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It's six a.m., and Rodney McKay is in the shower. He's already drunk his first cup of coffee, but he's always half-asleep until he's had at least two, so he sleepily washes up and towels off before he stumbles out of the bathroom. Dressing is automatic: white undershirt, blue button down, tie, black slacks, black belt and black oxfords, the same thing he wears every day. He drinks another cup of coffee as he makes breakfast, and by 6:45, he's fed the cat, and is out the door, briefcase and travel mug in hand.

The commute is easier this early, and Rodney arrives at work by 7:30. He technically doesn't need to be there until eight, but he's only been late three times in fifteen years, (all three because the trains were running late), and he attributes this to leaving early every morning. He nods to Radek and Miko, who also arrive early; he ignores Kavanagh, whom none of them like, and returns both Elizabeth's and Steven's 'Good morning' with one of his own.

He boots up his computer and settles in to work. Accounting and audit research is somewhat mind numbing, but it's what he does, and at this point in his career, he's comfortable, if not happy, so he continues on as he has been. Some days there are meetings; he only contributes if he's directly asked, otherwise he sits quietly, watching the others interact, while snarking away in his head, and looking away whenever someone makes eye contact.

At noon, he takes lunch. One hour out of the office, at the deli across the street, where he eats a roast beef sandwich and drinks more coffee while reading, then it's back to the office until five. Everyone usually leaves at the same time, and they say their goodbyes as they exit the building.

The commute takes longer in the evening, and Rodney doesn't usually get home until 6:30. He feeds the cat, changes out of his work clothes into sweats and a t-shirt, makes dinner and then reads while watching whatever is showing on the Sci Fi channel until he goes to bed at eleven.

The next day it starts all over again; the only variation to his routine comes on the weekends, when he wears cargo pants and a t-shirt, and cleans his tiny apartment and does laundry and goes to the market instead of going to work.

If he ever wishes for something else, for some break in his routine, for someone to share it with, he doesn't let himself dwell on it. He's never been good with people, and he has no idea how to be better with them. He hates playing along, pretending he doesn't have an opinion about the stupidity he sees on a daily basis; he wishes he had the guts to speak his mind once in a while. He knows he never will, just as he knows no one would care if he did actually speak up. Rodney's pretty sure most people aren't like him, but he doesn't know how to be like them, doesn't know how to be anything other than what he is. The life he leads is what he's been given, what he has, so he pushes the wishes away, and goes on.

* * * * *

Even a company as small as Starlight suffers from gossip; there have been rumors floating around for months about some kind of takeover. One morning Rodney overhears Elizabeth's assistant Steven telling Radek and Miko that Elizabeth is in touch with a college classmate, and they've been talking about merging their companies. As usual, Radek is less interested in the business aspect of the conversation, and more interested in people's personal lives.

"Are the companies the only things that will be coming together?" Even though they're on the other side of the cubicle partition, Rodney knows Radek's waggling his eyebrows in the goofy way he always does.

Miko giggles a bit, and says, "Radek! It's none of our business if Elizabeth and her friend are more than friends."

"Oh, I'm pretty sure Elizabeth isn't his type." Steven sounds smug, and Rodney bets his smile is not at all nice. "I don't think we'll be hearing wedding bells any time soon, at least not for those two."

Rodney isn't sure what to think about that, but he figures Elizabeth will tell them what's going on eventually.

When Elizabeth officially announces the merger at the monthly staff meeting, Rodney's only care is that he still has a job. When they're reassured that no one will be unemployed when Starlight Accounting and Gatekeeper Auditing become Stargate Auditing & Accounting, Inc., Rodney stops worrying, and goes back to focusing on his current audit for the Genii Corporation.

A few months later, after they've met the new company president, John Sheppard, Rodney starts to worry about other things, like the fact that he can't seem to stop staring at Mr. Sheppard, who insists everyone is to call him John. Or the way he can't seem to think whenever the man talks to him, or how it is he knows exactly how good Sheppard smells. He finds himself spending a ridiculous amount of time daydreaming about what it would be like to just walk up to Sheppard and kiss him. He's jealous of the familiarity Sheppard has with others; it's something he's never had with anyone, not even his own family, and seeing it makes his chest tight with want.

For the first time in years, Rodney finds himself actively wishing for something he can't have, and he can't seem to make himself stop.

*

The merger brings other changes, too. The number of people Rodney interacts with increases, and for the first time, he's partnered with someone else for an audit. Rodney's a bit intimidated by Teyla Emmagen; she's a tiny, gorgeous woman who could easily kick his ass in a fight; she's smart and quietly funny, and she has a knack for finding loopholes in tax laws that Rodney envies.

They've been doing audit research on a multi-national called Wraith Systems, and despite Rodney's new habit of daydreaming about John Sheppard, it's going so well he figures they'll have the bulk of the work done a week before it's needed. He sends Teyla an email with an updated timeline before locking down his workstation and going for lunch. He's still thinking of what he needs to do to complete his part of the project when he rounds the corner on his way to the lobby and crashes into John Sheppard.

Sheppard catches hold of Rodney's upper arms and pulls him close, steadying him and keeping him from falling on his ass. For a second all Rodney can do is close his eyes and breathe deeply — he's mortified to have walked into someone; that it's John Sheppard of all people just makes it worse.

"Are you okay?"

Sheppard sounds amused, and Rodney feels a flush crawl over his neck and face. He stammers out an apology as he's disentangling himself from Sheppard before stepping back.

"I was just coming to see you. I wanted to talk to you about the Genii Corp audit you worked on a couple of months ago. There are some numbers that aren't making sense to me, and I was wondering if you could walk me through it."

"Oh. I was, uh. I was just going to lunch, Mr. Sheppard, but it can wait if you want to talk now." Rodney risks a look at Sheppard as he speaks, hoping to get some idea of what he's thinking.

"Tell you what, Rodney, why don't we go to lunch together? Take care of two birds with one stone? I've been trying to get to know everyone on the Starlight side of things a little better, and this would be the perfect opportunity."

"I...that would be fine, Mr. Sheppard. I was going to go across the street to the deli, unless you wanted to eat somewhere else?"

"The deli is fine, Rodney. And please, call me John?"

Rodney feels the flush again as he nods, and follows John to the elevators. John stands back to allow Rodney to enter first; once the elevator is full, they stand silently facing the blank expanse of the brushed metal doors. Rodney stares at the hair above John's collar, and wonders if it's as soft as it looks.

John turns his head a bit, looking over his shoulder at Rodney as he speaks. "Why do you suppose everyone's always so quiet in elevators?" That gets a surprised chuckle from some of the others in the elevator, but Rodney just swallows hard, hoping to control the nerves threatening to tie his stomach in knots.

Rodney's stomach continues to flutter as they cross the street; John keeps pressing his hand against Rodney's shoulder, first steering him out of the elevator and the lobby, and then across the street. He hopes it's not obvious he's flustered, but he has the sinking feeling it is.

John keeps up a running commentary while they wait in line, on everything from football to airplanes to the deli itself, and it isn't until John comments that Rodney must know what's good since he eats there every day that Rodney says anything.

"How do you know I eat here every day?"

