Seeing Colonel Sheppard’s life-sign blip back on makes Rodney’s head light with relief, and then hearing Sheppard’s voice trying to claim money off him (for a bet he didn't take) makes the world spin a little. By the time they get close enough to land and once it’s deemed safe out on the planet Rodney’s a little steadier, but he’s tired and the adrenaline crash is coming and Major Lorne and Ronon reach the shuttle first. Rodney stops at the ladder up to the cockpit, Dr Becket trying to bustle past him. Ronon’s already climbing back down, though, Sheppard close behind him. Ronon steadies him with his good arm, Lorne comes down much faster and steadies him from the other side.
“Right, let’s get a look at you,” Carson says.
“Doc,” Sheppard says, trying to wriggle out of Lorne’s grip. His fussing presses him closer to Ronon, and Rodney wonders if he’s the only one who can tell that there’s a fine tremble in Sheppard’s hands as he pushes at the people trying to hold him, that he's leaning into Ronon. “Come on, let me get back to the jumper, I just, oh.”
Sheppard’s looking at Rodney, and a crooked grin spreads over his face. Rodney gives him a tight smile in reply; he’d been so certain John was going to die. Maybe the others didn’t realise, probably still don’t realise, how impossible it is to survive what John just did. John knows, they’ve gone over reentry and angles and the maths of it when they talk about flying Atlantis, and John might be an airforce air-head but he’s a pilot , and he’s a nerd ; he knows about flying. He knows. Rodney can tell by the thrilled, exhilarated expression on John’s face, by the cockiness in his grin, by the trembling in his hands. He shouldn’t be alive. Rodney’s mouth goes tight at the thought of losing John, the thought that’s been pressing on his mind all day, since that idiot Herik decided to try and rip the station apart and expose them all to death-by-space. John’s face falls, too, and he swallows hard, staring at Rodney.
“Yeah,” Rodney says. John shrugs.
“Ronon, let go of me or I’ll take you up on that fight right now,” John growls.
Ronon snorts, but lets go. Becket’s still jabbering about getting to check John over, something about John being about to collapse. John doesn’t, he walks deliberately past Rodney and to the storage device, checking the connection and the power readings. Rodney hurries to join him and they both ignore Becket. It’s a matter of moments to determine that, another miracle, the device is still in-tact. Rodney finds Teyla’s pattern and re-materialises her, leaving the others where they are for now.
“Let’s go home,” Rodney says.
“What about…?” Lorne indicates the device.
“We can send back a team,” John says. “Teyla.”
“I am fine,” Teyla says.
She accepts Ronon’s support, and Lorne’s too when Ronon hisses as she puts pressure on his bad shoulder by accident. She also lets Carson do a quick check, but she pushes him away after that and heads for the jumper, using Ronon's shoulder but mostly under her own steam. Stubborn in her own ways. Rodney looks at John out of the corner of his eye and sighs, noting how heavily he’s leaning on the storage device.
“Just bruises,” John says, catching Rodney looking. He’s squinting against a headache, too, but he’s been doing that since the venting thing. “McKay .”
“Fine. Later,” Rodney says. “Let me help you.”
John straightens up with a glare and starts walking toward the back hatch. Rodney wants to touch, wants to feel John alive, wants to be sure. But he just trails the others to the jumper and sits on the bench in the back, next to John, watching Carson fuss over Teyla. He falls asleep, somewhere, dozing off as adrenaline leaves his system and the steady buzz of the others’ conversation, Ronon’s familiar laugh, the wheeze at the end of John’s breath that comes whenever he’s pushes too far, lulls him.
He wakes as Carson calls for a stretcher and Ronon swears at him. Rodney’s pretty sure those are swear words, anyway, it sounds like Satedan slang. He’s heard ‘gappak’ when John gets in a lucky hit while sparring, too; that’s gotta be an insult. John laughs softly and Rodney realises he’s resting against John’s side, head on his shoulder. He sits up, rubbing sleep away, and takes in his surroundings. They’re still in the jumper, they’ve probably just arrived though everyone’s still here. The back’s open and Teyla’s being wheeled out on a gurney, Carson’s dragging Ronon after it.
