"I still say you were flirting with her, Major," Rodney McKay said around a bite of his MRE. He wasn't even sure what he was meant to be eating--he hadn't bothered to read the package, since he'd found that they all tasted pretty much the same. Not that he minded--he liked the idea of food you could eat quickly so you could get on with things.
Not that they were doing anything particularly important right now, but the principle was the same. He finished chewing, swallowed and took a gulp of water from his canteen. "Her fiancé sure thought you were, anyway. He was pissed."
"I wasn't flirting already, McKay," John Sheppard snapped tiredly. He had chosen to eat just a protein bar for dinner, so he'd finished before the rest of them. Rodney had no idea how he could be satisfied with that little food, but then the major was on the skinny side. "I was being friendly. Though I can understand why the concept might be foreign to you."
Aiden Ford smirked.
"Oh, ha-ha. Very funny." Rodney said sourly. He shot a glower in Aiden's direction, but his heart wasn't in it and he knew Aiden knew it. The lieutenant just grinned back. Teyla Emmagan was sitting beside Aiden, and she graced Rodney with one of her sunlit smiles.
Rodney took a last bite, then tossed the empty packet onto the fire. "Yeah, right, 'friendly'," he mimicked. "That's why we're stuck camping out instead of sleeping in one of the huts tonight."
"That has nothing to do with it, and you know it!" John said. "The Head Woman already told us that they didn't have room in the village, since that huge delegation was there for her daughter's wedding."
John crossed his arms over his chest, and Rodney suppressed a little thrill at how sexy the man was with his eyes narrowed and his chin lifted in irritation. Rodney had specifically chosen to sit across the fire from John, just so he could look at him.
It was one of his tiny, guilty pleasures. Like making sure he was almost never right beside John during briefings, or how he always tried to pair himself with John if the team split up.
It had started out as a kind of... aesthetic exercise. John Sheppard was beautiful; Rodney liked looking at him. So he quickly found the best ways to do it. Rodney wasn't sure when it had evolved into a routine, exactly, or when being in John's company had become just as appealing as being able to watch him. Rodney suspected it might have started surprisingly early--like when he was able to use his brand-new ATA gene to activate the personal shield, and went right to John just to play around with it. It hadn't even occurred to him to test the shield with anyone else.
The major was a lot smarter than Rodney had initially thought. That might have had something to do with it. Rodney had never anticipated how much he'd enjoy talking--well, bickering, really--with him. But when John annoyed him, it wasn't in the way everyone else did. It wasn't because John couldn't keep up with Rodney's thought processes, or had no idea what Rodney was talking about. John made Rodney think--think harder. More. Because John wasn't cowed by Rodney's intellect. He didn't seem to even give a damn that Rodney was the head scientist of the entire expedition.
John challenged Rodney. About everything. About everything all the time. No one since Colonel Samantha Carter had ever done that.
Rodney liked that a great deal. He liked Major Sheppard a great deal. He really liked being with him.
He was sure the major never even noticed. And he told himself that was just fine.
Like now. Now, when he was pretending to be peeved just so he could wind John up a bit, because he loved how John looked when he was riled. Because he loved the kind of things John would say. It was like lightning--bright and sharp and sudden, snapping out of a clear sky, making the world glow for just a moment.
Rodney had almost been hit by lightning once. It was dangerous. It could also be beautiful.
Beautiful. Like John. Rodney really liked the symmetry of that.
"The village being full is a crock of shit and you know it," Rodney said almost gleefully, thinking of lightning. "The Head Woman just didn't want you anywhere near her daughter because of how friendly you were being. Last I checked, Nuura's breasts weren't diplomats."
Aiden burst out laughing. Even Teyla chuckled politely into the mouth of her canteen.
"I was not talking to her breasts, damn it!" John exclaimed angrily.
Aiden started howling, falling back against Teyla. Teyla put her arm across his chest, giggling into the lieutenant's shoulder.
Rodney just looked at John and grinned.
John's mouth twitched, and then he was laughing as well. "Even if they were...diplomatic."
"Definitely diplomatic." Rodney nodded, still grinning.
"That's right," Aiden added. He was still laughing. "Very... big... on diplomacy."
"Well…" John's own grin was sly. He was answering Aiden, but looking at Rodney. "You know how much I appreciate making new friends."
Rodney's grin faltered a little. He didn't know why he didn't like hearing that.