"Like I said earlier, I've been trying to get to know everyone on the Starlight side." He pauses for a minute, looking a bit sheepish, before he continues, "I've been watching you, trying to figure you out. Everyone says you're a bit stand-offish, so I did some homework."

"You spied on me?" Rodney isn't sure what to do with this bit of information: on the one hand, okay, John seems harmless, but on the other, who on Earth stalks their co-workers?

"Well, I wouldn't say I spied on you—I mean, that sounds kinda stalkery. More like I did some research. It only took me a week to figure out you don't eat anywhere else; Elizabeth speaks very highly of your work; you come in early and leave at the same time every day; you always wear blue shirts, and you're due for a haircut in the next week or so."

Rodney doesn't answer; he's uncomfortable with the idea of someone knowing that much about him and he isn't sure what to say, so he just moves forward in the line.

When he reaches the counter, the kid taking orders grins and asks, "The usual, Mr. M?" even as he's writing down 'roast beef, double meat, provolone, tomato, mayo on white + large coffee.' Rodney nods and takes the ticket, moving aside to wait for John, who is ordering turkey on sourdough with lettuce, mustard and jalapeños.

They're almost to the end of the counter before Rodney says, "If you wanted to get to know me, you could've just asked."

"Really? I'm not too sure about that. You don't seem like the chatty type. Seemed like it was better to get the easy stuff out of the way, save my energy for the hard parts."

"You can ask me anything you want, John." Rodney's heart is racing; he's not sure if what he's just said is the smartest or the stupidest thing ever. He raises his eyes and looks at John, wishing for the millionth time he were better with people, wishing he knew what John's smile meant.

"Be careful, Rodney. I'm likely to hold you to that." John's smile widens as he speaks, and Rodney doesn't need to be a genius to figure out what that means. He can only stare as John winks and leans in to whisper in his ear, "I'm very good at finding out people's secrets."

Rodney hears their numbers called as John nudges him toward the counter. He pays for his lunch, and is looking for an open table, when John bumps his shoulder and asks, "Wanna go outside? There's a pretty decent park a couple of blocks over...."

Rodney takes a last look around the deli, and shrugs, before following John outside.

*

John's right — the park is pretty decent; it only covers a block, so it's a bit small, but there are lots of trees, and a tiny little pond with a few geese swimming in it. Rodney takes all this in as John leads them to a shaded bench where they eat and watch as the world goes by. They're quiet long enough that Rodney begins to think he's off the hook for his earlier promise. When John starts talking, he sighs and resigns himself to being uncomfortable.

"So...what made you decide to become an accountant, Rodney?"

"I've always been good with numbers, but my moth— I mean, people told me I'd never get anywhere unless I had a practical degree, so I decided on accounting."

"What do you mean, 'a practical degree'?" John looks mad, and Rodney hurries to answer.

"I mean something that can be applied in the real world. It's not like a degree in Physics or Mathematics is very useful unless you're planning to teach, and I hate kids, so...accounting."

"Accounting. Huh." John is silent for a few seconds before he asks, "If you could do anything at all, what would you do?"

Rodney's eyebrows knit together and a frown tugs the corner of his mouth down. "I don't understand. Why would I do something else?"

"It's not a hard question. What did you want to be when you grew up? I'm pretty sure you didn't write 'accountant' when they asked in the second grade."

"I didn't.... No. You're right. I didn't want to be an accountant when I grew up, but I am, so why does it matter? I'm sure accountant wasn't the be-all, end-all for you, either."

"We're not talking about me, but since you asked, no, I didn't start out wanting to be an accountant. The Air Force wasn't exactly happy with me after I crashed one of their helicopters trying to save someone trapped behind enemy lines. So, I...decided to retire at Lt. Colonel before they could demote me, and well...here I am. What about you?"

Rodney would bet there's more to the story than that, but even so, he's not sure he wants to know. "That's. I'm sorry. I didn't-"

"Just...answer the question, Rodney."

"I wanted to be...an astrophysicist." He mumbles the last part, hoping John will just let it go. He doesn't want to explain how his mother had laughed when he'd told her he wanted to understand how the universe worked. She'd refused to believe that anyone would pay him to sit around and think, and she'd told him he'd better get his head out of the clouds; his hen-pecked father had agreed. Rodney had tried to defy her; he took Physics and Quantum Mechanics and Astronomy his first semester at university instead of Business Law and Ethics and Accounting. He loved every minute of it.

When his mother found out, she refused to pay for any classes except ones she approved, and after enough threats and lectures and ridicule, Rodney caved. He'd gone to school for something practical, and left the theories to others; he still reads everything he can find, though, resorting to textbooks and internet searches to fill in the gaps in his knowledge.

"Wow. Did you say you wanted to be an astrophysicist? That's...so far from accounting that it's not even on the same map. Why didn't you just go for it?"

"Can we not talk about this? I know I said you could ask me whatever you want, but I can't...I'm not. I don't want to do this anymore."

Without waiting for an answer, Rodney gets to his feet and walks away. He's nearly back to the office before he hears John calling his name. He wants to keep walking, but something makes him stop.

"Look, Rodney, I'm sorry. That was...I'm sorry, okay?"

"It's...fine. I just...don't like talking about myself. I'm not good with people, and I'm not used to...sharing."

John touches Rodney's shoulder briefly before he takes a deep breath, and says, "No hard feelings?"

John sounds hopeful, and Rodney meets John's gaze as he shakes his head.

"Wanna do this again sometime? I promise to be on my best behavior." The eyebrow wiggle that accompanies the last bit is Rodney's undoing: he laughs out loud as he says yes.

*

Apparently, 'sometime' means tomorrow to John; he comes by Rodney's desk with two styrofoam cups of coffee and a brown paper bag at noon the next day, and Rodney can't say no. They walk to the park again, and sit on the same bench.

This time Rodney starts to ask questions, and John answers with a patience Rodney appreciates. The conversation is a lot like the previous day's, but without the freak out on Rodney's part, and before he knows it, Rodney is talking about himself again. When John asks about his family, he only hesitates a moment before he tells John about how they died, his mother and sister and father all dead in a car crash the year he graduated from university. He's never told anyone about it, but somehow it feels right to tell John.

They talk about Rodney's citrus allergy (John thinks it would suck to never have orange juice), and John's father (an Army officer who refuses to speak with his disgraced son), and Rodney's cat Curie, and John's tank of miniature turtles, and the movie John had watched on TV the night before (which was the same movie Rodney had watched), and they even talk about the Genii audit. Two hours pass before Rodney realizes it; he's startled when he sees the time. It's with some regret that he interrupts John's story about how he and Evan Lorne met in the Air Force.

"John...it's been two hours. I should probably get back soon. I have a lot to do if I'm going to finish my research for the audit next month."

"Relax—you're with the boss. No one's going to care that you took more than an hour for lunch."

Rodney fidgets a bit with his cup, rolling it between his hands, before he stands and gathers their trash. "That's...I can't slack off like that. I'm— I've got work to do." He starts to walk back, and John sighs and follows along.

After that, John starts to bring Rodney coffee every morning around ten, and they have lunch a couple times a week. Sometimes they only go out for an hour, but after being gone for a couple of hours several times with no repercussions, Rodney stops worrying so much about getting back on time.

