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Three Times John Used His Words

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The Time with Pneumonia

Life in Pegasus wasn’t just soul-sucking vampires and dicks with atomic weapons. It was also viruses that didn’t exist in the Milky Way galaxy and exposure to extreme weather on offworld missions. Naturally it was Rodney that succumbed, he of the hypoglycemia and citrus allergy.

The beginnings of a head cold morphed into full-blown near-pneumonia overnight, while the team was still offworld.

“It’s not good,” Ronon said. As a former field medic and the person in charge of his own health and wellness during his time as a runner, he was the closest the team had to a doctor on offworld missions.

John didn’t need medical training to hear how badly Rodney was wheezing. He could see the shaking, hear the phlegmy coughing, feel the burning fever. It was scary, how quickly it had happened. When they’d gone to bed the night before, Rodney had complained of fatigue and a slightly congested feeling in his chest.

“We need to get him back to Atlantis,” John said.

“Not gonna happen,” Ronon replied. “We can’t move him like this.”

Teyla nodded. “I will ask for their healer.” She ducked out of the hut.

“What can I do?” John asked. His hand kept returning to his holstered pistol. He didn’t like feeling helpless. He was the team leader, he was supposed to keep everyone safe, but how could he fight an illness?

“Stay with him. I need to get some supplies.” Ronon clapped his hand on John’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze before he left.

“I’m dying, aren’t I?” Rodney muttered from his bed. “Why am I always dying?”

“You’re not dying, McKay. It’s just a cold.” John needed something to do with his hands, so he plucked the damp cloth off Rodney’s forehead and wrung it out in the bowl of water on the nearby table. “Stop being so dramatic.”

John put the cloth back on Rodney’s head, letting his hand linger a little longer than necessary. He could feel the heat pouring off Rodney’s skin, smell the sweat that had soaked into the bed sheets. John had to curl his hand into a fist to keep from reaching for his sidearm yet again.

“I can’t go out like this, Sheppard. I can’t –” Rodney broke off, body wracked by a hacking cough.

John helped him sit up a little and handed him a receptacle to spit his phlegm into. It was disgusting, but Rodney being reduced to a limp noodle afterward was alarming enough to eclipse that.

“Nice and easy, buddy.”

“Are we?” Rodney asked, voice rough from the irritation to his throat. “Buddies?”

John’s first instinct was to brush it off, to deflect. It was an almost unconscious response, one he’d honed to a fine point over the years. But Rodney was looking at him with red-rimmed, glassy eyes and a fever blush on his cheeks, and John felt helpless in the face of his suffering.

“Best friends,” John said, his heart pounding at the confession.

It had been a long time since he’d had a best friend, but Rodney had been that for him almost since the beginning. The stupid things they’d done when Rodney found the personal shield had really been the start of it for John.

Rodney gave him a tentative, lop-sided grin. “Just a cold?”

“Just a cold,” John confirmed. “You’ll be fine.”

Luckily he wasn’t lying. Three days later Rodney was back home in Atlantis. A week after that, he initiated a regular chess game with John, and they started spending even more time together.

The Time With the Bleeding

John felt like he’d been hit by a truck. A really big one. Everything hurt and he was having a hell of a time catching his breath. But his team was safe, and that was what mattered.

“Easy,” Rodney said. “You’re jostling him too much!”

“Shut up,” Ronon replied.

John couldn’t help wincing as Ronon eased him out of his tac vest. He couldn’t open his eyes because one of the rocks in the landslide had sliced across his head and blood was still running down his face. He’d never get the taste of it out of his mouth.

“…with us, okay?” Rodney asked.

John must’ve been drifting. That was probably a bad sign. He was pretty sure he had a concussion. He hissed through his teeth when he felt a hand on his stomach. When had he lost his shirt?

“See this bruise?” Ronon asked.

“A hillside fell on him!” Rodney replied. “His eyelids probably have bruises!”

“He’s bleeding on the inside.”

“Sounds…bad,” John panted.

“It’s not good,” Ronon said.

A wave of nausea rolled over John and he struggled to move so he didn’t puke on himself. Ronon and Rodney helped, supporting him as he retched. He lost a little more time after that, and when he came back to himself, Rodney was gently cleaning the blood off his face.

John blinked his eyes open, squinting against the light even though their tac vests had been rigged up to provide some measure of shade. Rodney’s face hovered above him, pinched and coated with rock dust. There was a bloody gash on his cheek.

