"I thought you promised me you wouldn't do this to me again."
John tries to force his eyes open further, to see the source of the voice he knows so well, but it's just too much effort at the moment. He feels like a little bit like he's been run over by the Road Runner – no so much sore as dazed and very very confused.
"Wha-?" he tries to croak, but his mouth is dry enough to be considered a the Mojave's most recent annex, and, God, if he doesn't get something to drink here in a moment, he' swears he's going to see exactly how many people he can kill with his left hand alone before they give him some fucking water. Left hand only because it's just about the only part of his body that he can feel and feels like it's not liable to fall off in the next sixty seconds.
He hears a shuffle from his left, and, slowly, Rodney comes into focus, lifting the oxygen mask off his face and shaking a couple of ice chips into John's mouth. Gently, he replaces the mask and adjusts it a little, so it's not itching John's noses any more, despite the fact he's not mentioned how much it'd been bothering him, before continuing his rant.
"You just had an appendectomy, you idiot. An emergency appendectomy. An emergency appendectomy at Johns Hopkins." His voice rises steadily through all of this, clearly building up in anticipation of unleashing the full storm of fury on whichever hospital employee came nearest next. But, suddenly, it drops and, despite the fact that Rodney's leaned in close enough that John can feel his breath on his ear, he can barely make out the whispered, "On Earth."
The ice cubes have melted already, the traitorous bastards, but it does make it somewhat easier to croak out a, "Wh-?" which might've been another what or a why or maybe even a where on Earth is Johns Hopkins and why are we there? He was just too tired, though, and, after Rodney shook another couple of pieces of ice into his mouth, it was all he could do to keep his eyes from closing painfully quickly.
"Hey now," Rodney whispers as he drifts off, "just go back to sleep now, okay? It took me a while, but I've got everything taken care of..."
When John wakes up, things are a whole lot clearer, and crisper.
He can make out the white wall (complete with analogue clock and fire extinguisher) across from him, and the horrible lavender-and-seafoam curtains on either side. There's a drop-ceiling about him, uninteresting except for the fact that he's not been anywhere with a drop-ceiling like it since before Afghanistan. He doesn't even have to listen very hard to catch the tell-tale beeping of an EKG, and all this tells him hospital in a way all of Rodney's words earlier hadn't.
He can also remember, somewhat to his embarrassment, how he'd gotten here. Which was to say, he'd been at the family estate north of Baltimore for Dad's funeral, and, after the whole business with the NID's rogue Replicator was over, he and Rodney had decided to stay on Earth for the rest the week to keep the bureaucrats at the SGC from complaining to them about not taking their leaves again.
John's stomach had been hurting all day, but he'd been attributing that to the richness of David's cook's food as well as the general stress of having to actually talk to his brother for the first time in the better part of fifteen years. And considering he couldn't talk about his job (as Atlantis was so top secret you had to have level five clearance even to know the clearance for it existed), where he was stationed (see previous), or what he'd been doing when he'd run off from the funeral (slightly less top secret, but still pretty high up there), the only thing pretty much left that he could talk to Dave about is his personal life. And John dared anyone to try telling their estranged, highly conservative brother about their homosexuality at their (even more conservative) father's funeral without having a few butterflies. Particularly when one's boyfriend is Rodney McKay, who is an expert at everything but subtlety.
Needless to say, things hadn't been going well.
Either way, he remembers a sudden stab of pain after dinner, one worse than the others, and Rodney insisting on taking him to the hospital. There were military hospitals in DC they could have gone to, but those were over an hour away, and, as John refused to ask the orbiting Daedalus to beam him up and to Colorado Springs for something as little as a stomach ache, John Hopkins it had been. Which sounds about as pompous and uptight as everything else to do with his family, but it really is the closest hospital to the estate and it can't be helped.
Still, John shifts a little at that thought, which turns out to be a radically bad idea, and his groan causes Rodney to stir from the chair next to him.
