Part 10 of 10

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John rubbed the back of his neck as he made his way toward the nearest transporter. Even though it'd been nearly three weeks since his injury, he was well aware that the small headache nagging him would quickly turn into something akin to a migraine if he didn't take something soon. It bugged him that he was still bothered by the concussion's aftereffects to the point that he'd finally questioned Beckett about it. It wasn't like he hadn't been whacked on the head before. Why was it different this time?

Carson had, of course, lectured him. Launching into a rant about rest, stress and repeated head injuries. He emphasized the fact that John should be easing back into a normal workload…slowly.

"Right." John breathed deeply and ran a hand through his hair. He'd already had to return to the Tower twice. He was hoping this past time was the last. The nobles there had wanted nothing to do with bringing Elizabeth into the restructuring process so he'd taken a lot of notes from her and gone on his own. He'd brushed it off earlier, making light of the fact that they'd tried to persuade him to stay and help rule, but the talks had been long, stressful and boring. Very boring. He was glad it was over. Now, he planned on taking some of the 'good drugs' Carson had prescribed and taking a long nap.

Stepping into the transporter he tapped his destination and seconds later was there. Exiting into the hallway John couldn't help but grin when he recognized Rodney's familiar clomp.

Clomp. Clomp. Clomp. The heavy, stabilizing walking boot that Carson had ordered McKay to wear on his fractured ankle echoed loudly through Atlantis' halls and, up until now, it had made Rodney's efforts to sneak away from the infirmary a challenge. Sheppard wondered how McKay had managed to get this far. Slowing his own steps, John eased around the corner, suppressing a laugh as he watched McKay's off balanced gait.

"Going somewhere?" he asked calmly, leaning against the hall.

Rodney startled but covered it well, straightening and looking as indignant as he could considering the black monstrosity swallowing half his leg. Looking at him now, John thought of a 'crooked man' and wondered if McKay had ever lived in a crooked house. From Rodney's expression, he decided not to ask.

McKay scowled. "What are you lurking here for?" The bruising that had run from Rodney's temple to his chin had finally faded leaving only dark circles under his eyes – if not for those and the cast--one would never know he'd been hurt. "Trying to scare me to death?"

John ignored his instinct to throw a sarcastic comment back at McKay. "Not really, just heading to my quarters."

"Really? Why? You okay?" Rodney asked, automatically his expression changing from annoyance to concern.

"Eh, headache. What about you? I thought Carson was adamant about you taking it easy?" John pushed away from the wall.

Rodney snorted and started walking again. "Around here? This is taking it easy. Do you know how far behind I am? I've missed too much work already."

John jogged a step to catch up, marveling at the speed Rodney managed even with the cast. "You were in a coma, McKay."

"I'm aware of that, Colonel."

John shook his head. He hadn't really talked much to Rodney since the scientist had woken up. He'd visited, but McKay had been in and out of reality for a while and Carson had been pretty strict with the whole 'rest' thing. He'd been in those damn talks with the Tower folks and honestly…once McKay was awake and everyone knew he was going to be okay, John just wasn't sure what to say to the man. "Sorry I got you trapped in a cave in and stuck in a coma," just didn't seem adequate.

"I've been wanting to catch up with you, ya know." John forced himself to not run away. He waved his hand between them as they continued down the hall.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "It's not like I'm moving that fast these days."

John frowned. "About that." He turned so that he could meet Rodney's gaze as he tried to figure out how to proceed.

Comprehension dawned and McKay drew back a step. "Oh, you are not doing this."

He watched John's weak shrug. "What? I just wanted to…"

Rodney held up his hand. "I know what you want to do. Don't."

"McKay," John argued. "I'm the one…"

"Just stop." Rodney spun again and started stomping away. The loud, harsh clomp of his cast made Sheppard wince this time. That had to hurt.

John jogged again, getting ahead of McKay and blocking his path. "Why are you so mad?"

"You think I enjoy this," he gestured at Sheppard, "this little guilt trip you're on? This…" He lifted his cast and jiggled the foot around almost losing his balance in the process. "Not your fault."

Catching McKay's elbow to steady him, John kept a hold of him. "I told you it was worth the risk to stay down in those tunnels McKay and they collapsed on you."

"And if you hadn't? Do you honestly think I'd trade my life for Teyla's or Ronon's? Or all of those villagers? Not to mention both you and Carson?"

"No, No of course not. I just wanted to make sure you realized I didn't mean…" He swallowed and looked down at the floor, letting go of Rodney's arm when he realized they were standing there yelling at each other. He lowered his voice. "I never meant that you weren't…" He couldn't seem to finish it. He sucked at words.

Rodney scoffed. "You are such an idiot." He chuckled, his shoulders slumping as his posture relaxed again.

"Am not." John protested with a pout.

"Oh yes, yes you so are." Rodney grinned, then grew serious again. "You know what got me through it?"

John didn't have to question what "it" was.

"Knowing that if you were still out there and still able…you'd be searching for me."

Sheppard looked up.

"I mean, yes, I was terrified I was gonna die right there but at the same time, I knew and I mean I KNEW, if you were okay. You'd find me."

"Why were you so certain?" John frowned. What had he done to deserve that kind of faith?

"Oh I don't know, you did turn a jumper into a submersible to find me at the bottom of the ocean didn't you?"


"Dragged my ass out of an exploding galaxy?"

John huffed at that memory.

"Rescued me from the Genii how many times now?"

"Lost count."

"Exactly." Rodney kept talking before John could cut in. "I don't think I've ever had a friend who could drive me quite as mad as you seem to manage…but" he smiled softly. "I've never had one that I knew I could count on so certainly either."

John wasn't sure how to respond now or even if he should. He felt like if he said anything, it'd be the wrong thing.

"So, stop with the guilt." Rodney made the decision for him. "I don't have the time or energy for any of it. Next time we're in the middle of a crisis, I'll find another way to save your ass. Deal?"

"Deal." John grinned, a sense of relief and gratitude washing over him. "So," he smiled mischievously. "You're admitting that I saved your ass?"

Rodney's eyes widened and then narrowed. "Oh please!" He turned and started clomping along yet again. "Only after I saved yours first."

"It was my idea to start the star drives, gimpy." John pointed out, following.

"Ha! Might have been your idea but how far would that have gotten you without me to carry it through? Huh? You. Need. Me."

"Like a hole in the head."

"Hardy har har. How original. You really are a plank, aren't you?"