Title: Three Times John Sheppard Woke Up in the Infirmary (and one time he didn't) (4300 words)
Fandom/Pairing: SGA, Vegas!Sheppard and Vegas!McKay
Summary: Total Canon AU, post-Vegas. Four things busaikko would give Detective Sheppard if she could. Because we all know I'm a sucker for the happy endings. No, really.
A/N: My apologies to Canada, but I didn't want to worry about DADT. Also? AU!
One: Detective Sheppard
John woke up and saw a brigadier general standing next to his bed. He rasped out a sir and attempted to salute before he remembered that he wasn't military anymore. He couldn't move his arm; he couldn't raise his head to see why. His whole body hurt, but the pain was drug-muffled.
The general put down the folder he had been reading and called a nurse, who called John honey while doing intimate things to him and feeding him ice chips, which he had thought only happened in television dramas. John was starting to remember some things. He thought he'd been shot by an alien, which was even more discomfiting than having a general look at him naked.
"I'm Jack O'Neill," the general — O'Neill — said. He had very dark eyes, and his gaze was uncomfortably direct. "You kept dying on us, and the doctors kept bringing you back. You'd be less of a problem dead. What are we going to do with you?"
The nurse said now, now, added notes to the electronic chart at the foot of the bed, and swished the curtains closed behind him. John stared back at the general.
"I want in," he said. His voice only broke a little. He was too tired to feign disinterest: he was hungry for it, Wraith-hungry, as if not belonging carried its own death sentence. He hadn't wanted something this much for years.
The general shrugged, loose-shouldered, and dropped into the visitors' chair. John had trouble turning his head to look at him, though he managed, and O'Neill grimaced when he realised this but didn't stand again. "Of course you do," he said. "But this isn't a comic book, where oddballs and misfits save the world. The Stargate Program is run by the U.S. Air Force and the United Nations. Your military career was a wreck. Everything you've done since has been a disaster. You're pushing forty and have nothing to offer us."
"You're fighting aliens," John said sharply. His mood had swung from depressed to infuriated with whiplash speed; he thought it must be the drugs. Good drugs. "I can kill the bastards as well as anyone. I can fly. You need me." He narrowed his eyes. "I'm expendable."
"McKay likes you," O'Neill said, as if the idea disturbed him.
John laughed before he remembered why laughing was a bad idea, and then he rasped through his teeth until the wave of blinding pain subsided. He breathed carefully for a minute before trying to speak. "McKay liked the me from another universe."
O'Neill cocked his head as if ceding a point, and then gave John a wry smile. "If you tell him I told you this I'll kill you myself, but in one world we found? McKay was this famous musician who played tinkly electronic New Age crap. I have a CD of his at home. Of course," he added, raising an eyebrow, "the liner notes are all in German, because in that world the Nazis won." He opened his hands as if to say, there you go. "I hear there are an infinite number of universes, and everything's happened in one or another of them. It can make you think, Why should I bother, someone somewhere will make things right, doesn't have to be me. Or," he went on, leaning forward, "it can make you realise that this, here, is your one and only chance, and by God you had better get it right."
John swallowed. "I admit to being a fuck-up. But not for lack of trying. Sir." He kept his breathing steady and shallow and tried not to blink too often, to keep from embarrassing himself. Damn drugs.
"You fuck up spectacularly," O'Neill said, and stood again. "I expect you to succeed just as spectacularly. You're back in the Air Force, Major Sheppard, and the Air Force is giving you to McKay. You'll be his bodyguard and his dogsbody. You'll make his coffee and rub his damn feet if he complains and carry him if he gets tired. On offworld missions you'll keep him alive. Alive and happy." O'Neill rocked on his heels and looked pleased. "Just between you and me, people were about to draw straws, because it's the worst job on this or any other planet. But it also might be the most important." He turned to leave, and then looked back. "Just don't tell McKay I said so."