As much as he enjoys John's company, Rodney's not sure he understands why they're spending so much time together. He figures John's going to get bored with him soon—people tend to figure out early on that he's more than a little dull, and no one's ever stuck around for long after they caught on. John is sure to be disappointed when he finally figures it out, so Rodney tells himself not to count on this...whatever it is they have going on continuing.

And to be honest, Rodney isn't sure there is anything going on. He has no idea if John is even interested in men, or if he is, if he's interested in Rodney. John is friendly and open, and he's taken a lot of time and effort to get Rodney talking, but John is friendly to everyone, from Lorne to Miko to the sandwich guy at the deli. He's pretty sure John flirts with everyone he meets, which confuses Rodney. Does it mean anything, or is John just out to charm everyone? Since he doesn't have any idea what's going on, he firmly tells himself they're just friends, and that he shouldn't hope for more.

But he can't help himself. He looks forward to seeing John, to listening to the soft drawl of his voice as he talks about the places he's been stationed, looks forward to watching the way his eyes light up when a plane flies overhead, and to feeling the soft flutter in his stomach when John touches his arm. He knows it's a bad idea to hope for more, he does, but hope is a funny thing, and it's not long before he finds himself wondering if he really can have this.

One morning, John sits on the edge of Rodney's desk, and rather than handing Rodney the usual cup of coffee, he suggests they blow off work and go to the planetarium. John quirks an eyebrow at Rodney, and twirls his index finger in a hurry-up gesture Rodney is already familiar with. Rodney wants to go, but he has things to do, so he hesitates. When John starts to whistle the Jeopardy theme song, Rodney caves.

It takes less than minute for Rodney to be ready to leave; he shuts down his computer and grabs his coat before he can change his mind. John is promising Rodney he won't regret it, pushing him gently toward the elevators. Rodney sees the look of surprise on Radek's face, and he notes Miko's owlish blinking; Lorne pokes his head out of his office and winks at them, and Elizabeth just waves them out the door.

They walk to the planetarium, stopping along the way for coffee. John talks the whole way, and Rodney just smiles and watches John's hands as he describes the fighter jet IMAX movie he'd seen the previous week. He's sure he looks like a love-struck moron, but John doesn't seem to notice anything is amiss, so he pushes it down and decides to enjoy the day.

They look at every exhibit, eat too much junk food, watch the IMAX movie (twice) and sit through three different shows in the planetarium before they call it a day. Rodney loves every minute of it, but the last planetarium show of the day is his favorite.

They're slouching down, heads tipped against the back of their seats, chatting about nothing while watching colored lights float across the surface of the planetarium's dome. As the lights go down for the show, Rodney turns to whisper something to John, only to see John already looking his way.

"What?"

"Nothing. I just...I had a great time today, Rodney. Thanks for slacking off with me."

"Yeah, me, too. I. Yeah."

Rodney's glad it's dark — he's smiling like a loon, sure that everything he's feeling is written on his face for anyone to see, and he's terrified of what will happen if John figures out just how in love with him Rodney is. He's not even sure what the show is about; he spends the entirety of it watching John from the corner of his eye, fascinated by the reflected light playing across John's cheekbones.

They don't talk again until they're back in the street, and then they speak at the same time.

"I -" "What -"

They both stop talking at the same time, too, and Rodney gestures for John to continue.

"I want to get to know you better, Rodney, some place outside of work. Will you go to dinner with me tomorrow night?"

"Yeah, that'd be...nice." Rodney feels his smile grow bigger, and he laughs aloud. John cocks an eyebrow at him, and smiles when Rodney shakes his head.

"I'm okay. Just...I'm okay."

"What were you going to say?"

"Hmm. Nothing."

When they part for the evening in front of the office, Rodney shyly looks over at John, not sure what to expect.

John just bumps his shoulder against Rodney's and says, "See you tomorrow?"

"Yeah, tomorrow."

Rodney goes back upstairs to get his travel mug and briefcase; he passes Elizabeth in the lobby, and nods a hello. He's still fizzy with happiness, and for once, he let's himself feel it.

When he comes out he's surprised to see John's still there. He's just gotten into a cab, with Elizabeth. He watches as she leans in and kisses John, and his heart clenches as they pull apart with a laugh.

So much for thinking Elizabeth isn't John's type.

Rodney turns and walks in the opposite direction, not caring where he's going, just wanting to put space between him self and the cab still sitting in traffic. He walks for blocks, berating himself, blinking hard against tears that threaten to undo him. Stupid. He's been so stupid. He knew it was too good to be true — why would someone as hot as John want to be with someone like him? Of course he'd be with someone like Elizabeth — she's beautiful, successful, charming. He might not know much about people, but now it's clear John is playing him, and like a love struck idiot, he fell for it.

He's walking aimlessly, not paying attention to where he's going, and the first indicator he has of trouble is the horn. He freezes, unable to process what's happening, until he thumps onto the pavement. The last thing he hears before everything goes black is a woman crying and apologizing over and over again.

 

The soft beep of some kind of machine wakes him up; he's not sure where he is, but he knows everything hurts, from the top of his head to the tips of his toes, which are, by the way, freezing. He cautiously opens his eyes, expecting to see white ceiling tiles and institutional green walls. He sees a metal arch leading to a bronze wall bisected with stained glass instead, and a quick glance to the right reveals machinery and monitors that look as though they belong in a science fiction story. He notes the cast on his right arm, and the one on his opposite leg, wondering how bad it is, before he decides it must be pretty bad if the pain he's feeling is any indication. He looks to the left, not sure what'll be there, and is surprised to see John slumped over the bed, asleep.

He raises his hand to touch John, not believing he's there. His fingers settle on spiky black hair, and he can't believe how soft it is. It's only a moment before the movement of his fingers rouses John; Rodney pulls his fingers away as if burned, but John grasps his hand, careful of the IV taped to the back as he pulls it to his mouth, and presses a kiss to the cuts across Rodney's knuckles.

"Thought we'd lost you."

Rodney has no idea what to say to that. Thankfully, someone comes in to check his vitals, and he's a little too busy answering ridiculous questions about how he's feeling to have to figure it out. The doctor tells him he has a broken wrist and a fractured tibia, some cracked ribs and a concussion. She injects something into the IV tubing, and on her way out, tells John he can only stay until Rodney's asleep. John protests, but she insists, saying that John needs to eat and rest himself.

John fusses with the blankets, tucking them in around Rodney before he sits in the chair and holds Rodney's hand. He's pretty banged up himself; there are cuts on the back of his hand and along his cheekbone, and a bruise is just staring to come up across his forehead. Rodney wonders what happened, how they both wound up hurt, but more than that he wants to know why John is here, holding his hand, instead of off somewhere with Elizabeth.

"What happened? Why are you here?"

"Where else would I be? You're hurt, and it's my fault."

"What do you mean it's your fault? Oh my God...you—" Rodney pulls his hand from John's and turns his head, desperate to hide from the pity he is sure he'll see in John's eyes. Somehow John knows how he feels, knows he was running away from what he saw on the street. He doesn't want to see how pathetic John thinks he is, so he ignores him, hoping he'll just go away.

"Rodney? Will you please look at me?" When he doesn't answer, John brushes his fingers along Rodney's jaw, down over his neck to rest against his shoulder. Rodney shivers under John's fingers; the sensation is electric, and he turns toward John automatically.

