Messages from the Edges of Oblivion

Nov. 21st, 2007 08:45 am

Fandom: SG: Atlantis

Characters: John/Rodney (established)

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: Slash, language, some mentioned violence

Disclaimer: Not mine!

Beta: ferret_kitty, who shows no signs of killing me for spamming her with fic. Yet.

Summary: No one thought much about the black hole out past P33-23R, until the IOA insisted they research it. John's starting to think he liked it better when they had no contact with Earth.

Author's Note: This fandom is eating my brain. And the sci-fi channel and their silly movies about black holes in the middle of St. Louis isn't helping.

hr

They'd been aware of the black hole since a few months after they arrived in the Pegasus galaxy. Since Zelenka had dog-eared it into the end of a meeting, with nothing but boredom in his tone, "Oh, yes, we have identified the strange energy readings from near the P33-23R 'gate. Is the electromagnetic repulsion of an ergosphere."

Elizabeth had cocked her head to the side in her seat, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth when she'd said, "What?"

John had watched Rodney's mouth open, had timed his own answer exactly, "A black hole." Rodney had stared at him for a long moment, and then grinned, leaned towards him over the table and flicked him in the middle of his forehead. He'd batted at McKay's hand, and Elizabeth's eye roll had been almost audible, and John doesn't think any of them spent another moment thinking about it.

hr

Doctor Zed shows up with lots of letters of permission from the IOA and boxes of equipment a year and a half later. He's a tall, skinny man, with dark bags under his eyes and a voice waspish enough to match Rodney on a bad day. He takes one look at the command room of Atlantis, snaps, "Where's my Jumper? I was told that there would be a Jumper and a team ready upon my arrival."

John nudges Rodney in the ribs, raises his eyebrows and quirks a tight smile. Rodney is, of course, much less covert in his feelings on the other man's arrival, he snorts, the sound drenched with scorn and irritation. So, really, it's for the best that Elizabeth is there to bring some diplomacy to the table.

"You arrived a bit earlier than we expected, Doctor, we hadn't anticipated the-"

"Well, I'm here now. How long can it possibly take you people to get ready?" And suddenly it makes sense that Caldwell had chosen to stay on the Daedalus for a few extra days, instead of beaming down immediately as he usually did. Between that and the coded message from Hermiod that Rodney's motioning to on his computer, John gets the feeling that Doctor Zed hasn't exactly made a lot of friends.

Elizabeth's doing the eyebrow arching thing that she does when she's not impressed with someone's manners. It makes John feel awkward just by default of being in the same room when she's wearing the expression. She says, voice that strained polite tone that John hates, "I'm sure we'll be ready within the day, Doctor. No doubt you'll find plenty to occupy yourself during the wait."

Zed actually makes a sound close to gagging, says, "Doubtful. My interest in all this science fiction madness you all seem so fond of is minimal at best. But I understand if you need the extra time to prep a shuttle. I'll just...oh, work on my dissertation, I suppose."

John will never understand how Elizabeth manages to keep a straight face, or a pleasant tone in her voice, "Why don't I get someone to show you to your room, then?"

Rodney apparently takes that as his que to leave before the task gets foisted off onto him. John might have been offended, except McKay thinks to grabs his elbow to drag him along as he starts towards the back of the room. He shares a pitying smile with Chuck as they rush by, and they're almost to the door when Zed's voice cuts through the air, "I do have some questions about the crew you've assigned, before I go."

Elizabeth sounds less than perfectly in control for the first time, says, "Excuse me?"

Zed either doesn't pick up on the warning bells that her tone of blemished calm is setting off in John's head, or simply doesn't care. "I want to know why Doctor McKay hasn't been included in my team. I see no reason why I've only been given Zelenka when, looking over their files, I can't help but noticing that McKay is far more highly qualified."

He expects Rodney to preen under the praise, because that's what Rodney does. He's surprised by the honest puzzlement in Rodney's voice, "Radek's more than capable of running scans on the thing, and he wants to see it. You'll be fine, Zed." And then apparently Rodney remembers that he's irritated at the other man, "Besides, some of us have important science fiction madness to work on, you know, to prevent the untimely demise of everyone in the city, including, at this moment, yourself."

Zed doesn't look impressed, looks bored and faintly irritated, in fact. John's thought that Rodney was an arrogant son of a bitch plenty of times, but he's nothing compared with Zed. "I'll make it an official request if I have to, but you-you are Rodney McKay?-will be on that shuttle."

