Disclaimer: And I still don't own them – just having some fun.

Summary: Tag to Outcast that shows what happened when John went back to see his brother at the end of the episode. Special thanks to Kathy for letting me use some of her ideas.

Brother's Keeper

By Titan5

When Dave opened the door, John fought the inner voice telling him to turn and walk away. Dave was his brother and there was always the chance he'd never see him again. He didn't want things to end permanently with a rift between them if he could help it, not like it had with his father. When Dave let him in, John took a deep breath and stepped inside the large house, a house that hadn't been his home in a long time.

Walking across the huge living room, John tried not to walk stiffly, even as the muscles in his neck, back, and shoulders protested each and every motion. He hadn't hurt all over like this since the nearly indestructible Wraith from the crashed hive ship had thrown him all over one side of the planet. Even though that had happened years ago, John could remember it like yesterday.

"John?"

Realizing he was just standing there facing the couch, John turned to look at his brother. "I wanted to talk before I went back, to straighten things out if we can." He shoved his hands in his pockets, mostly because he was nervous and didn't know what else to do with them. Dave narrowed his eyes and gave him a small nod.

"What happened? I don't remember that from before. Did you and your friend get into a brawl somewhere?" There was no missing the biting edge to Dave's voice, much less the accusing tone.

It took John a second to catch on to the fact that Dave was looking at his neck. He suddenly remembered the heavy bruising from where the replicator had come close to choking him to death. Instinctively, he brought his hand up to rub the tender area. "Oh, yeah, that would be that work related thing I left to take care of."

"Yes, I remember. The top secret matter involving national security," Dave said sarcastically. After quietly studying his brother for a moment, his expression and voice softened slightly. "John . . . are you all right?"

Responding with a small smile, John started to nod, but then stopped abruptly as a sharp pain lanced through his neck and up into his head, as well as down in his shoulders. Wincing, he let out a small groan and reached back to massage away the building muscle cramp.

"I could call Dr. Harris. He still lives just up the road." Dave's voice was increasingly filled with worry, as were his eyes.

"No, no I'm fine, just a little sore," John explained, dropping his arm and trying to relax his features. The general ache had now been awakened into sharper pains piercing his back and neck and even into his head. He was determined to finish this before he headed back, but he was grabbing a handful of ibuprofen at the first available moment. Glancing up at his brother, he was a little surprised to see worry all over Dave's face. "I'm fine."

Letting out a breath, Dave finally nodded, even though he didn't quite look convinced. "You always were bull-headed."

"Still calling me names, I see," John said with a wry grin.

"Hey, what are brothers for?" asked Dave, his voice a little lighter. "Can I get you something to drink? Beer maybe?"

"Nah, but thanks. I've gotta head back after this and I probably shouldn't report with alcohol on my breath." Besides, his stomach was beginning to churn just a bit. He wasn't sure if it was a response to the pain or nerves. Maybe both.

"Okay. Let's sit." Dave took a seat in the big, cushioned chair next to the matching couch. John sat down on the end of the couch, a feat he wasn't entirely sure he was going to be able to complete. He dropped more than lowered himself into the furniture and he was pretty sure Dave was aware of that. Getting up would be nearly impossible, but he could deal with that later.

John wasn't sure how or where to begin. He hadn't been able to plan what to say, his thoughts far too jumbled for that. He just didn't want to fight anymore. Taking a deep breath, he decided he would just start talking and hope the words he needed came.
"Dave . . . look, in spite of what it may look like, I didn't come back for money. You can have all of it for all I care."

Holding up one hand, Dave shook his head. "John . . . that probably wasn't fair of me. I guess . . . look, I guess I was angry and frustrated . . . with you because you were never here when we needed you . . . with Dad for dying . . . with myself because I should have handled all this better."

John let his gaze drop to the floor. "I thought . . . I stayed away because I thought that was what the two of you wanted. Dad made it clear . . . I took him literally when he said I was . . . no longer his son," he said quietly. Fire burned in his belly as he heard the words his father had said to him all those years ago.

"He was angry. I'm not saying that excuses him saying it, but he didn't mean it. He said it to hurt you, to make you change your mind and come back to the family."

