Disclaimer: All references and characters from SGA belong to some lucky people who aren't me.
Summary: Five months after, Teyla's daughter is born. She tells him she's naming her Johna. Rodney hands the little bundle back to her and leaves the infirmary. He hurries to John's room and spends an hour on the floor, sobbing in the darkness.
Note: NOT a death-fic
The day it started…
He's sitting in the lab, working on his computer with one hand and holding a cup of coffee with the other, his wrapped ankle balanced on a nearly stool Radek had shoved over for him.
He keeps his radio on and always connected to Chuck during these rare times when John is off-world without him.
It's why he can hear the slightly hysterical note in Chuck's voice when he says there is an audiovisual message coming through the gate and it's not Lantean.
He's off his stool and hobbling along the corridor as fast as his sprained ankle will let him go. He passes Corporal Benson, who just needs to see the look on his face before he's slinging one of Rodney's arms over his shoulders, grabbing him around the waist and hustling him along twice the speed as before.
The day after….
He's in the conference room, three empty mugs around him. He's gripping the table hard enough to make his fingers creak. He knows he'd throw the mugs if he lets go.
"Major Lorne already arranged a raiding party, Rodney. They're going in within twenty minutes."
He wants to scream at Sam to shut up, that he knows what's going on since he was sitting in the same damn room as she when they made their plan. He wants to scream at her that it's his team out there and that his place is on that raiding party.
They all know that he'd be a liability with his ankle. The Major squeezes his shoulder and promises him he'll get them all back.
Four days after…
The Major limps back through the gate, bloody, filthy and exhausted.
John isn't with them. They had brought back Teyla and Ronon but hadn't seen John.
Teyla struggles to explain what happened, her voice sounding muffled as it passes her badly swollen, bruised lips, one hand protectively curled around her stomach. The rebels had realized that John was a ranking leader and had moved him to the place where they keep the more valuable hostages.
Major Lorne comes to Rodney as soon as he is released from the infirmary and tells him what had happened. The government had told them where they suspected some of the hostages were being kept and helped them organize the raid. The Torani had lost fifteen of their own men in the raid, the Lanteans had lost seven and Captain Wong is still in surgery.
They had managed to find the hostages and freed most of them. The rebels they had apprehended were being interrogated by the Torani. Major Lorne had hung around during the interrogations and learned that the rebels kept their more valuable hostages off-world somewhere. None of the rebels knew the exact location, since they were based on Torani and had never seen the other base.
Rodney sends Radek to tear apart the Torani DHD and figure out where they had taken John.
Radek comes back and just stands in the door of the lab for a long moment. Rodney is already snapping his fingers for the tablet when Radek shakes his head.
"They wiped it clean, Rodney. They input a virus into the software. It wipes all gate addresses from the stored memory after they are dialed. The Torani have known about it for years and have been unable to remove it without damaging the DHD. I am so sorry."
A week after…
He's sitting on the stairs of the control room, Teyla beside him, both of them staring at the gate. He's got two radios on, one of them constantly connected to Chuck and the other for when somebody else needs him.
As soon as Ronon was physically capable of standing on his feet again, he, Teyla and the other marines signed out of the infirmary AMA.
Keller admonished Teyla for being willing to put her unborn child at risk and Teyla had glared at her, but agreed with her. So she sits with Rodney on the top of the control room stairs, staring at the gate. They all know John wouldn't want Teyla putting her child at risk for his sake.
Major Lorne took the marines and Ronon back to Torani.
They are back three days later, exhausted and quiet. Benson's fingernails are crusted over with blood that isn't his own. Ronon is missing all of his knives.
Major Lorne goes to Sam and tells her that they had been chatting to some of the rebels. That's what their report would say. Sam gives a short nod and never mentions it again.
When Rodney sees the looks on their faces when they come through the gate, he already knows. He doesn't need to hear Ronon's rumbled 'sorry' or feel Teyla's forehead touching his own.
They have no idea where John has been taken.
Three weeks after…
He's settled into a routine of sorts. He's practically moved into John's room. More and more of his stuff keeps finding its way into it. He's getting used to stepping around the guitar on his way to the bathroom and constantly having Johnny Cash staring down at him.
He keeps his two radios on, ready to race to the control room at the slightest hint of anything unusual.
He spends his days sitting in the lab, running deep space scans, analyzing data they get from various systems they send MALPs to and asking Chuck fifty times a day if he's sure he hadn't detected anything that might be somebody trying to contact them.
Chuck never snaps at him and his response of 'not yet, sir' is always quiet and polite. He knows as well as they all do that John will find his way home.
Rodney knows they do.
Teyla learns how to analyze deep space telemetry and spends her days in the lab, helping him. Ronon brings them food and forces him to sleep, even going as far as drugging his coffee to get him to take a break.
