All mistakes are my own. No one else to blame but me. Like I could pass this off on anyone else.
There are many kinds of strength, he thinks. There's physical strength, like Gunnery Sargent Mendez, who in another life, before putting on a Marine uniform and stepping through the gate, had won several competitions for weightlifting. Or Lieutenant Baker, who had entered, and won, two Iron Womans in a row.
There was also emotional strength, such as the ability to get up and go, despite the dragging weight of depression like a millstone around your neck. Spiritual strength, the ability to believe in something, even though you couldn't see it, couldn't touch it. Strength of will, to know you are right, and fight for that knowledge, ever when other's are telling you to change your mind. Strength of character, to stand by your convictions. Strength of spirit, to never give up, even when other's tell you to.
Looking over at the still form of McKay, laying on the hospital bed, tubes and wires coming and going out of everywhere, John can't help but think that Rodney's going to need all the strength he can get, to survive this one.
The mission started out good, but then again, didn't they always. Right up until the point where the universe decided to get it's rocks off by seeing how much it could screw them over on a given day. The universe must have really been bored this time.
It was a planet Teyla had never been to, and only knew about through third person. That there should have been a warning, but by this point, food and medical supplies were becoming a slightly pressing matter. Slightly as in as-soon-as-possible, and pressing as in down-to-the-wire-crunch-time. While banned from trading weapons of any kind -honestly, one little mistake, and you're branded for life- just about anything else was open for suggestion.
Negotiations had been a white knuckled affair. The natives refused to allow them to bring their weapons into the counsel building, where all trading took place. They refused to allow themselves to be left totally defenseless. It had nearly come to blows, until some fancy talking from Teyla managed to ease the tension. They would be allowed their weapons, but needed to remove the ammunition.
From there, they had moved on to what each group had, was looking for, and was willing to give. Things had gone marginally well, until the natives had wanted to know what the Atlantians were willing to give for McKay. When it was discovered that the scientist wasn't on the list of 'things-willing-to-be-traded,' the situation had gone south, fast.
Packing up their things, the team bid their hosts a not so fond farewell, leaving the village to a hail of curses and swears. It wasn't until they were half-way back to the gate that they knew they were bring followed. The give away? The three-foot long arrow that suddenly appeared in Sheppard's upper leg. Yeah, the Universe seriously needed to find another hobby.
Shifting his weight slowly as not to aggravate his inured limb, John stretched as well as one could when they were stuck in a wheelchair. That was one of Carson's requirements for John to remain in the infirmary. The others being that the major had to do whatever it was that the nurses asked of him, be it give blood for testing, eat whatever food they brought him, and take the occasional nap. And if those naps coincided with other people's visits to see either him or the injured scientist he was sitting guard over that the moment, well, coincidences happened all the time, didn't they?
Currently, John figured he had seen every member of Science under Rodney's supervision at least once. Several of the Humanities branch had also come in to visit, namely Dr. Heightmyer. John had been suspicious at first, thinking that she was only there to get him to talk about what happened on the planet, but seeing the blond reach out and take McKay's hand, whispering in his ear to get better, it wasn't suspicion he had been feeling at the moment. More along the lines of the green-eyed monster.
A few Marines had come in a hour ago. Sargent's Stackhouse and Markham, both of which had been stuck with them in the jumper when it got lodged in the Stargate. And while they had spent the entire time on the wrong side of the event horizon, neither soldier forgot who it was that got them out of there. He had heard later on about Stackhouse catching him and Teyla before they could drop to the ground once they had become solid. And it was Markham that had kept Rodney on his feet once Ford managed to pop open the back hatch and get them lose. Even Bates had managed to swing by and stick his head in, letting his CO know that the base was secure and waiting for his return. Now, the only return he looked forward to was Rodney's return to consciousness.
He hadn't gone very far on his wounded leg. Fire raced up the limb with every step, threatening to drag him down in to the darkness that edged his vision. It was only the support of McKay and Ford that kept him on his feet.
