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Facts of Life

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After surviving a war unscathed, John always regarded it as ironic that the first major injury of his adult life was in suburbia. An easy early morning jog while it was still dark, everything peaceful and quiet, no one on the streets but him, his dog, and the paper delivery guy, when a car swerved and John found himself flying through the air as Einstein barked angrily.

He came to with the sensation of dewy grass under him, splitting pain radiating from his leg, and Einstein's doggy breath in his face, his tongue licking John's cheek. "Einstein," he said fuzzily, waiting for the driver to check on him, raising his head enough to look around and realize that the car was gone. Asshole. "Einstein," he repeated, grabbing his dog's head. "Go home, Einstein. Go home."

The dog whined, but John raised his torso up enough to slap him on his flank, and he ran off. Hopefully to home, because it would make this day even more of a bitch if John had to put up 'Lost Dog' fliers.

He flopped back on the grass, groaning at the pain even slight movement caused. John was pretty sure his leg was broken, and someone needed to show up soon or he'd go into shock. Dawn was beginning to break as he heard a door open and shut, and then open again, and a man's voice call out, "Hey! What are you doing there?"

"I'm hurt! Call 911!" John tried to yell, but his voice sounded weak to his ears.

Feet walking on the grass approached cautiously, and then a woman's, "Oh god, he's hurt. He's bleeding. Call emergency."

Then Einstein came bounding to his side to bark and lick his face, followed by the sound of screeching tires and car doors opening and slamming and Timmy ran up, dropping to his knees on the grass and Rodney's voice was loud and clear, "Yes, we're on State, State and Oak. I think he's been hit by a car. We need an ambulance immediately. John Sheppard, he's a police officer. Officer down. Address?" Finger snapping. "What address is this?" Rodney said, and the man gave a number, which Rodney repeated.

"Are you hurt bad?" Timmy asked, voice scared, and John patted his knee awkwardly. "I'll be okay," he promised.

Things remained sorta fuzzy. He knew Rodney was kneeling by him in the grass, one arm around Einstein to stop him from licking John, the other hand holding his cell phone while he called Marcia and Ronon to report they wouldn't be into work. Rodney and Timmy were both still in their pajamas, bathrobes, and slippers. Then Rodney was drowned out by the sound of sirens, and EMTs in uniforms were carefully touching him and shining light in his eyes and asking questions, which Rodney tried to answer. "He was hit by a car, can't you tell that? No, he's not on any medications. He won't even take aspirin. He suffers instead. No, I don't know if he's allergic to anything. Are you allergic to anything? John, why don't I know this?"

"Rodney's allergic to citrus," he told the guy, because that seemed important. Rodney's citrus allergy was always important.

"Yes, sir. Sir, are you allergic to any medication? Or are you on any medications?"

"No."

"No to which, sir? No to both?"

"No," John said again, and squeezed Timmy's hand. "I'm good," he reassured him, because Timmy still looked scared, his eyes big and his skin more pale than normal. "I'm good."

Then he was being braced and lifted onto a stretcher, and that hurt more and things got fuzzier. More sirens and he was in Emergency, a place he'd visited occasionally to talk to crime victims and he thought he wasn't fond of this side of the equation. Timmy was there, holding his hand again, in jeans and a brown t-shirt. John squinted and asked, "Shouldn't you be in school?"

"As if I would make him go, worrying about you," Rodney scolded, pressing a soft kiss to John's forehead.

"He'll miss class."

"He can make it up."

"Einstein brought you," John said dumbly. His mutt from the pound had gone home and got them. He must be part retriever.

"He gets steak tonight," Rodney promised.

"He'll like that," John thought he drifted off to sleep, not sure if he managed to say it or not. He got woken up to get carted off to x-rays and to have a cast put on, Rodney and Timmy always by his side, and after a while, Ronon a looming presence in the background. He slept some more and woke up looking for the three of them, but the figure sprawled in the chair by his bed was too thin to be either Rodney or Ronon. "Warren?"

"Hey, you're awake." Warren sat up straight. A few more touches of gray had settled in Warren's hair, but otherwise he looked pretty much the same as he had the last time John had seen him. A lot like John and their dad, though he'd lucked out with fewer cowlicks and ears and nose that were less pointy. "You want some water?"

