Six months versus a couple of hours, it was hard to believe.
John found himself looking at everyone and everything closely, trying to see the changes that six months of separation would have wrought - hell knows that there had been plenty changed wrought in him - but there was nothing to see.
Elizabeth’s ever-lengthening hair hadn’t grown any longer, Ronon still had the faint bruise on his arm where John had landed a lucky punch that same morning six months ago. It really had only been a couple of hours.
Why didn’t that make things better?
John understood the mathematical concept behind the time dilation field but he couldn’t wrap his mind around the reality of it. For six months he had waited, his surety that his team - his family - would come for him dimming a little every day. He’d gone from being worried about them, to angry at them, to acknowledging just how much they meant to him and back again multiple times during those six months - sometimes looping through all the stages in one day.
Now that he was rescued though? He was stuck on angry.
“So, you see, once I realised that I had inadvertently recorded almost two hours of footage in the few seconds that the camera was through the barrier the conclusion was obvious.” Rodney beamed at John as he trailed behind him through the corridors of Atlantis, sounding self-satisfied and gloating. A job well done.
John could feel the muscles in his jaw jump as he bit down on the anger.
“You know,” Rodney continued, oblivious, “I’m really surprised how quickly I managed to figure it out. I mean, yes, of course, genius; I knew that. But, really, when it all boils down to it I really outdid myself this time. The telemetry readings we got from the probe - and I’ll admit Radek helped a bit with that - were instrumental in - - “
“MCKAY, would you - - would you please shut the hell up?”
John screwed his eyes shut at the way Rodney’s big blue eyes widened with hurt. He knew he was being unreasonable but, damnit, he had lost six months of his life - six months he would never get back - and his team had known that time was passing faster for him and they had still left him alone, with no clue about what was going on, not even a fucking note to say ‘hang in there’ and - -
“We did,” Rodney said, interrupting the flow of words that John hadn’t even realised he had been speaking out loud. “We sent supplies through, we sent everything we had and Teyla sent a note explaining…” he trailed off, defeated. “It was too late though. You were - you had already left and - -" Rodney's face crumpled as realisation set in, "you thought we’d left you behind.”
John didn’t try to deny it, he figured his outburst made any denial pointless. He shrugged instead, hating the feeling of the homespun clothes he was still wearing. He missed the weight of his uniform jacket. He missed razor blades and indoor plumbing and - - god, he’d missed Rodney something fierce.
“We’d never leave you behind,” Rodney said quietly, almost as if he was afraid that someone would overhear, nevermind that they were alone in the corridor. “I’d never leave you behind.”
John nodded, drawing a shaky breath in. “I know that,” he said. “ I just don’t...didn’t...you know what, it’s cool.” He slapped on a grin that he hoped looked more natural than it felt. “We’re good. It’s just the lack of sanitation talking. Speaking of…” he gestured in the direction of his quarters.
“Yes. Of course.” Rodney stood awkwardly aside, letting John go on alone. “I’ll see you in the mess tonight? For dinner?”
Dinner. God, it hadn’t even been a day. Rodney sounded so hopeful though, so lost, that John nodded, attempting another smile.
He escaped then, feeling simultaneously angry at Rodney for acting hurt when he’d just left him there and feeling like an ass. Rodney really had figured it out quickly, probably frantic the entire time. What more could John ask of him? What right did John have to ask anything of him? No matter how he felt they weren’t - - they were friends, colleagues, team-mates, and, yeah, family, but six months had proved to John that he had wanted more. He had wanted everything and maybe that was why he was so damn angry.
John arrived at his quarters, let the door slide closed behind him and punched the wall in frustration.
Six months or a couple of hours, it didn’t matter. He didn’t know if things could be the same again.
Two weeks later, John paced the tiny cell that the angry men with spears on PY7-9UO had thrown him in, once again finding himself alone. He had laid down covering fire to let his team reach the gate but hadn’t managed to follow them to safety.
They’ll come for me, he thought, repeating the words in his head like a mantra, trying very hard to ignore the small voice in his head that said they wouldn’t.
A crashing noise outside his door jerked him from his thoughts. Weaponless, John did his best to get ready for an attack when the bolts of his cell door started to draw open only to stagger back in surprise when the same men who had manhandled him earlier threw Rodney into the cell with him.
The door slammed closed behind them but John didn’t care about missing his chance, he dropped to his knees and checked on Rodney, wincing at the rapidly swelling left side of Rodney’s face.
“What the hell, Rodney?” he yelled when he was sure Rodney wasn’t seriously injured. “You were supposed to go through the damn gate.”
Rodney shook his head, hissing at the pain it caused him. When his mouth opened, John could see that his teeth were stained with blood. What the hell was Rodney smiling at anyway?
“Couldn’t leave you behind,” Rodney managed to spit out. “Not alone. Not again.”
“You - - “ John couldn’t even finish the sentence. Of course he had. Rodney didn’t make the same mistake twice, never mind that John could admit to himself that Rodney hadn’t made any mistakes with the time dilation field incident at all.
“I thought you were supposed to be a genius?” he asked, sighing as he sat against the wall, helping Rodney sit next to him. If they were sitting closer than was really necessary, well, it was cold in there. Probably.
“I am,” Rodney insisted. “It took me a while but I figured it out.”
“Figured what out?”
“This.” Rodney shifted, closing the minute gap between them and pressed his lips against John’s own.
Six months, a couple of hours, or making a move when they were locked in a cell and probably about to be tortured; Rodney had lousy timing.
Kissing him back, running his hands through Rodney’s soft, thinning hair….John decided Rodney’s timing was pretty much perfect. Especially when the cavalry rocked up twenty minutes later having followed the locator beacon Rodney had MacGyvered from the power source of his LSD and hid in his pants.
Never leave a man behind.
They’d always been words that John lived by. Now they were more than that, they were words that he could trust his own life by.