"I don't want to talk about it, Rodney," John said, and it was clear to Rodney that he didn't, would have been clear to him even if John hadn't said anything, if he'd just let the expression on his face and the set of his shoulders say without words that he wanted to pretend it hadn't happened.
But Rodney wouldn't let it go, for lots of reasons. He didn't want to lie to Elizabeth, for one, and also because it had been weird, and because it was probably really significant, but mainly because he hated letting anything go, especially a puzzle.
John, though, John had clearly packed his bags and bought a house in the state of denial, because he wasn't willing to talk about it at all, not even to Rodney, who'd been there when it had happened. Really, it was ridiculous -- he'd been right there; there wasn't any point pretending it hadn't happened, not to Rodney, even though Rodney could sympathize, even though Rodney knew John was sick of people thinking he was either a freak or some kind of superhero. Even so, this wasn't like accidentally activating an Ancient control chair; this was important. Well, not that activating an Ancient control chair was unimportant, per se. But this, the potential -- god, the potential …
He got as far as, "But Major, have you even started to consider," when his radio buzzed obnoxiously in his ear, and Radek was sputtering about all the alarms in the laboratory going off at the same time, and he really needed to get down there now, please, thank you. Really, Rodney thought, exasperated, you'd think that every once in a while they could solve a crisis without him, and he said as much to John, but John was lying back on the infirmary bed, to all appearances fast asleep.
He’s hanging so far up that the ground's invisible, and all John can do is work out how fast he'll be falling when he hits it. Fast enough so that he won't be conscious when he lands, and that's something of a relief -- only really? Not so much.
He's dying, he thinks, still not quite believing it -- dying, even though the only thing wrong with him is that he is currently suspended over a chasm. He's not sick, or seriously injured, but he's dying nonetheless, and your life flashing before your eyes? Turns out that's bullshit; the only thing flashing before his eyes are the damn birds, and he can swear they're wondering when he's going to stop fucking around and just fly away.
Oh, he'll fly all right. Like a rock, straight down to the ground.
Left arm completely numb and useless, shoulder pulled right out of the damn socket from the impact, and thank god he'd grabbed with the other arm too, otherwise he'd already be a greasy little smear on the ground, way, way, way the hell down below. But the one working arm isn't working so well anymore, and in a few more minutes it's not going to be working at all, and then where the hell is he going to be?
On the ground.
"McKay," he grinds out, hating the panic he can hear in his voice because he's John Sheppard, damn it, and he doesn't do panic, "sometime soon would be really nice."
And the answer comes back, "Working on it!" but he can hear the failure thick in Rodney's voice, because the damn jumper's not working. Rodney can't make it work, and they both know he's not going to be able to figure it out in time.
"What do you mean, you let him leave?" Rodney said, exasperated, because really, John had been one big bruise, and then with the state of the one arm, and also the state of the other, even if John had lied to Carson about how he'd gotten down from the mountain, Carson still should have had the sense to keep him overnight for observation. On general principles, if nothing else.
"He didn't want to stay, Rodney," Carson said, with an apologetic shrug. "Except for the dislocated shoulder, the rest was just bruising. I gave him some Tylenol and sent him home to sleep."
"That's just great," Rodney said, fuming. "If he locks the door to his quarters, I can't get in."
Carson gave him a look. "Aye, that's generally the point of locking a door."
"But I need to talk to him, and he's not answering his radio."
"Probably because he's asleep. He spent an hour today hanging off a bloody cliff. Cut him some slack."
"The last thing that man needs," snarled Rodney, stalking out of the infirmary, "is slack."
"Try the auxiliary controls," John pants desperately, willing his fingers to maintain their grip, to hold just a little longer, because Rodney is bound to figure it out soon. Rodney always figures it out, so all he has to do is wait for it. "They're on the copilot's console."
"I know where the damn auxiliary controls are," Rodney snaps. "For god's sake, Major, what the hell do you think I've been doing for the last half hour? Twiddling my thumbs?"
"I have no idea," John snaps back. "For all I know--" but then a gust of wind comes and the branch he's clinging to does that twisting thing again, the thing John really, really doesn't like, and the smarmy comment he's about to make gets swallowed up by his strangled, "Shit!"
"Major!" Rodney yells. "Major, are you okay?"
"No, I'm not fucking okay!" John yells back. "I'm hanging off a fucking cliff! Fix the goddamn jumper already, would you?"
"I'm trying," Rodney says, "I'm trying! But it's hard to fix it when I don't have a fucking clue what's wrong with it! Damn it!" he swears, and John hears something crash against the jumper's wall, or floor. "Damn it, John," he says, suddenly quiet, "I don't know what's wrong with it."
And it's the "John" that gets to him, because Rodney never calls him John, not even when they're fucking.
Banging on the door didn't work, and calling on the radio didn't work, and thinking Open at the door didn't work anymore than banging on it had; even thinking Open, god damn it! at the door while banging on it didn’t work, so Rodney tried the radio again, and finally, John's door opened.
"Not tonight, dear," John said, standing in the doorway. "I've got a headache."
"Get over yourself, Jim," Rodney said, pushing his way past John into the room. "Look, we really need to talk about what happened."
"No, we really don't," John answered irritably. "In case my not answering the door didn't clue you in, I was sleeping. And if you leave right now, chances are I won't even remember this in the morning. So go."
"I'm not going until we talk about what happened."
"Nothing happened. You flew the jumper and saved me in the nick of time, okay? For which I owe you many thanks. Now go away and let me go back to bed."
