General & Dr Sheppard: 5. The Long Night


John unbuckled himself from his console and went to the back of the jumper where Rodney was still lying where they’d left him.


“Are we home yet?” Rodney asked, his eyelids fluttering open.


John took a deep breath and sat down beside him to check over the damage. “Not yet,” he murmured. “We’ve had to make an unscheduled stopover. I’ll get you to Carson as soon as I can, Rodney. Now, where does it hurt?”


“Oh, great,” Rodney sighed. “First of all, I get skewered by crazy people wearing animal skins and now I get to have you as my personal physician. No offence, Colonel, but you’re not exactly Dr. Beckett.”


“Well, I’m the best you’ve got right now,” John told him, unzipping Rodney’s jacket and sliding it carefully off the other man’s crooked arm.


“Ow! No, ow!” Rodney protested and his face went a sickly shade of green. John managed to get the jacket off him and threw it onto the bunk.


“His shoulder is wrenched from where they staked him,” Ronon informed them helpfully from behind, where he was watching the proceedings with his usual air of mild disinterest. “It should be strapped up. I could do that.”


“No thank you!” Rodney snapped. “I think I’d prefer to wait until we get back and have it done under a full anesthetic.”


“Carson probably wouldn’t anesthetize you for that,” John told him with a grin. If Rodney was complaining, then he couldn’t be too badly hurt. He turned his attention to Rodney’s face. The scientist had a large bruise on his jaw, and, more worryingly, a deep cut on his forehead which was dripping blood. John took hold of Rodney’s face in his hands to examine it and Rodney went still beneath him in a way that felt oddly nice. There was blood running down the side of Rodney’s face and John felt a sudden, overwhelming urge to lean in and press his tongue against it to stem the tide, the way he’d seen the general do to his Rodney earlier that day. The impulse was so strong that he felt himself moving, wanting to hold Rodney down and do…some-thing…he wasn’t sure what.


“What the hell are you doing?” Rodney protested, placing a hand on John’s chest to keep him at bay, and John came to a halt, startled, and realized that his mouth was just inches away from Rodney’s forehead.


“Just…looking,” John said, unconvincingly.


“Looked more like you were sniffing,” Rodney said suspiciously.


John got up quickly and turned to the general. “That cut is pretty deep. Couldn’t you—you know, do that thing you did earlier?” he asked. “The Kaeira or whatever you called it.”


The general gave him a surprised look. “No. It wouldn’t work,” he said, shaking his head.


“Why the hell not?” John asked. “It worked on your Rodney.”


“That’s because we’re lifebonded,” the general replied, fingering the pendant around his neck. “I can only heal Rodney and he can only heal me—it’s the way it works. I can’t heal just anyone.”


“Could I heal him?” John asked, glancing back at his Rodney, who was looking very pale and was clearly in shock.


“Not unless you were lifebonded, no,” the general said. “And I really don’t think Dr. McKay could stand that ritual right now. He’s too weak. Apart from anything else, it’s not something you can rush into in the heat of the moment. It takes preparation and you have to be in the right mental place. Also…the title means exactly what it says. You’d be bonded for life. He’d be yours and you’d be his and somehow I’m not sure you’re ready for that yet.”


“What the hell are you all talking about?” Rodney muttered wearily behind him.


“Nothing. Just…exploring an option,” John replied, feeling angry again, although this time he didn’t even know why. He had no particular wish to bond with Rodney for life, whatever the hell that entailed, but at the same time there was a part of him that liked the thought of Rodney being his, completely and irrevocably. He felt guilty about it because Rodney was injured, but dammit, he’d liked how Rodney had felt under him just now, when he’d held still while John examined him.


“Kaeira may not be exactly what you think it is, in any case,” the general told him softly. “I didn’t heal Rodney—we just shared the wound between us to lessen its effect. Look.” He moved aside the collar of his jacket to reveal a faint red mark on his neck, very similar to the one on Rodney’s neck.


John stared at the general, dumbfounded. Just when he thought he understood these men, that he was getting a handle on how it worked between them, he went and discovered something like this—something that showed how very different both they and their universe were.


“We don’t have that, whatever it is,” John said. “I’ve never heard of that in this universe.”


“Just because you’ve never heard of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist here,” Rodney Sheppard pointed out. “It worked for us, despite the fact we’re not supposed to be here. While we’re here, we’re subject to the laws of your universe, so if Kaeira was unique to our universe, then it shouldn’t be possible here, but it was because we did it. Not that I’m suggesting you lifebond with McKay to help him because, frankly, the way things are between you two right now, you’d probably end up killing each other during the bonding ritual, but…”


“Okay, Rodney. I think you’ve explained that enough,” the general cut in.


“Just saying.” Rodney Sheppard shrugged.


“Look, I don’t care what kind of healing gizmo they’ve got,” Rodney said behind him, “but I’m seriously freaked out by all this talk of lifebonding, so can you all just shut up and let me get some sleep?”


John turned around sharply. “No,” he said firmly. “The one thing you can’t do right now is sleep, Rodney. You’ve got a concussion. You’ve been drifting in and out of consciousness for the past couple of hours and you need to stay lucid. I don’t want you to be in a coma by the time we get you back to Carson.”


“I really don’t think it’s that bad,” Rodney said, sitting up straight to glare at John with more intensity…an effect that was ruined when his face went green and he leaned over and retched onto the floor of the jumper.


