blue flamingos

After All

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Slash, PG

Year/Length: 2008/ ~3,210 words

Pairing: John/Rodney, minor Cam/Teal'c

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: "I'm sorry," Rodney says. "I'm going to be late, they sent some stuff on the Deadalus that we weren't expecting."

Series: Never Going Home universe, in which John gets sent back to Earth after developing an allergy to Ancient tech

Author's Notes: written for [info]ionaonie, who asked for it

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.


"I'm sorry," Rodney says, and the phone line's so clear that John doesn't even need to hear the rest. Rodney's cell always crackles, which means he's calling from the mountain, which means – "I'm going to be a little late. They sent some stuff on the Daedalus that we weren't expecting."

"It's fine," John tells him, taking the cordless with him to the couch and feeling around for the remote. It's not like they have plans or anything, and he's working on being better with this stuff. Mostly succeeding. It's just that the Daedalus coming back makes everything seem much closer, like it's been weeks, not months. "Any idea when you'll be home?"

"I don't know." Rodney sounds distracted, but John can't hear any voices in the background, so it can't be anything too dangerous. "Probably not for another four or five hours, at least."

"Sure," John says. Four or five hours probably means more like seven or eight, and by then it'll be late evening, and Rodney will have to go back early in the morning. He fights down the urge to sigh, wondering if Rodney will even bother coming home, or if he'll stay in the mountain, or at his half-empty apartment in the Springs.

"John..." Rodney says.

"It's fine," John says firmly. "Wouldn't want the world to blow up, after all the effort we've put into saving it."

"I don't think –" Rodney starts, then says, "No, exactly," sounding stilted. "I'll come home tonight, John, I promise."

"Okay," John says. "Get someone to drive you if it gets too late." This is another new and disturbing thing about being back on Earth, the compulsion to fuss over Rodney's safety in small, stupid ways. He misses the days when caring about Rodney's safety meant giving him a gun and jumping in front of speeding bullets, because at least it made him feel less like a 1950s house-wife, an experience he could have happily lived without.

"Yes, dear," Rodney says, deeply sarcastic, and hangs up on him.

John makes coffee, takes it out to his somewhat-less-overgrown-now yard and looks at the trees on the other side of the road. It's not really warm enough to be out in just a shirt, rolling round to winter again, and God, has it really been that long? He can stand it for a while though, long enough to decide whether he wants to go for a run, or get in his car and go somewhere. He's getting sick of being a hermit, shut up on his mountain with only Rodney, and sometimes Cam Mitchell, for company. It's time he found something to do with his life, something more than reviewing training plans for big name companies, but it's more than just Rodney that's keeping him from saying yes to the offers to go run some training sessions. He's still got the skills, it's just... Been a long time since he did that without Teyla and Rodney and Ronon at his back, and he's not sure he wants to relearn it.

He shivers, getting cold, and tells himself firmly to stop being such an angst-ridden teenager about this. He needs a distraction, and since the best one is down at the mountain preventing Armageddon (John hopes), he'll have to go with the next best thing.

Cam answers on the fifth ring, sounding out of breath. "Sheppard, hey, what's up?"

"I'm not dragging you away from preventing the apocalypse or anything, am I?" John asks, only half-joking. Cam's almost certainly polite enough to answer his phone while chasing down alien invaders through the halls of the SGC.

"You're good," Cam assures him. "Remind me never again to agree to go running with Teal'c."

John grins, trying not to laugh too openly. By rights, the two of them should be running buddies, but they live an hour's drive apart, and Cam's on another get-Teal'c-out-of-the-mountain kick right now, about which John is most definitely not asking.

"So, you just called out of altruistic concern for the state of the world?" Cam asks, the line crackling as he takes a deep breath.

"I live here too," John reminds him, and it doesn't even hurt. Much. "Nah, just, Rodney's caught up in something at the SGC, and I thought you might like to come pretend you have a social life for the evening."

"Glass houses," Cam says dryly, which John figures is probably true. "Can't, sorry. Already got plans."

