Misunderstandings

Disclaimer: All of these lovely, wonderful characters belong to the lucky people who created them, not me.

Author: Diamond-Raven

Rating: PG (McKay-Sheppard friendship, no slash)

Summary: John tends to Rodney's arm while they work through some misunderstandings they harbor after the events in 'The Eye'.

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Rodney was rolling his eyes at Sheppard's flippant remark concerning how far in advance they could book days off, grimacing at the stinging pain in his arm.

He'd tried taking off the jacket – he wasn't an idiot. But the blood had already dried his jacket and shirt onto the cut and tugging on it once was enough for him to never, ever want anybody near his arm again. So he'd wrapped gauze around it, thinking that hopefully that would keep him from dying from infection.

He was starting to worry about how he'd actually take his jacket off when he had to have a shower, but he was rudely interrupted from his musings by the Major calling his name.

"What is it, Major?"

"Come with me for a sec."

Rodney sighed. "If you don't mind, I've had a very, very stressful day, Major. I'm going straight to bed for the next ten years."

"Rodney…"

"No, Major."

Sheppard stared at him, the flippant grin slowly vanishing and being replaced by a hard look. Rodney clenched his jaw, hating that he felt intimidated. This was the same man who had just killed over 60 Genii to defend them without blinking an eye.

He raised his chin and Sheppard stepped closer to him, lowering his voice so that nobody could hear them. "That cut is going to get infected, McKay. You obviously aren't going to clean it properly so I'll do it. My quarters. Now."

Rodney jerked his chin up, not sure why he was being so resistant. He was tired, cranky and in pain and Sheppard was apparently pissed at him.

He had every right to be pissed at him, but it still sucked.

He dutifully followed Sheppard to his quarters, letting him steer him to sit on the closed toilet lid.

Rodney stared at the far wall, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in his arm and being angry with himself.

Sheppard was just as pissed, slamming the first aid kit onto the counter and throwing scissors, disinfectant, pads and gauze beside the sink.

Rodney wordlessly held his arm out, carefully not looking at Sheppard as the man unrolled the gauze and tossed it to the side.

He prepared himself to speak up and yank his arm away if Sheppard started manhandling his arm roughly. He could do that by himself, thank you very much.

To his surprise, the anger simmering within the soldier didn't translate into his hands. He spent a long moment studying the torn, blood covered jacket and gently touching the dried blood. Then he got up and wet some gauze and gently pressed it to the cut.

The water was nice and warm and Sheppard didn't press too hard. Rodney carefully kept his arm still. Sheppard lifted the gauze and gently tugged on the fabric until he could peel it back. Rodney was amazed that it hardly hurt. Every time the fabric clung to his skin, Sheppard applied the wet gauze until it peeled off easily.

Sheppard slowly cut every tiny strip of frayed fabric away, widening the hole in the jacket. Then he simply cut off the sleeve of the entire jacket, slitting it up the middle so Rodney wouldn't have to move his arm to pull it off.

Then the entire silent process was repeated with the shirt.

Once the shirt had been cut off too, Sheppard knelt there, gently holding Rodney's arm and staring at the cut.

Rodney couldn't judge from the blank expression on his face what he was thinking, but he thought he'd try to make him feel better.

"It uhm…it doesn't hurt that badly anymore. Just stings a bit. It even stopped bleeding."

Sheppard didn't respond and just started cleaning the wound, gently wiping away the dried blood, disinfecting it and then wrapping it with clean gauze.

Once he was finished, he let go of Rodney's arm and started cleaning up. Once he wasn't handling Rodney's arm anymore, the anger was back.

The mangled shirt and jacket sleeves were violently thrown into the trash, the scissors were roughly washed clean and thrown back into the first aid it. The bloody pads were also thrown into the garbage with a lot more force than necessary.

Rodney clenched his jaw. There was no reason for the Major to be this mad. Alright, maybe had a reason, but…..

"Look, I'm sorry!"

Sheppard paused in the midst of jerking the first aid kit's zipper closed. "What?"

"I said I'm sorry. It won't happen again. Well, I actually can't promise it won't happen again, but I can tell you that when it does, I'll be sorry then too."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Rodney didn't dare look at him. "I get it, okay? I broke and that's a big no-no. I should have kept my mouth shut and let him do whatever he wanted. I jeopardized the mission or whatever the hell you call it. I get that and I'm sorry. I tried, I really tried, but you being mad about it won't change what happened. Maybe if you included some techniques in our training then I'll be able to do better next time."