John winced. “Just sit back and don’t move,” he said, sitting down beside Rodney and putting a firm hand on his good shoulder, stroking him to calm him down. “Ronon, get me a medical kit. Looks like we’ll have to do things the old fashioned way,” he sighed.


John managed to make Rodney comfortable and then he examined the contents of the medical kit. “Hold still and try to be a better patient for me than you are for Carson,” he admonished, squeezing some antiseptic lotion onto the wound on Rodney’s forehead. Rodney grimaced, but held still while John cleaned up the wound and then pressed a bandage onto it and fastened it. The cut was deep and John doubted the bandage would stem the blood flow for the entire night, but it was the best he could do.


Rodney lay back when he was done, and closed his eyes. He didn’t look good.


John prodded his leg. “Eyes open, Rodney. You need to stay awake, remember?”


“Then keep me awake!” Rodney snapped.


John gazed around at the assembled company. They were all tired, hungry, disheveled and miserable and wanted nothing more than to get back home, and instead they were stuck here for the night with a wounded team member. Teyla was sitting up front by one of the consoles, her hair all mussed up, while a muddy Ronon was lounging on the floor, his arms loosely wrapped around his knees. The general and his Rodney were seated on the opposite bunk and were the only ones who looked remotely comfortable, John thought. Rodney Sheppard was leaning against his husband’s shoulder and the general had an arm wrapped around him and was stroking his neck gently with one long index finger. John sighed and wished he could do that with his own Rodney right now—and not be met by a hissing, snarling handful of outraged scientist. There was no way his Rodney would ever lean into him like that. He noticed his Rodney’s eyes drooping and prodded him again, earning an angry glare from the scientist.


“Okay, we need to talk about something,” John said. “Anything. Just to keep McKay awake.”


“We could talk about what a huge fuck-up this mission was,” Rodney Sheppard muttered. “Seriously, was there anyone who didn’t fuck up? I got held hostage.”


“I did not see the men who attacked us and so was not able to warn you in time,” Teyla said with a sigh.


“I omitted to tell the colonel the full details about our own trip to this planet,” the general said.


John nodded to him, glad the other man was big enough to own up to that. John realized that he was actually a little bit relieved to find that his counterpart did make mistakes. He’d put him on something of a pedestal and it was good to know that the man was human after all.


“And I gave Ronon some orders which didn’t pan out too well in practice,” John replied.


The general nodded back at him and they shared a moment of quiet understanding.


“I didn’t fuck up,” Rodney McKay said.


“Oh, you so did,” his counterpart snorted. “The colonel told you to get out of that chamber and you didn’t.”


“Yeah, well, I noticed how you hot-footed it out of there the minute the general told you to jump, leaving me behind,” Rodney scowled.


“And if you’d done the same, then maybe we wouldn’t have had to rescue you,” John interjected, wondering just how long it had taken the general to drum those ‘basic rules’ he’d mentioned into his Rodney and whether he’d have similar success if he tried it.


“Oh, great. So this is all my fault now,” Rodney griped. “That’s fine. Blame the dying guy. He can’t fight back.”


“You’re not dying,” John snapped. “And you seem to be doing just fine with the fighting back thing. That head wound isn’t slowing you down any when it comes to complaining.”


“Right now, I have a lot to complain about,” Rodney retorted.


“Yeah well, join the club.”


“And what did you mean about giving Ronon some orders that didn’t pan out too well in practice?” Rodney asked.


John shifted uneasily. “I told him to stick close to Dr. Sheppard, not to leave him on his own,” he muttered.


Rodney gazed at him steadily for a moment, and then realization hit and John was surprised to see a sudden burst of sheer, naked hurt flash into the scientist’s eyes.


“Right. Fine,” Rodney muttered, gazing at John out of a pair of wounded blue eyes.


John winced, knowing exactly what was going through Rodney’s mind right now and how he was convinced that he was bottom on John’s list of priorities. The truth was so much the opposite that John felt winded and he gazed helplessly back at Rodney, wishing he could explain that to him.


“Oh, God,” Rodney Sheppard said in an undertone to his husband. “Honestly, it’s painful to watch sometimes.”


“Shh,” his husband replied. “They’ll figure it out.”


“There is absolutely nothing to figure out,” Rodney McKay snapped.


Everyone glared at everyone else.


“I didn’t screw up,” Ronon said. Everyone glared at him. “Well, I didn’t,” he shrugged.


“He’s right,” John said. “You get the mission Gold Star, Ronon.”


Ronon sat back, looking pleased with himself.


“Wait, wait, wait!” Rodney sat up too quickly, and then swayed, the blood draining away from his face.


John put a hand on his arm. “Steady, Rodney. Take it easy.”


“I knew I didn’t fuck up—I got the crystals!” Rodney said. “In my jacket pocket.” He clicked his fingers impatiently at John and pointed at his jacket. John handed it over to him. Rodney fished around excitedly in the inner pocket and pulled out a handful of crystals…all of them broken. Rodney’s face crumpled. “Damn,” he muttered. “Must have been smashed when they knocked me out,” he said, looking utterly dejected. “Sorry,” he murmured to the general and the other Rodney. “Would have been good if they were okay. Could have sent you home within a couple of days.”


“You tried, Rodney,” John told him, shaking his head.