"Oh, that kind of running with Teal'c," John says, letting his grin reflect in his voice. It's good, if a little weird – he's used to wanting his team, Lorne, Zelenka, Keller, to be happy, but he's not quite sure when Cam got to be one of those people as well.

"Fuck you, Sheppard," Cam says, laughing, which is as good as agreement. "You bought a house for a guy who was living in another galaxy."

John wants to say that was different, but what the hell does he know. Maybe it's exactly the same. "Fine. Go, leave me all alone –"

"You bought the place," Cam says heartlessly, then, "McKay'll be home before you know it," sounding oddly sympathetic. It's a little weird, but kind of nice.


John gets distracted after a while, looking for his copy of The Science of the Discworld, which he suspects Rodney of having stolen, however much he denies it, and ends up sitting on their bedroom floor reading Guards! Guards!, as the afternoon drags on. He's just starting to think about turning on a light when he hears a car pull into their driveway.

His watch tells him it's only a couple of hours since Rodney rang, but he remembers the day Rodney came back, just showed up unexpectedly, and climbs to his feet, heads downstairs. He's decided it's not Rodney after all by the time he's unlocking the front door, does it anyway, wanting to check that whoever pulled in is just using their driveway to turn round, and so he's not really looking at his front step when he opens the door.

He just has time to notice that it is Rodney's car, before he's being grabbed and crushed against someone huge and strong, and he fights it for a few seconds automatically, before he registers Rodney saying, "Oh for God's sake," exasperatedly from down on the driveway, and the half-familiar feel of the body he's being pressed against.

"Ronon," he says, breathless and stupid. It's like a switch flipping, and he goes half-limp in Ronon's embrace, clutching at Ronon's shirt against the way Ronon's dragging his feet off the ground. "What the hell are you doing here? Is Teyla here?"

Ronon palms the back of John's head for a long moment, pressing him close in a way they never did on Atlantis, not even when John was saying goodbye and wondering if he'd ever see them again, letting John soak up the scent of Pegasus that's clinging to him even through the Earth clothes he's wearing, then releases him. "Yeah," Ronon says, tilting his head in the direction of the car. He's grinning, like John can't remember seeing him do more than a handful of times before, and John knows he's grinning stupidly back and doesn't care.

When he finally looks away, Teyla's standing at the bottom of the steps up to the house, wearing jeans and a loose blue shirt, her hair loose and Tagan in her arms. She'd fit right in with the young mothers John sees around town, but she's still got the same indefinable Teyla-ness she's always had, like the clothes are just an overlay.

"John," she says warmly. He half expects her to do the forehead thing, but she waits until he's on the last step from the bottom, then reaches out, wraps one arm round him and steps up against him. John hugs her back, doesn't let himself think about it to the point of stiffening up, and Tagan shifts, snuffles, between them.

John closes his eyes, utterly and completely overwhelmed, wishing he knew what to say.

"Hey," Rodney says softly in his ear. He rests one hand on John's back, and John shudders and leans into it. "You're going to suffocate Tagan, and if you think I'm going to bail you out of jail for the manslaughter of an innocent child from another galaxy –"

"Jesus, Rodney," John says, laughing. It's enough, though, that he can take a step back, breathe and get a handle on everything again.

Teyla smiles at him, fussing with Tagan's coat. "He is well padded," she says solemnly, so John knows it's a joke. "I do not believe he will come to any harm."

"He's gotten so big," John says stupidly. Christ, he'll probably be talking soon, is maybe talking already.

"Yes." Teyla shifts him from one hip to the other, looking down into his tiny, smiling face. "And very heavy. I believe you should hold him for the rest of the evening."

John opens his mouth to say something, he has no idea what, but Ronon cuts him off. "Hey, Sheppard, you have anything to eat?"


Rodney hijacks the phone as soon as they're inside, and starts calling take-out places, claiming he has to introduce Teyla to the wonders of real Earth food. John lets him get on with it, and shows Teyla and Ronon where to hang their coats, then up to their rooms with their bags.

