“How much longer?” he asked Carson
Dr Beckett turned a weary face towards him. “From the way the symptoms progressed with Ronon the initial bout of convulsions will probably last for another day. All we can do for him during that time is to keep him sedated. After the convulsions stop we’ll have a few hours of clarity and calm before the convulsions start again and the change begins. It only took 4 days for Ronon to complete the change from start to finish. Granted his physiology is slightly different to our own but I think it will probably be about the same for Rodney.” He watched as the Colonel paled.
“Is there anything we can do,” John asked him brokenly. Carson’s heart went out to the Colonel. He had guessed some time ago that John’s feelings for Rodney went deeper than friendship. He knew the Colonel hadn’t acted on his feelings. Rodney would have told him if anything had happened between the two of them. And now, well now it was too late. The Colonel looked exhausted, but then he’d been through a hell of a week, first watching Ronon change and now this.
“I’m sorry lad,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do other than to make him comfortable and try to decide what to do with him when he’s changed.”
John closed his eyes for a moment before looking back at Carson. “I’ll look after him.” Carson patted his arm. “Aye, I thought you would. If you have anything you need to tell him you should do it soon.” John stared at him, eyes blank and unreadable.
“I have no idea what you mean.”
“Yes you do. Don’t you think he deserves to know how you feel about him, especially now.”
John glanced over at the bed again, his fists clenched as he stared at the convulsing figure of his friend. Rodney McKay was a loud, arrogant ego driven slob with an unhealthy obsession with ZPM’S and MRI bars and John loved him. Had loved him now for some time, he’d just never been able to tell him. Regulations and his own upbringing made it difficult to admit his figures to himself let alone to Rodney. He jumped as Beckett’s hand waved in front of his face.
“Get some sleep Colonel. I’ll call you if there’s any change.”
“I’ll stay” he replied.
“No, Colonel you won’t. In matters of the health of the crew I outrank you. You’ve been on your feet for the last 14 hours. Get some sleep. If you don’t I’ll sedate you.” John stroked Rodney’s hand before standing and turning away from the bed. “Make sure you call me Doctor.” He abruptly turned and left the infirmary.
Over the next day he kept regular attendance on the infirmary, dropping in every hour just to see how things were progressing. Rodney still hadn’t woken and each time he saw him his anger at what was happening and the unfairness of it grew and grew. He’d tried running to take his mind off the scenario that was being played out in the infirmary but Ronon’s absence only brought it home to him what was happening to Rodney. He’d tried to bury himself in reports. That had worked for a while. In the end he’d gone to find Teyla. She more than anyone else would know how he was feeling, although at least she and Ronon had been together before this had happened. She had those memories of the two of them where he had none such of Rodney. She’d been happy to see him and to spar, her emotions needing as much of an outlet as John’s. It had helped, a little, and John was able to maintain his fašade for the rest of the day.
He’d even managed to catch a couple of hours sleep before being shaken awake by one of Carson’s nurses who told him that Rodney was awake and could the Colonel please come as soon as possible.
John had dressed quickly but also carefully, picking out the tight black t-shirt that he knew Rodney liked to see him in. If nothing else John could recognise lust when it was directed at him.
He was at the infirmary within minutes. Carson stopped him as he was about to enter Rodney’s room.
“A moment Colonel.” He pulled John away from the door and into the room that he used for his office. He sat with a sigh and John took a good look at him. Carson was clearly exhausted, eyes bloodshot and face grey with pain and fatigue. It was only then that John realised how much this must be affecting Carson. No doctor likes to lose a patient and Rodney was Carson’s friend, had been since Antarctica.
“How are you doing Carson?” he asked.
Carson rubbed his eyes and sighed. “Not good. I can’t really do anything for him, just make him comfortable. It was bad enough watching this with Ronon but with Rodney it’s…” he broke off and buried his face in his hands. “All I can do is watch my friend turn into….”
“Don’t say it.” John whispered harshly. “He’ll be alive and you never know we might find something to reverse it.”
Carson took his hands away from his face and looked at John. “Aye,” he said, “there’s always hope.”
“How long will we have before he starts to change?” John asked.
“A few hours. Drs Weir and Zelenka have spoken to him, the rest of the time is yours and John, make the most of your time with him. Tell him how you feel. You won’t get another chance.”
“How will we know when the change is about to start?”
“He’ll start to convulse again.”
“When he does, you’re to sedate him. I will not have him awake for this. Do you understand me Carson?” John held his eyes until Carson nodded.
“Good. I’ll go and see him now.”
“I’ll make sure you’re not disturbed.”
“Thank you.” John left the office and stood for a moment outside Rodney’s room fortifying himself for what was to come. Taking a deep breath he entered the room and closed the door behind him. Rodney lay slightly on one side, gazing out of the window, away from John. “Can’t you leave me alone”, came the comment from the bed.
“No Rodney. I can’t,” Rodney turned in surprise.
“John.” John sat next to the bed. “Can’t you call me John, especially now.”
