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The house Sheppard and Teyla were living wasn't tiny – but it wasn't so large that the door in front of him could lead to anything but the garage.
Where John keeps broken stuff.
He didn't want to go in.
Honestly, the kid may think that Sheppard had some huge problem, some kind of trauma or something, but it couldn't really be because of him. McKay left – sure, his friends were probably affected. Maybe they were even upset by it – but was his abrupt departure any more upsetting than the idea that he was a murderer?
No. No way.
It doesn't matter that 'they' were only going to convict him of manslaughter. 'They' weren't even going to send him to jail – just take away his paycheck, his right to quit the SGC, and his ability to move freely about Earth. Not to mention his actual job. He knew without being told that he would never again be trusted with any type of research project. He wouldn't be able to go off world.
He would be taken off of Sheppard's team. He would be relegated to the most menial of research tasks.
And every time anyone looked at him, they would see a failure, a man that killed in the name of science.
He had to.
And John – Sheppard didn't believe him. No-one did.
Not even Ronon – not at first.
So what if Sheppard were hoarding junk in his garage? It was some kind of mental illness. How dare he – how dare anyone try to put this on McKay.
Bolstered by righteous anger, McKay slammed the door open, a tirade of epic proportions right at the tip of his tongue.
He saw – what he saw froze him. His insides quivered.
The junk was arrayed fairly neatly. The heavy appliances were pushed against the far wall – a refrigerator and a washer or dryer and something else vaguely square shaped that was completely covered by medium sized appliances. Microwaves, toasters, DVD players, a few laptops, a couple of kitchen thingies that Rodney didn't recognize, at least one VHS player – really? – and a printer or two were stacked in neat columns on, around and in front of the larger items. Smaller things like alarm clocks, hair dryers, electric shavers, cameras, and lamps were arranged haphazardly at the very top of the stacks.
While this was all a bit more than what Rodney had expected, it what had locked his muscles more surely than rigor mortis.
Across from the ungodly pile of things was a simple table with a lamp, a chair, and a very familiar set of tools.
His toolkit. From Atlantis. Was here, rotting in Sheppard's garage.
The toolkit that he had mourned for weeks after he had been forced to leave it behind. The one that had survived with him through countless alien attacks and other life-threatening situations on Atlantis. The same toolkit that he never took with him off world, because he wasn't about to lose it.
McKay sighed explosively. Damn John Sheppard – he couldn't ever let it be all his fault, could he? He couldn't be normal – no, John Sheppard had to do things like run off on hopeless suicide missions (and live), disobey orders (and get promoted), and keep McKay's old toolkit in his garage (and somehow evaporate ten years' worth of righteous rage).
Further inspection, when he could move again, revealed that the tools hadn't seen much use over the years – if any.
McKay wasn't one for waiting. He didn't like to sit around and do nothing while he waited for 'what comes next' to drop out of the sky.
Without thinking about it, he grabbed one of the smaller items from the top of the nearest 'pile'. The shiny red hair dryer was suspiciously blackened at one end.
McKay scowled. Had someone set fire to the thing?
Deciding it was not worth saving; he quickly disassembled the casing and salvaged what he could from the inner workings. The rest he dumped into a mostly empty bin he found lying around. He tossed to strings of Christmas lights and a very much flattened alarm clock with no deliberation. A toaster yielded several springs and a heating coil.
McKay worked quickly and decisively. The mindless work soothed him and he was able to push his emotional turmoil to the back of his mind.
His second microwave, however, caused some trouble. The cord had somehow wrapped around the handle of an upright vacuum cleaner. He didn't notice until it was too late – the domino effect decimated four of the 'stacks' on the right side of the massive pile.
McKay cringed until the tremendous crash died down.
Oh well. It was all broken anyway.
He went back to work.
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Following general safety guidelines, John materialized back on planet earth in a purposely clear area of his back yard. It was all he could do to keep from hurling himself at the back door. As it was, it was a good thing Teyla had left the back door unlocked.
"Torren!" The roar was comprised of equal parts rage and desperation. "Torren!"
A semi-startled, semi-timid squeak directed him through the kitchen to the living room. Torren – alive, healthy, and unmarked – shrugged off Teyla's protective arm around his shoulders and stood from his seat next to her on the sofa. Sparing no more than a cursory glance around the room – threat assessment – John grabbed the teenager into a fierce, desperate embrace.
"Don't you ever, ever disappear like that again," he growled, venting his pent up fear in the most convenient form – anger. "You hear me? You are grounded for the next millennia!"
There was a snort in the background that John identified easily as Not-Teyla, but otherwise ignored.
"What possessed you? The second time in a week, Torren! Is it some new fad of yo-"
That got his attention.
"Give the kid a break. Can't keep him cooped up all the time."
Ronon – Ronon – was lounging casually in his favorite armchair, giving him parenting advice. The same Ronon who hadn't been seen in nearly ten years, not since McK- No Damnit.
"What the hell –" Incoherent ranting had never been a favorite of John's. That was McK- no. "You- why-" It seemed that incoherent ranting was all he was capable of, at the moment. "Where do you get off, abducting my godson. You've been gone ten years! And now you just-"
A very loud crash – like a small explosion or a car crash – interrupted his building ire.
Instinctively, John reached for his gun, which he had been carrying again since Torren's disappearance.
"Easy." Ronon pushed his arms down, pointing the gun safely at the ground. "It's ok."
"Someone else is here?" John was not reassured. Not even a little. "Who the hell else is in my house now?"
"John." Teyla stepped forward, speaking softly. Her eyes were earnest and John's gut clenched. "It's…"
No. He did not want to hear this.
Teyla may have hesitated out of empathy, but Ronon customarily steam rolled right on through.