"Oh, John," Teyla says when John opens the door to her room. "Rodney told me you had... But I did not realize that he meant – this."

John rubs the back of his neck, pleased and embarrassed and too hot, wishing Teyla would let him hold Tagan so he could hide his face in the baby's soft warmth. "We put Tagan's cot upstairs," he says. "But Ronon and I can bring it down here for you, if you want, or – there's a foldout bed up there, you can sleep with him."

"Tagan is very used to sleeping away from me," Teyla says. She drifts into the room, touching the oil burner, the mismatched candles that John keeps buying. "He has his own room, now, with Freena, though not when he comes to Atlantis, of course."

"Right, sure." John mentally kicks himself; it's not like he forgot that Tagan doesn't live full time with Teyla, spending most of his time on the mainland with Kanaan's sister, the closest he has to that side of his family after Kanaan and the hybrids were killed along with Michael. It just – slipped his mind, or something. Teyla talks about Tagan so much in her emails that it seems like he's always there. "But if you change your mind..."

"I have seen many pictures of Tagan's room, I am sure he will be very happy to sleep there." She smiles again, far more relaxed than she was when John left Atlantis. "It is good to see you, John. We have missed you very much."

"Me too," John says. Far more than he'll ever be able to tell her, lingering on the edges of his mind again, now that the shock of seeing the three of them on his doorstep is fading.

"Are you making him talk about his feelings?" Rodney asks from behind them. When John turns, he's standing on the top stair, blocking Ronon's path down. "I'm the only one in this house allowed to do that."

"It will not happen again," Teyla assures Rodney.

"See that it doesn't. I boiled some water, if you want to make tea, Teyla. And – stop trying to intimidate me, this is my house and it won't work – I've got coffee if – fine, right, shove me around, some things never change. You know, I think I was actually starting to miss the bruises..."

Rodney's grumbling trails off as he follows Ronon back to the kitchen, leaving John and Teyla behind. John knows he should follow, wants to, but he just needs a minute to wrap his head around this universe, where Rodney's the one who remembers that Ronon, now he's used to coffee, drinks it by the bucketful, near enough, and Teyla always feels better, more settled, when she has her tea. John used to know these things, and now he's forgetting.

He wonders if they're forgetting parts of him as well, how many years it will be before they stop coming to visit, before Atlantis is just a faded memory.

"John." Teyla touches his arm, pulling him back to reality.

"I'm fine," he says, putting on a smile that doesn't seem to convince Teyla. At least some things don't change.

"Then perhaps you will hold Tagan for me – I prefer not to have boiling water too close to him."

"Sure," John says, already reaching for him. Tagan makes a high, happy sound – he's such a quiet child, always has been – and curls his little hands in John's shirt. John takes a couple of deep breaths, trying to pull it together, looking down at Tagan's open, smiling face. "Hey there, little guy. You remember who I am?"

"Of course he does," Teyla says, familiar you're-an-idiot-but-I-still-like-you tone, and somehow that makes it easier.


They end up in the living room, Rodney at one end of the couch, Ronon at the other, Teyla curled in Rodney's favorite armchair. John sits on the floor by Rodney, close enough to lean sideways and touch, if he wants to. He wants to, ends up leaning his head against Rodney's knee, Rodney's hand drifting down to pet his hair as his friends' voices wash over him. Tagan is fascinated with the twist of black leather John wears in place of his wristband, twisting his fingers into it and turning it, round and round John's wrist. John can't stop watching, listening to Tagan's babble. He's almost sure he knows the answers, sometimes, even if he can't tell what questions Tagan's asking.

"Hey," Ronon says abruptly, nudging John's thigh with the toe of his boot.

"What?" John asks. When he looks up, all three of them are watching him. "I was talking to Tagan."

"You are aware that he can't talk yet, right?" Rodney asks.

"We understand each other, don't we, buddy?" Tagan grins, tugs on John's leather wristband and says something that sounds like 'snurpfle.' "See?"