Two months after….
Chuck starts sighing a bit when Rodney asks him his usual question. He refuses to answer once, causing Rodney to completely lose it, throwing his mug of coffee across the room, sweeping his laptop off the desk and screaming at Chuck, Teyla, Radek and anybody else he can think of.
He's vaguely aware of Ronon stunning him.
When he wakes up, he's in John's bed and Teyla is sitting beside him and Ronon is on the floor, leaning against the bed.
Rodney gropes by his ear. Not feeling the two radios, he sits up with a jerk, eyes going wide. He's yelling for the radio, glaring at Teyla when she holds up placating hands and tries to explain that she thought he would be more comfortable without it on.
He spies it on the desk and lunges for it, stuffing it into his ear. He screams at her that he might have missed Chuck getting something or Radek finding something on the scans. He ignores her defensive tone and Ronon pushing himself off the floor and frowning at him.
Instead, he turns his back on them and asks Chuck if he's detected anything that might be somebody contacting them.
There's a beginning of a pause and Rodney is ready to scream at him again. Then Chuck says 'not yet, sir.' and Rodney nods, heading off for the lab to continue analyzing scans.
Five months after…
Teyla's daughter is born. She tells him she's naming her Johna. Rodney hands the little bundle back to her and leaves the infirmary.
He hurries to John's room and spends an hour on the floor, sobbing in the darkness.
Seven months after…
Sam calls him into her office and tells him she's calling the search off. He launches into his list of reasons why they shouldn't and she interrupts him to say that she wasn't asking him whether he agreed. She was just telling him that they were.
They couldn't keep using resources and time to search for somebody who was lost somewhere in an enormous galaxy. Their food reserves are starting to dwindle, people's morale was seriously low and quite frankly, if there was a way to escape from wherever John was, he would have done it by now.
Rodney stares at her as if she has slapped him. He wants to turn her desk over, he wants to rip her limb from limb and make her understand that this wasn't an option. It just wasn't an option.
Instead, he turns and walks out of her office.
Nine months after…
Chuck tells him that he's received a message from the Torani government. Chuck routinely contacts the Torani government, asking for developments on the hostage situation. The Torani constantly have people working to free the hostages but the rebels know how valuable their hostages are and rarely agree to any terms the Torani government have, except in the cases of prisoner exchanges.
The rebels have released two hostages in exchange for the imprisoned rebels. The hostages had memorized gate addresses for the homes of the people they had been imprisoned with and had memorized messages for loved ones at home.
A young woman steps through the gate. She's been checked over by the Torani doctors and has been cleaned up, but she still looks awful.
Her abraded wrists are bandaged and her head is shaved. Her face is gaunt and deathly pale. She asks for Rodney by name.
She slowly lowers herself in the chair facing his and stares at him, her eyes filled with a sadness that tells Rodney she knows exactly what he is feeling.
"John lives," she begins.
Rodney feels his legs go weak and realizes he's damn glad he had decided to sit down first. John was alive. He was still alive.
"He has attempted escape four times already. They punished him for it and keep him under guard constantly."
She tells them all she can about where she had been kept. She had been imprisoned for thirteen cycles according to the planet's orbit. Rodney has no idea how that translated into New Lantea orbits.
They keep them underground in small bunkers. They are kept chained to their cots and are only let up when they have to relieve themselves or eat. They aren't given any utensils to eat with and are kept chained to the table when they eat. Guards watch them every moment and anybody caught trying to escape is punished. It is not in the rebels interest to kill them, but every one of them who escapes is a bargaining chip that they lose. In an effort to prevent disease from easily spreading through the bunk house, they are bathed in disinfectant every few weeks and their heads are kept shaved.
John had killed three guards the first time he had tried to escape. He hadn't even made it out of the bunk room. They tortured him for four days in front of the rest of them. The resulting infection and fever nearly killed him but the rebels had given him medicine to keep him from dying.
Only two people had ever managed to escape from the bunk room in the twenty-three years that the rebels had used kidnappings of important leaders from other worlds and Torani to pressure the Torani government into letting them rule. She has no idea how they had done it and doesn't see any way to do it.
"He knows now that there is no way out. He asked me to carry a message to you. He wants me to tell you that you are more important to him than flying." Rodney can tell that she has no idea what flying is or what John had meant by that, but Rodney knows.
God, he knows.
"He loves you very much and misses you. He knows that you have not given up looking for him. But he wants you to stop. He does not see a way out and does not want you to spend the rest of your life searching for him. He wants you to move on and find happiness. He says that is very important to him. He is willing to accept that this will be his life from now on. He says that it will be bearable if he knows that you are happy."