"Yeah, that would be good."

Warren adjusted the controls so the bed rose, moving John to a semi-sitting position, and handed him a cup of water.

Feeling more aware, John realized he had both an IV and a catheter. Great. "What are you doing here?"

"I wasn't given a lot of choice when your angry Canadian called," Warren responded dryly. "Apparently I'm on your health care paperwork as your responsible party." Even called to an emergency, Warren was dressed pristinely, light gray button down shirt and black slacks with sharp creases. Warren's sense of style had always pleased their parents.

"Oh. Sorry. I didn't know anyone when I moved here." He should ask Rodney if he could change it to him.

"That's okay. It's been interesting. Besides, this'll be my last time. Your angry Canadian is getting all the paperwork done to be your designee."

"He's not angry."

"You haven't seen him today," Warren replied, but Timmy's jubilant, "Uncle John!" interrupted their conversation.

"Hey," John said, patting the bed when Timmy hesitated at the side. "Come up here." Timmy took the suggestion gratefully, climbing onto the bed and settling by John's side with an ease that eerily made John wonder how many times he'd lain by his mother when she was ill.

"Finally, you're awake," Rodney scolded, leaning over Timmy to kiss John lightly. "I knew running would be hazardous to your health."

Standing at the end of the bed, Ronon patted John's good leg. "You look better."

"You do have some color back," Rodney observed, examining John's face critically. "Not much, but you're getting there, which is good, because you need to be home where we can take care of you properly."

"Mom always said hospitals are good places to have but better places to leave."

John gave Timmy a squeeze with one arm. "Yeah, I bet she did." He cleared his throat and looked at Rodney. "You called my brother. I didn't know you had his number."

"I didn't, but that's what the Internet is for. I should have all your contact numbers and I can't believe I had to find your wallet to get your medical number. I didn't even know if you were allergic to any medications." Rodney looked mad, though John could tell it was fear, not anger. No wonder Warren misinterpreted Rodney's reaction.

"I'm not allergic to anything."

"Yes, so he said," Rodney agreed, with a sour glance at Warren, obviously not appreciating that John's brother knew more about him than Rodney did. John wondered how soon Rodney would start drilling him about his entire history. "We're getting a wristband custom made for you. It'll have all your contact information on it."

"It's reflective too. And we got you reflective ankle bands. They're really cool."