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John blinked at the solid wood of the door to the garage. Through the barrier, he could hear sounds of tinkering and muffled swearing. Every once and awhile there was a short, sharp crash. John imagined McKay carelessly tossing useless items aside.
He had no idea how long he stood staring at wood grain. The other three hadn't followed him – he could hear them talking quietly in the other room, but he wasn't listening.
A quiet pop and louder swearing finally prompted him to action.
Very quietly, he edged the door open. He was careful not to attract the attention of the scientist as he crept forward.
The garage was dimly lit by the table lamp which had been set up on the impromptu work bench. McKay – whole, healthy, and very much alive, if a little older – was bent over and muttering at Teyla's old laptop. John was pretty sure it was the one which had been put through the wash.
Radek had taken one look at it, chattered grumpily in Czech, and suggested he buy a desk top for Teyla.
McKay chose that moment to glance up over his shoulder, then let his gaze sweep the room, from left to right. It was an unconscious, paranoid tic that would've been right at home in Ronon, himself, or even Teyla. It seemed so wrong on Rodney – who used to be so very oblivious while working.
They were staring at each other, now. John would like to break the silence, to say something, but his mind was completely blank.
Even his anger had left him.
Nothing could ever shut McKay up for long, though. He was yelling about… something. John wasn't listening.
It wasn't really important.
The important thing was – he had let his teammate down. He'd failed to trust Rodney 100percent.
He let Rodney think he had been abandoned by his friends, by him. And so the man left.
And John couldn't blame him.
He didn't plan them, but when the words slipped out, he knew they needed to be said – and he meant them.
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Of course. Of course, what was he thinking?
He had just been lamenting, earlier, the fact that John Sheppard couldn't do anything normal. So when McKay starts insulting Sheppard's house, mocking his parenting skills, and berating the huge health and safe hazard he keeps squirreled away in his garage, of course the man doesn't yell.
He doesn't scream and rage. He doesn't cringe and grovel.
McKay once made his college physics professor cry, with words alone. He wanted the anger – did his best to provoke it. If John were angry, then he could be, too.
But, no, the damn man just stands there calmly and utters the most sincere apology McKay has ever heard.
McKay's jaw works silently for a moment.
"Really?" A small moment. "That's it? You're sorry? Ten years, and that's all you have to say? But, I suppose that that's all you usually have to say, isn't it? You, the grunt with the hair, flash your Kirk-onian smile and bat your freakishly long eyelashes at all the girls and pout "I'm sorry" and – ha" he snapped his fingers "like that you're forgiven. Well, guess what Kirk. I'm not some bimbo with the memory span of a gold fish. You want me to forgive you?"
McKay crossed his arms. He was bluffing. He had no idea when it had happened, but he knew that he had forgiven Sheppard – and Teyla and Jennifer and Carter and Radek – a long time ago. He could probably blame Ronon.
"Well, not so easy, fly-boy. You're gonna earn it. Every bit." McKay scowled his very best scowl.
Sheppard was grinning. Hugely.
McKay's fake scowl became a bit more genuine with irritation as John's grin widened to 'shit-eating' magnitude.
Ten years and nothing had changed.
He thought back to the house he had just trawled through and Teyla's well worn jeans and Eagles' T-shirt.
Well, not everything had stayed the same.
But this had. Them. Even after ten years, John still understood what he meant despite what he was saying. It had been damn annoying back then, but he was almost grateful for it, now.
"You." Rodney pointed. "I mean it. You are going to grovel until the next ice age comes."
McKay blustered a bit more, but his heart wasn't truly in it. Sheppard, per usual, saw right through it. So what was the point?
The point – the point was that they were going to have to start over. He may have forgiven them – him – but that didn't magically make everything okay. Rodney knew that he, himself was pretty screwed up – maybe he always had been. Combine that with Sheppard's particular brand of insanity – which, based on the garage full of evidence, hadn't waned any – and ten years of emotional baggage and change…
Well, there would be no telling.
But he was ready for it. If Rodney had learned anything in his ten years of freedom and isolation, it's that the freedom wasn't really worth the isolation.
He'd probably made a lot of people angry by leaving – and not just his friends, but the higher ups, too – but he could deal with it.
He didn't think John would let him down again anytime soon.
Maybe he wouldn't have at all, if McKay hadn't been so very sure of it. If he hadn't left like he did.
It didn't matter.
It was time to start over.
He looked John straight in the eye.
"You just remember that you agreed to it."
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John was grinning.
McKay looked terrifying. Age and stress had deepened the lines around his mouth and eyes. His hair – thinned, but still present – was still brown. McKay was much thinner than he had been so many years ago – it hurt John to think that it was because no had been there to pester the man into eating more than MRE's and breakfast bars for days on end. Somewhere along the way, McKay had learned how to set his crooked mouth into a hard, unforgiving line that looked more at home on his once open, innocent features than it should.
But it didn't matter how fierce McKay's scowl was – he could lie with his words, with his face. John knew, because he remembered teaching him. But his hands, his body language, didn't lie. When McKay was angry, truly angry, he shook his fists, stomped his feet, and leaned forward, fearlessly, into his opponent's space.
But this McKay's arms were crossed defensively in a forced posture and his feet were still. His stance would break and his hands would dance free, drawing expressive open arcs in the air. Maybe things weren't perfect between them. Hell, things were probably not even okay between them, but McKay wasn't anywhere near as angry as he was pretending to be.
It would take a hell of a lot of work from both of them to make things okay, but he knew what McKay was offering.
He was offering a chance to start over.
He'd probably be grinning for days. And every time Rodney glared and snapped at him he'd say it again.
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A/N: Ach! Finally complete. Thanks to all my readers for sticking with me for so long. I hope you enjoy this last chapter. Please review.