Title: Home is where the humidifier is
Author: Starrylizard
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Characters/rating: John and Rodney friendship, gen, PG
Notes: For Lavvyan who suggested I should write "The Return missing scene: John's sick, Rodney visits bringing flowers (because that's what you do, right?)."

It took a while for John's sleep-addled brain to clue into the knocking sound and a few minutes longer to recognize the person knocking was rapping out prime numbered lots, probably for their own amusement. Rodney, his brain supplied. It could only be Rodney.

John rolled to the edge of the bed with a soft moan and sat up, swinging his legs over the side. The room spun about lazily for a moment and he blinked, shaking his fuzzy head. Everything ached, his skin felt a little too warm and he really wasn't in the mood to see anyone. He knew though, that Rodney wouldn't go away if he ignored him. With the primes currently being rapped out already into the double digits, John took a moment to imagine just going back to sleep, but then he'd hate to have to explain to the landlord just how his door became unscrewed from its hinges.

John opened the door to find Rodney tapping out the next sequence of primes absently with the butt end of a screwdriver. John only narrowly missed being hit in the face by ducking slightly to one side.

"Finally! Didn't you hear me knocking?"

"I was asleep, Rodney," John groused. "And then I was waiting to see if you'd hit triple-digit primes before resorting to a screw driver." John managed to keep his voice to his trademark drawl, though it was definitely sounding deeper than usual.

As expected, Rodney huffed, face flushing an unhealthy pink. and John couldn't help but grin as he leaned against the door frame. "What are you doing here, Rodney?"

"I finally got out of Area 51. They needed someone to consult on a project here in Colorado, so I went to visit you, but you weren't in your office and your team wasn't out on a mission - though several of them were in the infirmary. I couldn't find you anywhere in the base and you really don't want to know how many people I had to question before one of the nurses finally cracked and told me they'd made you go home. She said you were sick. Are you sick? You look kind of paler than usual. You're not contagious, are you?"

That was when John finally noticed Rodney's other hand held a small bunch of multi-coloured flowers. They were looking rather wilted in the dry Colorado heat - or maybe it was just from being held tightly in one sweaty-palmed fist.

"Um, Rodney?" John raised a questioning eyebrow and Rodney stopped talking to roll his eyes and huff a sigh.

"Yeah, what?"

John lifted his arm limply, indicating the flowers with his hand.

Rodney raised his hand, looking at the flowers as if he'd forgotten he was holding them. "Well, you get sick people flowers. It's just what you do. Isn't it?"

John found the flowers thrust unceremoniously into his face and he reached for them on autopilot, grinning. "You got me flowers. Cool!"

"Yes, yes, yes. Now let me through," Rodney grumbled and John stood by as Rodney brushed past him, bustling into the small apartment that John was yet to refer to as home.

John swiped a hand across his face, feeling old and tired and yet unable to feel annoyed at the intrusion. Eventually, he pushed off the wall, wandering into the tiny kitchenette to pull out a glass (one that used to hold peanut butter) to put the flowers in some water.

Rodney just stood and watched him, as if he wasn't quite sure what to do. "So, ah, nice place," Rodney finally blurted, while his body-language screamed This place sucks!

John just had to laugh, low and deep. The laugh he'd once heard Rodney refer to as "that demented Muppet impersonation" when he thought he wasn't within earshot. Meanwhile, Rodney crossed his arms over his chest, leaning back with a put-upon frown that only made John laugh harder.

He realized what a bad idea it was though, when the laugh soon aggravated his sore throat, bringing with it a tickle-feeling that made him wheeze and then start to cough… and cough and cough and cough. His eyes began to water as he felt himself gasping for a breath of air that didn't make his ribs hurt, fighting the ticklish feeling that made him cough again.

When he finally started to get some control over his breathing, he was surprised to find himself sitting on the floor leaning over his knees. His lower back rested against the cool surface of the kitchen cupboards and there was a warm hand cautiously rubbing soothing patterns between his shoulder blades.

"Geez, you really are sick. Maybe I should call a doctor. Are you running a fever?" A slightly clammy hand touched John's face and he shied away from it, grimacing.