Two: Major John H. Sheppard (Atlantis, Team McKay)
John spent thirty-nine hours in uncomfortable chairs after the disaster of M3B-RR6. He was catching up on his sleep, he told people (he didn't tell them about the nightmares). McKay's team brought him food; the sweet-faced nurse who always flirted with him loaned him a fleece blanket.
John was grateful to be allowed to stay at McKay's bedside. He figured if Colonel Caldwell didn't have him shot for nearly getting McKay killed, then he was looking at being sent back to Earth on the Sam Carter, either to jail or another dishonourable discharge. He got the shakes, though, if he thought about it, so he didn't. He thought about McKay getting better, waking up, bitching about every damn thing with his hands flying.
But when McKay's eyes did blink open, John could see immediately that he was disoriented and scared. Small wonder, with all the tubes going in and out. John moved so he was directly in McKay's line of sight and tried to look more reassuring than guilty.
"Hey," he said quietly, and smiled when McKay's eyes focussed on his face. "Um. We got you back to Atlantis. Your team's all safe. Well. Ford twisted his ankle, but Melena patched him up. Hey, no touching." John intercepted McKay's wandering hand, about to mess with the oxygen line, and rubbed his thumb over McKay's knuckles just because he could. McKay gave him a significant, sardonic look, and John let go. "I like it when you breathe," he said, and damn, now he sounded as if he were angry. John was suddenly aware that he had probably grown half a beard and hadn't showered since. . . Tuesday. He never knew what to say — a-ha. "Zelenka left you a present," he said, and fished out the baby white board and marker from the pile of well-wishers' offerings of chocolate and paperbacks.
McKay's eyes lit up and he snapped his fingers impatiently. ZPM he wrote, and circled the letters three times before adding a question mark.
"Two, but neither's full." John grinned. "They're afraid to touch them before you do."
GOOD McKay wrote, and then added, "Idiots." He looked at John. "Me — what?"
John swallowed. "Allergic reaction to the local food — some kind of spice. You kind of stopped breathing on us. Had me worried there for a while." Carson had trained John on how to deal with McKay's various allergies and health complaints in the field. He'd known what to do with the epipen; in the jumper, he'd held McKay down when Melena had worked to keep his airway from closing off.
He'd carried McKay. And not just because that was his job.
"Wraith," McKay wrote. He looked tired; his handwriting wobbled.
"We incinerated their alien asses." John grinned, not caring if it was monstrous of him. "Grenades and a little C4."
McKay nodded, his eyes smiling back. "Glad you're on my team. Go — clean, sleep." He paused, the pen shaking in his hand, and then added, "Thank you," handing John the pen as he shut his eyes.
"Anytime," John said, and saw the corner of McKay's mouth curl up. He stood, his joints all snapping in protest, and turned to go; and then, because this might be good-bye, patted McKay awkwardly on the shoulder. "Thank you." He was sure McKay couldn't begin to understand how much John had to be thankful for.
He ran into Lorne outside the transporter, who said, "The Colonel wants to talk to you," and then looked at the wrinkled scrubs John had been given to wear because his filthy uniform had been banned from the infirmary. "I'll tell him to expect you."
There wasn't anything to do but say yes, sir.
Caldwell was in his office with Weir, sitting at the conference table and eating lunch off mess trays. John didn't like Caldwell — it was mutual — but he respected him. He was a good leader, even if he had too many Earth-bound ambitions and considered Atlantis a stepping-stone towards command of his own Odyssey-class ship. John stood at attention and thought this might hurt even more than the last time.
"Sir," John said, and breathed slow and even. "Ma'am."
Caldwell put down his yogurt cup and looked exasperated. "You've been with McKay for two years and this is the first time you've tried to kill him. That amazes me. Don't do it again." John must have looked as flummoxed as he felt, because Caldwell snorted and shook his head. "I'm joking, Major. From what I understand, you did everything right. You used to be a detective." His voice twists the last into a question, as if he can't quite believe it.
"Yes, sir," John said, feeling suddenly dizzy.
"Then for God's sake use whatever powers of detection you have and figure out why Atlantis keeps you around."