Then she reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small metal rectangle. Rodney recognizes the dog tag immediately. She pulls his hand close and presses the warm metal into it and closes his fingers over it.
"He kept this hidden from the guards and kept it in his mouth since his capture. He wants you to have it to remember him by."
Rodney is staring at his closed fist, feeling like somebody had just punched him in the stomach.
"He loves you very much, Rodney McKay. It is his last wish that you are happy. He does not care how you do it, but it is very important to him. And he had one last thing he wanted to give you."
Then she's tilting his chin up and lightly presses her lips to his in a soft kiss. "He says this is a very intimate greeting amongst your people. He gave it to me so I could give it to you."
Rodney is barely aware of her leaving, whispering to Sam that she has a message for Teyla Emmagen and Ronon Dex as well.
He doesn't know how he ends up on the floor or how long he stays there, sobbing.
One of his hands is clutching John's tag, the other is pressed to his lips.
Five years after…
Johna is bugging him everyday about going off-world without her mom, Ronon married Jenn Keller, the Igiri refugee kids race around through the corridors, ignoring the calls of their Lantean adoptive parents to slow down and bug Rodney all day every day about playing songs on Colonel John's guitar for them.
Rodney has done what John asked. More or less. He barely goes off-world, only going if a team made a significant scientific discovery that he doesn't trust them not to mess up but nobody is particularly upset by it since they need him here.
During the final months of the Replicator-Wraith war refugees had streamed into the city, seeking safety. The Lanteans had found a fully charged ZPM two years before and could now power more than half the city. New refugees would claim a section of the city as their own, quickly settling in and finding ways to integrate themselves with the Lanteans and help out around the city.
Rodney still sleeps in John's room and Johnny Cash still stares down at him every night. Lorne had given him a spare chain for him to slip John's tag onto so he could wear it under his shirt. He hasn't taken it off for five years.
Nobody comments on that, or his nearly constant silence. Not having John around to snark with had made him fall into a silence that rivaled Ronon's. Nobody else had ever kept up with him verbally as well as John had and Rodney got tired of being reminded of that fact. He still berates his minions when necessary and he still snaps at slow moving people during emergencies, but he does it a lot less verbally than he used to. After staff rotations, the members of the original expedition tell stories of Rodney reaming somebody out every minute of everyday and people would laugh, not believing them.
Rodney doesn't give a damn what they believe about him, but he makes damn sure they know whose legacy they are living under.
Everybody knows who Colonel Sheppard was. The refugees join the Lanteans during their annual memorial when they remember the man who had helped keep their city and galaxy safe. They hold praying circles, asking the Ancestors to watch out for their lost son and keep him safe wherever he might be.
They also pray for Dr. McKay to one day find peace within himself. Nobody ever mentions it to the surly scientist. Everybody learns very quickly that bringing up Colonel Sheppard when Dr. McKay is around is disrespectful and earns you the wrath of everybody around you.
Thirteen years after…
Radek finally caves in and gets the eye surgery Jenn Keller has been bugging him about for a decade. He doesn't get perfect vision but his vision becomes good enough for him not to have to wear the inch thick glasses anymore.
Johna is teaching the older refugee children how to hunt on M7G-136 while the marines conduct survival exercises and drink too much and Colonel Lorne pulls faces and grouses about the fact that he's stuck behind a desk.
After they had lost Sam during a Wraith attack nobody had thought there was a better candidate to replace Sam than Lorne. Sergeant Benson became his second and never bothers correcting Rodney when he keeps calling him a Corporal. Rodney had squinted at him through his glasses and muttered that it had taken him long enough to quit calling a certain somebody 'Major' and start calling him 'Colonel' and that he couldn't be bothered to keep up with such military trivialities. Rodney doubts Benson knows that he isn't talking about Lorne.
Things are unusually quiet today. Teyla is reading Lord of the Rings on the couch in his lab and Radek is playing chess with Miko.
Rodney is playing solitaire on his laptop, one hand continuously reaching for his mug of coffee.
Then the Colonel's voice erupts in his ear, sounding a bit breathless and slightly panicked.
"What is it?"
"You should get up to the control room, Rodney."
"I didn't hear the alarm sound."
"That's because the tech didn't trigger it. We've had an unscheduled off-world activation."
"Right, so why the lack of an alarm?"
"Just, just get up here, Rodney!"
Grumbling, he pushes himself up, grabs his cane from beside his chair and slowly limps out of the lab.
He winces as he reaches the control room. His damn knee always hurts more when he has to hurry anywhere in the morning.
The new gate tech – some fresh faced kid whose name Rodney hadn't learned yet – is staring at him with wide eyes. Lorne is standing behind him, clutching the back of his chair like he'll fall over if he lets go.