“I expect to see you down there too, colonel,” Carson says, narrowing his eyes in their direction.
“Yeah, sure,” John says, waving a hand.
“Now,” Carson says. “Not in an hour or tomorrow or any time except 'right now'. Rodney, make sure he comes and gets checked, he might have a concussion. I’m holding you responsible if he dies.”
“He might die?” Rodney asks, stiffening. “Still?”
“Cold,” John says. “Very cold, doc.”
“Infirmary, now,” Rodney says, getting to his feet and clapping his hands. John doesn’t spring to his feet and salute in acquiescence. Rodney babbles a bit and is just getting in on a good rant when John holds up a hand, everyone else gone their separate ways now. “What? What could possibly be so important that you have to-”
“Just help me up, Rodney,” John says, holding out an arm. He sounds exhausted. He’s also holding himself stiff and awkward.
“Oh,” Rodney says. “Right.”
He takes John’s arm and carefully helps him unbend. It takes a minute for John to steady, leaning heavily on Rodney’s shoulder, head resting there, breath hard against Rodney’s neck. Rodney tentatively puts his arm around John’s shoulders.
“Christ,” John mutters.
“Yeah,” Rodney agrees, voice breaking; he can feel John breathing, feel the movement of his lungs against the palm of his hand, can feel the warmth of him, can feel the certainty of his skin and bones and breath and hair and everything. “You’re alright.”
“Yeah,” John agrees, sounding surprised by it. “I am. Barely a scratch.”
“Gonna have a sunburn from hell,” Rodney says. John laughs and relaxes a bit. Either that or his body gives out. Rodney brings his other arm up to hold on, John heavy in his arms, against his body. “Sure you’re good?”
“I’m good,” John says. “Um, Carson’ll be back if I don’t show up soon. You think he’ll believe I’ve had this headache all day?”
“Doesn’t really matter, you probably are concussed, and you actually can die from that,” Rodney says. “I’ve read about it.”
“I don’t think I am,” John says, and again there’s that blank amazement in his tone. “I should be dead.”
“You think your legs are gonna work any time soon? You’re heavy,” Rodney says.
“I’m working fine,” John protests, struggling upright.
He manages to walk all the way to the infirmary, but he lets Rodney help him, using Rodney’s shoulders and strength. He lies on a bed, when they get there, and begs the nurse who’s bustling around to draw a curtain and leave them be. She does the curtain but doesn’t leave. John sighs but takes Rodney’s hand anyway, closing his eyes. Rodney strokes his hair away from his face, lightly touching his hot cheek.
“So sunburnt,” Rodney says. “It’s gonna be gross and red like a lobster.”
“Thank you, Rodney,” Carson says, bustling through. “I’ll do the diagnosis, if you please.”
Rodney takes a seat and makes himself comfortable, John’s hand still in his. Carson tuts but otherwise ignores it, letting Rodney stay for the hour he takes to thoroughly check John for every single possible thing. Eventually John’s cleared to go to his quarters and rest, a strong after-sun cream and some painkillers in a little baggy. Rodney stays for his own post mission check and then stops by to see Teyla (asleep but fine) and Ronon (fed up with being poked and prodded and heading out, a sling half done up. Rodney helps him finish putting it on in the hallway). Rodney finds John stretched out on Rodney's bed, using Rodney's laptop, eating Rodney's chocolate, in a pair of Rodney's pyjama bottoms and Rodney's Iron Man t-shirt.
“You know,” Rodney says, closing the door and heading to the shower, “we didn’t really need you. Your heroic crash and all. If we just put the device on the ship and powered it up, it’d have done the same thing without you there. Big hero moment.”
“Go shower, you stink,” John says, throwing a chocolate bar at Rodney’s head. “Elizabeth wants to debrief, be quick.”