“And failed,” Rodney said bitterly. He lay back down again, the shattered crystals falling from his fingers onto the puddle jumper floor. He looked so utterly miserable that John wished he could put an arm around him and pull him close.


The general leaned forward and gave Rodney a gentle smile.


“It’s okay, Dr. McKay. It would have been nice to go home, but we don’t mind hanging around a little longer. We’ll get the QDD fixed somehow. I have complete faith in both my husband and you. If anyone can sort this out, you two will do it.”


“Yeah, because he’s so damn perfect,” Rodney snapped, scowling at his doppelganger. “He didn’t drag anyone out of their universe against their will, and he jumped like a rabbit when ordered out of that chamber, so he didn’t get caught, knocked out, tied to a stake and dragged through acres of muddy fields and then strapped down onto a sacrificial table by blood-thirsty aliens.”


The general smiled broadly, which John thought was pretty nice of him considering Rodney’s outburst. “He’s not perfect. Neither am I. We’ve both fucked up in our own universe,” he told Rodney.


“Really? How? We’ve got some time on our hands and I’m all ears,” Rodney said, wrapping his good arm across his chest and gazing expectantly at the general. “I could do with hearing something entertaining right now.”


The general glanced at his husband. “Do you mind me telling this story?” he asked.


Dr. Sheppard chewed on his lip miserably. “I don’t like remembering it,” he muttered.


“This is sounding more and more appealing,” Rodney said in a tone of some glee.


John prodded his leg again. “Be nice,” he warned. “This is a very small ship and we’ve got to spend several hours together.”


“Well, they’ve been so holier-than-thou since they got here!” Rodney exploded. “‘In our universe, we don’t have any hang ups about freaky, gay, leather sex. In our universe, we don’t lock people up. In our universe, we’re not sexually repressed like you people,’” he parodied. “‘We don’t suck people out of their own universes against their will. We’re much too clever for that. And in our universe we like to wear collars and leashes and have constant sex with tubloads of lube.’”


“What?” John raised an eyebrow.


Rodney flushed.


“I asked him for some lube the other day. It seemed to freak him out,” the general explained. John had to bite back a grin as he imagined how Rodney had reacted to that. “Look, Dr. McKay, I’m sorry if you feel we’re throwing our weight around. We don’t mean to. It’s just that we’re used to things being a certain way in our universe and it’s just hard to adjust,” the general said in a conciliatory tone. “But, trust me, we’re not perfect.”


“It was Duranda,” Rodney Sheppard said unexpectedly. “The Arcturus weapon? That’s the story he wants to tell.”


“Oh. That.” Rodney went strangely quiet.


“I persuaded John to let me go and work on the weapon again. He persuaded my Lady Elizabeth.” Rodney Sheppard bit on his lip. “We blew up half the solar system and Lady Elizabeth was really, really mad.” Rodney Sheppard winced. “It was a big fuck-up all around.”


“Aw, did daddy spank you?” Rodney asked, in a less than kind tone.


“No,” Rodney said quietly, gazing at the general. “No, he didn’t. I still think he should have, but that’s his decision.”


“It wasn’t his fault,” the general said quietly, sitting back and putting an arm around his husband again, pulling him close. “I know what he’s like when he gets intellectually excited by something and I knew what was going on with him. I agreed to take his case to Lady Elizabeth. I supported him. It was my responsibility when it failed, not Rodney’s.”


“So what happened?” John asked, fascinated by this glimpse into how their society worked.


“Lady Elizabeth wanted me to punish him,” the general replied. “This was a huge mistake, committed in the public domain, and she thought he should be publicly punished.”


“Oh, my God,” Rodney breathed. “You people really are sick.”


“Do you want to hear the story or not?” Rodney Sheppard snapped.


McKay shrugged and sat back, but he was clearly interested, despite himself.


“It’s the way our society works,” the general explained. “My Lady Elizabeth felt Rodney deserved a public reprimand. The sentence was 30 swats. As Rodney’s top, I was responsible for delivering the penalty. While you have a brig, we have a designated punishment room—and anyone can attend and watch if it’s a public disciplinary.”


“Oh, God,” Rodney breathed again, looking extremely uncomfortable.


“I refused to agree to the penalty,” the general said. “Rodney hadn’t lied to me. Yes, he was perhaps too eager to go back and work on the weapon, and, yes, he let his intellectual


arrogance overwhelm his better judgment, but I knew all that and still I agreed to support him.”


“So…you refused to punish him?” John said slowly.


“Yes.” The general nodded.


“Does that mean someone else had to do it?” John asked.


“No! I wouldn’t let anyone else touch him!” the general said in a horrified tone.


“So what happens in that situation?”


“What do you think?” the general asked.


It all slotted into place—Rodney Sheppard’s evident misery at the thought of this story being told, and what the general had said to him the previous day about John taking some of the blame for their own Arcturus disaster. John flushed.


“You took the punishment for him,” he said slowly.


“Yeah,” the general nodded. Rodney Sheppard made a little sound in the back of his throat and nestled closer to his husband. The general stroked his arm gently.


“I’m guessing that must have been…kind of humiliating.” John made a face.