He knew, even if he couldn't hear it over the roaring in his ears, that they had to be making a lot of noise, crashing through the underbrush as they were. There was no way to mask the snapping twigs under their feet, the rustling of of the leaves and limbs and they ran pelt-melt for the gate. He told his team as much when they paused for a moment in a outcropping of rocks. Told them to go on ahead without him. They could make it to the gate faster without him, get a jumper or two from Atlantis, and be back to get him in a heartbeat. It spoke volumes about their respect for his command that none of them bothered to ever reply to him. He tried to make it an order, and for a second, he though he had Ford won over. That lasted about as long as it took McKay to open his mouth.
He spent the next few minutes listening to the astrophysicist berate him up one side and down the other for even suggesting that they leave him behind, while tending to his wound. Listening to McKay ramble on, he was suddenly struck by the wealth of emotion he could hear in the Canadians voice. There was fear, caused both by the situation they found themselves in, and an underlying fear for Sheppard in general. Anger at him, for suggesting they leave him behind. And buried way at the bottom, under the worry, self-loathing, and doubt that was also woven in and around the words falling around him like rain, was an emotion that neither of them was sure they were willing to admit.
Reaching out a hand, ignoring the trembling, he gently touched Rodney's cheek, drawing his gaze to his face. There, behind eyes as clear and as blue as the skies he loved to fly in, was all the emotions that were in his voice. The fear, the anger, the worry. And that last emotion, the one he was pretty damn sure was reflected in his own eyes at the moment. They were all there, shining out, for the world to see. For him to see.
A muffled shout from Ford broke whatever it was he and McKay had been sharing. Time to move again, they had been found. Hands on his arms, pulling them over shoulders that at times carried the weight of worlds on their backs. He just hoped this time, they were strong enough to hold him.
Carson had come and gone twice in the last hour or so. Checking and double checking machines and wires and charts, as if those acts alone could make Rodney awaken from his slumber. They had changed the bandaged on his back, a procedure that Carson had wanted him to sit out of, but had relented when Rodney settled after John parked himself at the head of the bed, took the hand without the IV in it, and started speaking softly to him.
Carson had said it was a good sign, that Rodney was at least on some level, aware of his surroundings and reacting to them in some way. He said that it proved that there was a good chance that Rodney would pull though.
Both Carson, and Dr. Grace McKenzie's, their Rehabilitation Director, believed that with regular physical therapy and exercise, both of them would recover from their wounds. Though, Rodney's therapy would need to be a little more intensive, and a lot longer. Somehow, John wasn't surprised. After all, it stood to reason that the more shoots you take, the longer you need to recover. And Rodney had definitely taken more shots than him.
His leg gave out a good four hundred yards from the gate. Teyla had been running ahead thirty feet or so, checking that they way before them was still clear. Ford had dropped back to cover their six, leaving McKay as the soul person keeping him on his feet. A job he was failing miserably at right that second, as John kept stumbling and tripping over his bad leg. When he all but face planted in the dirt, he knew that was it. There wasn't a thing you could offer him, a threat you could make, that would get him back on his feet. Not even Rodney, begging and pleading next to him, trying to physically pull him back to his feet made him budge.
He just wanted it to stop. Wanted to lay down right there and die, because dieing couldn't feel any worse than what he was going through at the moment. In fact, he knew it didn't hurt, cause, you know, the whole been there, done that thing. With the super-tick, the hickey from hell, and the chest that felt like grandpa's old horse Buccaneer had landed a direct his with his hind legs and crushed in his chest cavity.
A sudden pressure on his lips made him snap open his eyes, and when had they ever closed? Sky blue eyes, red rimmed and full to bursting with tears was all he could see. The pressure turned to a caress, teasing and gentle, before pulling away. He though he caught the words 'unfinished' 'business', 'love', and 'dammit', but the roar in his ears drowned out everything.
