Category: Episode tag, gen/preslash, h/c
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Spoilers: , The Gift, Common Ground
Summary: Wherein John is fine. Absolutely fine.
Author's Notes: I finished a fic! Whoohoo! Many thanks to Suz, Danvers and Kylie Lee, who kick serious ass. Thanks, guys.
Everybody kept looking at him as though he was about to break, and really, there was no need to. He was fine—surprisingly fine. After Carson's more than thorough examination and everybody's anxious questions, he'd gone back to his quarters and slept the entire night, without any nightmares. He didn't feel tired. He didn't feel traumatized. He felt…fine.
Which was freaking him out some, because knowing how it felt to die of old age should be a big deal, shouldn't it?
He waited for some delayed reaction, for his hands to start shaking or something, but nothing happened. The next day came, and the only thing out of the ordinary was the way Teyla, Ronon, and Rodney wouldn't let him out of their sight, which was understandable, considering. It was kind of nice—nice to just hang out. After strolling around Atlantis for a few hours—John strolling, Teyla and Ronon walking beside him, and Rodney talking to coworkers into his earpiece ("I thought I told Johnson to fix this panel! I did mean this year, not whenever he felt like it.")—they finally gravitated to Teyla's quarters because they were the most comfortable.
("Hey, how come she has more pillows than me?"
"Because she actually spends time in her room, Rodney."
"Sleeping doesn't count."
It was relaxing to watch Ronon sharpen his knives (though kind of grating on the ears), to watch Teyla breathe deeply as she meditated, to watch Rodney type away on his laptop, hit his earpiece, and yell at someone who wasn't John.
And if they found it weird that John was staring at them, no one mentioned it.
Elizabeth had given the entire team two weeks off. She had firmly suggested that John pay Heightmeyer a few visits. Knowing an order when he heard one, John relented. It was only an hour every other day—plus it might convince Elizabeth to let the team go offworld sooner.
Heightmeyer was, as usual, extremely pleasant and completely impossible to read. That was okay, though. John liked to think that he came across like that to her as well. They chatted politely, and John told her the truth: no, he wasn't having any nightmares; no, he wasn't having any trouble readjusting to normal life (and readjusting? He'd been gone a day, not a month); no, he didn't feel any side effects of the feeding, and if he did, he would have gone to Carson.
She meant psychological side effects, she said, smiling.
No psychological side effects, he smiled back.
That evening, he found Ronon outside his door. John looked at him for a moment, because Ronon would not quite meet his eyes, before inviting him into his quarters.
After five minutes of John waiting for Ronon to speak and Ronon not saying anything but frowning at his own shoes, John thought with some exasperation that he'd sure picked some team. He had one who could speak with grace, skill and diplomacy; one who could speak with skill but laughed in the face of diplomacy; and one who thought that the talking thing was completely overrated.
He finally invited Ronon to sit down, because he could tell: it was going to be a long not-conversation.
She thought that he was handling this ordeal extremely well, Heightmeyer said kindly, but he could still see the concern in her eyes.
He thought back on Ronon's visit the other evening.
("I should have been the last one through the gate."
"Ronon, we were both running as fast as we could. You're just…uh…way faster than me."
"Doesn't matter. I should have been there."
"If it had to be someone, I'm glad it was me," he said and Ronon looked up at him for the first time, eyes too dark.)
He was just trying to get back to normal, John shrugged, and smiled pleasantly.
The days ticked by surprisingly quickly, considering that this kind of inactivity made him restless. On the eighth evening, Teyla was outside his quarters. He let her in without a word.
Unlike Ronon, she wouldn't look away from his eyes, and she looked oddly vulnerable. She told him about the time she'd been inside the mind of that Wraith on board the hive ship, when they'd all been desperate for the smallest scrap of information. She told him how she'd felt all that energy flowing into her, and that he would tell them if there was anything wrong, wouldn't he?
He'd smiled reassuringly and leaned forward as she touched her forehead to his. She quietly told him that he was very dear to her and that she was glad he was back with them, and John closed his eyes.
First Ronon, then Teyla. Wouldn't Rodney be next? But he wasn't, although John half-expected it. Rodney kept up his normal routine, joining John in the commissary at lunch and dinner, complaining about everything from work to stubbing his toe against some hulking device that Radek *so* put there on purpose, and when would John realize that hockey was superior in every way to that so-called sport, football?
And if Rodney gazed at him longer than necessary sometimes, something strained in his eyes?
Well, it was only understandable.
A week and a half later, he sat in Rodney's lab, patiently waiting for Rodney to finish running all his diagnostics on some device he'd found recently, because Rodney had to make sure that it was safe, Colonel, or Elizabeth would never let him hear the end of it.
It was late, close to midnight, but John felt rested enough, because the biggest exertion of the day had been deciding whether or not to have a second helping of dinner. He'd asked Rodney what this newfound device did, but Rodney had only waved his hands around, suppressing excitement, while claiming that he wasn't sure. John had raised an eyebrow but hadn't called him on the lie.
Then, finally, Rodney tapped the Return key one final, triumphant time, expression pleased. He opened a box next to the laptop and picked up a small, glittering device, and John's eyebrows rose. It was uncannily like the personal shield Rodney had found on their first days on Atlantis, only this one was more oblong in shape and it looked more blue than green.
Rodney, holding up the more blue than green device, grinned openly now, saying that John would like this one, and as John stood up to take a look, Rodney touched John's chest with his free hand—
—and everything turned white, and John grabbed Rodney's arm and spun hard, slamming him into the wall.