“It was. I’m the highest-ranking top on the base apart from my Lady Elizabeth,” the general said with a sigh. “I also run the military operation and I’m in charge of all the military discipline, so this was a pretty damn humiliating situation to be in. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I couldn’t in all conscience allow Rodney to take all the blame. It wouldn’t have been right. I knew I’d allowed myself to be persuaded against my better judgment and that was my fault, not his.”


“So what happened?” John asked. “Who punished you? Rodney?”


“No!” The general grinned. “No, that’s not the way it works in our universe, John. As I said, Lady Elizabeth is the highest-ranking top, but she rarely administers any punishments herself. She puts Peter in charge of that, the way I put Lorne in charge of it for the military personnel. She and I have enough to do, frankly, without overseeing that as well.”


“Peter Grodin?” Rodney McKay asked, frowning. “I thought you said he was her sub?”


“He’s a switch,” Rodney Sheppard replied. “It works well for him—he gets to sub to Elizabeth in their private relationship and be pretty toppy with the rest of us as part of his job. He seems happy about it, anyway.”


“Your entire society is just so hard for us to understand,” John told the general, shaking his head.


“Then you’ll understand that we feel the same way about yours,” the general replied. “My Lady Elizabeth accepted my decision to take the punishment in Rodney’s stead. I presented myself in the punishment room at eleven the following morning and it took place.” He shrugged.


“Nobody went to watch,” Rodney Sheppard added in a proud tone. “They all like and respect him too much. Nobody wanted to see him humiliated. It was just Elizabeth and Peter.”


“And they’re two of my closest friends, so it wasn’t too bad,” the general added.


John frowned. “If they’re good friends, then I’d have thought it would be even worse,” he commented.


“No. Nobody liked it, least of all me, trust me,” the general laughed. “But it was done quickly and quietly, with the minimum of fuss, and then I was able to go back to my quarters and Rodney spent the whole day trying to make it up to me in various, extremely inventive ways, so it wasn’t all bad.” He grinned at his husband affectionately.


“Crazy. Completely insane,” Rodney McKay muttered to himself.


“I think it is very romantic,” Teyla said. “You must love each other very much.”


The general and Dr. Sheppard grinned at her and Rodney sighed heavily.


“Oh, for God’s sake, don’t encourage them,” he muttered, closing his eyes.


John prodded him again to keep him awake. “I think it’s a nice story as well,” he said.


“Well, I didn’t notice you volunteering to take my place in Elizabeth’s office after she chewed me out for the same bloody mission in our universe,” Rodney snapped at him.


“Well, that’s because you and I aren’t married and I don’t get any blow jobs from you,” John retorted, enjoying the look of shock that passed over Rodney’s face.


“Ugh. These people are having a bad effect on you, Colonel,” Rodney told him primly.


John grinned and then found himself laughing. He couldn’t stop himself. The general joined in, and then Ronon, and then they were all laughing—except for Rodney McKay, who sat there with a face like a sour lemon.




The night wore on, long and weary, and blood began to seep through Rodney’s bandage. John could see that the scientist was growing weaker. His face was as pale as a Wraith’s right now, and he gradually stopped talking although he was still valiantly trying to remain awake.


“Hey…time to change that bandage,” John said gently, nudging him.


“Tired…” Rodney muttered, his eyes rolling backwards.


John caught hold of his head as it clunked to one side. “Stay with us, Rodney,” he said in a low, firm tone.


Rodney’s eyelids fluttered closed and then, with a great sense of struggle, opened again. “Just a nap?” he asked.


“No,” John replied, carefully undoing the soiled bandage and placing another one over the wound.


“Not even a really short one? A catnap?” Rodney requested blurrily.


John held his face firmly between his hands and looked into Rodney’s confused blue eyes. “No. Now stay with me, Rodney!”


“Dammit, John, I’m tired,” Rodney muttered.


John stared at him. It was the first time Rodney had ever called him by his first name, so he knew the scientist’s condition must be serious. Rodney would only let his guard down if he was feeling too ill to notice. “I know, Rodney, I know,” he said softly, his thumbs moving gently over Rodney’s cheeks. “It won’t be much longer. Are you in any pain?”


“Just…feel cold,” Rodney said, his good hand coming up to rest on John’s wrist.


“Christ, Rodney, you’re cold as ice,” John said.


“He’s in shock,” the general said, leaving his bunk and coming over to look at the scientist. “We need blankets.” He rifled through the survival gear stored under the bunks and fished out a couple of blankets and handed them to John.


John thought about it for a moment, and then, not caring what Rodney or anyone else thought, he scrambled onto the bunk beside Rodney, pulled him over so that the scientist was resting against his body and tugged the blankets around them both. Rodney was too out of it to do more than murmur a slight whine of complaint, but John thought that was more because the movement hurt his arm than a protest about sharing John’s body warmth.


“You’ll soon warm up now,” John told him, using the cover provided by the blankets to disguise the fact that he had wrapped an arm around Rodney’s chest and was holding him tight against him. The back of Rodney’s head came to rest on John’s shoulder and despite the circumstances, John couldn’t help thinking that it felt good there. It felt right, as it if belonged there. He rested his cheek against the side of Rodney’s head, fighting all his instincts to kiss the other man’s hair. Rodney settled back against him, his body relaxed in John’s grasp—although John was sure that was only because he was so sick. If he’d been well, John knew the scientist would have been pushing him away as quickly as he could.