"Thank God," Rodney says. "I was beginning to get worried."
"Didn't mean to," John tries to cough, earning him a tiny can of ginger ale with a pink straw that Rodney insists he drink before he tries to say anything else.
"Well, you did," he huffs indignantly, his own voice scratchy from too little sleep. "It would have just been too easy for you to have gotten sick back on At-" he catches himself, "back on base, wouldn't it? Because, no, you just have to do everything at the most annoying time possible. Forget leaving me alone with your idiot brother, they almost wouldn't let me back here. Stupid backwards country you have here. I'm surprised they didn't just chant over you and make you drink some cocktail of wood bark and your own urine. They're almost as bad as Carson... Still, once it became clear that I knew more about your medical history than Dave, I was able to convince them to let me back here. Had to tell them you'd been a POW, though, to explain some of your more interesting injuries – and don't look at me like that. It's not exactly like it's a lie, is it?"
John still frowns at him though and, when he's able to get two words in, he asks, "Why wouldn't they let you back here?"
Rodney looks at him like he's a complete idiot, which he might well be, given whatever meds they've put him on.
Though his throat is sore in that uncomfortable way he's all-too-familiar with that means that, at some point, a tube was stuck down his throat, he can still move his head enough to see they're in a regular outpatient recovery room. It's hardly an ICU. And, even if that weren't the case, Rodney's the closest thing to family he's ever had, period. Hell, he's the only family he's ever really had, full stop. Sure, Dave and Dad may have been related to him, but there's a hell of a big difference between people you couldn't avoid being in your family tree and the actual people you wanted to surround yourself with. He settles for summing this all up with a, "That's stupid," which seems to mollify the physicist some.
"Exactly what I was saying. I forgot how socially retarded the States are while we were, well, back home."
"I know." Back on Atlantis, people understood. Not just them – no one who worked in the Stargate Program could take something as stupid as DADT seriously (not even Colonel Ellis, who was hardest of hard-asses John had ever encounter in his years of service) – as a couple, but them as team-mates. Gate teams were something that verged on the sacred with the SGC, and no one would ever have thought about kicking any team member out of another's recovery room unless it was for the absolute good of all involved.
Rodney gives a nervous hum, taking the now empty can of ginger ale from him before continuing almost too fast for his anaesthesia-addled brain to handle, "We've been spending so much time on Earth lately, we should probably have a plan in place in case something like this happens again. That lawyer friend of Dave's is supposed to be coming over tomorrow for your dad's will-reading; maybe we can get him to file power-of-attorney or medical proxy or whatever legal mumbo-jumbo we need so that they don't try to kick me out of the hospital next time you wind up maiming yourself."
It's his turn to huff. "It's not like I ask for most the injuries I wind up with."
"No, you just decide to climb up the sides of perfectly good buildings."
"You're never going to let me live that down are you?"
"No. Never. But what do you think?"
Rodney goes a little pink. "The power-of-attorney business. It's already ten o'clock; if we want to get it done tomorrow, Dave's lawyer friend will probably want a chance to draw up the paperwork first."
"Oh." Maybe it's the painkillers he's on, but it seems a lot more straightforward to suggest, "Why don't we just fly up to Vancouver, visit Jeannie, and get married while we're up there?"
Rodney goes pinker still. "We can't do that, John."
"Why not?" he asks, seriously confused. "It's legal in British Columbia, isn't it?" It'd be a lot less paperwork for one, and John's always for less paperwork, regardless of what galaxy it's in.
"And I've every intention of this being 'til death, so, unless you're having doubts-" John really, really hopes Rodney's not because, well, people may scoff, but Rodney's something of a catch. The only thing John has going for himself are his looks, and he knows those won't last forever. But Rodney is a genius and has saved his life and the lives of everyone in Atlantis so many times over that he's a genuine hero and is going to win like ten Nobels as soon as the Stargate Program is declassified... and, well, John hates to think it, but he still thinks Rodney's half in love with the whole white picket fence, two point five children and a dog dream that somebody, presumably his parents, told him to aim for. And he's not going to let himself lose Rodney to a woman like Jennifer Keller, for all she bats her eyelashes at him.