Rodney tenses up at his side, his fingers suddenly painfully tight around John's elbow. He's not sure if the dislike of being ordered around is a side effect of living on Atlantis so long, or if they've all managed to live on Atlantis so long because they disliked being ordered around.

John raises his hands in a placating gesture, flashes a smile at Zed, "Look, I know you want the best but-"

"And you are? Wait. Let me guess. Colonel Sheppard?" The man cocks his head to the side, and there's something sharp and calculating in his eyes that makes John's skin crawl. Any resemblance he'd imagined between Rodney and Zed is gone now. "Do you really want to fight me on this?"

John realizes that yes, yes he does, right as Rodney snaps, "Are you honestly threatening us? Do you even know the caliber of people that are usually trying to kill us? Let me tell you, after fighting the Wraith for two years you're going to have to try a little harder than being a consummate asshole to get your way."

Zed looks momentarily dumbstruck, which, all things considered, is not exactly a surprise. Rodney has that effect on people. John can feel himself smiling smugly, sticks his hands into his pockets and rocks back on his heels. It's not like he ever forgets how awesome his boyfriend is, but he does take self-satisfied joy when other people are forced to acknowledge it as well.

Rodney must catch something of his mood, because he spares him a quick look. The tips of McKay's ears flush crimson at whatever's showing on John's face, and it stretches John's smile wider. He only restrains himself from winking by the skin of his teeth. As it is, the eyebrow lift and the leer are unavoidable.

Zed's still gaping at Rodney when Elizabeth steps forward. John can't read her expression, but it doesn't look as happy as he'd been anticipating, and he tenses. Feels all the muscles in his back tense up when she steps up to Rodney, says very softly, "Can I speak with you a moment? In my office?"

"What? I mean... Of course. Yes." Rodney releases his elbow, finally, leaves behind an unnatural chill over John's skin. "I'll catch up with you, okay?" John almost protests that he should be included, but something about the tight set of Elizabeth's jaw makes him keep his silence.

He turns his gaze to Zed, tries to keep his smile from being excessively gloating, says, "Why don't I show you to your quarters, doc?"

hr

A day later they're standing in the Jumper bay..

He leans against the Jumper beside Rodney, watching the other man go over his gear for the ninth time. "I should be going with you. Richardson is barely competent." He'd already mentioned this to Elizabeth, and she'd refused his request to accompany the Jumper each time he'd made it.

Rodney snorts, shutting down his laptop and sliding it into his backpack, sorting his powerbars, MREs, the three extra cartridges of ammo that John's insisted his team carry since day one. John takes a little bit of comfort in noting that of the six people going on the mission, only Rodney and Richardson are wearing their side arms.

"Richardson is a decorated pilot, I'm sure he'll do fine. Not that you shouldn't be going with me. You should. If I'm being forced to baby sit this idiot you should at least be there to make out with me on the couch while they play video games upstairs. But Elizabeth's not going to let you, so just, you know, try not to blow up the city while I'm away."

He makes himself smile, waits until Rodney's not paying attention and then shoves three extra powerbars and one of Ronon's knives into his bag. "I could disable the Jumper." It wouldn't even be hard, a firm thought at it not to take off and it wouldn't go anywhere.

Rodney laughs, looks quickly around the room and then grabs handfuls of John's shirt and tugs him in close. His mouth tastes like coffee and toothpaste, familiar and warm. John gets his hands around the other man's head, fingertips meeting at the back of Rodney's neck, holds him hard and tight before letting him go, stepping back.

"You're being weird. What's wrong with you?"

John shrugs, because he can't explain the unease in his gut, doesn't feel like trying. Reaches down and absently makes sure that Rodney's thigh holster is properly attached. Tugs on his belt and tac vest, noting again that only Rodney and Richardson are wearing them. "Seriously? Stop it. You're acting like I'm going to die. It's creepy."

He's surprised when his fists ball up involuntarily, when his mouth goes dry. He forces his hands open, wraps his fingers around Rodney's shoulders and squeezes. "Just. You know." There are no more words, nothing that makes sense, and so he reaches down, hands Rodney the backpack and turns to walk away before he kisses the other man again.

He's already in the doorway, ignoring the tension strung tight across his shoulders, when Rodney calls from behind him, "Hey, John?" Pauses, keeps staring straight ahead, because he if looks back he knows that he's going to force his way onto that Jumper, Elizabeth's orders be damned. "I'll take pictures, okay?"