Sheppard didn't move and Rodney could feel him staring at him.

"You think….you think…..shit, McKay, you think I'm mad at you?"

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Hello, genius here, and it doesn't exactly take a genius to figure out why."

"Well, in this case the genius should return his MENSA card."

Startled, Rodney stared at him. "What?"

"Rodney, Jesus, I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at Kolya and his men. They had no right to touch you."

"It wasn't like he had many options. Elizabeth and I were the only two there."

Sheppard sighed and briefly closed his eyes and then stared at his reflection in the mirror. "I know. That was my fault. Next time, no civilians are going to stay behind when we do an op like this. You'll teach some of the marines and me how to do what we have to do and you'll gate offworld."

Rodney blinked. "What?"

Sheppard ran a hand through his hair, and then stared down at Rodney. "Rodney, if somebody here should be apologizing, it's me. You're a civilian and you shouldn't ever, ever have to be in a situation like that. That's why the military is here – to make sure you don't ever have to go through something like that. I messed up and you paid the price and I'm so damn sorry."

Rodney frowned, not liking where this conversation was going. "So, my only job is to sit in a little box while your guys absorb everything that's aimed at me?"

"You don't have to sit in a box, Rodney, but it's our job to protect you. That's the only reason we're here."

"That's crap."

"What?"

Rodney glared at him. "You heard me. We're in this together. Civilians and military."

"Rodney, there are some things civilians shouldn't ever have to go through and torture is really high on that list. It should have been me or one of my guys, not you."

"Well it wasn't. But putting me somewhere where my brains can't help you isn't the solution either. It sucked, I'll admit that. It hurt and it really, really sucked, but it happened. I'm not going to let you stick us into little bubbles to keep us safe. You need us out here, and you need me on your team. The only thing you should be pissed about is the fact that I broke."

Sheppard's gaze jerked to his and a flash of anger crossed his face. Rodney thought it was justifiably directed at him so he prepared himself for the tirade which was about to be directed at him.

He already had a pretty good idea what choice phrases the tirade would include. The whole 'one for the many' and 'compromising the mission' and all the other things Rodney had messed up on.

"Rodney…..shit……Rodney…..no. No, no, no," Sheppard slammed a fist onto the counter and then knelt before him.

"Listen to me, okay? Listen. Everybody has their breaking point. Everybody. If you hadn't said anything because of the pain, he'd have started torturing Elizabeth or killed her. If somebody wants something badly enough, they will find a way to get it."

"You wouldn't have."

"Maybe not because of the knife, but I would have eventually."

Rodney scoffed. "Right."

"It happened, Rodney."

He stared at him. "When?"

"In Iraq, in North Korea and in Afghanistan. Sometimes I held out for a few days, sometimes only a few minutes. It depended on how fast they figured out what would break me."

"Don't they teach you how to resist in boot camp?"

"Kinda. In SERE training too. They teach us ways to control our minds and block out the pain. That helps if the torture is physical, but doesn't do shit for other kinds of torture."

"Teach me."

"What?"

Rodney jerked his chin up. "Teach me. Teach all of the civilians."

Sheppard's glance slid away from him. "Rodney, you're civi—"

"Kolya didn't give a damn that I was a civilian. Neither does anybody else in this galaxy. Nobody else plays by your rules except for you, Sheppard. This is one example of the spectacular trouble that attitude can bring us."

Sheppard stared at him a long time. "I can't…..I can't hurt you, Rodney."

"You kick my butt during training all the time."

"That's different. I can't….I can't do this to you."

"Fine. Ask one of your marines to do it. Or I'll find somebody else."

Sheppard stared at him and Rodney stared right back, not budging. Finally, the soldier nodded jerkily and then pushed himself up, curling and uncurling his fingers as if unsure what to do with them.

"You should sleep, Rodney."

Rodney nodded, absolutely exhausted. He realized his arm did feel better. Upon a closer mental inspection, he realized he felt better all around.

Sheppard wasn't mad at him and he was finally coming around to the idea that they were all in the same boat and needed the same tools if they were going to survive.

Pushing himself up to head to his room, he paused and stared at Sheppard putting away his first aid kit.

"Thanks, Major."

Sheppard stopped and stared at him for a long moment before giving him a small smile. "Have a good night."

"You too."