Regret, anger, and sadness filled John to the point he thought he might explode, spilling emotions all over the perfect, cream-colored carpet. "He wanted to take back control of my life." John lifted his eyes to meet Dave. "I'm different than you, different than Dad. I can't sit still and do the office thing, the wheeling and dealing." He grinned as he remembered the deal he'd tried to broker with the Genii on their first contact. "I can give you the names of people who will verify that I suck at that."

"I know, John. I've spent a long time refusing to acknowledge that you needed something else. I believed that you were just too lazy to do the work for a lot of years, making up excuses and claiming to be on top-secret missions. I never really believed that. Thought you were living in some fantasy world where you were someone special."

Snorting, John would have shaken his head if he hadn't been afraid of upping the already building pain. He would have to get out of here soon. "Don't worry, Dave, I have no illusions about being someone special. I'm an Air Force pilot. That's it. I try to protect people . . . and sometimes I don't even do that well."

Dave studied him again, in that way that made John feel like he was looking inside him somehow. "I don't think I believe that. I'm starting to think . . . I'm wondering just what you are involved in." Dave gave a small laugh. "Something where you get to go really fast, I assume."

Grinning, John thought back to his flights in the F302. "Sometimes, when I'm lucky. All I can tell you is that it's worthwhile. If I'd stayed with the business, I'd be rich, but I'd be miserable. I just need . . . I need to feel like what I do matters. I save lives, Dave. I don't always succeed, but there are people alive because of me. When you get to the end of the day and know that people are alive because you were there, it . . . I can't describe it."

"You always did have a protective streak in you. Dad used to say we'd have to toughen you up if you were ever to take over flailing companies. He figured you 'd be out there with the workers, trying to save their jobs."

"He thought I was weak," John said a little bitterly, the burst of anger making him surge to his feet. He regretted the action immediately when the room began to spin as hot pain raced down his neck and back.

"John?"

He wanted to respond, even as his vision grayed and he felt himself falling, but he'd lost all ability to control his muscles. John was vaguely aware of hands making a fumbling catch and a semi-hard landing on the floor before everything just faded away.

oOo

". . . think we should get an ambulance to transport him to the hospital so we can get some x-rays."

"Is he that badly injured?"

"The bruising is extensive, about as bad as I've ever seen. He impacted something with a lot of force to cause that level of damage. I told you I think he may have cracked some ribs, but I'm also worried there could be internal bleeding or possible damage to some of the vertebrae in his back or neck. I can't tell without more tests."

John finally managed to get his eyes open, blinking until Dave and Dr. Harris came into focus, talking softly at the foot of the bed he was lying in. "No hospital," he said, a little surprised at how rough and low his voice was. It got the right response though as the two men turned to see that he was awake. John began trying to push up to his elbows, but the doctor moved to his side and quickly put a hand on his chest.

"Stay put, John. You don't need to be moving around. We're sending for an ambulance."

"No," John said as emphatically as he could. "I'm just a little banged up. I've had worse, believe me." Although he had had worse, he was pretty sure not much of it had hurt worse than he did right now.

Dr. Harris frowned, squinting his eyes behind his wire-rimmed glasses. He was almost as old as their father had been, with thinning white hair and deep gray eyes. "That doesn't make me feel any better. You always kept me busy when you were growing up. I see you still have a talent for getting yourself into trouble."

John grimaced at the pair. "Carson always . . ." His voice trailed off at the sudden emptiness, the doctor's loss hitting him all over again. "Yeah . . . I've been told that before," he said weakly.

The two men exchanged a sympathetic glance, which John tried to ignore. Dr. Harris let out a deep breath and patted his patient on the arm, unwittingly deepening the loss when it reminded John of the way Carson used to comfort him when he was hurting. "You could have internal injuries, son."

"John, just let us call an ambulance and do what the doctor says," commanded Dave, his expression hard and serious. Dave was getting angry with him for not doing what he thought John should do.

Anger welled up inside John at once again having his family try to control his life. He pushed it back down and forced himself to stay calm. "I need to get back. We have doctors there, some of the best. But I'm not going to the hospital."

Sighing, Dave let his gaze glide back to the doctor. "Dr. Harris . . . could you wait downstairs while I talk some sense into my brother."