John saw Rodney's grin faltering. He looked like he was about to say something, but he didn't. Instead he just smiled and reached for his canteen. He took a long drink, then capped it neatly and let it rest beside him on the ground.
Rodney watched him, the whole time. Until John glanced his way again; then Rodney looked at the fire.
The laughter died down, sliding into a companionable silence. Aiden stayed leaning against Teyla, with her arm over one shoulder and across his chest, gently pressing him to her. Rodney wondered if Aiden was appreciating Teyla's diplomacy, but the lieutenant only seemed to be watching the flames the way Rodney was, when Rodney wasn't sneaking peeks at John. John had picked up a long stick, and was poking it into the flames, occasionally lifting it out to watch the small fire burning at its tip. The stick seemed to have won the major's undivided attention.
Mostly, though, Rodney watched the fire as it got fully dark. He stole a glance at Aiden and Teyla; how Aiden was leaning against her and she had her arm around him. It made Rodney feel strangely sad.
John started humming. A thin little tune that threaded into and almost disappeared beneath the crackling of the fire. But it was familiar enough that Rodney listened, until the tugging at the edge of his memory blossomed into full-blown recognition.
"Major," Rodney asked, blinking in mild astonishment, "is that, A-Ha?"
John looked up from where he'd been tracing patterns in the ashes. He seemed startled that he'd even been making noise. "Huh?"
"That was," Aiden said. He had pulled himself upright, though Teyla's arm was still draped over his shoulder. His mouth slowly stretched into an incredulous smile. "That's Take On Me, isn't it, sir?" His voice rose, until he was nearly crowing. "You're humming Take On Me!"
John looked back and forth between Aiden and Rodney. "So?" He asked. He looked both confused and a little defensive. "It's an okay song."
"That's debatable," Rodney said. "But what I want to know is, why are you humming it?"
"There was a kind of get-together with the blue-clusters the other night," Aiden explained. "The scientists,” he amended, when Rodney shot him a look. “Cori Kirche brought music, and she was playing a lot of eighties stuff. That was one of the songs."
John nodded in somber agreement.
"What get-together?" Rodney asked. "There was a get-together?" He felt his heart give an uncomfortable little squeeze. "Why didn't anyone tell me about it?"
"We did," John said simply. "As in, walking up behind you and saying 'Hey, McKay--there's a get-together in one of the labs. Do you want to come?' And then you saying, 'No.'"
Rodney stared at him. "I said no?" He looked at Aiden, who just nodded in complete honest agreement with John. "I said no?"
"I think you were busy." John shrugged.
"Well, yes," Rodney said quickly. "I must have been." He had a vague recollection, now, of John practically breathing into his ear. He'd said 'no' defensively, because the whole John-breath-ear thing had precluded actually understanding what the major had been telling him. "Yes. Of course I was. Busy. How do you even know that song, anyway?" He asked Aiden, mostly to deflect the attention away from himself. "You were what--one, when the song came out?"
"No." John shook his head. He passed Rodney a quick, conspiratorial grin. "Aiden would've been all of six." His grin widened. "Probably heard the song sitting in his booster seat in the back of his mommy's car...
"...On the way to kindergarten..." Rodney added.
"...While sucking his thumb and playing with his Care Bear... "
It was too dark for Rodney to tell if Aiden was blushing, but the lieutenant ducked his head very convincingly as if he were. "Just because I'm not ancient and crusty like you guys doesn't mean--"
"I do not remember this song from that night," Teyla said, smoothly interrupting him. "May I hear it?"
"No," Rodney said immediately.
"Sure." John grinned impossibly wider. And then he started singing.
To say that John had more enthusiasm than talent would have been kind, Rodney thought. He grimaced, but gamely kept from clapping his hands over his ears, while John sang loudly and almost entirely off-key about talking away and not knowing what to say and today being another day to find you. His voice soared into an impressive falsetto at the I'll be gone in a day or two, but the major had started laughing by then, so Rodney was beginning to suspect that he might be imitating a rutting cat on purpose.
Aiden, apparently forgetting the recent insults to his manhood, leapt in on the second verse, smiling so widely that his teeth reflected the firelight.
So, needless to say...
"That's wrong," Rodney said, once they'd got to the 'stumbling away' part. He had to say it a second time--and then shout it--before John and Aiden finally stopped warbling to look at him.