He manages a jerky nod, and then stomps out of the room.

hr

He's lingering in the 'gate room when the Jumper punches through to P33-23R. Technically he'd been in a deep conversation with Chuck over the possible outcomes of a Batman/Punisher fight to the death, but it had been half-hearted at best. He's pretty sure that no one had actually been fooled by his forced interest in the argument.

Still, he figures it doesn't matter, since he's there when they establish radio contact. There to hear Rodney's voice, and he already sounds exasperated as hell, "Yes, we miraculously made it through the wormhole. I know, it's a surprise to me as well. We're estimating a five hour trip to the black hole, three hours of scans, and then we'll be back. Keep the light on."

"Have fun, Rodney." Elizabeth sounds amused, but John's sure that he can read a certain nervousness in her, as well. A tension around her eyes that says she's not as calm with this as she's pretending to be. "We'll leave the front door open."

For a second there's silence, John wonders if Rodney disconnected the line without saying goodbye. And then, his voice soft, like he might be trying to muffle it and failing in the biggest way imaginable, "Look. If we don't check in. Well. Don't wait to send a rescue party. In fact, you could send a rescue party now, and that way they'd actually get here in time to do something helpful."

John takes an involuntary step towards Elizabeth, because if the bad vibes have gotten strong enough that even Rodney's picking up on them things are going to go to shit, one way or the other. She's still smiling, even if it looks stiff and forced now, "We'll see you in thirteen hours, Rodney."

And then the channel is closed.

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Thirteen hours later John is back in the 'gate room, already suited up. Teyla, Ronon and Radek are already waiting in the Jumper bay. Elizabeth is staring at him hard over the heads of everyone else in the room, her mouth thin and tight. Thirteen hours to the minute John turns on his heel and starts for the Jumper bay.

Her voice is strained as her expression, "John, it doesn't mean anything-"

hr

It's completely silent, the entire five hour trip. No one says a word when there's no sign of another ship on the long range sensors. John grips the controls of the Jumper, so hard that his hands cramp, that his fingers feel like they'll never relax again.

The black hole looms up before them, eventually, beautiful and terrible. Radek gasps beside him, mutters something that's either a curse or a prayer from the tone of his voice. He lets loose a long string of Czech, and John doesn't have to understand the words to grasp the emotion behind them.

His own reaction is significantly less awe, more horror. Teyla leans forward over his seat, he can feel the brush of her hair across his cheek. Her voice is low, thick, "It is the All-Devourer." He hears Ronon grunt, either agreement or just his own expression of shock over the proceedings. "We should have not come here. We should not have come here. It will consume us as it has consumed all, it will-"

He's seen Teyla walk through situations that would have made anyone else fall to their knees and sob. He's seen her take every and any horrible thing that's been tossed her way, and just handle it like it was nothing. Now, he's seen her panic.

He starts to twist in his seat, to reach for her, but Ronon's already there. The big man gets one hand on her shoulder and she curls towards him. John has a glimpse of her eyes, blown huge, and then Ronon is leaning over her, turning her away from the view screen, walking her into the back of the Jumper.

Beside him, Radek is babbling, almost under his breath, "It must be almost close to Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit, almost micro, yes?" John doesn't see how it matters. Because the goddamn thing ate Rodney.

He jerks to his feet, filled with choking, impotent rage, and then sinks back to his seat again, because he has nowhere to go.

Radek seems to catch his anger, falls silent beside him, though his eyes stay huge and fixed on the black hole. John spares a look for Ronon and Teyla in the back of the Jumper, she's on the seat, head between her knees, rocking slowly back and forth as Ronon's cups the back of her neck. He thinks, for a brief moment that he's going to be ill, swallows compulsively around the burning in his throat.

John reaches out, carefully, to the controls. He knows that there's nothing out there, can see that there's nothing here but them and the goddamn black hole, and thumbs on the radio anyway. "This is-" his voice cracks, and he clears his throat, digs his nails into his palm, makes himself continue, "Is anyone out there? Rodney?"

Silence, terrible and terminal, no matter that it had been expected. John bites the insides of his cheeks, feels the muscles in his jaw jump and twitch.

The crackle of the radio, a buzz of static, has him jerking his head up, his heart in his throat. The buzz gets almost unbearably loud, he's just reaching his hand for the volume control when, through the static, "-lo? Can-me? Rod-ay-lantis. Need to ta-Sheppard-eed to-"

John hears his own laughter, too loud in the interior of the Jumper, and then, "-ucking damnit. There we go. This is Rodney McKay, I need to speak with John Sheppard, so, whoever you are, go get him right now and bring him back here. Don't think about it, don't ask me if I'm sure, just go get him."