The old physician chuckled as he put his instruments back in his bag. "As I recall, that never worked before."

Neither Sheppard responded as they watched the man leave the room. John peeked under the covers to verify that he was lying in bed in his boxers. "Where are my clothes?" he asked, letting the blanket fall back around him as his eyes darted around the room.

"Hanging up." Dave sat on the edge of the bed and stared at John. "I saw."

Blinking, John frowned at his brother, wondering if maybe he'd banged his head harder than he'd thought. "What do you mean? What did you see?"

Sighing, Dave dipped his head once toward John. "The bruises. God, John, what happened to you? Who did this? And you have scars . . . lots of scars. Dr. Harris said some of them . . . some are classic signs of torture and some . . . he couldn't identify. What do you do, John? What are you involved in?"

His gut tightened and John instinctively clenched his fists. "I can't tell you that. Just . . . know that it has to be done and that it affects more people than you would ever think possible."

Dave's expression softened a bit. "I've made some assumptions I probably had no right to make. I still have no idea what you actually do, but I should probably give you the benefit of the doubt. I'm sorry. For all the times that I thought you were lying . . . grandstanding . . . just trying to get out of your duty to the family."

Closing his eyes, John concentrated on breathing through the cramps tightening the muscles in his neck and back. "I wasn't trying to get out of my duty to my family . . . I was trying to fulfill a duty to my country, to the whole . . . Never mind. Just know that it involves protecting a whole lot of people."

"So basically you think being your brother's keeper means protecting absolutely everyone." Dave sighed and shook his head.

Jutting his chin out defiantly, John glared at his brother. "When I can. I just . . . I wish I was more successful at it sometimes," he said despondently. His grief for his father momentarily mixed with the fresh reminder of losing Elizabeth and Carson. He looked back up at his brother. "Look, I don't expect you to understand, I never did. The business was important to you and Dad. I accepted that, even though I didn't necessarily understand it. I just wanted the same consideration, that you and Dad would respect that I needed something different. Running a business is not me, it never has been and it never will be."

Letting out a deep sigh, Dave looked at his brother. "I suppose we owed you at least that much."

Silence reigned for a few moments, while John gathered his strength. He needed to get dressed and get back to the SGC. He'd done what he came to do. "I need my clothes."

"You sure you'll be okay until you get back?"

"I'm sure," John said with a small smile. If he could talk Dave or the doctor out of a few ibuprofen, he would make it back fine. Internal bleeding was an all too familiar acquaintance and he was pretty sure this wasn't it.

Dave stood and walked over to the closet, pulling John's clothes out and spreading them across a chair. "Dad left me the house and the business, but he left you a pretty nice trust fund. You should be able to live comfortably on it, but if you should ever change your mind . . . want to come join the business . . . I could find a place for you."

"Not going to happen, but thanks for the offer. I was serious when I said I wasn't after the money. I can't use it where I am anyway," John said as he pushed himself up.

Dave smiled at him. "Well, you may need it someday, and it'll be there for you when you do."

Letting his gaze fall to his feet, John rubbed the back of his neck. "You know . . . I'd give up every penny to have once heard dad say he was proud of me."

John lifted his eyes in time to see Dave wince as he turned his face away. "He was proud of you," he said quietly. "Toward the end . . . he wanted to tell you that I think. He just didn't know how . . . and we weren't sure how to get hold of you. That made it easier to put off. I think if you'd come back . . . well, that's all history now and there's no use dwelling on it. Just know that dad, well, he changed in the last couple of years. He loved you John, don't ever doubt that."

His emotions in turmoil, John had to fight to keep himself in control. Guilt over not making any effort to contact his family in the last four years ate at him, while the knowledge of his father's apparent forgiveness filled him with a sense of relief. Dave obviously still harbored some anger and resentment, but at least he was attempting to be civil, now that he knew John wasn't here to make a grab for money.

"I'll go tell Dr. Harris he can go while you get dressed. There's some pain relievers in the bathroom cabinet."

"Thanks," John said softly and then grunted as he twisted around to hang his legs off the side of the bed. He was vaguely aware of Dave leaving as he closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths, pushing the physical and emotional pain back so that he could get out of there.