Rodney stared at him with wide, shocked eyes, mouth open, and John panted like he'd run a marathon, his pulse thundering in his ears and the adrenaline burning through his veins.
"Colonel?" Rodney said, voice cracking a little, and John wanted to reassure him, to say sorry, only it seemed he was in the middle of a nervous breakdown.
John realized that he had his arm pressed against Rodney's windpipe, and he immediately let go. He stumbled back, bent over, put his hands on his knees as he breathed harshly.
"Hang on, Colonel, I'm calling Carson," Rodney's voice said frantically, sounding unnaturally loud, and Jesus, how could he have thought he felt fine when he hadn't felt anything at all?
He reached up and grabbed Rodney's hand before he could activate his earpiece. John shook his head. "No." The mere thought of the infirmary made his chest feel tight.
"You're—you're having some kind of attack. You need to see Carson!"
John wheezed as Rodney wrenched his hand away. "I'm not having an attack, I just can't—"
"You can't breathe. I'd say that's pretty serious!"
"No infirmary," John gasped out before Rodney gently but firmly steered him backward, into a chair.
"Yes, yes, fine," Rodney said, but of course he was a liar, because as John closed his eyes, he heard him rapidly speaking into his earpiece. He couldn't make out any words because his heart was pounding too loudly. He relaxed into the chair and tried not to feel like there was a huge hand on his upper chest, where Rodney's hand had barely touched him, burning through his skin.
Then someone touched his shoulder, and his eyes snapped open to see Rodney's concerned face. He held out something to John, who realized it was a paper bag. Feeling both grateful and pathetic, he breathed into it, shivering a little from the warmth of Rodney's hand on his shoulder.
By the time Carson arrived—alone, thank God—his breathing had calmed down enough for him to lower the bag. As Rodney stepped back to make room, Carson put his bag on the desk next to John, face concerned.
"How are we doing, Colonel?" he asked kindly while placing his fingers on the inside of John's wrist.
"Don't touch his chest—that's what made him lose it in the first place," Rodney said urgently.
Carson nodded. "I won't do anything the Colonel isn't comfortable with."
By now John felt well enough to feel extremely stupid. "I'm fine, Carson," he protested awkwardly.
Carson finished taking his pulse and patted his shoulder. "Yes, I think you are right now—though your pulse is a bit fast. I hope you don't mind if I check a few things nonetheless?"
Nodding sheepishly, John endured Carson taking his temperature, shining a light in his eyes, and finally running an Ancient scanner over his body.
"Is he all right?" Rodney asked as Carson looked intently at the scanner. Rodney sounded tense.
"Hmm," Carson replied noncommittally. "How are you feeling, Colonel?"
"I'm feeling fine." At Rodney's snort, he glared and added, "Really."
"Rodney said that you started hyperventilating as he was about to fasten something to your chest?"
John's eyes flickered to Rodney, who stood there, arms crossed, and looked neutral. Rodney hadn't told Carson about the attack?
"Yes," he said slowly. He looked away from Rodney's stony face to Carson's sympathetic eyes. "I…guess I'm not as fine as I thought I was."
Carson returned the scanner to his bag. "I think that there's not really anything I can do for you, Colonel, except prescribe you some sedatives, if you want them."
Rodney interrupted. "What—that's it? You're not taking him to the infirmary?"
"I've been keeping a close eye on Colonel Sheppard's health, Rodney," Carson said patiently. "His symptoms aren't physical." He focused on John again. "I think that perhaps you need to talk with Dr. Heightmeyer."
(“What do you dream about, Colonel?”
John blinked, taken aback. “I’m sorry?”
“Dreams are a way for our subconscious to deal with events in our daily lives. You say you don’t have nightmares—“
“I don’t,” John frowned.
“—but your subconscious is still dealing with the problem.”
“There is no problem,” John said, exasperated.
Dr Heightmeyer pursed her lips. “That’s what worries me.”)
John just nodded, because what could he say? He didn't carry much credibility right now, not even with himself. Especially with himself.
Carson left with a final squeeze on John's shoulder and a quiet, "If you ever want to talk—with a friend, not your doctor—you know where to find me."
Then he was alone with Rodney, who was studying him with a worried expression.
John sighed. "Look, I'm sorry." He hesitated for a second. "Are you okay?"
"Hmm?" Rodney said absently. "Oh!" He reached up to touch his own throat, where John had pressed his arm against Rodney's windpipe, and John felt a short, sudden burst of gratitude that it had been him and not Rodney back there with the Wraith. "Yes, I'm fine." He let out a patronizing snort. "It takes someone a bit more robust than you, Colonel Skinny, to make a dent on Rodney McKay."
"Hey!" John objected, and Rodney gave him a crooked smile, and then things were mostly okay again.
John nodded toward the glittering device, which lay on the floor near the wall. "So, what does that thing do, anyway?"
"Oh, yes." Rodney picked it up. "Well, as far as I can tell, it's a variation of the prototype I found a few years back, only as far as I've been able to translate—I'm running it by Elizabeth later—it's a shield that protects against energy bursts, but should allow solid matter to pass right through."
John grinned. "Cool."
Rodney nodded, staring at John for a moment too long before looking away, apparently flustered.
"Look," John said quietly. "I really am...you know I'd never..."
Rodney's eyes flickered back to his, and for once John couldn't read the expression in them. "I know."
Then he reached out toward John's chest, pausing several inches away and giving John a questioning look.
Swallowing, John let him.
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