"Rodney. Rodney, I'm here. We're not picking you up on the scanners."

"John?" Rodney's voice wobbles over the radio, and then a sound that might be either laughing or coughing. He's aware that Ronon and Teyla are back in the forward section of the Jumper, that Radek is holding himself perfectly still. "We're in the ergosphere, the distortion from the frame-dragging is, no doubt, effecting your scanners."

John tenses, his heart beating ridiculously hard in his chest, "Care to explain why you're in the ergosphere?" Because they'd said scans, they'd said three hours, and then they'd be home.

"Stop touching that! Hey, Richardson, get him before he-okay, good, thank you." There's a pause, and John feels like he's going to crawl out of his skin, "Zed turned out to be a bit too dedicated to his work. He'd planned-he'd planned to go into the goddamn thing, and then send off a subspace transmission with his dying breath. Would have been nice to know he was a gene carrier, you know. Useful knowledge to have when trapped in a Jumper with someone."

"I'm going to kick that bastard's ass." And laughter isn't the reaction he'd been anticipating for that, but it's what he gets over the radio. Especially not the high, desperate giggles, gradually tapering off into what's either hiccups or static. Before he gets the chance to demand an explanation for it, Radek is speaking, fast and desperate.

"The rate of the space-time distortion, have you determined it yet? You will need to know if you-"

"To escape the pull of the ergosphere, I know, Radek. And hey, nice of you to come along, seeing as it's your fault I'm stuck in this goddamn mess in the first place. I don't suppose you've brought some super shield with you to pull us out? Yeah, no whales here either. Or hallucinations." John opens his mouth to demand a better explanation of what the hell's going on, but Rodney talks over him, "Look, I've got maybe twenty minutes of use out of this thing, so I've got to conserve it. I'll re-contact you in-"

He tells himself that the abrupt end of the transmission is just Rodney switching off before he's done talking.

hr

When the radio crackles back to life three hours later they're all sprawled out on the floor of the Jumper. Radek's hunched over his tablet, scrawling equations, trying to explain the science of the black hole to Teyla. Ronon seems to have a decent grasp of it, himself, and John helps with the math, because, well, they travel through wormholes. He'd done a bit of research on black holes.

He manages to crack his elbow into the wall standing too quickly, trips over his feet and bends over the radio, like he's coaxing it to life. He says, "You still okay?" Tries to cover his surprise when Teyla steps up behind him, still keeping her eyes averted from the view screen, but no longer trembling.

"I need to talk with Radek."

The Czech scientist appears at John's elbow, squeezing between him and Teyla, his computer clutched to his chest. "I am here. I have been going over the what I can remember of the Penrose process, trying to fit it in with the readings we are drawing from the-"

"Yes, very good. Look. How long has it been since the last time I spoke with you?" Rodney sounds far more exhausted than he had previously. John wishes, not for the first time, that the Jumpers came equipped with video feed.

"A little over three hours."

"Fuck. Are you-" and pause, and then Rodney's voice, muffled as he turns to talk to someone in his own Jumper, "They said three hours. How long has it been here, at least a day, right? Shit." There's another pause, "Okay. Okay. So. That explains why you're still stuck on the Penrose process. Look, it doesn't matter."

John's pretty sure it does, especially because by the time conversion rate Rodney's using they've already been trapped in the black hole for five days. He wonders if Rodney's slept for any of it, if the extra powerbars John shoved in his pack helped, if Rodney had one of his rare moments of generosity and shared them with the others.

He hopes not, and hates the flare of pitiless emotion that says he'd gladly trade the lives of everyone else in that Jumper for Rodney's.

Radek interrupts his musing, looking down at his carefully scrawled equations in despair, "What are you thinking of, Rodney? Tell me, that I can attempt to work on it from this side."

"Not enough time. Look. I'll get back in contact with you in a day." Silence, and John wonders if he's disconnected the line again. "Is John...is John still there?" And he doesn't even have to ask for privacy. Teyla fades back a step, dragging Ronon and Radek with her, eyes soft and pitying.

"No where I'd rather be." Which is a lie. He'd much rather be in the Jumper in the black hole, where he could do something besides sit on his hands. "Not making out with Richardson to pass the time, are you?" There's an indignant sound over the radio, not McKay's voice. John grins, even though it hurts. When there's still no answer from Rodney after a long moment John shifts, "Still there?"

