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Brand New Day

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They lingered over breakfast at a little place in Cow Hollow. Teyla and Ronon had already taken off--not exactly the rules they'd agreed to when the SGC had granted them all shore leave, but the sun was warm, filtering through bright green leaves, and John seemed content enough nursing his coffee, and Rodney was considering flagging someone down and ordering another muffin, and he just couldn't find it in himself to worry.

They'd pushed two of the outdoor tables together and then ordered enough food to crowd them both and dug in--Ronon ate at least half his weight in bacon, and Teyla neatly speared the strawberries off of everyone's plates, and John drank down two big glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice, one after the other, even though Rodney glared at him the whole time.

Now that the breakfast rush was mostly over, it was easy to settle into quiet. Rodney could still hear the occasional clink of cutlery against plates from inside, but except for a couple sitting at another one of the outside tables, a big golden retriever lounging underneath it, and the occasional people passing by on the sidewalk, it was just the two of them. It was pretty and tranquil and improbably pedestrian here, and Rodney still found himself looking around at the buildings and cars and newspaper boxes like he'd never seen them before. He tried not to let the fact that most of his visits to Earth lately had involved kidnapping or crazy scientists or alien mind games make him uneasy. John had his sunglasses on, so Rodney couldn't really tell what was keeping his attention--the dregs of his coffee, or a smudge of butter on the table, or a dark spot on the concrete under his feet. He wondered whether John was thinking about the last time he was here--about running the gauntlet of funerals and replicators and family politics.

When John looked up to follow the progress of a plane flying overhead, Rodney let himself study him. He probably would have looked tired without the sunglasses--which Rodney could understand, since it had taken about five and a half cups of coffee before he started to feel remotely human. John hadn't shaved, and he was wearing a crisp, too-new t-shirt that he was still doing his best to slouch in. John looked back, and Rodney could see that he was tired, could see it in the lines around his mouth, and the sun glinting off of the gray in his hair, and it didn't seem fair that they were all okay, and John still couldn't enjoy it.

"So," Rodney said, breaking the silence and nudging his empty mug against John's, "I propose more coffee, and maybe another one of those breakfast pizzas? What do you think?" John huffed out a laugh, but he didn't say no, and Rodney thought he could see the tense set of his jaw relax a little, and some of the stiffness in his posture gentle. "And then we go find our truant teammates?"

John bumped his mug back against Rodney's in apparent agreement, and Rodney said, "Good, good," and turned away to try and catch their waiter's eye.

* * *

They linger over breakfast on P39-4X2. It's still winter here--the trees are bare, branches stark against the brilliant, electric blue sky, but it's an unseasonably warm day, and even though there are probably a couple of months to go before green things start poking up out of the ground, everyone seems a little giddy with spring fever. The Anoss set up their morning feast at long tables outside in the orchard, and a group of kids, Torren in the lead, are chasing Ronon around and around the mieyunn trees. Teyla's looking on fondly, half indulgent, Rodney imagines, and half resigned about the mud she's sure to have to deal with later. The sun's pleasantly warm on Rodney's shoulders and the back of his neck, and there are squares of pastry with pink berries and pink icing, and something like a cross between custard and bread pudding, and black tea, spicy and barely bitter and perfect for cutting the rich sweetness, and John's sitting across the table from him, not-very-surreptitiously dropping crumbs on the ground. Little buff-colored birds, a whole flock of them, hop around their feet, hoping for more.

Rodney raises an eyebrow and nudges his calf under the table and says, "Making new friends?"

John nudges him back and laughs, loose and easy, eyes crinkling at the corners when he says, "Aww, come on, Rodney, they're cute."

He's leaning on his elbows on the table, leaning in toward Rodney, and Rodney feels the same way he does when he knows an experiment's going to result in exactly what he thinks it will, the way he feels when the math all adds up, like he's right on the brink of a perfect moment where everything makes sense--of course, he also feels perilously close to the way he does when John does barrel rolls in the puddlejumper, and so he says, "Oh my god, did they spike your tea?" because he's pretty sure that all of the other things that want to come spilling out of his mouth are going to be too much.

John keeps grinning at him, steals another corner of pastry off Rodney's plate to share with the birds, and Rodney wonders how this came to be his life, eating alien breakfast on an alien planet under an alien sky, clear and blue, no threat coming out of it, with John Sheppard sitting across the table from him, impossibly familiar down to his bones, down to his atoms, and looking like--looking like the future, looking like the rest of Rodney's days, laid out right there in front of him.

And this must be what it feels like, he thinks, to break a long fast--everything fresh, everything better, everything new again--everything a reminder of how much he was missing.