Twenty minutes later, John slowly made his way down the stairs, resisting the urge to say, "Ow," after each step. Lam was going to have a field day with him when he got back to the SGC, not to mention Keller in Atlantis. He was pretty sure his bruises had bruises. He secretly hoped to find Ronon in as sad a condition as he was, all the while knowing he wouldn't.

"We could still call that ambulance," quipped Dave, standing a few feet from the stairs with his arms crossed.

"Funny," John said sourly. Finally reaching the bottom of the steps, he let out a deep breath of relief.

"You've been hurt worse than this?"

"Sadly, yes," said John. "Dave . . . I'm glad we got to talk. I didn't want to leave things like they were . . . you know . . . in case something happens and I don't see you again."

The smile on Dave's lips dissolved as he looked at his brother. "How likely is that?"

John shrugged his shoulders before he thought, grimacing with a groan as he paid for the lapse in judgment. "Let's just say things tend to be a little uncertain."

With a small nod, Dave held out his hand, which John took. "John, take care of yourself and please try not to get yourself killed. And . . . keep in touch, you know, when you can."

"I will," John said. "Maybe one day I can even tell you what I'm doing."

"Yeah, well, excuse me if I don't hold my breath. Do you need a ride somewhere?"

"No, I'm good. My ride is . . . kind of on the way. I think I'll just walk to the end of the drive, take one last look at the place."

Dave smiled as they walked toward the door, making it obvious he was studying his brother's slow, stiff movement. "So, they won't be here for a while, huh."

"Still funny," John retorted. He still ached, but the pain was no longer sharp and his muscles had loosened a bit. The fact that he hadn't had time to eat much the last couple of days probably had contributed to his passing out as much as anything. When he had had time, he hadn't really felt like eating, neither grief nor stress having a positive impact on his appetite.

"You know you're welcome any time," said Dave as John stepped outside.

Smiling at his brother, John took a long look at the house he'd spent most of his childhood in. "Thanks. I just might drop in the next time I'm in town. See if you're still funny."

The sudden flash of a bright light several yards down the driveway caught their attention and John groaned when Ronon materialized. The shocked look on the man's face was almost worth the trouble this was about to cause.

"Uh, didn't expect anyone to be out here. Sheppard . . . we have to go. Bates said to tell you the President wants a briefing on . . . well, on what happened."

Scowling at Ronon, John let out a deep sigh. "You couldn't have waited two minutes? Fine, I'm coming." He reluctantly turned back to his brother, who was standing in the doorway with his mouth hanging open.

"John . . . what . . . how did . . . where did he come from?"

"Look . . . this is kind of what I've been referring to when I said I couldn't talk about what I did. I really need you to pretend you didn't see this. Let's be honest, even if you told people, they'd just think you were nuts."

"He said . . . you're meeting with the President . . . of the United States?"

John grinned, realizing that his brother was seeing firsthand that maybe he wasn't so crazy after all. That his refusal to explain things because they were classified had been justified. "Yeah . . . that happens sometimes. Can I trust you to keep this between us?"

Dave's wide-eyed amazement was almost comical for a moment before the man gathered himself together and neutralized his expression. "Like you said, who would believe me? I . . . John, I . . . well, I don't know what to say."

"Say goodbye," offered Ronon.

"Good point," John agreed, walking over to stand beside Ronon. He gave his brother a mock salute and a lop-sided grin, enjoying the man's obvious distress. The disdain that had been so commonplace in his brother's eyes was gone, at least for the moment.

"You okay?" asked Ronon.

"I will be," John replied. And he would. He'd made a bit of peace with his brother. Even though he'd missed the opportunity to do similarly with his father, at least the old man had apparently had second thoughts about the way he'd completely dismissed John. But more than anything, he would be on his way home soon, to Atlantis. It occurred to him that Atlantis was more of a home to him than this house had ever been. The friends he'd made were more a family than his blood relatives, except maybe for his mom. They accepted who he was. Even Rodney, with his constant whining and jabs, let John be who he needed to be. He was sore and achy and still trying to wrap his head around the loss of his father, but he was confident that being home in Atlantis, with his real family and his city, would put everything back into perspective.

"Take care, Dave." Bright light washed out his final look at his brother and the house he grew up in. "Bye Dad," he whispered.

THE END