The line's dead.

hr

The next three hours are hell, not improved when Lorne shows up with a third Jumper to make sure that everyone's still alive. He sounds relieved when he gets the all clear, heads back to Atlantis with their report. That was an hour ago, and John's tried pacing, humming, dirty thoughts about Rodney, any and everything he can think of to keep himself occupied.

Nothing's working.

When Rodney's voice crackles over the radio everyone jumps, crowds into the front compartment, as though by squeezing close to the radio they're moving physically closer to Rodney. John wonders if anyone else has noticed that, or the fact that he's practically sitting on the radio.

Rodney's saying, "Look, I think we've got this figured out. We're going to-we're going to have to make a move soon. We're out of food and water and-and well, we just have to. I'm going to give you an hour, your time, after I end this transmission to get out of here, okay? You need to get as far away as possible."

"What? Why?" He's surprised when Ronon vocalizes the questions before he can.

Even more surprised when it's Radek that answers instead of Rodney, "You believe you will pull that much of the rotational energy when you escape the field?" Radek sounds more intrigued than worried, but John's learned that the other man isn't actually an accurate gage of what you should be feeling. Anyone who builds bombs in their spare time is obviously not quite sane.

Rodney sounds impatient, his voice rough, "I don't know, do you really want to take the chance of being here if we do? No one even knows what happens when one of these things stops spinning. It could collapse completely, it could-it could be bad, okay? So just. Go. Get out of here."

"Rodney, I'm not-"

"Yes you are, John Sheppard. Ronon, I know you're there, you get him out of here." Ronon makes an affirmative sound, wraps one of his big hands over John's shoulders, like he intends to just drag John out the rear hatch. "Get them all home safe, okay?"

For a long moment there's silence, tense and John wrestles with the jumbled emotions in his head. For a terrible half second he contemplates piloting his Jumper into the black hole after Rodney. He thinks that if he didn't have the others with him he would have done it in an instant.

"Look, we have almost fifteen minutes of power left for the radio. I've...we've all recorded some-some messages. I'm going to, um, transfer them over. After you receive them, you have to go, okay? I-" And John wants to protest, wants to forbid goodbyes of any kind, but the radio makes an unhappy beeping sound, and his screen flashes the receipt of the messages.

Ronon pushes him down into the pilot's seat, says, "Time to go."

hr

One hour and fifteen seconds later the shock wave catches up to him. The Jumper jerks under his hands, hard enough to yank the controls free for a half second. Beside him Radek slams forward, reaches out a hand to brace against the control panel and John hears the snap of bone over the other man's surprised shout.

John curses, wrestles with the controls, and the inertial dampeners are the only thing that keeps them in their seats, because the Jumper tumbles end over end. When it's over the stillness feels unnatural. John stays tense in his seat, expecting a second wave, a aftershock, something.

He's not expecting the sudden slow steady beep from the scanners, the signature of another Jumper rolling through space on an almost parallel course with theirs. He jerks his head to the side, like maybe he'll be able to see the other ship through the wall of the Jumper.

He slams his hand into the radio, yells, "Rodney? That better be you, you bastard."

By the sound of it everyone in Rodney's Jumper must be laughing, and Rodney himself is shouting, "Who else?"

hr

There's a crowd waiting in the Jumper bay by the time they get back, and they have the unfortunate luck to arrive in Atlantis just in time to get hit by the shockwave of Rodney destroying a black hole a second time. It doesn't do much, when faced with hitting a planet, though the sonic boom is painfully loud.

John completely abandons the landing, feels the Jumper drop the last few feet to the floor. Radek makes a sound that might have been an aborted scream, still cradling his shattered wrist to his chest. John has a feeling he should be suffering from guilt over that, but can't seem to manage it.

By the time he gets out of his Jumper, around the side of it to Rodney's, the other door is coming down.

The smell is strong enough to be an almost physical thing. Vicious sickly sweet rot, flooding out of the Jumper. John throws an arm up over his nose, fighting his gag reflex, trying to smother the smell with his sleeve. Beside him, someone else is not so lucky, he hears the poor bastard get noisily ill.

He takes a careful step into the Jumper, and then everyone is rushing out of it, which sort of completely impedes his forward progress. The scientists, glassy eyed, dirty, shove him out of their way as they stumble out. He sees Richardson, eyes the roughly stitched, mostly healed cut above his eyebrow pointedly.