For a second, the world tipped sideways, and then there was warmth under his legs and across his back. A solid line covered his entire left side, and once he blinked away the fuzz that covered his vision, he realized he was face to well, skin, with the crook of Rodney's neck. A few more blinks cleared away the cobwebs in his mind enough that, sonuvabitch, he was being carried like a damn bride up the walkway to the house.
Any protest he though about making died as soon as the first arrow impacted with the back of Rodney's pack, sticking out like some demented branch on a moving tree. With feathers and twine instead of twigs and leaves. A soft grunt let him know that while he felt it, Rodney hadn't been hit by it. That all changed a minute later.
A hundred and fifty feet from the gate, and John felt, more than saw, the arrow that pierced Rodney's shoulder. The grip on his legs threatened to go, prompting him to throw his arms around Rodney's neck and hand on for dear life, so as to not end up ass first in the dirt. There was a jiggle and a bounce, as his ride got him into a better position, and with a screaming Ford at their side, yelling for Teyla to dial the gate and McKay to stay on his feet, the scientists put on a burst of speed toward the shining blue puddle, now only fifty feet away. There was a second shudder, McKay stumbled twice, and then they were crashing to the floor in the gate room, nurses, doctors and med-techs all scrambling to staunch the flow of blood from all four of them. He somehow found the strength to reach out and grab his friend's hand for a second, eyes locking, before they were torn apart, loaded up on gurneys, and whisked away.
It had been almost a week since their spectacular return through the gate. He had found out from Carson that both Teyla and Ford had managed to get themselves shot once each by arrows. Teyla, in her right calf, while standing to dial the gate. Ford had taken a glancing shot to the head when he had grabbed McKay by the vest and kept the man on his feet when either the second or third arrow stuck him in the exact same spot that Sheppard had been wounded.
All told, the scientist had been hit four times. Once in the shoulder, once in the left leg, another missing John's head by inches and lodging in Rodney's arm. The final shot hadn't connected until they were back on Atlantis, sneaking in before the shield was up, slamming into McKay's hand and going straight through, looking like one of those gags you see on Halloween. Only, this was no trick, the blood was real, and the treat was that they were all still alive.
While both Teyla and Ford head been released, both he and McKay were still guests under Caron's gentle care. He had another twenty-four hours, at least, until he was free, but wasn't really looking forward to it. Not until Rodney woke up.
They had done surgery to repair most of the damage the arrows had caused in both men, and what was needed most now, was time and rest. But, how was he to rest when Rodney lay there, as still as a corpse? The man was never still. Whether it was a tapping foot, waving hands, drumming fingers, pouncing in place, or pacing back and forth, the man was in constant motion. Even in sleep, he never stayed still. Off world missions had proved that over and over again. Be it turning from one side to another, shifting slightly to find a new position, even full blown nightmares that had him tossing and turning. He never stopped.
Sighing, John rubbed his hands over his face, shifting his chair closer to his friend's bed. Seven days, and nothing. No reaction to his blood being drawn, vitals being recorded, people popping in at all hours of the day. A week of listening to people grow from hopeful to worried. From worried to fearful. Starting to doubt whether or not he would ever wake up. The stab of pain in his heart whenever that though crossed his mind pretty much assured that it wasn't to often.
Another sigh, and he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. Putting his arms on the bed next to Rodney's and crossing them, he laid his head down on them, making sure he could see his face. Reaching out, he curled his hand around McKay's, placing a kiss to the fingertips, vowing that if, no when the he woke up he was going to see whether or not his feelings were reciprocated, cause he was pretty sure they were, and then... Well, the phrase one day at a time came to mind.
Feather soft touches on his face and neck slowly pulled him from the dream world to the waking. Opening his eyes seemed to take an extraordinary amount of effort, but damn if he didn't manage to pull it off. For a moment, he had no idea where he was, the fingers tracing his jawline weren't helping matters any, and then, like a bolt of lighting, it all came slamming back. Off world, Rodney, arrows, hurt, danger, Rodney, carried, to far, Rodney.