An hour or so passed and the others all fell asleep, leaving just him and Rodney lying there, Rodney’s weight warm and solid against John’s chest, both of them staring into space. Rodney shivered and whimpered every so often and John felt helpless, knowing there was nothing he could do but stay here and keep Rodney warm until morning. Rodney’s eyelids drooped again and John squeezed him.


“Wake up, Rodney.”


“Can’t. Just let me sleep,” Rodney replied, his eyes remaining closed.


John squeezed him more firmly. “No. Eyes open—that’s an order,” he said.


“I’m not military,” Rodney slurred. “Can’t order me around.”


“Sure I can. I’m in charge of this mission and it isn’t over yet, so you have to do what I say.” John moved his head and spoke directly into Rodney’s ear, softly, in an undertone. “Eyes open, Rodney. Do it for me. Trust me.”


Rodney seemed to think about this for a moment and then, with an act of will so great that John could feel it through every single muscle in Rodney’s body, the scientist opened his eyes. John gave him another reassuring squeeze and held on tight. He knew he should feel guilty, but this might be the only chance he got to hold Rodney and although he was worried about the scientist’s condition, he couldn’t help but relish the opportunity to hold him in his arms.


John started whispering stuff in Rodney’s ear just to keep him going. He thought Rodney was listening—every so often he gave a little grunt or his eyes widened as if he was following what John was talking about. It wasn’t anything particularly interesting—just a mish-mash of facts about his life and any stray thoughts that entered his head.


“Did you know I threw up the first time I went flying?” John said.


Rodney managed a twisted little grin at that. “Flyboy not so tough, huh?” he whispered.


“Nah—wanted to fly something, anything, all through my childhood, and then when I finally got the chance, I threw up. Had to work a long time on overcoming the motion sickness,” John said. Rodney was silent again. John searched desperately for a new topic of conversation.


“I always wanted a dog as a kid, but we moved around too much. Dad said it wouldn’t be fair. He was right.”


“Had a dog. Ran away,” Rodney muttered. “Cats simpler.”


“Yeah. I like cats, too,” John said, remembering Rodney had owned a cat back on Earth. He’d always thought it was strange that someone as prickly as Rodney had owned a pet—and clearly been so attached to it. Now that he thought about it, it struck him that Rodney resembled a cat a bit himself—all sharp claws and hissing—to say nothing of the ruffled fur and wounded dignity whenever he was upset. He wondered if it was possible to tame the scientist, to smooth down that fluffed up fur and coax a purr from him, maybe even get him eating from his hand and twining around his legs. He’d never have thought so if he hadn’t seen the way Rodney Sheppard behaved with the general. John glanced over at the opposite bunk and looked at the two of them lying there together, side by side, fast asleep. The general had an arm wrapped around his Rodney’s waist and his Rodney was pressed back against him, looking utterly relaxed. The general’s chin was resting in the crook of his Rodney’s neck, so close that it looked like he was kissing him, and his Rodney looked as happy and contented as a cat as he lay there in his husband’s arms. John felt a pang of envy and glanced down at his own Rodney, wishing it could be the same for them.


Rodney managed to stay awake for the rest of the night—more through cussedness than anything else, John thought, although he did wonder whether Rodney had responded, on some level, to the order he’d given him, and his request to trust him; Rodney hadn’t tried to sleep since then.


When dawn finally broke, John left Rodney’s side for the first time and walked over to the front of the puddle jumper to peer out. Outside there were plumes of smoke and the usual sense of desolation and carnage that accompanied a culling.


“Poor bastards,” the general said, coming up behind him, stretching his long, lean body as he walked.


“It’s hard to feel that much sympathy with them bearing in mind how they treated us and what they did to Rodney,” John muttered.


“Yeah, but look at it from their point of view. It must look to them like their gods are angry with them for not offering up that promised sacrifice when we freed Rodney last night. You can see why a primitive people like this would believe in vengeful gods when the Wraith have this habit of turning up every so often to feed on them.”


“I suppose, but right now I have to admit I don’t care much about them. I just want to get Rodney back to Carson,” John said, glancing over his shoulder to where the scientist was still seated on the back bunk of the jumper. Rodney had stopped talking a long time ago, and although his blue eyes remained open by some act of utter obstinacy on his part, they had long since stopped focusing on anything and were just staring blankly ahead, oblivious to his surroundings.


“The gate’s still open,” the general observed, glancing at the console.


“Yeah, but most of the darts have left, so it shouldn’t be long,” John said, buckling himself into his seat. “Hold tight, everyone,” he said over his shoulder. “Because we’re out of here as soon as that gate becomes free.”


“Rodney, sit with Dr. McKay,” the general ordered. “Make sure he’s secured.”


The next few minutes passed as slowly as any that John had ever known, and then suddenly the darts were gone and the gate closed and John slammed his hand onto the console and took the ship straight up into the air. Beside him, the general dialed out and John flew straight for the gate.


“Medical emergency,” John yelled as soon as they had a communications link. “We need Dr. Beckett as soon as we’re through.”


Within minutes, they had landed back in Atlantis, and within seconds, there was bustle everywhere. Carson pushed past him with a medical team and maneuvered Rodney onto a gurney. John was disturbed by the fact that Rodney didn’t even cry out when they moved him and he was about to follow on behind the gurney when Elizabeth intercepted him.


“John, what the hell happened?” she demanded. “What’s the matter with Rodney? Why were you gone so long? Why didn’t you stay in radio communication with us? Did you get those crystals?”