"You're one of us," Weir said, smiling smoothly like a mental-health professional, and John had seen enough of them in his lifetime that he nearly cringed. Weir didn't deserve that. "Rodney wouldn't have you on his team if he didn't trust you."
"It's my job," John said. "Saving his life."
"Saving all our lives?" Weir asked, still smiling, and then dismissed him with a nod. "Stop waiting for the axe to fall — you belong here." She looked at Caldwell, something enigmatic passing between them, and John wondered if the rumours about Weir and Caldwell were true. "You've proved that to my satisfaction. The Air Force might even agree."
Caldwell shook his head and picked up his spoon. "You may go, Major."
As John was leaving, he heard Caldwell say something low and Weir laughed, but he was too tired to care much. When he got to his quarters, he lay down and slept for seventeen hours straight, until Melena's husband pounded on his door, collecting John for a morning run. And suddenly John's heart expanded, boom, around the whole damn city and the galaxy. He found himself smiling like an idiot, nonstop, for the next three days.
Three: Colonel Sheppard (Lantea Air Self-Defence Forces)
When John woke up, McKay was just saying, loudly, "So tell me. Colonel. Is being suicidal in your new job description? Because I'll petition for your demotion — promotion, even. I'm sure your President owes me a favour." John could hear him pacing as he talked; McKay's footsteps faded away and returned, slowing to a stop. The next time he spoke his voice was right over John. "I want you back on my team. We kept you safe."
John had to look at McKay when he said that, because whoa, talk about selective memory. The whole right side of his face was bandaged up, so he only had one eye to glare with, but he was experienced with giving McKay looks meant to convey the full force of his exasperation. Usually, this sent McKay into rant mode, telling John in impassioned detail just why he was so very wrong.
Today, McKay's face was lined with worry and his mouth was set in a soft, unhappy line, and his arms folded over his chest looked more as if he were trying to hold himself together.
"Hey," John said. His voice sounded horrible to his own ears. He swallowed and tried again. "Hey."
McKay, master of multitasking, called John horrible names and insulted everything about him while pulling up a chair and sitting and carding one hand gently through John's hair and holding John's hand with his other. John had figured out ages ago that McKay had been in love with the alternate universe John Sheppard. He didn't know the details; didn't really want to know. He wouldn't have made it out of Vegas alive if not for McKay's inter-reality love life, so he was grateful, in a weird kind of way. But sometimes McKay got the two of them mixed up. Sometimes he called John by his first name, and then looked shocked and sad afterwards; sometimes it was the inappropriate touching, the gleeful hugs when a plan went right or a hand on John's arm or shoulder.
John was very careful not to take any of that personally. He'd had to work through his own inappropriate feelings for McKay over the years. McKay triggered some unfathomable desire in John to be praised as the best boy ever, and also made him want to strangle the man with his bare hands; but John'd reached a place where he figured he knew McKay without either the Madonna or whore trappings. He understood McKay better than anyone, he thought, and he was careful not to ever, ever fall in love with him.
So he should tell McKay off for the caresses and the open look in those big round eyes. He knew he should. But here he was, not sure how he'd survived into his mid-forties, especially when his last clear memories were of aiming a crippled 304 at the hyperdrive of a Wraith hiveship, and he was dying to be touched and know he was alive, and wanted, and loved — God, but the urge to steal McKay's affection was a greater temptation than a fortune in untraceable bills.
"Not him," John said, making himself be honest. But he couldn't keep from turning into the touch as McKay's hand moved down to cup his cheek.
"You probably shouldn't talk," McKay said. His thumb traced a small arc past the corner of John's mouth. "The SGC sent over a very creative dental surgeon. Amazing what they can do with titanium and superglue these days. Who am I not?" McKay frowned and pulled back a little. "Is there someone you want me to go get?"
That was the thing about pushing McKay away. He looked so wounded.
"Me," John said, and thanks a lot, McKay. He hadn't realised how much his mouth ached until now. "Not your John Sheppard. I'm the guy from Vegas. Not your — " John tried to wave his hand, but it was damn hard to move, not the least because of McKay clinging to him. McKay was looking at him like he'd just grown another head, instead of just having a twice-normal amount of headache. He managed to squeeze McKay's hand as distraction. "I lose my eye?"