“Rodney!” John called, snapping straight up in his chair, only to slump forward back onto the bed with a groan as tired, soar muscles screamed at him for doing something so stupid. The fingers returned to his face for a moment, before sliding to his neck and flexing slightly. That wasn't what grabbed his attention next though. It was the soft 'Hey,' that floated down from the head of the bed.
Lifting his head carefully this time, he was rewarded with slivers of blue looking at him. John could only stare, mouth hanging open like a fish. It couldn't be? Could it? Was he, was he really awake? The blue eyes locked with his said yes, he could be, and really was. Reaching out, John wrapped his hand around Rodney's uninjured one and squeezed, careful of the IV line. There was so much he wanted to say, so much to tell- A startled gasp, followed by the crash of a clipboard hitting the ground nearly made him fall out of his chair.
“Oh! Oh, my! Dr. Beckett! Dr. Beckett, come quick. Dr. McKay's finally awake!” Within seconds, Beckett and his staff had crowded into the treatment room. When they tried to move John back, Rodney tightened his grip, holding on for dear life. Beckett smiled, patted their joined hands, and continued on as if nothing had happened.
The next few hours were a whirlwind of activity. There were questions, tests, and more and more people, having heard that Rodney was awake, trying to sneak into the the infirmary to see for themselves. Finally, after everything had died down, Carson, getting a good look at both men, had demanded that everyone clear the room so as to let his patients sleep. John had meant to stay awake, but had dropped off within seconds.
He awoke to the sensation of being watched. Cracking open his eyes, he couldn't help the smile that broke out over his face.
“Finally decided to join the land of the living I see.” Rodney smiled a little in return, nodded.
“Want some water?” Another nod. Careful of the brace on his leg, he hobbled his way over to 'his' chair and, grabbing the pitcher left on the table next to the bed, poured a glass and held it while Rodney sipped it though a straw.
“you're ok?” John's smile threatened to shatter in a million pieces. Four new holes in his body that weren't there two weeks ago, a week of his life gone, and the first thing he wanted to know is if he was ok? Clamping down on the sudden rush of anger that came from no where, nodded once, before replying.
“Yeah, thanks to you. And don't think you being injured is going to save you. What were you thinking? Carrying me like a damn bride over the threshold? Why didn't you just sling me over your shoulder? Do you know-”
“John.” Whisper soft, but damn if it didn't get the message across. 'You were hurt.' 'I was only trying to save you.' 'I care about you.' 'Knew you were safer in front than over my shoulder.' 'Love you.' That did it. Any thoughts about tearful reunions and declarations of love got shoved to the back as his anger broke from the tedious hold he had over it.
“You bastard. Don't. Don't you dare put your life before my own. I'm not worth it, you hear me? Not fucking worth it. I've killed, Rodney. Taken another's life with my own hands. I don't deserve that. Not from you, not from anyone!” John stopped, panting, feeling suddenly drained and empty. Rodney's reply was to stare at him for a moment. Reaching out, he grabbed one of John's hands and squeezed.
“Come here.” A gently tug, and then John's face was buried in Rodney's neck, careful of the still healing wounds. One wounded hand, and one stuck with an IV carefully wrapped themselves about his neck, holding him close. Son of a bitch, but McKay was making it hard to stay mad at him. Didn't he see? Didn't he understand?
“Don't deserve it. Why can't you fucking see that! Why?” Rodney sighed carefully, before bopping John on the head him with his good hand.
“Stupid. Love you.” And didn't THAT just make his heart stop. Love, Jesus. Rodney loved him. Had just fucking told him he loved him. Ok, so he screwed up the first word. John wasn't going to hold that against him. After all, it was the last two words in that phrase that mattered most. And those, Rodney had gotten right.
And just like that, his anger was gone.
“Yeah. Love you to.” Lifting his head up, he smiled for a second, before placing a soft kiss on Rodney's lips. “Love you to.” Pause. “Stupid.”
Hope you enjoy, and that it was what you were looking for.