“I….” John stared at her blankly, realizing she deserved a full briefing, but unable to think about anything else but how Rodney was right now.


“I’ll handle the briefing,” the general said, stepping up beside him and touching his arm. “Go, John. I’ll take care of it.”


John nodded gratefully and left the general to it. He ran all the way to the infirmary and got there to find Carson bustling around Rodney’s pale, still form.


“How’s he doing?” John asked, running up to Rodney’s bedside.


“He’s lost a lot of blood. We need to get a tube into him,” Carson said, sticking a needle into Rodney’s arm.


“He’s got a badly wrenched shoulder as well,” John told him.


“Aye, I can see that.”


“I don’t know if there are any other injuries,” John babbled. “He didn’t mention anything, but he was kind of out of it for a lot of the time. I made him stay awake—don’t know if that was the right thing, but I thought he might lose consciousness if I let him sleep.”


He gazed down on Rodney’s white face, willing the scientist to be okay. The dark red bruise on Rodney’s jaw stood out, livid against his icy features and he looked half-dead already.


Carson turned away from Rodney and crashed straight into John. “Colonel, you’re in the way and it’s not helping,” Carson told him. “I want the infirmary cleared of all non-medical personnel.”


“I’m not leaving,” John said firmly.


“Oh, yes, you are,” Carson replied, equally firmly.


John frowned at him, surprised. Usually Carson was such a pushover, but then again John had never gotten in his way when he was in full ER mode before, and it seemed this Carson was a different kind of beast altogether.


“Will he make it, Doc?” John asked, backing out of Carson’s way.


“If you’ll let me get on and do my job, then there’s every chance,” Carson replied, shoving John backwards out of the door. “I’ll call you when there’s some news.”


John stood outside the closed door, wondering what the hell to do with himself. His legs felt like Jell-O and he was suddenly hit by a wave of some kind of emotion and he doubled over, gasping for air. It took him a few minutes to recover, and then he staggered away, needing fresh air. He made his way to the South West pier, which was his favorite, and held onto the railings as he took great gulps of air.


“What the hell is happening to me?” he wondered out loud, as he tried to calm himself. Where had these feelings come from and how on earth did he deal with them? He’d never felt like this before, about anyone, and he would never have expected to feel like this about Rodney, of all people. Was it just because their doppelgangers were here, with their in-your-face relationship? Would these feelings change or become more manageable once they left? Or was he stuck with them now? If so, he didn’t see how he could keep on working with Rodney. It would be a particular kind of torture to see the man every day, to want him and worry about him like this, and not be able to have him.


“Hey,” a voice said behind him, and he glanced around to see the general. “I thought I’d find you here. It’s where I always come,” the general said.


“Yeah. My favorite place on Atlantis,” John muttered.


“How’s Dr. McKay?”


“I don’t know. Carson said he’d tell me when he had some news. He’s lost a lot of blood,” John said, and then he felt it again, that wave of powerful emotion that had almost floored him before, and he leaned over again and vomited his guts out into the water far below. He felt the general’s hand on his shoulder and was grateful for its solid warmth.


“Dammit…what’s happening to me?” John hissed, when he finally managed to get himself under some kind of control.


“I can’t say for sure, but it looks pretty similar to what happened to me once,” the general replied.


John straightened up and looked the other man in the eye. “I can’t control it. It keeps hitting me and I can’t keep it down, however hard I try. I’ve never felt like this before.”


“I know. You’re pretty good at keep everything tucked away inside, not even a ripple showing on that calm, laid-back exterior,” the general chuckled. “Don’t want anyone to see you’re not the cool, easy-going guy, huh?”


“Something like that,” John muttered, sliding down to the floor and slumping there, his back against the railings.


The general sat down beside him, those long, leather-clad legs of his stretched out beside John’s. “Here,” he said, handing John some gum that he’d fished out of his jacket. “Should help take the taste away.”


John accepted it gratefully and stuffed the gum into his mouth to banish the unpleasant taste of vomit.


“So, you wanted to watch me in action during the mission. You can’t have been too impressed,” John said, with a sigh. He’d really wanted to impress this man, too, but somehow it had all gone so very wrong.


“By and large I thought you did a good job,” the general said carefully. “Even the best planned missions can go wrong and you can’t prepare for every eventuality. But you have a good head on your shoulders, you fight like a warrior and you looked out for your team—with one notable exception.”


“Oh, shit.” John hung his head and gazed down at his knees, remembering the look of hurt in Rodney’s eyes when he’d told him about his orders to Ronon. “I didn’t mean to leave Rodney exposed. I had no idea it would pan out that way,” he muttered.


“Then you have to tell him that,” the general said. “When he’s well enough to hear it. He’s not a soldier, John, not like you, or Teyla, or Ronon. He deserved your protection.”


“I know,” John nodded.


“And he’ll be blaming himself for the mission turning into such a huge fuck-up,” the general added. John turned to gaze at him and found himself meeting two serious hazel eyes that looked disconcertingly like his own.


“That doesn’t sound like Rodney,” John said with a shrug. “We’re talking about Mr. Arrogance here, after all.”


“I know.” The general gave a wry grin and shook his head. “Took me a while to figure it out, as well, but however arrogant he is, and however petty he can be, he always tends to take his fair share of any blame going around. More than his fair share, sometimes.”