"I should have done this a long time ago." John leans in, and whispers 'forgive me' before he presses his lips to Rodney's. He's being careful, and oh-so-gentle, until Rodney whimpers, and opens his mouth under John's. Then John is kissing him so deeply he's not sure where he ends and John begins. It's hot and wet and messy and perfect, and just when Rodney is so dizzy he thinks he'll spin apart, they separate, both gasping for breath. John holds him close, murmuring apologies against his skin, as Rodney struggles against the pull of sleep. Whatever the doctor gave him is too strong, though, and he falls asleep to the feel of John kissing his temple.

* * *

The next time Rodney wakes up, it's to weak sunlight streaming into a green-walled room. Rodney's alone and still in pain: his arm and leg are in casts, his head is pounding, and his toes are just as cold as they were the last time he was awake. The heart monitor is silent, but he watches for a few minutes anyway, reassured as it measures out an even rhythm. It takes that long for him to realize it's a normal heart monitor; he looks around and sees that everything is normal — no science fiction-type devices, no arches, no stained glass, no bedside chair. No John.

It was a dream; the room, John, all of it was some kind of drug-induced dream. Rodney had no idea he could feel so bitter about losing something that's not even real, but he is, and it's all he can do to not scream out loud. He clenches his free hand into a fist, ignoring the pain and gritting his teeth, desperate to not cry. He's nearly got it under control when the door across the room opens. A huge dreadlocked man wearing tan scrubs and a stethoscope draped around his neck enters. He's carrying a tray, which he sets on the nightstand.

"Hey, McKay. How're you feeling?" The man's fingers are cool against his skin as he checks the IV taped to the back of Rodney's hand, and he doesn't seem to notice Rodney hasn't answered his question. "My name's Ronon. I'm assigned to you for this shift; if you need anything, use the call button, and I'll be right in."

He lays the call button on the bed, close to Rodney's hand, before he takes his temperature and blood pressure. He makes a note of heart rate and respiration, and exchanges the nearly empty IV bag with a full one from the tray. He then injects something into the IV port. Before he leaves, he tucks the blankets in around Rodney's feet. "Are you comfortable? Is there anything I can get you?"

Rodney shakes his head, and after pouring a cup of water from the pitcher on the nightstand and placing it within Rodney's reach, Ronon leaves the room.

Breakfast is served and another hour passes before a doctor comes in; he looks at Rodney's chart, and writes something on it before introducing himself as Carson Beckett. He speaks quickly, with a heavy Scottish accent, and it takes Rodney a few seconds to figure out what he's saying.

"How're you feeling this morning?"

"Everything hurts; less since the nurse was in earlier, though. How long have I been here? And where, exactly, is here?"

"The EMTs brought you in last night; you've been admitted to Atlantic General. Do you remember what happened?"

"I was downtown, I saw J— I was walking to the train, and...someone hit me with their car?"

"Aye, they did. You're lucky they weren't going very fast. It could have been much worse than just a concussion and some broken bones." Beckett looks down at the chart in his hands before he continues. "As it is, you'll be here for a few more days."

"Why can't I go home?"

"Mr. McKay, we've been unable to locate your next-of-kin, and since you can't even walk, you'll not be able to take care of yourself with cracked ribs. Unless there's someone you can call?"

"I don't have a next-of-kin." Rodney is silent for a moment before he shakes his head. Just yesterday, he would have called John, but he's not willing to face him yet. "There's no one I can call."

"Well, that's all the more reason for you to stay here then, lad."

"But. Curie...someone needs to feed my cat."

"Are you sure there's no one you can call?"

He can't just leave her to fend for herself; Curie depends on him. He wracks his brain, trying to remember anyone's number, but the only one he can think of besides John's is Teyla's. "Is there a phone I can use? I think I have a coworker who can feed Curie for me."

"Why don't you tell me the number? We'll call your coworker, and have them stop by for your keys. I assume they're in your belongings." Beckett places a prescription pad and pen on the tray table, and Rodney writes Teyla's name and work number on it, along with his address.

Beckett raises his eyebrows when he reads what Rodney's written, but he tucks the pad into his pocket without comment. He makes yet another note in Rodney's chart, and then injects something into the IV.

"What's that one for? The nurse put something in there, earlier."

"That was something for the pain. This is just something to help you sleep; you need to rest right now, and this will help. Someone will be in to chat with you about your accident when you wake up, and I'll be back later today to look in on you, all right?"

Rodney wants to complain, but before he can, he yawns widely, wincing as it pulls at his ribs, and he concedes the point.

* * *

A gentle touch wakes him; it's John, who is combing his fingers through Rodney's hair. It's the room with the stained glass again; Rodney blinks a few times, and smiles up at John before he falls asleep again.

* * *

It turns out the person who wants to speak to him is a psychiatrist named Heightmeyer. She thinks Rodney's accident was something else.

"You think I was trying to kill myself? Why would I do something stupid like that?"

"I don't know. Why else would you walk into traffic against the light, Mr. McKay?"

"I didn't walk into traffic. At least not like you mean. I was...distracted."

"Distracted by what?"

And there is no way Rodney is going to tell her he was distracted because he was thinking about what an idiot he's been over John, so he stops talking. Heightmeyer tries to chat with Rodney for another half-hour before she gives up, makes a note in his chart, and leaves.

Another nurse is Rodney's next visitor; her nametag says 'Laura Cadman.' She's pretty, with blondish-red hair and a matter of fact bedside manner. She checks and records Rodney's vitals, pours him a glass of water, and then leaves. Beckett comes in a few minutes later; he tells Rodney what he's injecting this time as he adds a painkiller and another dose of sedative to the IV.

"I spoke with your coworker — Ms. Emmagen, was it? She'll be by this later this evening to get your keys, so there's no need to fret over your wee cat."

"Well, I'll be home soon, right? She won't have to feed Curie for too long."

Beckett shrugs, but doesn't say anything. When Rodney presses him for an answer, he makes a non-committal noise, and pats Rodney on the shoulder before he leaves.

* * *

"Rodney...wake up, buddy. Carson says you need to eat, so wake up before Ronon eats all the Jell-O I brought you."

Rodney opens his eyes to John standing over him. He sees bronze walls over John's shoulder, and off to one side Teyla is sitting beside Ronon, who is eating bright blue Jell-O from a plastic cup. He wonders why a nurse would be eating in his room before he's sidetracked by what Ronon is wearing; the scrubs are gone, and in their place is a ragged sweater and patchwork leather pants. Teyla is dressed oddly as well, her usual tailored suit replaced with a tight blue sleeveless shirt and a long skirt.

"How are you feeling, Rodney?"

He's in pain and confused as hell, and he's not entirely sure where he is, but John's here, and he figures the rest will work itself out.

"Sore. Tired." His stomach growls right then, and Rodney smirks. "Hungry."

John steps away as Teyla approaches the bed, and leans in to carefully press her forehead against Rodney's. "I am pleased you are still with us, Rodney."

"Uh, yeah, me too." Now that she's closer, Rodney can see cuts and bruises marring Teyla's skin, and he wonders what the hell happened to them all. He's not sure he wants to know. Teyla steps back, and nods to John before she pulls Ronon to his feet and out of the room. Ronon smiles over at Rodney as they leave; he's got the same bruises as John and Teyla, and there is a long cut on his bicep.

