“How long before he wakes up?” Jeannie asks quietly, her eyes focused on her brother as she straightens his blanket.
Keller checks his readings with a quiet sigh. “I don’t know. However long it takes for his system to bounce back, I guess. Could be any minute, could be a few days from now.”
John swallows hard. It’s been three days since they brought Rodney back — in a coma. John fights down the fear that maybe rather than cure him, they have condemned Rodney to this instead. The thought makes his stomach roil. Without a word, he turns and heads to his office.
For two hours, John tries to struggle through the pile of paperwork that has accumulated over the past couple of weeks. Lorne has been a great help, but he can only do so much and some things simply need John’s attention. When he has gone over the same requisition form five times, he gives up, throwing the paper on his desk in disgust.
He radios Lorne. “Major, look after the kids for me.”
Lorne snorts softly. “Yes, Sir. I’ll make sure they place nice and put their toys away when they’re done. Do I need to put them down for a nap, too, Sir?”
Laughing, John shakes his head. “Nah, Major, only if they get real testy.”
Taking his headset out, John puts in on the console of Jumper One as soon as his butt hits the seat. Scrubbing his face with both hands, he lets out a long, frustrated sound. A gentle nudge of concern from Atlantis has John lean back. Letting his hands fall into his lap, he sighs. “He was supposed to be better,” he says quietly, voice breaking slightly over the last word.
Another nudge of concern mixed with sadness makes John’s lip twitch. “Thanks. I don’t know what to do. I’m right back where I started. Helpless. Rodney’s in a coma and he’s not waking up. Keller has no idea, either. She and Jeannie are constantly at his side, and I- I’m jealous. I know sometimes when someone’s in a coma, if you talk to them they can hear you… sometimes even wakes them up. I want to do that, but…” He trails off.
It’s as if Atlantis is hugging him, at least, that’s how it feels to John in a way. He sits in silence for a while. Taking a deep breath, he rakes his fingers through his hair. “Did you know that Keller videotaped Rodney daily, to record his deterioration? I-I walked in on her watching one of the tapes yesterday.”
His voice sounds broken, even to his own ears. “I heard Rodney say-” John gulps, then continues, “I heard him say he loves Keller. Has for a while.”
Clenching his eyes tightly shut, John presses his hand to his sternum as if to quell the pain. “He loves Keller,” he repeats quietly.
Atlantis’ sadness is as profound as John’s own. She seems to understand that there is no way John could or would tell Rodney now. It takes John a couple of minutes before he manages to pull himself together again.
“I won’t stand in his way.” John’s not entirely sure who he’s trying to convince when he adds, “as long as he’s happy. That’s all I want. All I can want for him.”
A questioning nudge has John frown. Shaking his head, he sighs. “No. I’m sure. He loves her, and if that means all he will be is my friend, then that is what I have to accept.”
“Doesn’t matter that I love him. That’s what love is, isn’t it? Wanting and doing what’s best for the other person?” John asks, sounding not entirely sure himself.
“You… you idiot!”
John whirls in his seat, his mouth agape as he stares at Rodney looming on the hatch. “Rodney?” he croaks incredulously. “How-?” How long has he been awake? How long has he been standing there, listening?
He can feel the color drain from his face as he takes in Rodney-on-a-warpath. Opening his mouth, no sound comes out as Rodney steps ever closer. John forces himself to stand up but has to hold onto the back of his seat to remain upright — his knees threatening to buckle under Rodney’s glower. Where’s a Hive ship when you need one?
Rodney stands close enough to be in John’s personal space, but his arms are crossed and he looks as angry and stubborn as John has ever seen him. Silence hangs heavy in the air for long seconds before Rodney stabs at John’s chest with an accusing finger. John’s heart is racing and it takes every ounce of his willpower to not flinch away.
“What’s best for the other person? Who the hell do you think you are, John Sheppard, to decide what is or is not best for me?”
John’s mouth opens and closes several times, but no words come. Not that it matters because Rodney bowls right over him. “You were going to step aside for… for Keller? Without telling me? Just how long have you-? No. No, never mind. I don’t even want to know. Well, not right now at least. I repeat, you idiot!”
“No, John. Just… no.” Rodney takes a few deep breaths, apparently trying to calm himself. “You never, not once let on there was even a remote chance.”
John bristles. “Neither did you!”
Rodney glares at him, stabbing his finger painfully into John’s chest as he growls, “Chaya.”
Eyes widening, John lets that one word sink in.
When John still doesn’t speak, Rodney adds, “Your suicide run our first year.”
“Every. Single. Time some floozy threw herself at you. Need I go on?”
John numbly shakes his head, finally seeing what was in front of him all along. “So now what?” he whispers hoarsely, hope and trepidation warring inside of him. Atlantis’ impatient nudge has John smothering the urge to swat at the console.
Exasperated, Rodney rolls his eyes, though his lips twitch slightly in amusement. “Now, you kiss me.”
John’s eyes flicker to Rodney’s mouth briefly before returning to meet his gaze. “Really?” he can’t help asking.
Huffing, Rodney grabs John’s shirt and pulls him closer until they’re almost touching. “Chop chop, soldier, I haven’t got-”
John’s mouth crashes to his, shutting him up. His hands roam Rodney’s body, pulling him closer until they’re flush. His heart racing, John loses himself completely in their first kiss, which is a thousand times better than he has ever dared dream.
When they finally pull apart, Rodney cups John’s cheek and smiles. “Took you long enough.”
“Sorry, my math was a little off,” John mumbles, the tips of his ears growing warm.
The thing about love is that you can’t always see it, even when it’s staring you right in the face, John thinks.
Snorting indelicately, Rodney rolls his eyes. “Don’t make a habit of it.”
John smiles, brushing his lips against Rodney’s. “I won’t. Promise.”