John thought about that for a moment and then nodded. Now that he really thought about it, Rodney had never been slow in accepting when he’d screwed up and offering an apology.


“Do you mind me asking you something…how did you get to be a general so young?” John asked, because this was something that had really been bugging him.


“Isn’t the question not how I got to be a general, but how come you’re so confused about your own ambitions?” the other man replied, with a raised eyebrow. “You tell me, John. Why are you so ambivalent about your career?”


“I have…chain of command issues,” John said, making a face.


“Which is another way of saying you don’t like taking orders. Well, hell, neither do I,” the general grinned. “Shall I tell you what I see?” he asked softly.


John tensed, unsure whether he wanted to hear this, but he didn’t want to lose whatever respect the other man might have for him by refusing to listen to his opinion, so he nodded.


“Okay, the way I see it is like this: you’re good. You’re quick, you care about your people, and you have an excellent military brain,” the general said.


John nodded, waiting for the ‘but’.


“You’re also lazy,” the general added.


John nodded again, and sighed. “Yeah. I know,” he said.


“I noticed your personnel records and equipment inventories aren’t as up to date as they should be,” the general said.


“Yeah. I hate doing those things,” John shrugged.


“But there’s something else. It’s not so much that you’re lazy as why you’re lazy. You see, I think that you don’t want anyone to see just how much you care about this stuff. About all of it—about your job, about the people here…about yourself, even. It’s as if you stop yourself so they never get to see the real you—this one,” the general patted John’s chest. “The one that just threw up over the side of the railings. You’ll never step up to the next level until you can control your emotions, John, and in order to control them, first you have to feel them.”


“I feel plenty,” John replied, feeling pretty stung right now.


“Own them, then,” the general said, laying it down between them like it was a challenge. “I look at you and see someone who’s been avoiding taking responsibility for how he feels for a very long time. I don’t know why, but I can see how in your society it might be easier that way. You have all these stupid rules to try and make sure that everyone knows what to do and how to behave towards each other, but if you could just be who you are, who you truly are, and inhabit that space inside you, then you wouldn’t need any of that crap. You have a great gut instinct, John—I saw that back in that underground chamber—but it’s almost like you fear that part of yourself. You hold back. I felt it and your team must feel it, and until you commit to being who you are and going after what you want, then you’ll never make general.”


“Are you talking about Rodney here?” John asked suspiciously.


“Among other things, but not just about him,” the general said. “He’s part of it, though. If you want him, then you have to go after him. That’s what I did.” He sat back and put his hands behind his head with a wry smile. “He was in all kinds of shit when I first met him. He was unhappy and, boy, did we all have to suffer because of that!” He grinned. “He was getting into trouble and being disciplined the whole time as well—which wasn’t nice for him—and I was finding myself more and more drawn to him. Once I figured that out, it was relatively easy. I stepped in and he pushed me away. We did that a few times before I had to get tough with him and then finally he figured out I was serious about him and not just playing and he let me in. He’d had a shitty life in many ways up until I met him. Nobody had ever loved him before so it’s hardly surprising how mistrustful he was of me at first. Once he realized I did love him, and once he actually learned to trust me, he calmed down and stopped getting into trouble. It wasn’t all easy or plain sailing, and it wasn’t just him who found it hard. At first, I felt pretty much like you do now: my emotions were so strong, they made me feel out of control, so I had to work on that—a lot, because it sure as hell wasn’t easy. Now I can control it. You saw me controlling it back there when that bastard was holding him hostage.”


“Your Rodney did exactly what you told him,” John said, remembering. “That impressed me. My Rodney would never have closed his eyes like that and just trusted me in those circumstances.”


“Well, we’ve worked on that,” the general replied. “We’ve been through a lot of drills and one of them is the ‘what you do when an ugly savage holds a knife to your throat’ scenario. So, Rodney knew what I expected of him and he did it.”


“I really doubt I could convince my Rodney to work on that kind of thing,” John sighed.


“Not while you’re ambivalent,” the general shot back. “You hold back on everything, John. It’s almost as if you’re afraid to admit that anything is that important to you. Not your career, not Rodney, not anything. Maybe you’ve got good reasons for that—I don’t know where our life experiences differ—but I’m just saying, if you want more, if you want to make general, and have Rodney, and be everything you can be, then you have to start admitting you want it and you have to stop being ashamed of what you feel.”


“It’s…. Our universe is more complicated, I think,” John sighed.


The general nodded. “Well, I won’t dispute that,” he grinned.


At that moment, Carson’s voice sounded on John’s radio. “Colonel Sheppard? I have some news about Rodney.”


John leapt to his feet. “On my way,” he replied and then he nodded at the general. “Thanks for the pep talk,” he said.


“You’re welcome—and remember to explain about the mission to Rodney,” he added.


John frowned. That wasn’t exactly going to be easy and he preferred to avoid those sorts of conversations. Even after Duranda, he’d gone out of his way to avoid Rodney and only the scientist’s dogged persistence in tracking him down had forced him to have the conversation John really hadn’t wanted to have. He supposed this was what the general meant about holding back, and he squared his shoulders and decided that the general was right—it was time to step up to the plate.