“Carson’ll kill you if you do anything other than rest,” Rodney says.
He doesn’t bother to stay for John’s excuses, putting on the shower to drown them out. He stands under the water, making it as hot as he can stand, and cries. He’s sat on the floor when John comes in and turns the water off, nudging Rodney with his foot and dropping a towel and another bar of chocolate on him.
“Debrief by radio,” John says, wandering out again.
Rodney sighs and gets up, drying himself off. He only has his sweat-stained, dirty clothes from today in here. He dumps them in the washing basket and heads through naked, leaving the towel in the basket too, not wanting anything from this stupid day with him.
“You’re wearing my things,” Rodney grumbles, looking through his dresser for something else clean.
“Mine were in my quarters, that’s far,” John says, a distinct whine to it.
“Seriously, we could’ve just pressed go and let the moon crash itself,” Rodney says, finally finding a pair of sweats. He pulls them on and realises they’re John’s and too tight. “Fucking hell.”
“You need to do laundry,” John says. “Here.”
Rodney turns and catches the pyjama pants John throws at him. They’re clean ones. He narrows his eyes at John and sure enough, John’s wearing the ones Rodney slept in last night. Rodney finds a t-shirt too, it has a flower on it, a gift from Jeannie. It’s tie-dye. John looks far too amused when Rodney plonks down on the bed next to him. Their radios beep at the same time and Rodney sighs.
“Right. Get it over with, right?” Rodney says, picking up both and passing John’s over. John plays with it a moment, head down. He looks so tired, as tired as Rodney feels.
“Right,” John agrees reluctantly.
It’s another hours, Elizabeth asking a lot of questions, expecting John’s input on what’s next for Jannus and his people, on when and how and where to re-materialise a civilisation. She also wants Rodney’s input but Dr Zelenka’s there and seems to have a handle on most of it, she just wants Rodney to say ‘yes’. John doesn’t have much input. He’s heavy against Rodney’s side, eyes drifting closed every few minutes. Rodney answers half the things directed at John, Lorne answers some of the rest, getting ready to take another team back through to the planet. Rodney fields as much as he can, but he can feel a fine trembling start in John’s hands, and there’s still that exhausted wheeze at the edge of John’s breathing, and there’s a tightness around his eyes.
“Elizabeth,” Rodney interrupts eventually, exasperated and tired and wanting to be left alone, “is there anything that’s actually pressing? For right now?”
Elizabeth has a list. Rodney sighs. John’s eyes are closed again and Rodney reaches over to flick his radio off, just in time because John lets out a snore and Rodney has to try and not laugh as Elizabeth goes through some very serious points and asks some more very important questions. She wants, reasonably, as much information as she can get before she goes willy-nilly materialising people. Which she pointedly says is what should have happened in the first place. Like it’s Rodney’s fault. Rodney knows that Zelenka thinks that the power supply of the crashed shuttle isn’t going to last very long, and he knows that if the two people they met are any indication Elizabeth is going to need all the information she can get, but right now he doesn’t really care.
“Elizabeth,” Rodney interrupts again.
“Yes, Rodney?” she says, she sounds tired and frustrated. “I’m sorry, I know that it’s been a long day.”
“John’s fallen asleep,” Rodney says.
“Oh,” Elizabeth says, softening. “Alright, thank you both, I think anything else can wait. Get some rest. And Rodney?”
“Yes,” Rodney says. “I’m still here, what?”
“You did good today,” Elizabeth says, grudgingly but no less sincerely. “Pegasus throws things at us that we can’t plan for.”
He can tell she’s desperate to add that a little more caution next time might be a good idea, but she bites it back and instead tells him again that he did well. He’s finally allowed to go and he drops his radio on the side-table before gently removing John’s, shushing him when it disturbs him. He lies down, taking John with him, holding him. It’s good, so good, to close his eyes, John’s steady breathing in his ear again, against his skin. He can feel John’s heart beating. The last thought Rodney has before sleep takes him is that the wheeze has gone, and that everything is going to be fine.