Rodney woke slowly, to a kind of half-darkness, a warm weight across his middle, and a soft noise he could only just hear.
He lay still for a moment, trying to get his bearings. They were still in the underground lab they’d been exploring, but now it looked more like a cave, more jagged pieces of stone and metal than any recognizable shape. The light was coming from crack in the ceiling at least twenty feet above the highest bit of rubble. Rodney was lying on what was apparently the only clear section of floor, protected by the heavy workbenches now mangled beside them.
His head throbbed dully, not worrisome yet. So did his ribs, which brought his attention back to the weight resting against his stomach. Rodney blinked, getting his eyes to focus, and realized that it was John, curled against his side, head on Rodney’s sternum and hands twisted into the fabric of Rodney’s jacket.
The colonel was the source of the noise, too, a steady stream of sound that rose and fell in a regular pattern. It took Rodney a long moment to realize that John was murmuring the same thing, over and over, “I love you, I love you, I love you…”
“John?” he rasped, and the sound stopped abruptly.
“You’re okay!” John said, startling upright, then he frowned. “Are you okay?”
“Okay enough,” said Rodney. “At least, I don’t think anything’s broken. Are you okay?”
John laughed. “Now that you’re awake? Yeah. We both got banged around a bit when the ceiling came down, but you’re the only one who got knocked out.”
“How long was I out?”
“Too long,” said John.
“About twenty minutes,” the colonel admitted, softly.
“Hey,” Rodney said, gently. He sat up, hiding a wince as his ribs protested, and reached for John. “Hey, this has really got you freaked out.”
“No,” said John, stubbornly, but he clung to Rodney tighter, now that he had a better angle. “I’m just sick of one of us almost dying.”
“Right. I could tell how not-freaked out you were by your octopus impression, and your attempt to break the record for most declarations of love in under a minute.”
“I…” John began, then sighed and slumped forward, forehead against Rodney’s shoulder. Rodney let him – John always found it easier to talk that way. “I just… You scared the hell out of me, Rodney. It was a half-hour walk from the gate, which meant an hour for Teyla and Ronon to get there and back, let alone wait for anyone to come with them. I thought you’d wake up after a few minutes, but…”
“Hey,” Rodney repeated, more sharply this time. “And, no offense, but I’ve almost died a dozen times, just since we got together, so what made this particular time so traumatizing, Colonel Sensitive?”
Other people would have tried to sound soothing, he was sure, but John had always reacted best when Rodney was his usual un-charming self. Sure enough, John sat up, loosening his grip on Rodney’s jacket.
“Just one time too many, I guess,” he said, then added, “When you wouldn’t wake up, I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I said I loved you.”
“You don’t have to say it,” Rodney told him. “Look, I am terrible at all of this… emotion stuff. But you? I have never, ever doubted that you love me, John.”
John frowned. “I’m not good at that stuff, either.”
“No, you are,” insisted Rodney. “You don’t even realize, but… You come looking for me, John.”
“So?” the colonel blinked.
“I don’t come looking for you!” said Rodney. “I mean, not unless I know you’ve been kidnapped, or something.”
“So?” John repeated. “It’s not your thing.”
“Exactly! And that’s why you don’t have to say it. Because you come looking for me, Sheppard, and you don’t even think that’s important. But I hear ‘I love you’ every time you do, so the last time you said it was this morning.”
“Oh,” said John, softly.
Rodney smiled and leaned in to kiss him. “I suck at people, John, but I’m really, really good at you.”
“Yeah, you are,” John agreed, and kissed him back.