"I'm living with a crazy man," Rodney says resignedly. "Teyla, you'll take the cat when John finally breaks and has to be taken into psychiatric care, won't you?"

"Why will you not be caring for the cat?" Teyla asks, before John can protest the idea that *he's* going to be the one taking a psychotic break. He'd have done it already, if he was going to.

"Oh, I'm sure he'll be driving me insane right along with him," Rodney says.

"What are friends for?" John says, grinning at Teyla, since twisting round to grin at Rodney with a baby in his lap isn't easy. "You'd be lonely without me, anyway."

Rodney's hand tightens in his hair for a moment, and John leans into the touch, silent agreement.

"Hey," Ronon says again. "Stop flirting with him and answer the question."

"What was the question?" John asks.

"Is it really still flirting when we're living together?" Rodney asks idly.

"When do we get to go up in a ferris wheel?" Ronon asks, sounding infinitely patient. "Teyla says you like them."

"I – yeah," John says. Teyla meets his gaze, solemn and intense, and John's overwhelmed for a moment by the memory of Ford. Sir, that's not going to mean anything to them. It shouldn't still be the one that hits him hardest, not after all this time, but it is; he still wakes up sweaty and breathless some nights, watching the hive ship explode in his dreams.

He opens his eyes, hadn't realized he'd closed them, and, God, when's this going to *end* already? He's so fucking sick of being off-balance, waiting for it to go away. They're watching him again, worry plain on their faces, and he can't take it for another second.

"I'm gonna make more coffee." Tagan makes a protesting noise as John stands, but Teyla's there to take him, hands steady and soothing on his back.

In the kitchen, John turns the coffee maker on and leans on his hands against the counter, staring out of the window into the gathering dusk, and telling himself to get a grip. It's been months, more than enough time to get over it. Teyla and Ronon have traveled from another fucking galaxy to see him, he's being a crappy host, and he needs to pull it the hell together right now. He used to be the military commander of a base at war with the Wraith, the Replicators, and Michael, for fuck's sake.

When he hears someone come into the room behind him, he half-turns, expecting it to be Rodney, come to offer awkward comfort. It's Ronon, leaning against the central counter and watching John.

"I started having nightmares when I'd been in Atlantis for six months," Ronon says, when John turns fully to face him. "About Sateda, my unit, Melina. I thought I was going mad – I hadn't dreamt about them once till then."

"Don't –" John says, because it's not the same, not at all. Atlantis and her people are still out there, still alive, not like Sateda. Just because John can't go back...

"I kept waiting for them to stop," Ronon says, talking over John. "Thought that would mean everything was okay again, I was over it."

John shakes his head, looking down at the floor, unable to meet Ronon's eyes. He wants not to be having this conversation, wants to be somewhere else, wants this over –

"Hey," Ronon says, softly, and then he's right in front of John, pulling him away from the counter he's leaning on and up against Ronon's solid, warm body, holding him up while John trembles and shivers and finally lets go.


The rest of the evening is easier – the others let John pretend he didn't just have a nervous breakdown in his kitchen, and the novelty of real Earth food, combined with planning for the three weeks Ronon and Teyla are spending on Earth, get them through easily enough.

John's still bone-deep exhausted when he falls into bed, barely able to keep his eyes open while he waits for Rodney to finish brushing and flossing and gargling. He still feels better than he has in months – kind of humiliated at himself, sure, but lighter, like something he didn't know he was carrying has just floated away.

Rodney lets in a blast of cool air when he lifts the covers and climbs in, but he settles quickly enough, pulling John close. John goes, immediate and grateful. As rough as the last few months have been, this has always made it easier.

"You okay?" Rodney asks quietly. He strokes one hand down John's spine, and John shudders in soft-edged, worn-out pleasure.

"Yeah," he mumbles into Rodney's shoulder. "All good." He considers for a minute, then adds, "Fair's in town next week," and falls asleep to the sound of Rodney ranting – quietly – about death-trap rides, feeling like he might just be home after all.

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