"They sound cool," John agreed.

~~~

"John?"

"Yeah?" John looked away from the fascinating ceiling tiles and toward his brother. Ronon had gone back to work, while Rodney and Timothy kept breezing in and out. He thought the constant errands were deliberate on Rodney's part, to make sure that Timmy wasn't allowed to brood, but John really hoped the shopping had stopped with all the reflective gear, because no way was he wearing a suit of armor while running. Warren had stayed the whole time, making John weirdly uncomfortable. They hadn't been all that close growing up, and John couldn't summon the energy to make small talk with someone who'd been a stranger for over a year.

"Is this really what you want?"

"What do you mean?"

"Timmy seems like a nice kid but McKay..." Warren's shoulders twitched. "He's kind of loud and seems difficult to get along with."

"He's worried. He lost his wife to cancer."

"I have a hard time believing he's a pussycat even under normal circumstances."

"He's... Rodney." John couldn't figure out how to explain Rodney or John's attraction to him. Not in terms Warren could understand.

"You can never come home," Warren said, his face falling into that stern expression that was so like their dad. "Not with those two in tow."

John shrugged uncomfortably. Warren wasn't saying anything that John wouldn't have expected. "Rodney wants to. Come visit. Meet everyone. Introduce them to Timmy."

"Mom and Dad won't accept him. They won't talk to him."

Warren seemed to regard their attitude as a fact of life, John noted, any bitterness he might have felt muted by the drugs in his system. Not anything to regret or change. Men were men and women were women and the worst sin was being delinquent on your country club dues. "Yeah. That's what I thought."

"If something happened to McKay and you ended up being responsible for Timmy - "

"Don't," John ordered sharply, discomfort replaced by anger. "Don't even suggest something like that. Timmy's already lost one parent."

"Don't overreact, John. It was just a hypothetical. I only meant Timmy's a good kid. Mom and Dad would like him."

"Your choice of hypotheticals is appalling, Mr. Sheppard," Rodney cut in from the doorway, his hands resting on Timmy's shoulders. "But that's hardly surprising, given your family's general lack of taste."

"This is between my brother and me," Warren said, but John cut through his words with a "Timmy, buddy, come here," as he patted the side of the bed. Timmy scrambled to obey while throwing wary glances at Warren.

"Your brother is a member of our family now," Rodney sneered. "Not yours. You gave up that right."

"Stop it. Both of you," John snapped. Rodney had taken a few more steps into the room while Warren had risen from the chair, both of them appearing ready to brawl over John's hospital bed. Did they kick you out of the hospital if your family members began fighting? Maybe he shouldn't try to stop them. He'd like to be out of here faster. If only he wasn't worried that Warren would win...

"We've filed all the paperwork. You're no longer necessary here," Rodney told Warren.

The look Warren gave Rodney made John want to smack him but he also figured it eliminated any idealistic notions Rodney might have about acceptance.

"Thank you for coming, Warren," he said, pitching his voice quietly, hoping to defuse the tension.

Warren turned his attention away from Rodney toward John and Timmy. "We just want the best for you, John. A family of your own."

"I've got a family of my own."

"Your own kids. Kids who'll be Sheppards."

"Yes, because the existing group is such a sterling example of humanity. So caring and tolerant," Rodney cut in.

"I've got a family of my own," John repeated. They'd already been through this fight before, when he'd left the military and admitted to his family that he was tired of lying about his homosexuality. Maybe it was another fact of life, that once you accepted who you were, you could never return to faking it, no matter the consequences. Despite sleeping most of the day, he was too damned tired to argue it again.

Warren shrugged in resignation. "I'll head back to the airport then."

"Warren." John held out one arm and Warren bent enough to give him a brief hug. "Tell everyone I said hello. They're always welcome here if they want to come."

"Yeah, I will." 'But they won't' went unspoken. "Take care, Johnny."

Warren gave a nod to Timmy but then walked out without another glance at Rodney. John wondered idly if someone had picked him up from the airport, and then dismissed the worry. Warren was a grown man. He could get a taxi if necessary.

Rodney came around and sat on the side of the bed opposite Timmy, sputtering in his frustration. "That man is appalling. He - "

"Rodney." The word silenced him, and John patted his leg. "I love you too."

~~~

John's stay in the hospital wasn't very long, but any length of time was too long in his opinion. He'd never been good at being cared for or being made to stay in bed. Getting to leave was a relief, but he was already tired by the time they reached home, crutching into the front room and straight to the stairs.

"What are you doing?"

"Going to take a nap?"

"Not there. You can't go up and down the stairs on crutches."

"I'm not sleeping on the couch." He'd slept on couches often enough to know he was getting too old to be comfortable. He wanted his own bed, and Rodney cuddled next to him.

"Of course not. Dining room."

"Dining room?"

"We fixed it up for you, Uncle John. We put the table in the garage and moved the bed down. Ronon and Aidan and Nick all helped."

John stared at Rodney and Timmy, who had similar expressions of 'what else did you expect us to do?' Like of course he should know that they'd rearrange furniture for him. "Oh," he said brilliantly, and crutched into the dining room, which had been remade into a bedroom with his and Rodney's bed and their dresser. "This is great." He headed to the bed, leaning his crutches against the wall and sitting on the edge.

"Yes, well, we have had some experience in caring for people." Rodney dropped to his knees by John, removing his one shoe and sock before John could try to do it. John's body was so tired and sore it couldn't get excited by the vision of Rodney on his knees, but his mind automatically registered it as one of his most favorite views. "Do you want some lunch? I made chicken soup."

To his surprise, John's stomach rumbled. "Sounds good."

Rodney hurried off to the kitchen while Timmy helped him swing his leg up and get settled in the bed, sitting up so that he could eat. "Einstein missed you. Can I let him in?"

"Yeah, sure." A minute later, Einstein came rushing in, and John had to be firm or would have had a lap full of big mutt. While John was busy petting Einstein, Ginger leaped on the other side of the bed, purring and curling into a ball on the pillow next to him.

"Even the animals are happy I'm home," John joked as Rodney came back in with a tray.

"We missed you," Rodney responded more fiercely than John would ever have expected. "Don't do that again."