"What?" John asked. "The verse goes, so, needless to say, I'm obstinate, but that's me..."
"That's Rodney, actually," Aiden said, smirking.
"No," Rodney said. "It's not 'I'm obstinate'." He shook his head. "Didn't either of you ever listen to the song? It's 'I'm odds and ends'."
John looked at Aiden, who shrugged. "That doesn't make any sense."
"Oh for the love of--" Rodney rolled his eyes. "The entire song doesn't make any sense. It's an eighties content-free pop tune by Norwegians singing in their second language. It wouldn't have even charted if it wasn't for the video with the cutting-edge animation and Morten Harket getting brained by a wrench."
"Morten Harket?" Aiden asked.
"The lead singer," Rodney muttered. He didn't like the calculating way the other men had started looking at him. "The tall skinny one with dark hair."
"You sure seem to know an awful lot about the song, there Rodney," John said innocently. He glanced at Aiden, who started smirking again, and rubbing the back of his neck. "I guess you were a fan, huh?"
"No!" Rodney said, then winced inwardly, knowing that the vehemence of his response was going to set them off. "I just obviously have better ears than you do. Probably because I didn't spend my adolescence standing next to mortar rounds."
"I think he was a fan," John said to Aiden. "I think he probably liked the band a lot."
"Absolutely, sir," Aiden nodded. "I'd wager he was part of the fan club, sir."
"President of the fan club," John said soberly.
"With posters, and everything," Aiden said, equally soberly.
"I was not in a fan club for A-Ha!" Rodney exclaimed. He could feel the heat in his face and knew he was blushing horribly. He just hoped it was dark enough that the others wouldn't see it.
Aiden, John and even Teyla were looking at him.
"I..." God, he couldn't really be about to tell them this. "There was a girl, in the chess club. She really liked the band. So, I... uh..."
"You learned the song for her?" John asked. He seemed genuinely curious.
Rodney nodded miserably. "On piano." It had been the first time that he'd played the instrument since he was twelve, too, but that was something they were never going to find out.
Aiden started laughing again, but Teyla pushed him away from her. She glared reproachfully at the lieutenant. "That seems to me to be very romantic--learning a favorite song to woo a loved one."
"Yeah!" Rodney eagerly leapt on the out Teyla had given him. "It was romantic! I was..." He lifted his chin. "I was wooing her."
John raised his palms in surrender. "Hey, I've got no problem with that--I'm all about the woo."
"Wooing," Rodney said. And he just bet that John was--all that diplomacy and all--but John just smiled wickedly.
"Did the, uh, wooing work?" Aiden asked. Now he sounded guilty. He tried to squirm under Teyla's arm again. She pushed him away.
"No," Rodney said. He didn't mind them knowing anymore, not after the wooing bit seemed to have gained him some caché with Teyla, and maybe even John. "I lost her to someone in the science club." At the time, it had hurt like hell. Now he could actually smile about it. She'd been kind of stupid, anyway. Though, god, what her fingers could do on a bishop...
John's voice brought him back to the present. "So, all that time and energy learning a content-free pop song wasted, huh? That's too bad." His voice was laced with humor, but there was an odd note of sympathy as well, though Rodney couldn't imagine John ever being refused by anyone. Nuura certainly seemed to appreciate how friendly he was.
And thinking of Nuura just wrecked his mood again. Which really sucked.
Rodney shrugged. "It was a long time ago."
"Yeah." Aiden smiled. "Because you're ancient and crusty..."
"And tired," Rodney said quickly. He flashed another smile of his own, though he was feeling unaccountably miserable and out of sorts all of a sudden. "Ancient and crusty and tired. So I'm going to bed." He got up, feigning a luxurious stretch. It was too warm for tents, so he grabbed his bedroll and moved it beneath a tree, far enough from the fire that he wouldn't have to worry about a stray spark catching his sleeping bag during the night. He didn't really want to sleep, but somehow even watching John had lost its appeal and all he wanted was to be left alone.
"Actually, McKay," John drawled from his spot near the fire, "don't bother with that yet--you and I are going to walk the perimeter, make sure everything's safe and sound before bedtime."
Rodney just looked at him. "No, we're not. When did you decide this?"
John rose to his feet, dusting off the seat of his pants. "Just now." He gave a sharp tilt of his head in the direction of the forest that surrounded the tiny clearing they were in. "Come on."