John turns away for a moment, and when he turns back, he's holding a covered tray. Whatever is underneath smells delicious, and Rodney's stomach clenches in anticipation. John uncovers a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. There's not a bit of citrus to be seen, and Rodney digs in clumsily with his left hand.

John keeps up a running commentary while Rodney eats; he talks about all the people wanting in to see him, including Radek and Lorne; he gestures to the bonsai tree on the table, saying it's from Miko and the botanists; he promises no one's destroyed anything in the labs while Rodney's been out of it. Rodney listens, not really understanding what John is talking about; he has no idea what labs John is talking about, or how Miko knows one botanist, let alone a whole group of them. He finishes his meal, and when John offers him the promised Jell-O, Rodney finds he's too full to eat it.

"It'll still be there when he wakes up, Colonel." Beckett steps around the partition, and crosses to check the monitors. "How are you feeling, Rodney?"

"The truth? Horrible."

Beckett frowns a bit. "Aye, you must be — that's the most polite you've ever been in my infirmary."

Rodney stiffens; just because he doesn't talk much, it doesn't mean he's rude....

John chuckles, and pats Rodney on the shoulder. "It's just all those happy drugs you're pumping into him, Carson."

"Maybe, but I'll feel better when Rodney starts calling me a witch doctor and commenting on my unnatural predilection for sheep."

Rodney looks from John to Beckett, and when he sees their smiles, he relaxes a bit. He tenses up again when Elizabeth comes around the partition.

"I'd heard you were feeling better."

Rodney looks from Elizabeth to John; John's looking at him, not at Elizabeth. He looks at Elizabeth, who is smiling down at him.

"I, uh, some. I'm feeling a little better now that I've eaten." Elizabeth turns to Carson, asking about Rodney's prognosis; Rodney tunes them out, and turns to look at John. John is still watching him, with a look on his face that Rodney can't place.

"What? Do I have mashed potato on my face or something?"

"Nope."

"So, what? Why are you staring at me like that?"

"Just...happy that I still can, I guess."

And once again, Rodney has no idea what to say. He's not sure why it bothers him; it's not like he says much of anything most of the time. It just seems...wrong, somehow, that being around John robs him of words so often.

"What happened? I don't remember how I got here."

"I, uh. I crashed the 'Jumper. The Genii made a lucky shot, and took out one of the drive pods. You were in the back trying to bring it back online, and when they hit us again, I lost control, and we went down. Everybody but you was strapped in."

"You crashed what?"

"The Puddlejumper — that thing we fly around in when we go through the 'Gate? Looks like a big silver ziti?" John narrows his eyes at Rodney, and asks, "Are you sure you're okay? Maybe you bumped your head harder than we thought you did."

Rodney is even more confused, but he doesn't want John bring this to Carson's attention. He's not ready to stop talking with John yet, so he says, "No, no...I'm fine. Things are just...fuzzy. I'm sure it'll all be more clear when I'm not so tir—" In the middle of the word, Rodney yawns, and the pain in his chest goes from bad to unbearable. He can't keep the subsequent moan in, and he feels his face heat as he blushes.

The noise draws Beckett and Elizabeth's attention, and the doctor begins to shoo people out of the curtained area. "All right — visiting hours are over for this lad."

Elizabeth pats Rodney's leg and leaves with a promise to look in on him later, but when John turns to leave Rodney catches hold of his hand before he can walk away.

"Stay?"

"Of course." John raises Rodney's hand to his mouth, and kisses his palm before he sits. "You're not getting rid of me any time soon."

Beckett huffs a bit about both of them needing rest, but winks at John before he leaves. Rodney smiles when John squeezes his fingers and lets his eyes drift shut....

 

Rodney is unsure how much time has passed; he defines the passing days by what color the walls are where he is, but he knows he loses track sometime around the time he has the second set of MRIs.

In the green room, he's still confined to bed; the results of all the tests show the initial diagnosis of concussion is incorrect. What is wrong with him is much more serious. The impact caused bleeding in his brain, and by the time anyone realizes it's happening, it's too late. He has brain damage. Beckett and a neurologist named Biro explain it: localized subdural hematomas on the right cortex and the frontal lobe have affected the way his brain works. Aside from the headaches and dizziness, Biro says there's no way to tell what the long term effects will be; some memory loss is to be expected, as well as diminished cognitive abilities, but no can say how severe it will be. There's a chance he'll suffer from some associated chemical imbalance disorders, but again, neither of them can say for sure what will happen.

Rodney listens carefully, and then asks what his options are. Neither Beckett, nor Biro is sure. They ask again if there is anyone who Rodney can stay with, if he has any family willing to help with his care, and when Rodney tells them he has no family, Biro suggests they talk again when they have a better idea of what Rodney is facing. Rodney doesn't bother answering.

His most frequent visitors in the green room are the doctors and the nurses, but there are others, too. Teyla stops by a couple times a week, to reassure him Curie is fine, until Rodney asks her to take Curie home; it's an imposition, but less of one than Teyla going to Rodney's apartment every day. After that, Teyla only comes once a week; she talks about Curie, and work, and tells Rodney he is missed.

Lorne and Radek come to visit a few times, separately and together, sharing office news and gossip. Miko comes by a few times, and she cries the entire time she's there. No one mentions John, and Rodney wonders if it's because they know what a fool he's been. Elizabeth visits a single time. Rodney pretends he's asleep during her visit; he doesn't want to see her.

Ronon tells him a man comes to visit, sitting at his bedside talking to him while he sleeps, but he refuses to hope it's John.

When Heightmeyer visits, she wants to talk about how Rodney's feeling; she thinks he's depressed. She points to the hours and hours he spends sleeping during the day; he counters by pointing to his head and saying 'Hello, brain damaged?' in his most sarcastic tone.

Heightmeyer just asks if Rodney thinks he might be ignoring the repercussions of the accident. Rodney refuses to speak for the rest of the visit.

* * *

Long before he's even allowed out of bed in the green room, he leaves the infirmary with its bronze walls and stained glass under strict instructions to not work too hard. John laughingly promises to keep him in line, while Rodney says Carson obviously got his degree from a Cracker Jack box, and that he'll treat any advice Carson gives him accordingly. Carson sticks him extra hard when he draws blood for a 'few more tests.'

John walks with him to a set of rooms; he's gotten used to the odd architecture surrounding him, and it doesn't seem strange that the hallway is curved. The first time John takes him out in a wheelchair for a bit of air, and they use one of the transporters to cross the city, Rodney nearly passes out, but he's used to that now too. He's still a bit freaked out by the view off the balconies, though — all that water with no land in sight is a bit scary.

They stop at a door that looks like every other door along the way, but once it opens and he's inside, Rodney can tell the room is his. It's not as tidy as he's used to, but the mess has a sort of order that makes sense to him: several laptops sit on the desk, surrounded by bits of wire, a hard drive and a teetering stack of DVD cases. The desk chair is piled with folded laundry — faded t-shirts and dark cargo pants mix with dark grey and blue uniforms. A black leather jacket with patches on both arms is draped over the back of the chair. The wall above the desk is covered with framed diplomas, and pictures of Rodney holding the diplomas and shaking hands with the men and women presenting them. There's a bed against the far wall; there are a pair of pictures on the nightstand—one of Curie, and one of he and his sister as children. A couch and a low table are the only other furniture in the room.