"I'm alright, McKay. It's just a goddamned flu," John managed to grit out, before he started coughing again, not so badly this time though.

"That's it. You're going to bed. Have you got some Tylenol for the fever?"

John felt himself being hauled off the floor and just went with it, pushing himself up on rubbery legs.

"Really, McKay, it's just the flu and I was already in bed when you showed up." As he spoke, he finally saw Rodney's face, crumpled up in concern, blue eyes wide.

John sighed. "In the bathroom. There's some aspirin in the cupboard above the sink," he allowed, not at all sad that McKay was now steering him back toward bedroom.

"Aspirin!" Rodney exclaimed. "You can't be serious; aspirin eats away at your stomach lining. You can't take that."

Rodney huffed, as he settled John into bed. To John's absolute horror, Rodney even insisted on holding up the sheets and then tried to tuck him in, before John somehow managed to wrench them away from him.

He then half-listened, half-dozed as Rodney rambled, worried about leaving him alone and telling him to stay right where he was and then finally left with the promise to bring back Tylenol. John heard the jingle of the spare keys to the apartment, before the door closed, soon followed by the sound of a car driving off a little too fast. He let his head thump back into the pillows and, with a soft groan, curled up miserably and drifted off to sleep.

The next time John woke, it was to the apartment door thumping closed after Rodney noisily re-entered the apartment amidst much rustling of bags. He didn't have to wait long to figure out what all the noise was about either. John watched through half-cracked eyelids, a small grin on his face, as Rodney bustled into the bedroom with five large shopping bags and proceeded to unpack the contents.

John managed to wake up enough to ask "Whatcha doin'?" just as Rodney crowed a triumphant "Ha!," pulled a thermometer from one of the bags and unceremoniously stuffed it into John's mouth.

"Hmmf?" John muttered.

"No talking; let it do its thing."

John blinked slowly at Rodney as he continued unpacking. There was almost an entire bag worth of medicines, cough mixtures and Tylenol, aloe vera Kleenex (which Rodney placed next to the bed, throwing away the roll of toilet paper that John had been using, with great ceremony), throat lozenges, vitamin C, nasal spray and a box of 100 green tea bags.

The next few bags contained several large cans of chicken soup of various varieties, a large jar of honey, a coffee maker and coffee beans (which he put back into the bag and set aside with obvious glee, bringing John's attention to the green tea instead) and several large packets of antiseptic sprays and wipes (which Rodney sprayed in John's general direction vigorously, until he apologized and looked a little guilty when John was forced to burrow under the covers, coughing again).

Finally, he was down to just one bag, which apparently contained a large box, and John poked his head out from under the sheets again curiously, just as the thermometer beeped to let them know it had 'done its thing.' Rodney swooped in to pull it from John's mouth before he could look.

"101.4," he exclaimed, running calculations in his head. "That's 38.6 degrees Celsius and you so have a fever. Here take these; I'll get you some water."

Rodney shuffled through the medications, handing John several pills and watching him like a hawk as he disdainfully swallowed down each one with the glass of water he supplied.

John was proud of himself for resisting the urge to smack his palm into his forehead and roll his eyes, as he watched Rodney pull a humidifier out of the final box and set it up on the other side of the room. And he only cringed slightly, sliding a little further under the sheets in horror, when Rodney came back from making a phone call and told him that "Carson said he should let him sleep and take his temperature again in half an hour to make sure the Tylenol was working properly."

Later, as John began to drift toward sleep, he had to admit to feeling much more comfortable. He had an aloe vera Kleenex clutched in one hand, the scent of eucalyptus oil wafting gently on the air as he listened to the hypnotic tippity tap sounds of Rodney's laptop keyboard and the low murmur of a Dr Who episode turned down so as not to wake him in the next room. Some time after that, he thought he felt someone rearrange the covers and gently check his forehead for fever, but he was too comfortable to move.

John's only sleepy thought was that there were definitely certain advantages to having a friend like Rodney, and for the first time since they'd been forced to leave Atlantis, his apartment felt just a little bit like home.

The end.