Rodney looked around at the completely quiet, harmless forest. "Why?"
John was clipping his P90 to his vest. "Because I said so? As in, now?"
"Fine." Rodney sighed, dropping his bedroll and grabbing his own P90 instead. He tried not to feel at all happy about the fact that John had asked--well, ordered--him to come too, instead of Aiden or Teyla. Though it occurred to Rodney that maybe John was just being nice, since the other two members of their team were being so diplomatic and all. It seemed that while McKay was collecting his things Aiden had managed to convince Teyla to cuddle with him again. She didn't look like she was minding it much.
"Have fun." Aiden gave them a little wave. Rodney just twitched a wan smile at him.
"Oh, yeah," Rodney muttered. "This'll be fun."
He turned on the flashlight attached to his P90. John was already striding off into the forest. Rodney had to trot to catch up with him.
They walked in silence, the night forest quiet and almost oppressively dark around them. At least every time Rodney looked up he could see the stars.
Rodney tried to be as quiet as possible, walking beside John. He also tried to pay attention to the forest, just in case through some inverse miracle there was actually something out there to threaten them. He had his P90 raised the way John did, and was sighting down the barrel, on the off chance he'd really have to shoot something.
He also kept track of where they were going, in case John got lost again. For a pilot, John had a remarkably bad sense of direction if he wasn't concentrating.
Though John did seem to be concentrating, if his silence was any indication. Not that there was anything in the forest worth concentrating on.
"Why do you stare at me all the time?" John asked. His voice was quiet, casual. He didn't glance away from staring down the barrel of his P90.
Rodney's stomach did a little flip. "What?" And his voice squeaked. Just a bit.
"You stare at me," John said. "All the time." He seemed bemused.
"I do not," Rodney said desperately. He hoped his whisper didn't sound desperate. "I look at you occasionally. As in, when we're having a conversation. Like now. Though I'm not looking at you now because I'm looking at the forest. Because of the perimeter. Which we should be walking."
"We are, McKay," John said, almost gently. "Nothing precludes us walking and talking at the same time, right?"
"Of course not," Rodney said immediately. "Nothing wrong with talking."
"That's right." And Rodney could hear the easy smile in John's voice, damn him. "So, we're talking. And I'm asking you why you keep staring at me."
"I do not."
"Do so. Tonight, even. You were staring at me."
McKay's stomach flipped again. He was a dead man. "You're delusional. Looking in your general direction doesn't constitute--"
"Shh." John was tense, instantly alert. McKay automatically tensed as well. John reached into a pocket of his vest, pulled out the life signs detector. "Did you hear--"
And the 'something' John was assuredly about to say, ripped into Rodney's back like lightning.
"I told you." Rodney said, between panting breaths. "I told you he was pissed you were flirting with his girlfriend."
"Shut up," John hissed at him. He rose up on his knees, aiming over the boulder the two of them were huddled behind, in the second, larger clearing where John had dragged Rodney. Rodney closed his eyes and panted against the pain in his back, listening to the angry retorts of John's P90.
Rodney heard John drop back down. Rodney was curled with his left shoulder leaning against the boulder, since his right shoulder had a sizable arrow shaft protruding from it. He felt John touch him and twitched automatically, anticipating a horrible increase in pain, and then gasped when his twitching caused it.
"Damn it, McKay!" John snapped. "Hold still!"
"Get it out," Rodney said. He wanted to throw up. He couldn't even breathe without it hurting, and the pain was making awful flashing lights behind his clenched-shut eyes. His right hand was a useless dead weight flopping at the end of his useless dead-weight right arm. He thought the arrow might have punched through his shoulder blade. "Get it out. Get it out. Get it out."
"I can't," John said. "It's in too deep, and I don't want to make the wound worse." He was doing something as he spoke, rifling around in something now--not touching Rodney's back. "I'm going to bind it--try to slow down the bleeding."
Slow down the bleeding. Well, that wasn't good. "Slow down?" Each syllable of air past his vocal cords seemed to vibrate right into the wound. Like knives. Like long, wretchedly pointed knives.
"Yeah." John didn't sound happy. Not good. So very not good. "We need to get you back to the gate."