"-no, it's not that-"
Well, good then. But, if it's not that, then, "-I don't see what the problem is."
Rodney rolls his eyes, still flush. "There is the slight matter of your military being even less advanced then the rest of your country. You'd be dishonourably discharged in a heartbeat, and then who would they get to fly their suicide runs?"
"Oh," he says around a yawn (which, for the record, really hurts, and he's had some painful thinks done to him in his life), "That."
"Yes, that, you idiot. Are you sure you're not lying about the Stanford thing, 'cause, really, I know it's California, but I thought even the colleges out west had standards."
John tries to roll his eyes, but it only makes him dizzy. God, whatever meds they have him on mustn't be as good as what they get back in Pegasus, because, really, he's usually able to hold his own with Rodney better, even when he's just out of surgery. Stupid Earth hospitals. "I guess you'd better call Carl then."
John's already half-asleep when he answers, "Dave's lawyer friend," but he swears he can feel Rodney's smile even with his eyes closed, it's that bright. And if his dreams are particularly strange that evening, well, he knows better than to mention it to Rodney the next morning.
It's almost eight years later before they're back in an Earth hospital again and, much to Rodney's chagrin, Rodney's the one that got them there.
Actually, no, that's not entirely correct. They'd gone to visit Jeannie for their mandatory leave-taking and, well, the restaurant they'd picked on their third day in Vancouver was a little less stringent about no citrus than they ought to have been with Rodney's food.
As far as Rodney's allergic reactions go, it actually isn't a bad one, but Jeannie insisted on taking him to the hospital and, well, by the time John's allowed to come back and see him, Rodney's in a foul mood.
"I thought the paperwork was supposed to make this all easier," he huffs, completely forgetting to thank John for the mega-sized coffee and box of doughnuts he has smuggled in with him.
They've had so little cause to use the paperwork in question (thank God) over the last few years, John wouldn't have known what Rodney was going on about if he hadn't just been pointing this very thing out to the stern-lipped nurse at the front desk half-hour earlier. "It's American," John shrugs. "Apparently it takes a while to prove I didn't just print them off my computer."
"As if you could manage anything that complicated on your computer," Rodney rasps, throat still swollen.
"Yes, well, they don't know that."
"Well, I guess we should get that taken care of while we're here."
"Yeah," John agrees before asking, "Does Jeanie know a good lawyer?" figuring that Canadian copies of the power-of-attorney and whatnot they already have would be that much better.
"I dunno. Probably. Why?" he narrows his eyes suspiciously. You're not going to make me sign a pre-nup are you?"
The word pre-nup sends him for a spiral. He sputters for moment before he can ask why Rodney thinks he wants a pre-nup when he's made it very clear over the better part of the last decade that he doesn't want to get married. Ever.
Rodney rolls his eyes. "I never said that. I just said I didn't want to get married when doing so would get you kicked out of your military. But they repealed that stupid rule, what was it called? Oh, yes. Don't Ask, Don't Tell. They repealed that a couple months ago, so now we can get married without having to leave At- the base," he catches himself at the last instant, looking far to smug for a man who's still getting over anaphylactic shock.
"Oh," John says, because, really, oh. He'd read the memo, but, really, after Rodney's reaction to the question years earlier, he'd never really given it a second thought. They were together, paperwork or no paperwork, and that's all that really mattered.
"Yes, oh. So, still want the lawyer? 'Cause I hate to break it to you, but, rich as your daddy made you, science geekery pays a lot more than you would think, so it's really not-"
John decides to shut him up with a kiss. And, yes, it may be cliché, but everything else about them is so out of the box that something might as well be, and, well, it is the only thing to do.
Besides, it's not like Rodney's going to complain about it either.