“I didn’t know you liked cats, Rodney. I’m more of a dog-person, myself.”
John stops in his tracks at the sound of Keller’s voice and laughter. He’s just outside the infirmary, and he’s pretty sure they haven’t noticed him yet. After checking to make sure no one’s around, he flattens himself against the wall and carefully peeks around the corner. His jaw clenches when he sees Keller sitting on the edge of Rodney’s bed, her hand resting lightly on top of Rodney’s.
His stomach lurches when he sees Rodney lean forward to whisper conspiratorially to her. John doesn’t stay long enough to hear any more. Spinning on his heel, he heads toward the Jumper bay. It isn’t his turn to sit with Rodney right now anyway, it’s Ronon’s, but John had wanted to steal a few minutes.
Walking briskly, he clicks his radio. “Lorne?”
“SitRep. Have somewhere I have to be, so briefing on the fly.”
If Lorne is confused, he doesn’t let on, instead going over the schedule for the day and updating John on the teams that are off world. “Thanks, Evan,” John says quietly.
“No problem, Sir. We’ve got things covered here. I’ll let you know if anything changes.”
Not for the first time, John thanks his lucky stars for bringing him Evan Lorne as his second in command. Not only is the man an excellent officer, but he’s proven himself to be a great guy all around. He reminds John a little of Lyle Holland, truth be known, and in John’s book there is no higher compliment he could give.
With a sigh, John settles into his seat in Jumper One. Closing his eyes, he simply sits for a while, trying not to think. He’s glad that he had the foresight after Rodney started to deteriorate to set things up so John could leave for extended periods should the need arise.
John hums as Atlantis brushes against his awareness, trying to soothe him. “It wouldn’t matter, would it,” he murmurs.
Clearing his throat, he scrubs his face before leaning forward, arms folded on the console. “Remember that whole thing with Cadman? Watching Rodney kiss Carson wasn’t even the worst of all of that. Rodney had been talking about Katie from botany for weeks, but nothing ever really came of it. But with Cadman’s help, he finally went on a date with her. Needless to say, things didn’t go very well, because hello, two people in one body.”
John huffs a laugh in spite of himself. Rodney had told him every embarrassing detail at the time — after a few shots of Zelenka’s bootleg, that is. “Poor guy couldn’t face her after that, avoided her for almost a year. I almost told him after that, when I realized how I felt. But Rodney was pretty devastated about the whole sharing-a-body thing and Katie… I didn’t feel right laying that on him. He needed a friend. He needed me.”
Staring blankly out of the window, he sits in silence for a while. “Then almost out of the blue, he decided that he was done hiding and went after Katie again. They went on a few dates and things seemed to go okay. Then…” John’s voice catches. “Then Elizabeth instated that stupid mandatory day off. Rodney had promised… Had promised Carson he’d go fishing with him. Fishing! He hates fishing, but he promised anyway, thinking some emergency or other would pop up and bail him out.”
John huffs, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and finger. “When it didn’t, he used a date with Katie as an excuse to get out of it. Then that whole walking bomb thing happened and Carson died and Rodney… Rodney was absolutely gutted. I know he felt guilty as hell for a while, and Katie seemed to be one of the few people to get through to him, aside from me.”
Tenting his hands, he rests his chin on his thumbs. “They were together all the time. It was hard to watch, but I did it. No choice, really. Then when that Kirsan fever broke out and Katie was one of the first down with it, Rodney was by her side until he succumbed, too.”
Shuddering, John tries not to dwell on that God-awful time. He’d much rather forget that he forgot who he was. Or everyone else, for that matter. Part of him wonders just how different this experience is for Rodney, from Kirsan fever. “No,” he mutters, “this has to be worse. This isn’t just forgetting who he is, this is regressing to the point of him becoming less than a child. At least with the Kirsan, he still was able to do things to an extent, and he doesn’t even have that much now.”
Settling back in his chair, he sighs, running his fingers through his hair. “Anyway. After that, they just seemed to get closer, you know? Then one day, Rodney shows me this ring he had Jeannie pick out for him and says he’s going to propose to Katie. I-I didn’t know how to react. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Not sure what I ended up saying to him, to be honest.”
John feels the tips of his ears heat as he recalls that moment. “No amount of alcohol ever got me the full story of what happened that day. Rodney only ever said that things hadn’t worked out and that they were taking a break. I was relieved, but still. I felt bad for him, too, because he really did care for her. Then she asked for a transfer and Rodney was… well, lost for a while.”
“And now this,” he grumbles.
John nearly topples out of his seat as he turns toward Teyla’s voice. His eyes are wide with shock. How had he not heard her coming considering the hatch had been closed? “Teyla? What? Is everything okay? Is Rodney-?”
Teyla smiles serenely as she steps up to him, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Rodney is as well as he can be, Colonel Sheppard. Mr. Woolsey merely wanted to let you know that Jeannie is scheduled to arrive in a few minutes. He thought we might like to greet her and escort her to the infirmary.”
Taking a steadying breath, John nervously runs his fingers through his hair. “Right. Right. Thanks, Teyla. You could’ve just called me on the radio, you know,” he adds, unable to quash the slight hint of accusation in his voice.
Her lips twitch. “I thought perhaps you might need someone to talk to. I know this hasn’t been easy for you.”
He can feel the blush creeping up his neck. “I’ll be fine, Teyla.” Getting to his feet, he holds a hand out to allow Teyla to precede him. She nods, then turns to walk out of the Jumper. John pats the side of Jumper One in quiet gratitude, then falls into step with Teyla as they head to the gateroom in silence.
They get there just in time for the last chevron to engage. John steps just out of reach of the event horizon and goes into parade rest, Teyla standing next to him. Jeannie comes through the gate, looking frazzled, but pleased to see the both of them.
Walking quickly, she hugs John, who returns it awkwardly. He likes Jeannie a lot, but he’s not used to being so touchy-feely. “John, good to see you again. You, too, Teyla,” Jeannie says with a smile, though her eyes hold her concern.
“And you, Mrs. Miller,” Teyla says, then at Jeannie’s scowl, adds, “Jeannie.”
That earns Teyla a bright smile, which has John chuckling. It dies quickly at Jeannie’s, “So what’s going on? All they would say was that something had happened to Mer, but no one would tell me anything else. Just that it was urgent I come here.”
Guiding Jeannie toward the transporter, John explains in broad terms what has happened in the two weeks since she was on Atlantis.