“He’s got a concussion so I’ll need to keep him in here for 24 hours, but I’ve sutured the wound and we’ve replaced a lot of the blood he lost, so he’s in much better shape now,” Carson told John when he got to the infirmary. He gazed at John searchingly, perhaps surprised by his behavior earlier. “You did a good thing keeping him awake, John,” he added softly. “That was the right thing to do in the circumstances.”


“Hell, he did that himself,” John said with a shrug, remembering the obstinate look in Rodney’s blue eyes when he’d been lying shivering in his arms. “I just kept reminding him, that’s all. He’s the one who held on in there.”


“Well, you can see him now. Not for long, just for a couple of minutes.”


John nodded and walked over to the bed. “Hey, Rodney,” he said. The scientist still looked pale, but his eyes were brighter now and he was at least talking again. His arm was strapped across his chest and there was a clean bandage over his forehead.


“Colonel,” Rodney said stiffly, nodding at him.


John sighed, remembering Rodney’s sleepy warmth as he’d nestled against him in the puddle jumper and longing to have that intimacy back. He wondered if Rodney was embarrassed about how he’d held him, but he wasn’t entirely sure how much the scientist remembered so he didn’t bring it up.


“How are you feeling?” he asked.


“Fine. I have a concussion. And you were right—Carson is just one shade above Ronon on the whole ‘strapping up a badly wrenched arm’ thing,” Rodney sniffed.


John grinned. “No anesthetic, then?”


“No. This place is like being in the dark ages,” Rodney complained loudly as Carson walked by.


“Still moaning about your arm, Rodney?” Carson asked, a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.


“Ah, yes, Doctor Death here seems to think it’s amusing to manhandle seriously injured people and cause them unnecessary pain and suffering,” Rodney snapped.


John smiled and placed a hand on Rodney’s arm. “You’re sounding much better, anyway,” he said.


“Yes, well, no thanks to you,” Rodney said, glancing at John and then glancing away again and John saw that same flash of hurt in his eyes that he’d seen earlier.


“You’re right. I’d like to apologize about that,” he said firmly.


“Really?” Rodney glanced back at him distrustfully.


“Yes. I made a serious error in judgment when I told Ronon to stick close to the other Rodney. I didn’t mean to leave you exposed—that’s the last thing I intended, trust me.” John hoped that his tone conveyed his absolute sincerity and he guessed that it did because the hurt faded from Rodney’s blue eyes to be replaced by something that looked very much like…


surprise. “I know you’re not military and you need our protection. I think it’s just that you always handle yourself so well on missions that I forgot that,” John said.


Rodney preened like a cat that had gotten the cream at that. “Well, thank you, Colonel,” he said, that jaw of his jutting forward in a familiar way that made John want to grab it and kiss it. “I do think I’ve mastered the basics very well, even if I do say so myself. Of course it’s hardly rocket science, although, frankly, I’ve always found that pretty easy, but even so….”


“Even so, there are still plenty of things that need working on,” John interjected smoothly. “So I think that, when you’re better, you’d benefit from some training sessions with me.”


“What?” Rodney blinked. This clearly hadn’t been where he thought this conversation was going.


“That’s right. The general’s got Dr. Sheppard trained in some pretty interesting techniques, so…”


“I bet he has,” Rodney snorted.


“Military techniques,” John stressed. “And he picked them up pretty well, so if he can do it, I see no reason why you can’t.”


“Oh, God. There was a trap there somewhere and I walked right into it,” Rodney groaned. “It must be because I nearly died. My brain’s still weak from lack of blood.”


“You’re doing fine,” John grinned, patting his hand. “Carson, when will Rodney be well enough to have his first drill session with me?”


Carson came to stand at the end of the bed and regarded Rodney for a moment.


“It’ll probably be months—a serious head injury like this,” Rodney said, glaring at Carson meaningfully.


“Och, no, lad,” Carson beamed. “You’ll only be in here for a couple of days and back to light duties by the end of the week. Give it ten days, Colonel, and he’s all yours,” Carson said cheerfully. “And if I might say so, it’s an excellent idea, Colonel. Rodney could do with some regular work outs. He has a very high heart rate and exercise would de-stress him significantly, I think.”


“Traitor,” Rodney hissed, but Carson just smiled cheerily at him and disappeared.


John turned back. “Ten days, then,” he said to Rodney. “I’ll book out the practice room for our sessions. We can start with an hour a day and maybe work up from there.”


“An hour?” Rodney looked outraged. “I can’t spare an hour every day. I’m a very busy man, Colonel. The science department doesn’t run itself, you know!”


“You can get up an hour earlier, then,” John told him pleasantly. “We can do it before you start your busy working day.”


“But….” Rodney clearly couldn’t think of a reply to that and he slumped back down on his pillow. “Oh, just get out,” he snapped at John.


John gave him another wide grin and then he leaned in close. “I really am glad you’re still with us, Rodney,” he whispered, with complete sincerity, directly into Rodney’s ear, before turning on his heel and leaving the infirmary. When he glanced back, he noticed that Rodney had just the faintest glimmer of a crooked little smile on his lips.


End of Part Five



~ I love receiving friendly feedback! If you enjoyed this story, please leave a comment below. ~

Submit a Comment

No Comments on General & Dr Sheppard: 5. The Long Night


Buy Xanthe's original character BDSM slash novel, Ricochet now!

Paperback on Amazon

E-book on Amazon

Smashwords in various formats

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons