When Rodney was released from the medlab, Sheppard escorted him to his quarters like he was senile and had forgotten the way. Teyla was already there when they arrived, fluffing his pillows and generally acting the way his mother never had. He shooed them out and told them he was fine, but as soon as they were gone he collapsed onto his freshly made bed and was soon drooling into his freshly fluffed pillows. Once the elation of being alive wore off, he found he was completely exhausted.
Sheppard and Teyla's tag team mother-hen routine didn't surprise him, but he was flabbergasted when Ronon showed up at his door a while later.
“So,” Ronon said, when Rodney let him in, “you're – better.”
“I'm a new man,” Rodney said, as heartily as he could considering he'd been woken from a sound sleep and had been temporarily dead only a few hours ago. “Well. That is – the old...man.”
Ronon took a step forward. “Yeah?” There was more to the question than Rodney was able to decipher, or was in the mood for.
“Was something wrong with me before?” he demanded, folding his arms.
Ronon stopped and stared at him in that way he had that told you he knew something you didn't. It never failed to piss Rodney off. “No,” Ronon said simply, before turning on his heel and stalking out the door.
“Nice talking to you, too,” Rodney muttered to his retreating back.
Rodney tried not to think very much about Ronon and his odd behaviour, but it was tough to do, especially since Ronon suddenly seemed to be everywhere Rodney was, from the mess hall to the C and C. One day, he even took it upon himself to drag Rodney out of his lab – over Rodney's loud protests and the cheers of most of his traitorous science team – and off to the gym, where he proceeded to beat the crap out of him with sticks.
“I don't know how you haven't gotten yourself killed by now,” Ronon grumbled, throwing Rodney a towel. “Next Thursday at fourteen hundred. Don't be late.”
Rodney insisted on wearing padding after that, but he didn't stop going. Although he'd deny it if ever asked, it felt kind of nice to have someone give a shit.
The night Carson died, Rodney found himself standing outside Ronon's quarters, but Ronon didn't looked surprised to see him.
“You've lost – ” Rodney waved a hand helplessly, because how the hell did you begin to describe everything Ronon had lost? “ – when do you – let go of it?”
“You don't,” Ronon said flatly. “It doesn't ever go away.”
“Oh, thank God,” Rodney breathed, and Ronon's arms were around him a split second before the sobs overtook him.
Ronon accompanied them to Earth, where he was immunized, prodded and generally annoyed by the SGC doctors until he stood up and said, “Gotta go.” They flew with the coffin in an Air Force Lear, Rodney feeling weightless and immeasurably lost as the Earth slipped away beneath them.
Beside him, Sheppard fidgeted restlessly, his hands opening and closing repeatedly on his uniform pants. Rodney bore it for as long as he could, which unfortunately was about twelve minutes, and then he might have glared at Sheppard until Sheppard got the hint and left to sit somewhere else. It was a measure of how messed up he was that he didn't even notice when Ronon took Sheppard's place.
“You're being an asshole, you know that, right?”
Rodney leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. “I know.”
Ronon reached across him and pushed up the window shade, the one Rodney had lowered because the glare was unbearable. “Pretty slow, isn't it?”
“Compared to a puddlejumper, yes.”
“How come you aren't sharing the Ancient technology with your people?”
The question caught Rodney off guard, and that only made him angrier. “Because most people on this planet don't want to know there are little green men – and they sure as hell don't want to know about the big ones,” he snapped. “Because if we dumped the knowledge of the Ancients on humanity, someone would figure out a way to destroy the planet with it inside of a decade.” He sighed and looked up at Ronon. “Because we think we can play God.”
Ronon nodded at the window. “So all those people down there have no idea there are beings from other planets?”
“Not a clue.”
Ronon leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “They're lucky.”
The funeral went as well as could be expected, considering Rodney hadn't known what the hell to say when Carson's mother asked him how it had happened and Sheppard was tense and uncommunicative and everybody was watching Ronon out of the corner of their eye to make sure he didn't do anything weird that would prove he was actually from a galaxy far, far away.
Carson's was the kind of family to have their own private cemetery on land that had been handed down for four hundred years. The plots were well-tended and the headstones were straight and Rodney wanted to smash them, which is how he knew he had to get out of there.
He wandered out into the wood beyond the perfectly manicured garden and found himself suddenly at the edge of a steep drop overlooking the town below.
“Don't fall off.”
Rodney jumped and clutched at his chest, then turned to see Ronon sitting a few yards away, his feet dangling over the edge. “What are you doing here?”
Ronon's gaze stayed on the scenery. “Same thing you're doing.”
After a moment's hesitation, Rodney walked over and sat beside Ronon, close but not quite touching. He was astonished to find it slightly comforting.
Ronon nodded at the town. “He lived here.”
“He spent his adult life in Edinburgh, but yes, he spent his childhood here.”
Ronon didn't speak after that, and when Rodney looked up at him, he was shocked to see silent tears rolling down his cheeks.
“Hey,” Rodney murmured, an uncertain hand fluttering in the air for a moment before alighting tentatively on Ronon's broad back.
Ronon gestured at the peaceful town below. “Why would you ever want to leave a place like this?” he demanded. “You must all be crazy.”
Rodney's hand began stroking up and down Ronon's back, because it was the only answer he could give. After a minute or so, he felt the warm pressure of Ronon against his side, and together they watched the sun set over the town.
When they got back to the hotel, Rodney paid fifty pounds to the bartender downstairs for some very passable scotch, and he, Sheppard, Ronon, Radek and Lorne raised several successive glasses to Carson's memory. After Ronon dragged him to his room and stood there, hesitating and swaying slightly, Rodney decided on impulse that he was just drunk enough to be able to use it as an excuse. With one hand braced on Ronon's chest for balance, he hooked the other around his neck and pulled him down. Ronon's hair, he found, was a lot softer than he'd thought it would be, though his mouth was just as he'd imagined.
When he let go, Ronon didn't straighten right away, merely regarded Rodney with that same maddeningly knowing look, made all the more maddening by only being six inches off the end of Rodney's nose. Rodney held his breath and waited for the punch.
Ronon's expression gave nothing away as he said, “That the best you can do, McKay?”
“Hell, no,” Rodney breathed, already dragging Ronon down for another kiss.
“So why did you do it?”
Rodney blinked up at the ceiling before rolling to face Ronon, who had gone from inscrutable to insufferably smug. It was a good look on him.
“Well, how about because you're about the hottest human being I've ever seen in my life? Will that do?”
Ronon smirked. “I meant why did you heal my scars?”
“Oh.” Rodney reddened, which considering everything they'd just done shouldn't have been possible. “I – well. I was trying to do something for each of you that would – um.” He shook his head. “I was trying for altruistic, but I think I missed the mark, because I suppose in the end I was hoping it would make you – remember me.”
Ronon cocked his head. “Why didn't you think we'd remember you before?”
“All right, remember me fondly,” Rodney muttered.
Ronon propped himself up on an elbow and watched Rodney for what felt like far too long, and when Rodney was about to squirm he reached out and cupped Rodney's jaw in one big hand and murmured as he leaned in, “You're kind of dumb about some things, aren't you?”
Rodney was appalled to find that the observation didn't bother him one bit.