"We received an unscheduled off-world activations, sir," the gate tech says.
"Yeah, I know. Did they send any audio? Visual?"
Lorne turns and stares at him. "They sent an IDC."
"That doesn't make any sense, Colonel. We don't have any teams off-world right now."
"I know. That's why Rick called me. It's definitely an IDC. An old one."
"What? An old one?" Rodney pushes Rick aside and squints down at the display. It takes him a second to remember why the code blinking up at him is so damn familiar.
His breath catches in his throat and he has to grab the DHD to keep from falling over.
"If this is a joke," he breathes.
"It's not, Rodney. I checked it. Three times."
Rodney opens his mouth but nothing comes out. He vaguely hears Lorne telling Rick to drop the shield and tell their visitor to come on through.
His legs are moving and he's at the top of the stairs, the cane nearly slipping from his sweaty grip.
Then there's the sound of the shield dropping and suddenly, a figure stumbles through, along with a stream of others.
They're all barefoot, wearing rags and utterly filthy and horrendously emaciated. Some of them are leaning on each other, hobbling along painfully slowly.
Rodney only has eyes for the man leading them. He's just as dirty and thin as the others. His dark hair is short and shot through with grey and his face is covered in a thick grey streaked beard. His face is so thin and pale that his eyes resemble dark pits.
Rodney realizes he dropped his cane and he's hobbling towards him as fast as the man is stumbling towards him.
Then he reaches him and suddenly doesn't know what to do. He's afraid he'll break him if he touches him.
The man is staring at him and clears his throat. "Hey, buddy. I'm home."
Rodney still can't make a sound.
Rodney wants to smack him, wants to yell at him, wants to grab him and shake him for being so damn casual, so damn John.
Instead, he lets out a sob and yanks John into his arms. They crash to the floor, neither of their legs capable of supporting them.
John smells atrocious, but Rodney doesn't care. Underneath the stench of sweat, blood, urine and filth, he can smell John. His John. Alive and whole and back home.
He realizes he's sobbing, clutching John's stick thin body to him. John's arms are around him, one hand rubbing his back and the other tangled in his thinning hair.
"It's okay, buddy. I'm okay."
"You're home. You're home. Oh, god, you're home."
John buries his face in Rodney's neck and they both ignore the chaos that's building around them. People are streaming into the control room, yelling, crying or fainting – like Miko –, medical personnel are trying to get John to come to the infirmary and trying to reassure the other weary people who had accompanied John that they are safe now.
Rodney finally pulls back, staring at John and running gentle fingers over his face.
"So, did I miss anything?" John asks.
Rodney shrugs. "You've been an uncle for thirteen years of a kid who's named after you. I busted my knee wrestling a Wraith and earned myself a genuine battle wound. Ronon nearly cried with pride when Keller said it wouldn't ever heal properly. Oh, and I'm married."
John freezes, the smile sliding off his face for a moment, before he forces it back on.
"Really? That's, that's great, buddy. Really. I'm, I'm happy for you."
"I'm not. My significant other hasn't really been around much."
John's smile wavers and is replaced by a frown. "Oh. That's, that's too bad. Who is it?" His eyes are darting to Rodney's hand, which is still on his face. Rodney knows he's looking for a ring.
Rodney sighs. "We didn't do the ring thing. We did something else." Reaching up, he gently pulls the silver chain out of his shirt, the single metal tag gleaming on it.
John recognizes it instantly. He stares from the tag to Rodney. "Rodney…"
"They repealed DADT eleven years ago. I signed my half of the paper work and figured that since I signed it, I might as well start counting our anniversaries. You missed a couple."
"So I don't get a choice about it?"
"Of course you do. Which is why I didn't forge your signature on the forms. So, how about it? Wanna marry me?"
"Do I have to get you eleven missed anniversary presents?"
"I'll let that slide. This year's better be spectacular though."
"To the present or to marrying me?"
Rodney grins, tears still streaming down his face. Running his fingers through the beard covering John's face, he leans forward and gently kisses him, returning the kiss John had given him nearly thirteen years ago. Only this time, they didn't need somebody to carry it from one of them to the other.
"I know what you're going to say. You're going to be irritated that I didn't do what you said. Let me be the first to defend myself. I didn't move on, but I was happy. Or as happy as I could get."
John stares at him. "I can't believe you waited for me."
Rodney rolls his eyes. "You're still the same old idiot."
John's laugh was the best sound Rodney has heard in thirteen years. He pulls John back into his arms and squeezes him as tightly as he dares.
They had to get John to the infirmary. Then Rodney would pull out the special tags with both of their names that Ronon had made for him out of an ore they had found. Then they had a wedding to plan. Then they had eleven anniversaries to make up for.