Rodney comes out last, blinks owlishly at John, the room in general, before his eyes roll up in his head and he faints. Manfully passes out. Whatever.

hr

Carson calls it a hypoglycemic incident, exacerbated by the fact that he's not sure how long Rodney spent awake, but it was far longer than anything remotely healthy. Of the others only Richardson is in a similar state, babbling and exhausted past the point of coherence. The man still refuses to be removed from Rodney's side, all the way to the Infirmary. Once there Carson manages to talk him into a bed beside McKay, who he falls asleep watching.

John's not able to make a whole lot of sense of the other man's ramblings, just enough to put together that whatever had happened with Zed had been bad. That Rodney had done something to the other scientist, that at least one of the other people in the Jumper had freaked out over it. John's not sure if there was an attempt on Rodney's life or if Richardson had just thought there might be one.

Mostly he's just glad that someone on the accursed mission had been watching Rodney's back.

He leaves Rodney sleeping the sleep of the exhausted and well drugged, wanders back to the Jumper bay. There's no need to ask what's under the white sheet in front of Rodney's Jumper, which certainly explains the smell earlier. It's dissipated somewhat in the open space of the city, but it's still cloyingly thick, sour-sweet in the back of his throat.

No one's moved anything besides the body yet. There's powerbar wrappers strewn across the Jumper, empty MREs and bottles of water. It's nothing compared to the fact that most of the Jumper's guts are hanging out of the walls and ceiling. Rodney's got wires connected to everything, and there are char marks up the walls, the black stains of a fire across part of the ceiling.

Half the controls are still smeared with blood, the pilot's seat is saturated with it. John stands for a long time, looking, trying to wrap his mind around it. When he walks out, the smell of death and decay stuck in his nostrils, he moves to his own Jumper. Settles in the pilot's seat, and keys up the fifteen minutes of goodbyes that Rodney had thought they were going to need, trapped in a Jumper with a dead body and no food or water.

hr

It's obvious that they'd tried to give the people recording as much privacy as possible. There's a low hum of background voices, everyone apparently very involved in a conversation about the merits of lulum fruit versus kiwis. John doesn't know the first three voices, the scientists. One is apparently completely smitten with Ronon, another wishes she'd never came to Atlantis, the third thought he was being punished for telling his younger sister she'd been adopted as a child.

Richardson seems mostly concerned with his team. The recordings had apparently been made after they were already exhausted, because the man fades in and out of coherency. Repeats himself over and over again, the same themes wound together more and more desperately. He'd thought he was going to die, accepted it, and it chills John.

Rodney's message is last, and there's silence for so long that John starts to think that maybe he didn't record anything. And then, "I expect you to tell the rest of the team I said goodbye. Tell them I said nice things about them. I'm sure you'll think of something good. I have-I have-"

It's odd, how alarming hearing Rodney's voice break is, even after he's heard it so many times before. It still makes his skin crawl, "I think you should know that Richardson deserves one of your medals, for what he did up here. I mean, not that he saved us single handedly, or anything, but with my help he-John."

Rodney pauses for a long time, and when he speaks again his voice is keyed so low John has to strain his ears to hear it, stretched whisper thin and desperate, "I just want you to know that I'm not going to die out here. Even if-even if it looks like I did. I didn't. I won't. I will find a way out of this. So don't do anything stupid, okay? John-"

The message fades out to static, then silence. John sits for a long time, staring at his hands. When he gets up and walks back to the Infirmary he can still smell blood and rot and hear Rodney's voice in his ears, voice soft and pleading.

hr

When Rodney wakes up a day later the first thing he does is squeeze John's hand.

John figures that's a good sign, stirs himself from the almost-sleep he'd fallen into and straightens in time to see Rodney's eyes flutter open. For a long moment Rodney just stares at the ceiling, before slowly, slowly, letting his eyes slide towards John. His voice is rough, sounds almost painful in his throat, "Hey."

John's thought about what he was going to say, spent hours devising a brilliant strategy that would explain why Rodney is never allowed on a Jumper without him ever again, and why snotty scientists from the IOA should be shot on sight. What comes out of his mouth is, "I would have done something stupid if you hadn't made it out."

Rodney blinks, looks blindsided, confused. John feels kind of like bastard for ambushing him like this, but it's too late to call it back, the words are there, heavy between them. But then Rodney squeezes his hand again, mouth crooking up in the corners, and it doesn't matter, "I know."

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