"Okay," Rodney said. He grimaced at whatever John was doing to his back. "So let's go--"
There was a burst of pain like more wretchedly pointed knives, shooting from his shoulder up into his brain, when John moved his arm away from his side. Rodney screamed, and his vision grayed out around the edges.
"Sorry," John muttered. "I have to bind this."
"Bastard," Rodney ground out. He had his face pressed to the rock. It was cool against his skin, which was suddenly dripping with sweat. His stomach felt like it had fallen out of his body. "Fucking bastard. Could've warned me." Rodney could taste bile in his mouth, and knew he was close to really vomiting. He couldn't imagine that he’d survive moving that much, though he hoped if he did puke it would at least be on John.
"I'm sorry," John said. And Rodney felt John's hand on the back of his neck. Not pressing, just a gentle warmth. "I have to do this fast, before they get up enough balls to come any closer. I need to move your arm again."
"Do it," Rodney said. He grit his teeth, felt John's hand move from his neck. He had time to miss it before he felt John gently take his right forearm, and then he was digging his fingernails into the rock and just screaming...
Time dropped out somewhere, because suddenly John was shooting again, and Rodney was on his side on the ground, and he couldn't move his right arm at all.
John crouched next to him. He put one hand on the back of Rodney's head. "Can you sit up?"
Rodney nodded, though that meant scuffing his face in the dirt. John's hand moved to his good shoulder and helped lever him upright. It wasn't even overly excruciating. John kneeled beside him when Rodney's side was propped back against the boulder.
"Ford and Teyla are on their way," John said. "They'll look after you. But I have to leave you here for a bit. I need to take out some guys trying to cut us off."
Rodney blinked at him. John had his P90 in his right hand, with the muzzle pointed at the sky. The flashlight beam on the barrel made John's face look eerie in the yellow light. Rodney fumbled at his vest, feeling over the pockets by rote with his left hand. He finally found the one he wanted and clumsily opened it, then pulled out the extra magazine for his P90. He handed it to John.
"Can't fire mine anyway," he said, then regretted it. Talking still really, really hurt.
John nodded. "Thanks." He stuffed it into his vest, but he didn't stand, or go off into the forest. Instead he moved closer, so close that his features blurred when Rodney tried to look at him. "When I get back," John said, "you're gonna tell me why you've been staring."
"No," Rodney said. He managed a smile.
"Yes," John said. He touched Rodney's head again, awkwardly, since he was using the wrong hand, but it felt nice anyway.
Then John stood up and disappeared into the forest.
Rodney was sure he'd been waiting a very long time.
He was sure of it because... Well, he was sure. John hadn't come back yet and Teyla and Aiden weren't there and his back was killing him and John was still off somewhere in the forest with a bunch of angry locals and a really pissed-off fiancé after him, and Rodney was getting more than a little light-headed and kind of cold and shaky and strange and he was wondering if maybe John hadn't been able to slow the bleeding so much and dear lord, did it hurt and where the hell was John, anyway?
John was in trouble. John had to be in trouble. He was probably lost. John always got in trouble when Rodney wasn't there to look out for him.
Rodney groped against the rock with his shaking left hand, then used the boulder to lever himself upright. The arrow shaft grazed the stone and Rodney bit back a scream as the arrowhead moved inside his body.
His right arm was folded against his chest, completely trussed up with bandages. He felt like half a mummy.
John had unclipped Rodney's P90--it was lying next to the rock--and Rodney didn't even try to pick it up. He'd given John his extra ammo, and he didn't think he'd be able to carry the P90, anyway. And he sincerely doubted he could aim it with just his left hand. The moon had risen, so at least he'd be able to see well enough without the P90's flashlight.
Which way did John go, anyway? Rodney couldn't remember, and John was the one with the life-signs detector. Rodney blinked, squinting sweat out of his eyes. John had said that Teyla and Aiden were coming in this direction, and he had to keep them from getting cut off. Which meant he was probably going back to their campsite, which was...
Rodney did a slow turn. Dizziness followed him like an afterimage. That way.
He reached across his body to the sidearm strapped to the holster on his right leg. He managed to fumble it into his hand, then started walking.
Lurching, really, which was odd considering his legs hadn't been damaged. But it was strangely difficult walking in a straight line.
It didn't matter. John was out there somewhere, getting lost or perforated with arrows by irate fiancés or worse. Rodney had to help him.