"So, you want to hang out on the couch, or are you ready for the bed?"

"Um...the couch?" Rodney's not sure he's ready to be anywhere near the bed with John. Kissing John is an amazing experience, but he still hasn't figured out exactly where he stands, and he's scared they might be moving too fast. They need to talk, something he knows he's bad at.

John helps him settle on the couch, setting a cushion on the table before propping his foot up, and setting a bottle of water and a couple of power bars beside him.

"Which laptop do you want? I never know which one is which."

Rodney has no idea which laptop to ask for, so he has John bring all of them. John laughs at that, and makes Rodney promise to take it easy.

"I'll come back at lunch time, yeah? If you're up for it, we can meet Ronon and Teyla in the mess."

Rodney nods, and holds his breath when John leans in to kiss him. It's slow and sweet to start, but just like every other time they've kissed, it quickly escalates to hot and heavy. When he feels the couch dip under John's weight, Rodney pushes against his shoulder until he pulls back.

John looks confused. "Rodney? Are you...is this okay? I know we haven't-" John gestures between them with his hands, "but...I don't want to waste any more time. I want this, with you."

"I...yeah, I do, too. But I think we need to talk about what this is...I don't know what to expect, what you want out of this. I..." He looks away, swallowing hard. "I'm terrified this isn't going to work out, and to be honest...that would break me."

"Oh, Rodney. I would never—" John breaks off and tilts his head to the side, raising his hand to the headset in his ear. "I'll be there in five minutes, Lorne." He clicks the radio off, and leans in again to kiss Rodney. "I know we need to talk about this, and I promise we will, but I have to go help Lorne sort out a fight between some of the new Marines."

John pushes off the couch, and crosses to the door; before he leaves he turns to look at Rodney, who is watching as he walks away. "So, lunch?"

"Yeah. Go on, before Lorne sets Ronon loose on the fresh meat."

*

He spends the morning poking through the laptops, reading emails and digging through documents on the servers, and by lunchtime his head is full of mission reports and wormholes and the scary reality of space vampires called Wraith. He's living in a scenario right out of a science fiction novel, and he can't wait to play with the Ancient tech, to dive into the experiments he has waiting for him in the lab. He thinks about everything he's read this morning, and he laughs a bit because, hey, he lives in the lost city of Atlantis. How cool is that?

John laughs a bit himself when he opens the door and sees the mess. Rodney is surrounded by open laptops, and the rest of the space is taken up with empty water bottles and crumpled power bar wrappers. "This is taking it easy? Are you actually reading off all these?" John leans in to kiss Rodney's forehead, and brushes a hand over his hair, smoothing it flat. "You ready to go eat?"

"Uh...yeah, but can you...uh, bathroom? I may have drunk a bit more water than I should have." John agrees to a stopover in the bathroom, and extricates Rodney from the electronics covered sofa. He helps him balance on his crutch, and walks him over to the open door. He steps back then, and gestures over his shoulder. "Can you? I mean, if you can manage, I'll just...pick up a bit, okay?"

Lunch is exhausting; Rodney doesn't anticipate how many people want to talk to him. It takes twenty minutes to get from the door to a table, and then he only gets there because Ronon finally loses his patience with the delay and growls at the next person who tries to shake Rodney's hand. When they get back to his room after lunch, he gladly settles into the bed, and falls asleep before John even leaves.

* * *

The door is swinging shut when Rodney wakes up; he wonders who it was, and when Ronon comes in, Rodney asks if he knows.

"It was the guy who was here earlier in the week. I think he told Cadman his name's John?"

Rodney's not sure how he feels about knowing John was here; on the one hand, he doesn't want to see him, but on the other, he wants to know what exactly is going on. Beckett comes in while Dex is still there; they converse briefly before he leaves, and when Beckett turns to Rodney, he's smiling.

"Ronon tells me you've been awake a bit more today?"

Rodney shrugs; he doesn't really care any more. He's tired of being stuck in bed, and he knows he's sleeping to pass the time, but the dreams are so real, so seductive, that he wants to sleep, so he can be there.

Beckett says something about a walking cast and a crutch, and another MRI. Rodney nods absently, and when Beckett leaves, he doesn't notice, because he's thinking about Atlantis....

* * *

The promised talk doesn't happen that night; a Wraith dart dropping in for a visit puts a hold on everything, including Rodney's down time. Several Marines are injured, and a pair of marine biologists dies before Ronon tracks down the Wraith that beamed into the city. By then, they've detected a cruiser bearing down on them, and Rodney and the rest of his scientists are frantically working on a way to boost the power to the cloak without draining the ZPM. They have roughly fifteen hours before the Wraith get here, and Rodney's damned if he's going to let some goth-wannabes invade the city, when he's only just realized how cool it is....

It takes almost all fifteen hours to find a solution, and he and Radek are arguing the mathematics even as they're flipping the metaphorical switch.

It works; the cruiser scans the surface of the planet several times before it moves off to the other planets in the system, and then leaves. They watch it on the long-range sensors until it drops into hyperspace. While everyone is cheering and patting each other on the back, Rodney grudgingly admits Zelenka was right, and promptly passes out.

* * *

Now that he can hobble around on with a crutch, he sees Heightmeyer in her office. The walls there are the same annoying shade of green as they are in his hospital room.

Heightmeyer still thinks he's in denial about the extent of his injuries, and about any depression he might be feeling, and she suggests medication, which Rodney refuses.

He's not depressed — he's given up trying to tell her how he feels. He knows he's different now, but he's not sorry. This is how he is, and when he's there, in Atlantis, this is the Rodney they want. He can't explain why he thinks this version of him is better; it just is.

When he won't talk about the accident, or his injuries, she asks about his life before. She wants to know about his family and the people he considers his friends. He grudgingly tells her about how he grew up, and how he lost his family in one fell swoop when he was twenty-two. He tells her he doesn't really have friends. When she points out he must have some friends, since he has visitors, Rodney lashes out at her, pointing out that they never visit when he's awake any more, so they must not be very good friends. She has nothing to say to that.

She's worried about how much he is sleeping. She asks if he dreams, and he tells her about Atlantis.

He tells her about the living city floating on a vast sea on a planet in another galaxy. He tells her about wormholes and physics and aliens who kill by sucking your life away with their hands. He tells her about Tuttle root soup and what it's like to fly the Puddlejumpers and touching the city with his mind. He tells her about Radek and Lorne and Miko and Elizabeth and he even tells her about Kavanagh. He tells her about the Ori and the Goa'uld and the Asgard and the Ancients.

She doesn't say anything while Rodney talks about Atlantis; she just takes notes until their time is up.

*

The next time he sees her, Heightmeyer asks him to talk about how he met John. Rodney has a splitting headache, and he just wants to go back to his room, so he tells her everything, hoping she'll let him go. What they talked about, every variation of green Rodney's ever seen in the hazel of John's eyes, what it felt like when John asked him out. How much it hurt to see him kiss Elizabeth. How confused he is about what happened. How angry he is that John never visits when he's awake.

