And in the night when our dreams are still
Or when the wind calls free
I'll keep your heart with mine
Till you come to me
Penelope's Song -- Loreena McKennitt
After, John can't keep warm. It doesn't matter what he does, he feels like he's freezing all the time and the fact that he knows it's psychological doesn't make it any easier. The only time he actually feels warm is at night, buried under a pile of blankets and Rodney's hypo-allergenic comforter. The comforter is the only thing he insisted on keeping and he occasionally feels guilty for yelling at Keller when she caught him taking it from Rodney's room.
"You can have everything else," he'd snapped. "You get to go out there and be...." He'd had to stop because he wasn't quite emotionally stable yet, or maybe the pain meds she'd had him on were messing with his filters. Either way, he'd been a word away from crying and...yeah, not so much in front of Keller. Or anyone.
"Take whatever you need," she'd said, very softly. As she'd turned to go, John had realized that she was a little afraid of him. Most people had looked at him that way, after, and he'd found that he really didn't care.
The new shrink had said he was pushing himself physically as a punishment, which had pretty much told John all he'd needed to know about the guy. The guy was an idiot; John had always pushed himself too hard after an injury; it was the way he was and had nothing to do with losing.... Plus he'd been cold and exercising had helped a little with that.
"You know that, right? I mean, I hope you do. There's never going to be one moment ever when I don't love you, even though you're just going to have to trust me on this. Will that make a difference? If you can wake up in the morning and think, Rodney McKay loves me -- will that keep you warm?"
John doesn't limit himself to mornings. Whenever he finds himself feeling cold and alone, whenever he's about to go into combat or go through the gate on a mission, whenever he comes back, whenever he feels like the Pegasus Galaxy exists for the simple purpose of flinging as much shit at him as it can, he thinks: Rodney McKay loves me.
He's never told anyone because it's a little like magic and somehow he knows that talking about it will diminish it's power. Also, he has no desire to spend even more time with the shrink. He thinks Teyla knows and maybe Ronon too, although Ronon is with Keller now and John really had to work past his anger at her when that happened.
Some days, when he's cold and the scars from his injuries ache, he feels as if he's sitting still while Atlantis hums and carries on around him. Slowly, things go on; John had waited as long as he could, but eventually he was well enough to go back into the field and he'd had to pick a new scientist for the team. Rodney has been replaced elsewhere too; Radek heads the Science and Research Department now, although he's not on John's team. That honor had gone to Erica Simpson; John hadn't wanted anyone who hadn't been on the Expedition since the beginning.
Other things happen: after Michael's death, the Wraith are in full retreat, and there's a loose galaxy-wide alliance headed by the Lanteans, and they share more tech and scientific knowledge with the people of Pegasus, and just the other day, John heard Woolsey refer to Atlantis as home while complaining about his mandatory vacation, and....
While John's been sitting still--emotionally if not pysically--two years and then three have passed. He's got a pair of silver birds on his shoulder whenever he wears his Air Force uniform, which isn't often, and there are over 500 people on Atlantis. There's talk of going public with the Stargate project, but John can't bring himself to care.
John's got gray in his hair and lines at the corners of his eyes, and most of the people in the Alliance and in the City even, are afraid of him. He spends a lot of his off-duty time with TJ and his sister, trying not to hold little Meredith Emmagan's name against her; both kids love him and for them he can dredge up smiles that feel real.
Every night, he burrows under his blankets, reminding himself that Rodney loves him and waiting for the thought to warm him up so he can fall asleep. If he dreams of Rodney, he never remembers the dreams, but he wakes up warm because Rodney is somewhere out there and there's never a moment when Rodney doesn't love him. And so he gets up, gets dressed and does it all over again.
M49-803 isn't anything special; supposedly there are wild herds of some kind of tasty animal roaming the plains on its only continent. Normally another team would take the mission, but AR-1's been out of the field thanks to a sprained ankle Teyla suffered a few weeks ago and they're all a little stir-crazy. John had called dibs on the mission as soon as Teyla was cleared for duty, but now, as he stands on a low rise and looks out over the plains he wonders why he bothered.
"Over there," Ronon says, pointing to a brown smudge. "It's a pretty big herd." He grins. "I wonder if they'll be good eating."
"I am sure the ni-Tali will be happy to help us hunt them in exchange...."
"Colonel?" Simpson's staring at her scanner and John raises an eyebrow. "There was a sudden burst of...some kind of energy. Over there." She points to a dip in the hill.
"Can you be a little more specific?" John asks, shading his eyes and staring in the direction she indicated.
"Not really. It's not any kind of energy I've seen before." She frowns and does something to the scanner. "That's strange; it's gone. Or more accurately, it's been replaced." She glances at John. "With a human lifesign."
"What?" John pulls his lifesigns detector out of his vest pocket and stares at it. There are four lifesigns clumped together and then one about fifty feet away. "Well, let's check it out."
Ronon draws his gun, but John goes first; Keller's expecting her first and while John isn't about to break up the team, he's got pretty firm ideas about unduly endangering parents. His precautions seem unnecessary when they reach the lifesign; it's a person, curled up in a tight little ball and mostly hidden by the tall prairie grass.
As he gets closer, John's pulse picks up until, as he parts the grass and kneels down next to he naked figure, his heart is pounding like a trip hammer.
"Why's it so bright?"
John takes a deep shaky breath. Behind him, he's aware of his team staring and murmuring questions, but he ignores them while he stares at the naked man, who is sitting up and rubbing his eyes.
"Because it's the middle of the day, McKay," he says, proud that his voice is mostly steady.
"Are you talking to me?"
"Yeah," John says and while he knows that Rodney--because yes, oh God yes, it's Rodney, of course it's Rodney--hasn't got any of his memories, he's still grinning. "Your name's McKay. Rodney McKay."
"Oh." Rodney blinks and frowns a little, peering at John. "I feel like I should know you."
"You do," John says. "You do." He takes a deep breath.
"I'm John, and there's never been a single moment when I didn't love you," he says and then he reaches out and cups Rodney's face in his hands and kisses him. It's a gentle, careful kiss, more a promise on John's part than anything else, a promise that John will do whatever it takes to help Rodney find himself again, because he loves Rodney and because Rodney needs him and because....
Because John isn't cold anymore.