney couldn't quite identify.
Oh. OH! John was…. Rodney realized he didn't know what John was. But the notion that this might be something more than simple friendship washed over Rodney. He closed his eyes and let the feeling sink in. It felt good -- and right. Rodney opened his eyes and saw the wariness in John's pose. Rodney grinned at him and watched John visibly relax.
"Idiot," Rodney said fondly. "You take too many chances, you know. You know what kind of mess we'd be in if Kolya had shot you?"
Rodney unfolded himself from the end of the bed and said, "Come on. I need some dinner and you have work to do. I'll bet you haven't eaten all day, either. Beckett's going to give you hell, you know, if you run yourself into the ground." *I will too, if you don't take care of yourself.* Rodney kept that thought to himself. Whatever they had was too fragile yet to speak of it out loud.
"Dinner sounds good," John agreed, reaching for his boots.
As they walked to the mess, Rodney outlined what he had done and what he had left for John to do. As they got to the mess, John stopped and said softly, "Thanks."
Rodney knew this would work, somehow. It wouldn't be easy but it would be worth it. His smile was brilliant when he said, "My pleasure."