"I'll try not to," John dug into his soup which, as expected from a Rodney creation, was the best chicken soup he'd ever tasted, flavorful and loaded with big chunks of chicken and vegetables. He looked up from his meal to realize both Rodney and Timmy were watching him. "Aren't you guys going to eat?"

"Yes, yes, of course," Rodney said briskly, going off to the kitchen, followed by Timmy, and John could hear them talking about what kind of drink and crackers Timmy wanted. "I think they got a little overly worried," he whispered to Einstein, who gave a whine of agreement.

~~~

"Timothy's gone to play with Natalie," Rodney announced, drawing the curtains before taking hold of the covers and peeling them back.

"Rodney?" John asked, as Rodney took hold of the bottom of his shirt. "What are you doing?"

"Lean forward," Rodney responded, and John did, letting Rodney peel the shirt over his head. Tossing it aside, Rodney started on John's boxers, easing them down over his hips, making John rise up, bringing them down his legs, a tricky maneuver with the cast.

Being naked in front of Rodney normally made John feel sexy, but now it was just... weird, because he couldn't figure out what the hell was going on in Rodney's genius brain. "Rodney?"

"John?" he answered back, beginning to touch John's skin, feather light strokes everywhere.

"It's, um, not going to happen," he apologized, because naked and touching was usually a prelude to sex. "Not that I don't want it to," he added. He always wanted Rodney.

Rodney didn't say anything for a while, continuing his thorough examination, relearning every inch of John's skin. "I have to know you're okay," he said finally. "I have to touch all of you."

"Okay." It was relaxing, to rest on the bed, watching Rodney's blue eyes study him, feeling the blunt tips of Rodney's fingers stroke his skin, his arms, torso, legs, even toes. After the stress of the hospital, nurses and aides wandering in and out at odd times, always turning the TV onto stupid game shows and bad comedies, Rodney's touch was welcome, grounding him. Then Rodney's lips joined the action, kissing his nipples, tongue flicking out to wet them, then spreading gentler kisses over the bruises on his torso, even a line of kisses down the length of John's flaccid penis, making him wish his body could respond. He looked mournfully at his groin but no, not going to happen for the world. Pain medication had its disadvantages.

Then a sob alerted him that something was wrong, and he cupped one side of Rodney's chin, forcing him to meet John's eyes. Restrained tears shimmered in his eyes, making the blueness even more intent. "Rodney?"

"You don't appreciate what it was like, the dog barking at the door, without you, and we didn't know if he'd just run away or if something was wrong. We got in the car and of course, he ran off. I was trying to follow him and Timothy was calling all those old ladies who watch you to see if you'd gone by already - goddamnit, John."

Then Rodney was kissing him, cupping his face and holding him in place. John welcomed the kiss, responding happily, reaching down to squeeze Rodney's groin, wanting to give him the reassurance he needed. Rodney tried to break away. "Look, no, you're not - "

"Hey," John said, unbuckling and unzipping, coaxing Rodney's dick out of his trousers. "Come on," he added, tugging Rodney forward with one hand on his dick and the other on his arm.

"You're not - " Rodney protested again, but he kicked off his shoes and let himself be maneuvered on top of John, carefully situating himself to avoid the cast. He felt so good, warm and solid. John kissed him, slowly masturbating him, pushing Rodney's shirt up to get his other hand on the smooth skin of Rodney's back.

Seemingly lost in a daze, Rodney braced himself with his arms on either side of John's head, thrusting his hips, forcing his dick faster into John's hand, all the while kissing him, an eerie keening noise coming from the depth of Rodney's throat.

Then Rodney buried his head in John's neck, entire body shuddering, and John knew he was coming, felt the wetness splashing onto his hipbone. He kept stroking him reassuringly, crooning nonsense noises.

"Oh god," Rodney said finally, his voice small. "I can't believe - "

"I'm fine." John hugged him. "That felt good." They were both alive and they were going to be doing that more, long before he figured Rodney would think it was a wise idea.

Rodney lifted his head away from John. "You can't get hurt again, John. We need you. We can't go that through again."

John thought of all he should say - that life was unpredictable, that his job was dangerous, that accidents happened and there were no guarantees.

"I know," he said. "I know."

~ the end ~