"I flew the jumper?" Rodney repeated, incredulous, but he couldn't go into it further because it was at just that moment that all hell broke loose in the lab: Radek was yelling in his ear about some sort of power surge, and all the laptops being fried, and yes, yes, I know you were here already for seven hours; I was here with you, prosím? so Rodney had to go. "We'll talk about this in the morning," he said, but John had already climbed back into bed and didn't even say good night.
Okay, John's thinking, this is not good. Really, really not good. Fingers going numb, and he can’t hold on any longer, and Rodney, against all precedent, hasn't fixed the jumper in time.
"Rodney," he says, voice cracking, "Rodney, I'm sorry …"
"What? No!" Rodney shouts back, voice loud and panicked over the radio. Things are rattling in the background, Rodney still trying to get the jumper to power up, because Rodney doesn't ever give up, even though sometimes he pretends that he does. "Don't be sorry, just hold on a little longer, okay? Elizabeth sent another jumper; it'll be here in a little while. You just have to hold on."
"Can't," John admits, both to Rodney and himself. It's no good lying when he's about to die, no good pretending he's not about to fall when he is. "Sorry, Rodney, I really wish I could, but I can't."
"Don't say that!" Rodney orders, desperate, and John feels bad, because Rodney had to listen to Gaul die, and now he's going to have to listen to John die, too. In a couple of minutes that won't matter to John any more, but it's sure as hell going to matter to Rodney.
"You might want to turn off your radio," John says, swallowing, because he knows he's going to scream when it happens, will probably keep screaming until the acceleration knocks him out, and he doubts he'll have the presence of mind in mid-air to reach up and turn off his radio. He'll be too busy with the screaming, and Rodney shouldn't have to hear that, because, god, it'll be bad enough knowing it’s happening without actually having to hear it.
"No!" Rodney says, though John's not sure whether he's refusing to turn off the radio, or just denying what's about to happen. "No!" he says again, voice breaking, "God, John, I'm so sorry, I should have-"
"Don't," John interrupts, "don't blame yourself, Rodney, just shut off the goddamn radio," and okay, so maybe it's not to protect Rodney, maybe it's because he's too proud to let Rodney hear him screaming in terror. Screaming in terror until the acceleration knocks him out, and then a minute or so later smashed to bits by the impact, except he's not going be conscious for that, may not even still be alive for that, not if the acceleration turns him to mush first, and god, he hopes he's not conscious for that …
Rodney is still yelling at him, saying no and wait and hold on but there's no more time.
In the morning, Rodney found him at breakfast. John was pale and tired but, except for the sling around his arm, he didn't look much the worse for wear.
Rodney smiled at him blandly. "Sleep well?"
"Fine," John answered, shrugging, immediately followed by wincing.
"Good," Rodney said, and went away to collect his food. When he came back, he plunked his tray down and took a seat on the other side of the table. "So," he said meaningfully, but before he'd even had a chance to get another word out, not one more word, Weir was calling him over the radio, bleating about the Ancient mainframe going down, and they needed him in the control room immediately. Grabbing his coffee and muffin, Rodney narrowed his eyes suspiciously at John. "You're not off the hook," he warned as he left.
Placidly, John picked a piece of toast off Rodney's abandoned tray. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
He's falling only for an instant, the smallest fraction of an instant before his subconscious decides that enough's enough, and he reaches out, past some barrier he hasn’t ever realized was there before, searching for a connection, one that's always been there, if you define always as the time since he'd first sat in that chair in Antarctica.
“What the fuck?” That’s Rodney in his ear, but John can’t answer him because of all the wind, and all the screaming.
"What the fuck?" Rodney says again, breathless and freaked out. "John, are you--"
Now he can't answer because he's thinking, vaguely wondering how, and why, and peevishly why not ten minutes ago? but more importantly, how the fuck do I get on that jumper without dying? because acceleration is acceleration, and velocity is velocity, and there's no good way to just stop falling once you've started.
But then the jumper's there -- and damn, who knew it could fly that fast? -- directly underneath him, matching direction and speed, and projecting something up at him, air, or a forcefield, or maybe something magic; John doesn't really know and sure as hell doesn't care, but after a few minutes he's pretty sure he's stopped falling; actually, he's pretty sure he's moving up.
Up is a million times better than down, he thinks crazily. At least a million times better. The jumper's still beneath him, but the rear hatch is open now, and then the jumper, well, jumps, moves up a little faster than he's moving, and suddenly he's not in the air, he's in the jumper, and Rodney is pulling him away from the open hatch, babbling, "Oh, my god, oh my god."
Then the hatch closes, and John, unblinking, looks at Rodney who looks back similarly dazed. "Jesus, that was close," John says finally, to which Rodney says faintly, "Yes, it was," and then John throws up all over the floor.
Because it was.
"Okay," said Rodney at lunch, collapsing into a chair and glaring at John. "You don't want to talk about it. Which is fine; it's your life. You're entitled. We don't need to talk about it, even though we really should. But please stop fucking around with the computer equipment, all right? Because it's starting to get incredibly annoying."
"I'm not-" John started to say, and then subsided, because that was just ridiculous. Obviously he was, even if it wasn't on purpose, and anyway he wasn't so sure it wasn't.
"Good," Rodney said, accepting the submission as the admission it was. He fidgeted for a moment, then asked mildly, "So, we won't talk about it. But at least tell me this. Is it everything?"
John thought about it, about the jumper and that power grid and the alarm systems and the computer network, and shrugged as much as the sling would allow. "Yeah, pretty much."
"Huh," Rodney said, frowning. "First, let me state for the record how exceedingly jealous I am. And second, cool."
"Yeah," John said.
Because it was.