“Okay?” John asked.

“I’m not the one who got run over by a boulder,” Rodney replied.

“Ronon?”

“He went for more water. And Teyla should be back soon with help.”

Teyla. John had forgotten she left, headed back to the Gate to fetch Carson and a ‘jumper for transport. But if he had internal bleeding…time was of the essence, and John wasn’t sure he could pull off another last-minute miracle.

“You know, the next time you feel the need to be the big action hero, I’ll remind you that I’m not incapable of saving my own life,” Rodney said. “Self-preservation, Colonel. Look into it.”

John could barely catch his own breath, but he could hear the fear behind Rodney’s apparent criticism. He reached out with one hand, gritting his teeth against the pain that shot up his arm and into his shoulder. Rodney met him halfway, grabbing hold of his hand with a scowl.

“Stop moving! You’re just going to make things worse.”

“Worth…it,” John said.

“What’s worth it?”

“You.”

“That’s the concussion talking,” Rodney protested.

John tried to shake his head, but that only led to more retching. By the end of it he was shaking and felt like an elephant was sitting on his chest. He was pretty sure his head was resting on Rodney’s leg.

“Carson will be here soon, and he’ll get you fixed up. You know how fast Teyla can run. She’s like a gazelle or a cheetah or some other animal that’s really fast.”

John was pretty sure he was going to pass out soon. Everything had gone gray and hazy. But he had to tell Rodney. Had to let him know, because it was important. Because he was important.

“Rodney,” John said, his voice raspy and faint even to his own ears.

“Help is coming.”

“Rodney.”

“Don’t.”

John could barely see him, but he could feel Rodney’s hand still holding his and that was enough.

“Love…you. More…than…friends.”

“You asshole!” Rodney replied vehemently. It was the last thing John heard before everything faded out.

When John woke up in the infirmary two days later, Rodney was sitting next to his bed. He had butterfly bandages over the cut on his cheek, which was also bruised and slightly swollen, and he looked exhausted.

John expected a long rant about suicidal heroism – he’d heard that one plenty of times in the past – or possibly an awkward discussion about John’s ill-timed confession. But Rodney just leaned over and pressed a chaste kiss to John’s lips, and it wasn’t awkward at all.

The Time With the Prison Cell

“This is getting tedious,” Rodney grumbled.

He paced around the small confines of the cell they’d been locked into. It was underground, damp and cool and slightly musty. Teyla was sitting serenely on the floor, looking incredibly calm despite the large bruise that was blossoming on the side of her face. Rodney was sporting his own war wounds, earned while attempting to fight off their captors.

John was pretty sure he had at least one cracked rib. At least he’d escaped the concussion this time.

“Perils of being on a first contact team,” John pointed out. He was leaning against the iron bars, trying to keep as much pressure off his injured side as possible.

“Ronon probably made it back, right? Or else he’d be here too?”

“I am certain he did,” Teyla said.

John sure as hell hoped so. He’d barked at Ronon to go back to Atlantis and get reinforcements when it was clear they were outnumbered. Ronon could hold his own and was skilled at guerilla tactics from his time as a Runner. If anyone could make it, he could.

“You should conserve your energy,” Teyla suggested, her eyes following Rodney around the cell. “We may be able to overpower our captors when they return.”

“That seems highly unlikely,” Rodney replied. “We don’t know the layout of this hell hole, or how many people are here. And in case you didn’t notice, they kicked our asses the last time and we still had our weapons then.”

“Rodney,” John said mildly.

Rodney stopped talking, but he went from pacing to stalking angrily around the cell. John loved him dearly, but none of them needed reminding of the odds stacked against them. Especially since the reason for their imprisonment was still unknown. John had the feeling they might be dealing with Wraith worshippers, and there was no negotiating with those nut jobs.

Teyla got to her feet in one fluid motion, and her defensive body language was John’s alert that someone was coming.

“McKay.”

“What? Oh, no.”

It was a testament to the time they’d spent together as a team that Rodney immediately assessed the situation and reacted appropriately, moving into a more defensible position. John gave him an approving nod but maintained his own more causal posture against the bars; he liked when the bad guys underestimated the threat he posed.

And underestimate they did, because only two guards came down the stone steps. John liked their odds.

“That one,” one of the guards said, pointing at Teyla.

“Better go along quietly,” John advised. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Rodney shifting.