But maybe he'd rest for a minute first. Against this tree; at least until the world stopped spinning quite so vehemently. He propped himself against it, panting and shivering. The bark was rough and uncomfortable against the left side of his chest.
His eyes flew open. There was someone coming up behind him.
He gripped his gun for dear life in his left hand, pushing himself away from the tree with his shoulder. He whirled, or tried to, stumbling awkwardly instead. But still, at least he was facing in the right direction. He brought up his shuddering left arm and fired.
Twice. Into John Sheppard's body. Into John, who had been coming to find him. One bullet hit him high in the chest, pushing him back, the other entered somewhere in John's abdomen.
And Rodney watched, soundless with horror, as John twisted to the side, and fell...
Oh god, oh god, oh god. He'd shot John. John was dead and he'd killed him...
John was dead. Dead. And it was his fault. He'd shot him. He'd shot him twice and now John was dead and Rodney knew he'd never be able to live through this, what he'd done, and he didn't even want to. And John was dead and he--
"Rodney! Wake up!"
Someone was shaking him. Just a little. But it really hurt.
Rodney's eyes snapped open. He was half-lying on the ground, except that someone was holding his upper body, keeping him from falling back. The arms around him were solid and very strong.
And he was looking up into Major John Sheppard's face. A very scared-looking Major John Sheppard, who's face looked eerie in the glow from the flashlight lying by John's legs. John, who was shaking him a little and it really hurt.
"Ow," Rodney whispered. "Stop that."
John stopped immediately. "Thank god," he said, though his expression morphed instantly from relief to something approaching rage. "You asshole! What the hell were you thinking?"
"I shot you," Rodney said, still looking up at him. "You died."
John blinked. "I--I what? You what?" He looked around, as if trying to find the other John, shot dead amongst the underbrush. "No." He shook his head. "You were like this when we found you."
We? But, Rodney realized, yes. It wasn't just the two of them. He could see Aiden, standing just behind John's shoulder, looking worried. And people behind Aiden, as well. One of them looked like the Head Woman. And people carrying torches. And someone was holding the back of his head. He moved his eyes, and saw it was Teyla. She looked worried, too.
"You have had a vision," she said. "From your wound."
"John's okay?" Rodney asked her. She nodded, but Rodney looked back at John anyway. "You're all right?"
"I'm fine," John said. He still looked angry. "I told you to stay put! What the fuck were you trying to do?"
"You were lost," Rodney explained. "I had to find you."
"Lost?" John's face segued into bewildered and then back to fury. "You left cover because you thought I was lost?"
"Major," Teyla said, "Doctor McKay is gravely injured."
"You're damn right, he's gravely injured!" John snapped, but he turned to call to someone Rodney couldn't see. "Bring the stretcher--we'll have to lay him face-down."
"You're an idiot." John shook his head. "You're a fucking idiot. If you bleed to death..." He stopped, and then his anger just seemed to dissolve off his face. "Oh, no. Don't, Rodney. Don't do that. It's okay."
Rodney's vision was blurring. He blinked and something slipped down his face from his eyes. "I shot you. I'm so sorry."
"You didn't, Rodney." John said. He reached out and gently wiped Rodney's face with his fingers. "You didn't shoot me, Rodney. Swear to god."
"They're ready," Teyla said.
"Good," John said shortly. "Ford--give us a hand."
Rodney felt himself being lifted, carefully placed front-down on what felt like hand-woven cloth. Then suddenly he was moving, being carried somewhere.
His head was turned to the left, so when someone took his hand, he could see that it was John.
"You're bleeding," Rodney said. He could see it glistening, almost black in the moonlight. Covering John's hand and arm. Rodney's heart felt like lead. He had shot him! He knew it--
"No," John said. "That's your blood, Rodney. Not mine. None of it's mine. I'm okay."
"I'd never shoot you on purpose, John," Rodney said. It seemed very important to tell the major that.
"I know," John said. And he made a sound that might have been a laugh. And he squeezed Rodney's hand.
The Head Woman was extremely embarrassed that her daughter's fiancé had nearly caused the death of one of her honored visitors. The food she'd given them in recompense almost--almost--made getting shot with an arrow worth it.
Rodney thought he might have taken an arrow for the coffee substitute alone.
Which he was currently drinking in his lab, somewhat awkwardly, because he was still forced to use his left hand to do it. His right was bound up in a sling while his shoulder blade knitted. The arrow hadn't gone all the way through, but the bone had definitely been broken. Carson had gripped his good shoulder and told Rodney he was damned lucky the arrow hadn't pierced a lung.