He talks for the entire hour, and he never once wonders how she knows about John.

* * *

After things calm down following their little visit from the Wraith, Rodney follows Carson's instructions to 'take it easy' to the letter, not because he wants to, but because he's too tired to work too much.

He spends the first few days in his quarters napping and doing more reading. John drags him out to the mess for meals and sits with him in the evenings. They talk on the first day; it's as uncomfortable as Rodney thought it would be.

"What...I know what I want, but what do you want from this?"

"I want you, Rodney."

"That's...I want you, too, but...I'm. How do I know if this is...real, and not some bizarre guilt thing?"

"I've felt like this for a while, but I just assumed we had time. I should have known better. Nothing ever works out like I think it will, especially since we've gotten here. You could have died in that crash, and I would have regretted not telling you the rest of my life."

Rodney is silent for a long time after; he doesn't know what to say. He feels like he's on the edge of a cliff — if he jumps, and no one's there to catch him, it'll hurt like hell. He doesn't know if he can trust John to be there to catch him.

"I...I've never done this. I can't-"

"Rodney, look at me." John waits until Rodney meets his gaze to continue. "I can't promise I'll never hurt you. Hell, I know myself well enough to admit that I will without meaning to. I can promise I won't do it deliberately, though. Can you trust me that much?"

Rodney nods. He can trust John that much; he does already.

John rubs the back of his neck, and looks away for a second or two. When he looks back, he looks a bit sheepish. "Um...not to ruin the moment or anything, but can we never have a conversation like this again? I think I have hives...."

Rodney laughs out loud at that. "I promise. Kiss me?"

"That I can definitely do." John leans in, holding Rodney carefully, like he's something precious, and when their lips touch it's just as electric as the first time John touched him in the infirmary, like every touch between them is, and Rodney feels his breath catch in his throat. He closes his eyes and feels himself fall off that cliff and when he opens his eyes at the bottom, John is still there.

*

He's been back in the labs full time for several weeks, and it's been an uphill climb. He figured out a lot of what he didn't already know while poking around on the computers, but there are still some things he's not sure about. He hits on the brilliant solution of making each department report to him in person about the various projects and experiments; he figures it's a good cover for the fact he's not sure what he's doing.

People are tip-toeing around him, and it takes less than a week for him to be irritated enough to ask what the hell is wrong with them, and tell them to mind their own business. When all he sees are looks of relief, he's off and running. He yells at people when they're too nice, and questions everything, from the validity of proposals to the parentage of the more stupid scientists to why anyone would bother studying a pseudo-science like anthropology.

He says most of what comes into his mind, and after two weeks, he stops asking for face-to-face reporting and turns all of the soft science people over to Radek. It seems like a fair division of labor to him, and Radek doesn't complain much, so he assumes Radek agrees. The first time he makes Miko cry as he rants at her and Kavanagh about their sub-par intelligence, Radek brings him coffee and a doughnut with chocolate sprinkles.

Berating minions is hard work; Rodney falls into bed each night, barely able to do more than snuggle against John when he comes to bed. His dreams are foggy, filled with confusing and vaguely depressing bits of one-sided conversations. He dreams about Carson and sessions with Heightmeyer and being trapped in a green room. They keep asking him to try harder, advising him to take drugs that will keep him from dreaming, urging him to sign a stack of white paper, but he always says no. He dreams more than once that John is in the green room with him, begging him to wake up; when he doesn't, John kisses his forehead and leaves him there asleep.

He wakes from these dreams with a vague sense of unease; something about them bothers him, but he can't put his finger on it. He talks to Heightmeyer about it; she thinks it's his subconscious working out the last of his stress over the accident. He's not sure, but he's also not going to deny he's still working his way back to where he was before the crash. He agrees to tell her if he has any more dreams, and she lets him go without asking any questions about the situation between him and John.

The cast on his arm comes off after a month, and he wears a brace for a month after that before Carson pronounces his wrist healed. Rodney is ecstatic — typing with the brace (and before that, the cast) is slow, and he tells anyone who will listen that ground-breaking, Nobel prize winning ideas are being lost every minute he wears the damn thing. Rodney and John celebrate the removal of the hated brace with a make-out session that ends in messy hand jobs.

When he gets the cast off his leg, Rodney takes the day off. As soon as Carson cuts the cast away and lets him out of the infirmary, Rodney radios John and asks him to come to his quarters in half an hour. It takes him fifteen minutes to get back; people keep stopping him, wanting to talk about getting his cast off. When he manages to free himself from the last well-wisher, he ducks in the door, sets the lock to only allow John entrance, and strips off his clothing on the way to the shower.

After three months of making do with sponge baths on the days when he can't manage a bath with his cast, he is looking forward to hot water pounding down on his skin. He plans to stay under the water until he's wrinkled with it, and then he wants John to take him to bed and make love to him until neither of them can walk.

This thing between them is still so new; they're still figuring out what the other likes. For Rodney's part, he loves everything, but what he really wants is for John to fuck him. He loves the stretch and the burn of John's fingers inside him, and he wants more, wants to feel John's cock in his ass. He thinks about it, but hasn't asked for it. He's thinking about it now, and getting turned on, and oh, he hopes John gets here soon.

The water is perfect; as good as he thinks it will be. He just stands there, running the water as hot as he can stand, and lets it pour over him. The air is heavy with steam when John finally comes into the shower with him, and Rodney feels loose and relaxed. When John wraps his arms around Rodney's chest, he slumps back against hard, lean muscle.

John runs a hand over Rodney's flank as he turns him, palm slipping against the smooth skin until his hand presses against the small of Rodney's back. He pulls Rodney closer, grinds against him, and just like that, Rodney is on the brink of coming.

"God, you feel good." John pushes his face into Rodney's neck, and backs him against the wall, still pushing his hips into Rodney's.

"John...I want. Let me kiss you." John lifts his face to Rodney's blindly, kissing over his jaw until Rodney turns to meet his mouth. There's no finesse; it's all teeth and lips and tongue, rough and deep and hard, and when John bites down on his lower lip Rodney comes. He feels boneless, and the only thing keeping him upright is John pushing him against the tiles. The slip-slide of skin against skin is easier with Rodney's semen between them, and after a few more thrusts, John comes, too. They lean together, letting hot water spill over them until their breath comes more evenly, and then they stagger out to sprawl across the bed, still wet.

John pulls Rodney onto his side and wraps an arm around his shoulders. "Mmm."

"Yeah, that was..." Rodney falls asleep with his mouth pressed against John's neck and an arm thrown over his chest.

* * *

He dreams his leg is still in a cast and that he's in the green room, listening to Beckett and Heightmeyer talking. They're telling someone the brain damage is permanent.

"But what does that mean for Rodney?"

John...he wonders why they're telling John, and not him. He thinks they're keeping something from him, and he wants to hear what else the doctors have to say, so he keeps his eyes closed.

"Mr. Sheppard. There's...something else." Heightmeyer pauses, and Rodney hears a file open, and pages turned, before she speaks again. "I believe Mr. McKay is suffering from a rare form of amnesia called reduplicative paramnesia. He's told me about his dreams, that in them he and everyone else he knows live in the lost city of Atlantis, in another galaxy. Usually in cases of RP, the patient believes that a location has been duplicated, but there have been rare cases in which the patient duplicates everyone they know."

