"You may break, you may shatter the vase, if you will,
But the scent of roses will hang round it still." T.M.
John was somehow completely unsurprised that the sharp smell of smoke was coming right from Carson's apartment. Of course, two hours before Rodney had to catch his flight, something would just happen to go up in flames.
He opened the door without bothering to knock. The tiny living room was clouded with smoke. "Someone let Rodney cook?"
"Very funny, colonel," the scientist said through a bout of coughing. He appeared from the direction of the kitchen, waving his arms wildly to disperse the smoke. "Carson! Why isn't the smoke alarm going off?"
"Because the bloody thing's broken, that's why!"
John winced. Beckett was clearly not having the best morning of his life.
A moment later the Scot came in from the bedroom, coughing into his hand. "There! All the windows are opened. I'm going to kill that blasted icebox!"
Sheppard looked from one to the other incredulously. "The refrigerator is smoking?"
"Don't ask me how," McKay said darkly. "It shouldn't be physically possible. It must have blown a fuse. Or some idiot at the Mexican factory wired it wrong to begin with."
Carson stumbled back towards the bedroom, cellphone in hand, muttering something a language John didn't even know. He traded a look with Rodney. "Ready to go?"
"Yes," he said without hesitation. "My lungs are going to be permanently damaged! I bet I've already lost precious years of my life breathing this in." He hurried over to the couch and scooped up his bag. "Carson! We're going!"
That earned him what sounded like a curse. Rodney's eyebrows raised. "I hope that idiot on the appliance repair line knows Gaelic."
By the time they'd made it halfway to Denver (John was very glad he'd volunteered to drive, because Carson talked with his hands while he was on the phone), Beckett had managed to berate at least two repairmen and a saleswoman into replacing his fridge, free of charge, by the end of the day. John had never before appreciated just how stubborn the good doctor could be. No wonder he could put up with Rodney so well.
Finally, the Scot gave a long sigh from the back seat and shut his cellphone. "My battery's nearly dead."
"I should send you some of my minions to intimidate," Rodney said with a grin. John looked over at him in something like surprise; that might have been the highest compliment he'd ever heard the scientist pay anyone.
"Aye, well, I think I have a right to be a bit miffed."
"Sure," Sheppard agreed easily. "I can still smell smoke."
"Lung damage," Rodney repeated.
"Yes, Rodney," Carson said sweetly. "I'm sure you've had significant trauma. You'll probably lose a few years."
The ensuing panic attack lasted them all the way to the airport. John found himself grinning incessantly as he found a place to park.
As soon as the car stopped, so did McKay. An unhappy silence settled over the car as they were suddenly faced with the idea of separation. Rodney sighed heavily. "Look, let's just..."
"Aye," Beckett said simply. They got out, walked in silence until John and Carson couldn't go any farther without getting taken out by security.
Rodney turned to heave a sigh. Carson cut him off with a brusque, "See you later, Rodney."
John was once again amazed as Carson brought Rodney into a quick hug that the scientist absolutely didn't dodge. When had McKay turned into such a softy?
When had John started thinking of human displays of emotion as getting soft?
Beckett pulled back as his phone rang. "Ach, I should take this. It's probably the repairmen."
"Have fun," McKay said with a grin. They held eye contact for a minute before Carson turned and strode away, plugging one ear to hear the person on the other end.
That just left the two of them, then.
John turned back to Rodney—his friend, his annoyance, his team—and found himself at a loss for words. For a second, he thought he could smell smoke and gunpowder and blood. "Look..."
"Look," McKay said at the exact same time. They grinned weakly at each other. "I can't make it out next weekend; some idiot conference that I have to go to with Lee. But the week after that, I'm totally here."
"We'll try and get Elizabeth out," the colonel vowed. "Hey, maybe I'll have a couch by then."
"Yeah, and maybe you'll have finally done something with that slightly-better than mediocre brain of yours and actually join MENSA."
John felt his lips tugging into a smile despite himself. "Take care, Rodney."
He surprised the heck out of both of them by pulling Rodney into a hug so quick it was practically non-existent.
The scientist stepped back and cleared his throat. "Look, I, uh..."
"Yeah," John said simply. He got it.
He was maybe the only one that could get it.
Rodney gave him a smile that was almost enough to convince John that everything was going to be alright. Someday. "Talk to you tomorrow."
Sheppard waved a hand in silent goodbye. He stood there until Rodney cleared security and turned for one last aborted wave before he disappeared into the crowd.
He spoke softly to himself, and found himself hoping that McKay could somehow hear him anyway. "See you later, Rodney."
He turned to go back to Carson.
This wasn't Atlantis. But being with his friends was just going to have to be close enough.
John remembered suddenly sitting on in the Daedalus' mess with Teyla, the smell of stale food and metal and plastic in his nostrils, hearing his own voice in his ears:
"You, Elizabeth, Ronon, Carson...even Rodney, are the closest thing I have to..."
"I'd do anything. For any one of you."
Including live on Earth for the rest of his natural life with Teyla and Ronon in another galaxy. Including trek through the Gate with one idiot team after another and come back to a cold gray mountain that would never be home, would never call him favored son. He could do what he could for his family where he was, at least for another two weeks until they had to remind him why all over again.
With one last look at the departure board to make sure Rodney was leaving on time, John turned back and went to find Carson.
This wasn't home. But it was what they had.
It would do.
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed this little collection of shorts. It's an idea I was playing around with for quite some time, and I finally sat down and wrote it! As always, your time and reading has been much appreciated. Feel free to drop me a review!