Rodney had admitted he felt very lucky indeed, with the still-breathing part only being the lesser reason. But it wasn't making the crash-course in southpaw any more fun.
"Hey, McKay," John said. And Rodney nearly fumbled his coffee substitute.
"Whoa." John deftly plucked the teetering cup out of Rodney's fingers, putting it on the table. He turned around so he was facing Rodney, wrapping his hands around the edge of the table and leaning against them.
"Hey," Rodney said, suddenly feeling incredibly nervous. He reached for his laptop, pulling it a little closer. "Though it's always a pleasure to see you, Major, as you can doubtless tell I'm a little busy, so--"
John closed the top of the laptop quickly enough that Rodney had to yank his hand back. "There's a get-together tonight in one of the labs," he said, smiling. "Cori's hauling out her retro again. I think you should come."
Rodney looked at him, then turned away. He didn't want to be caught staring. "Thank you," he said quickly, "but I'm really very busy." He wished it hadn't been John, asking him. He didn't want to risk John noticing Rodney staring at him. More than John apparently had, anyway. But Rodney really wanted to go.
"It's kind of in your honor," John said, as if Rodney hadn't just spoken. "For you taking an arrow in the back and not dying and all."
Rodney looked at John again, more than a little amazed. "My 'honor?' Really?"
John's smile stretched into a grin. "Really."
"Well. Wow." Rodney said. That changed things. Rodney stood, pushing the laptop to the middle of the table. "I guess, I guess I should go then. Put in an appearance." He looked at John suspiciously. "It's really in my honor?"
John nodded. "Yep."
"My honor," Rodney said. He gave a little hum, because he was happy. "How about that?"
"Wait," John said. He pushed himself away from the table, put his hand around Rodney's left forearm.
Rodney looked down at the hand on his arm, his heart sinking. John hadn't forgotten. John was going to ask him about the staring thing. And Rodney had no idea what he could say.
But, "There's something I gotta do first," was what John said, with all his usual grace and easy charm.
Rodney looked at him. He waited for John to let his arm go, but John didn't.
Instead, John began to sing.
It wasn't nearly as bad as it had been when they had been gathered around the campfire. Rodney might even have gone so far as to say John might be a good singer, if he got some training. Even so, he only let John's voice begin to waver at the chorus before he told him to stop.
John frowned. "I wasn't finished."
"John," Rodney said. He hesitated, mostly because his chest had suddenly tightened with an awful thrill of hope that was both insane and made his shoulder hurt. "You're singing A-Ha."
John just smiled. "That's the idea."
"You're singing Take On Me."
John nodded, still smiling. "Yeah."
Rodney cocked his head. The awful thrill wasn't going anywhere, and John was still holding his forearm, mere centimeters from actually taking his hand.
The way he had in the forest, Rodney remembered.
"Why?" Rodney asked.
John grinned like it should have been obvious. "I'm wooing you."
Rodney's mouth dropped open. He shut it. Then it opened again. "Oh."
"I think I figured out why you were staring at me," John said. He took a step closer. His thumb started stroking up and down on Rodney's arm. It felt nice. "I'm right, right?" And now, all of a sudden, it was John who looked nervous.
"You're right," Rodney said. "I didn't know you'd noticed."
"I notice a lot of things," John said. "Like how you want to be with me all the time. Like how upset you were when you thought you'd shot me."
That still twisted him up a little, and Rodney winced.
John gently squeezed Rodney's arm. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have mentioned it."
"No, it's okay," Rodney said. Forcing it to be. John was alive and fine, after all, and unwounded and all but holding his hand. He took a deep breath, focusing on the no-longer-so-awful thrill instead of the truly awful false memory of his hallucination. "I'm so glad that didn't actually happen."
"Me too," John said. "Because then I couldn't be wooing you." He let go of Rodney's arm, and the brief disappointment of it was more than mitigated when Rodney felt John's palm sliding around the curve of his good shoulder.
"I like the wooing," Rodney said. He stepped nearer as well, until their chests were almost touching, and John's face was so close that it blurred. "I'm all about the woo."
"So," John titled his head forward, just a little. "Take on me?"
Rodney laughed. "Needless to say," he said. And kissed him.