Rodney glared at him. “Oh right, so now I’m dying it’s alright for me to call you John.” He leant forwards. “Tell me Colonel why haven’t you asked me to call you John before?”
John bit back his initial angry response. Even now Rodney knew just what buttons to press to annoy him. He decided to go with the truth. “Because I was scared” he told Rodney.
“What!” Rodney stared at him in shock. John reached out and took Rodney’s left hand between his own. Rodney shivered as John stroked the back of his hand before bringing it up to his lips and placing a kiss on the palm, before letting go. He eyes sought Rodney’s and shocked blue eyes stared back at him.
“What do you mean you were scared?” Rodney asked.
John took a deep breath, continuing to hold Rodney’s eyes he answered him. “I was scared to tell you how I feel about you.”
“Pardon!” Rodney gaped at him. John leant forwards and stroked Rodney’s hair away from his forehead. Rodney slapped John’s hand away. “Stop touching me.”
“I’m sorry.” John stood up and moved towards the door. “I’ll leave you alone.”
“Oh no you don’t Colonel. You get back here.” Rodney shouted at him. “You don’t come in here in that, that t-shirt and start touching me. Nor do you start telling me you’re scared of saying what you feel and then walk away. You finish the damn sentence.”
John turned and looked back at him, indecision clearly showing on his face. Rodney softened his tone and patted the bed.
“Please John” he said. John looked at him properly for the first time. Rodney looked drawn, his eyes standing out against the paleness of skin. Already he was beginning to show signs of weight loss and his hair was matted to his face with sweat.
“John?” Rodney’s eyes latched onto John’s and held him. John walked back to the bed and sat, his eyes holding Rodney’s all of the time.
“What is it with you military types? Why do you have to make things so difficult?” He put his fingers to John’s mouth as John opened them to speak. “Don’t say anything; just stay with me, please.”
John gave him a quick nod and then leaning down he brushed his lips against Rodney’s. Strong hands caught his head and held him as Rodney returned the kiss, deepening it until John moaned. Abruptly Rodney pulled away.
“No, not now. Not when we don’t have any time” he said. He stroked his thumb over John’s bottom lip. Hazel eyes gazed back at him. “John, will you let me hold you? Please.”
John held himself back for a moment. This was all so close to what he’d wanted for so long and now to only have it for a short period of time. He wasn’t sure if he could bear it. But looking into Rodney’s sad eyes he knew he couldn’t refuse him this. John swung his legs up onto the bed and turned until he was lying half on the bed and half on Rodney, his hands on Rodney’s chest. “Is this okay?” he asked.
Rodney looked down at him and pulled him closer, until John’s head was resting on his neck. John snuggled in closer and Rodney’s arms tightened around him. “Yes, it’s fine John. I’ve got you. Just relax and try and sleep, you look exhausted.” Rodney stroked John’s back and listened as his breathing deepened and slowed and the Colonel slept. “Why now?” Rodney whispered. “Why’d you wait until now to let me know how you feel?” He buried his nose in John’s hair and breathed in his scent. Lulled by the warmth of John in his arms he drifted into sleep.
John’s sleep was broken by shudders convulsing through the body that held him. Instantly he came awake.
Rodney’s grip on John tightened. “I’m okay.”
“No you’re not.” John sat up. “Let me get Carson.”
“Let me get you something.” John said. Rodney held him back. “No. Just stay with me please. John what’s going to happen to me when I change?” Frightened blue eyes looked up at John. John lay back down; he would do what Rodney wanted. “I’ll look after you Rodney.”
“And if something happens to you?”
“It’ won’t. Beside we’ll get it sorted. Zelenka’s already working on finding a solution.”
“Humph. Well other than me Radek is the most intelligent person here. If anyone can do it he can.”
They lay quietly for a few more minutes, Rodney’s body convulsing against Johns. “Do you think I’ll be aware of what’s happening to me?” he asked quietly.
“I don’t know.”
“John, I’m scared.” Rodney’s broken whisper came to him. John sat up and pulled Rodney into his arms. “Shush Rodney; I’ll be here with you. I won’t leave you. I promise.” Rodney’s answer was lost as the convulsions began to get stronger.
John opened the door mentally. “Carson” he yelled. Almost immediately the doctor came hurrying into the room, followed by a nurse.
“Let go of him lad” Carson said.
“No.” John held Rodney closer and glared at Carson. “I told him I’d stay with him. I’ll stay here until the end.” Carson took one look at the determination on his face and nodded. Manoeuvring John slightly out of the way he administered a sedative to Rodney.
“Alright lad, you just hold him. This should quieten him down”. He sat and watched as John gathered Rodney closer to him and laid back on the bed.
John came awake as his shoulder was shook. Blearily he cracked his eyes open and looked up into Carson’s face. Realizing Rodney was no longer in his arms he sat up, swinging his legs off the bed.
“Rodney?” he asked.
The pity in Carson’s eyes almost broke John. “The change is complete.” He pointed towards the end of the bed. Sitting there, looking extremely disgruntled was a large black and white rabbit with blue eyes.