As soon at the guard opened the door, John made his move. He pulled the guy into the cell, leaving him to Teyla and Rodney as he went after the second one. The cracked rib was a painful hindrance, but he knew they had to press their advantage.

John grappled with the guard, trying to hook a leg and drop him to the floor, but suddenly there were more of them coming down the steps. It got a little crazy after that, compounded by the sounds of battle happening somewhere above them. Hopefully that meant Ronon had returned with reinforcements.

“Hey, Rodney!” John shouted, trying to choke out one of his combatants.

“Busy!” Rodney shouted back. He was throwing punches and using his broad shoulders like a linebacker to knock men down. Teyla was making quick work of the enemy, moving through them like a dancer with ‘roid rage.

“I think we should get married!”

“Are you proposing to me right now? I can’t believe you –” Rodney was interrupted by an energy blast, which took out the guy he was grappling with.

Ronon and Lorne arrived, and the fighting was over. Once the all-clear was given, Carson came down to the cells to tend to the wounded. Including John, who was certain that cracked rib was now fully broken.

“There’s something really wrong with you,” Rodney said, wincing as one of the nurses cleaned out a cut over his eye. “Why do you always wait to say these things when one of us is almost dying?”

“I’m not hearing a no,” John replied with a smirk.

“You’re an idiot,” Rodney said. But he shooed the nurse away and gave John a kiss. “But who else would have you?”

“I can think of a few people,” Ronon offered with a grin.

“Rodney is the only one that matters,” John replied.

“In that case,” Rodney said, “My answer is yes. Can we go home now?”

They waited until John’s rib healed up before they got married, at Rodney’s insistence. He wanted the full honeymoon experience. And that’s exactly what he got.

Bonus: The Time It Was Rodney

John had been grounded with a fractured wrist, which meant he was dealing with weeks of boring administrative work instead of going on offworld missions. His team had been filling in here and there but had also managed to keep busy with their own things. Rodney in particular had been more than happy to have more time in the labs.

It wasn’t great, having members of his team going on missions without him, but John had been dealing with it. Until Rodney went out with Lorne’s team on a milk run and they missed their check-in.

“The Gate won’t engage,” Chuck said.

John shared a look with Sam. They both knew what that meant: their people were engaging with the Wraith.

“I’ll put a team together,” John said, hoping his tone made it clear that he wasn’t asking her permission.

“Do it,” Sam said, a steely look in her eye.

The Marines were just assembling when Chuck announced offworld activation with Lorne’s IDC.

“Don’t give the go-ahead just yet,” Sam said. “I want to verify that it’s Lorne and not some Wraith using his GDO.”

It was sound reasoning, but John wanted his people back. He wanted his husband back.

I understand your caution, Atlantis, Lorne said over the comms. But I’ve got some terrified refugees that would very much like to get to a safe place right now.

“Just making sure I was talking to you, Colonel.” Another precaution.

It’s Major, and the Wraith are gone.

Sam nodded to Chuck, who opened the iris and let their team come through the wormhole.

“Whoa.”

John didn’t disagree with Sam’s assessment. Lorne and the Marines were barely distinguishable from the refugees. Everyone was covered in thick layers of dark, viscous mud. John did a headcount, coming up with all four members of Lorne’s team and seven refugees.

“Lorne! Where’s –”

“I have never needed a shower more in my life.” Rodney was the last one through the Gate, already complaining. He looked disgusting and smelled even worse. It took John a long moment to realize that the muddy lump on his side was a small child.

“What the hell, McKay?”

“Two words, Sheppard: thermal vision. It was the best way to stay hidden. Brains over brawn, remember?”

“We need hazmat showers,” Lorne said. “ASAP.”

“Carson and his team are on their way,” Sam said from the top of the stairs, hand held under her nose. “Get everyone into the shower room.”

John fell in step with Rodney and his muddy bundle. “You okay under all that stink mud?”

“Nothing an hour under hot running water won’t cure.”

“And your little friend?”

“Yeah, about that. Would now be a good time to mention I kind of always wanted to raise kids with you?”

That stopped John in his tracks. “You wanna run that by me again?”

“We can talk about it once we’re clean. Right, Maya?”

The muddy bundle nodded.

Talk about it they did. And John agreed to help Rodney raise the little girl whose parents had been culled by the Wraith. Turned out being a dad was the most exciting mission he’d ever undertaken and doing it with Rodney was the best thing of all.

All it took was a little communication.