"I don't know...it sounds like what you're saying here is that Rodney is delusional."

Beckett clears his throat before he speaks. "Yes, in a manner of speaking. He thinks his dreams are reality, and that this — that is you and me and everyone and everything around us are the dream."

They all think he's insane, and really, that explains so much — the push for drugs, the talks with Heightmeyer — but he's not crazy, and he doesn't know how to explain what he is instead, so he remains silent.

"So we're back to my first question — what does that mean for Rodney? Can he leave the hospital if he has somewhere to go?"

"I wouldn't recommend it, no. Mr. McKay needs specialized care and supervision. His needs would be better met here, or in a private institution where he can receive intensive counseling and if he allows it, medication. Of course, he's still refusing any medication besides what we're giving him for pain."

"Fine...what do I need to do? He doesn't have any one else, and I want to help him."

"Do? You aren't legally authorized to make medical decisions for Mr. McKay. There's nothing you can do. We've talked with him about a new experimental treatment to halt the spread of the brain damage, but he won't read the paperwork, let alone sign it, so at this point, we can't do anything either, except keep him here."

"Is there any difference between the psych ward here, and a private hospital somewhere, other than how much it costs?"

There is an uncomfortable silence in the room for a minute or two before John speaks again. "Well? Is there?"

"Uh, not as such, no."

"Good. As soon as it's feasible move him to the nearest private facility. I'll pay for it."

"Are you sure? That kind of care is expensive, Mr. Shep-"

"Yes, damn it. I'm sure! Would you please just do what I asked?"

Rodney hears footsteps, and a door opens and closes. It's quiet in the room, peaceful and he's starting to drift off again, when he feels lips against his forehead.

"I know it isn't my place, but I promise I'll take care of you, Rodney. I won't leave you behind." John presses another soft kiss to the center of Rodney's forehead, and backs away with a gentle sigh.

The door opens again, and Rodney opens his eyes just enough to watch John leave. Elizabeth is there, waiting for John. He shakes his head, and Elizabeth pulls him into a brief hug before taking his hand and pulling him away from the door.

Beckett enters shortly after; he looks tired as he makes notes in Rodney's chart.

"Are you sure you won't reconsider the drug trial? It's not a one hundred percent cure, but they've had promising results so far, and it's something both Dr. Heightmeyer and I think you'd benefit from. But the longer you wait, the less chance you have for even a partial recovery."

"Will I still dream?"

"We don't know, but probably not; these kinds of drugs tend to disrupt sleep cycles. What we are sure of is this: without the drugs, the damage will spread, and you'll eventually fall into a coma."

Rodney doesn't like the sound of that; he doesn't want the drugs if taking them isn't a sure thing, especially if it means he'll stop dreaming.

He wants Atlantis. He wants John.

"Then, no. No drugs."

"But there's a good chance you'll-"

"I said no."

Beckett sighs and makes another note in the chart before he leaves.

* * *

He wakes from the dream to the sun shining in through the balcony doors; it's mid-afternoon, and he's in bed with John, held close against his chest. The melancholy feeling left over from the dream is fading, quickly being replaced with a desire to wake John and take advantage of not having a bulky cast on his leg....

*

Things are settling down nicely in Atlantis. They're making progress on reverse engineering the ZPMs, and no one's turned into a bug or activated any weird Ancient containment protocols for weeks. He's not been screaming in the labs as much as he did at first. That's not to say he doesn't yell at all — he and Radek have arguments that chase everyone else out of the lab all of the time. But lately, either people are suddenly less stupid, or the regular bouts of sex are atrophying his brain. He prefers to think it's the former, that it's his brilliance inspiring the underlings; John is smugly sure it's the latter, and he spends hours in bed with Rodney trying to prove the point.

Ronon and Teyla seem determined to break him all over again; as part of his physical therapy he's stretching with Teyla, and Ronon is working with him on strength training, and helping him to recertify on firearms. They eat meals and socialize together, when all four team members are on Atlantis, and Teyla attempts to teach them all how to meditate. She gives up when John and Ronon fall asleep; Rodney is relieved, since he's sure Teyla can kick his ass with both hands tied behind her back, and he's been close to falling asleep every time.

He still occasionally has the green room dreams; none are as detailed as the one when Beckett and Heightmeyer spoke with John, but they all leave him with a feeling of hopelessness and with a sadness he can't explain. Rodney dutifully reports each dream to Heightmeyer; they talk about symbolism and meaning, and Rodney leaves each session telling himself it doesn't matter, since psychology is at best a pseudo-science. He decides the best thing is to just push the dreams away, to forget them.

*

When Rodney finally finishes his physical therapy, Carson clears him for 'Gate travel. Today they're on a softball mission, visiting the Athosians along with Biro and a pair of nurses.

The point of today's trek is immunizations and check-ups, which means the team has the day free. Teyla and Ronon disappear with the hunting party leaving as they arrive through the 'Gate. He and John are spending the day on a blanket tucked away in the copse of trees south of the settlement. The weather is perfect: warm sun, cool wind, and good company...Rodney can't think of anyone he'd rather spend the day with.

Rodney is sprawled out on his back, arms spread wide, heedless for once of sunburn or radiation. He turns his head to look at John, who's just as relaxed. "It's nice to see Elizabeth so happy; she deserves it. I never thought she'd talk Caldwell into transferring to Atlantis, though."

"Mmm. She's pretty persuasive, you know, diplomat and all that. And yeah, happiness suits her. Must be all the sex."

"Ewww. That's like thinking of my sister having sex. So not hot."

"Yeah, you kind of have a point there."

"Speaking of hot, do you think Lorne and Radek are fucking? Radek won't say. I don't suppose Lorne's mentioned it to you?"

"Rodney! It's called 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' — I can't ask, and he can't tell. But, between you and me? Yeah. He hides it well, but we've been friends long enough that I can tell when he's happy. They've been spending a lot of time together, and I haven't heard any more rumors about him and Cadman. When you put that all together, I think they are." John looks over, a teasing glint in his eye, and asks, "Why? You thinking of trading me in for a younger, shorter model?"

"Lorne? Hardly. For one thing, I'm pretty sure Radek knows a million sneaky ways to kill me, and he knows a lot more places to hide bodies in the city. Besides, Lorne's hair isn't nearly as ridiculous as yours, and you know I like my men with ridiculous hair."

"Hey!"

John looks indignant for a second before rolls over and pins Rodney down, rubbing his hair across the soft skin of Rodney's belly. Rodney sputters, squirming to get away, complaining about how much it tickles the whole time, but he doesn't try very hard.

"You know you love my ridiculous hair." John stops tickling and presses his mouth to the curve of Rodney's stomach, and Rodney stills. They lie together in silence for a long time before either of them speaks again.

"I— I do, you know. Love you, I mean. And I wouldn't give you up for the world. Or Lorne." John grins, and sets his teeth to the skin over Rodney's hip, biting gently until he hears Rodney gasp.

Rodney weaves his fingers into John's hair and tugs, forcing him to look up. "I mean it, John. I love you."

John squeezes Rodney tightly for a moment before he answers. "Me too, Rodney, me too."