He had — not a memory, but a dream-like recall, of the fighter's canopy folding in on him like some dreadful origami, and of pain, and of coughing up mouthfuls of blood.
McKay shook his head like a dog shaking off water. "Carson fixed you up. He says your vision will probably return to normal after a few months. You'll have scars — he says you can get corrective surgery for that, but I hear chicks dig scars." He turned the hand on John's cheek over and ran his knuckles down John's jaw line. John knew McKay was a cat person; he wondered if he was supposed to purr. "We weren't lovers, you know."
John winced. "Not my business."
McKay smiled, bittersweet. "You know, if I met the other Sheppard now, I'd tell him about you. He was more like Caldwell was: career Air Force, likely to make general. A great guy, but you, you connect with people. Remember the first time you went off-world? We'd all had the same briefing — Elizabeth was about to give up on the Free Athosian Nation because they never wanted to trade. Caldwell wanted to use force. But you showed up with a pocketful of golf balls, of all things, for Emmagan's son, who nobody thought was important, and asked Halling to come to Atlantis to say the prayers for our dead. And that was what the Athosians wanted. You didn't see the politics, just the people."
"Weir was so angry," John said. He'd learned his lesson about laughing when hurt; now he could barely even manage a smile. But McKay grinned wide enough for both of them.
"But you still remember her birthday every year." McKay looked straight at John, head tilted slightly. "People fell for the other Sheppard because he was larger-than-life, leader and hero, but I bet he didn't remember birthdays, or know people the way you do. You know me and you still for some reason like me, even when you're not paid to be my keeper any more. You're the best friend I could have asked for."
John raised his eyebrow. "You believed in me." He felt like he should say more, but he didn't know the words, so he used McKay's. "My strength of character." He felt stupid for even remembering that, and the challenge McKay had had in his eyes when he said it.
McKay's cheeks reddened, just a bit, and then he leaned down and kissed John very gently on his bruised mouth. After a moment, he pulled back, looking equally stoic and disappointed.
"Not fair," John said. He didn't even have to exaggerate the slurring of his speech: his tongue malformed the consonants all by itself. "I can't move my mouth."
McKay snorted, but looked a bit happier. "See, now," he said. "That other John Sheppard probably never ruined a first kiss because of novocaine. But he also," McKay added, and leaned down to bump his head against John's in the Athosian way, "never kissed me. So you tell me which is the better world."
John managed to get one arm up and around McKay's shoulder, and he held on as tightly as he could.
"I love your ego, Dr McKay," he said. "It's so. . . big."
"Oh, do not feed me lines like that, not when I'm going to have to be virtuously celibate until you're — " and McKay blinked, cutting himself off, and kissed the tip of John's nose. "No more almost dying, you hear me? You have to stick around to take care of me."
"Sure," John said, and yawned. It hurt possibly even more than laughter, and when the pain receded McKay was petting his hair and saying nice things. John wanted to open his eye and tell McKay that he expected the same thing in return, the sticking around and taking care of thing, but he could feel himself drifting backwards and away into sleep. When I wake up, he thought, I'll tell him then.
John and Rodney rented a car in Seattle, and Rodney insisted on driving because John never could sleep on a commercial airliner. John plugged in his MP3 player and put Johnny Cash on just because it annoyed Rodney. "Like I'll be able to sleep with you driving," he'd said, but he didn't remember anything between exiting the airport to the familiar sound of Greystone Chapel and opening his eyes with a horrible cramp in his neck and still silence.
For a moment, anyway, until Rodney slammed the driver's door shut and stomped around to yank John's door open, rapping the top of John's head with his knuckles and announcing, "Well, we're here."
"Who are you and why am I sleeping with you?" John said through a yawn. He cracked his neck, left and right, because that was a sure way to annoy Rodney. "We're where?"
Rodney reached around and undid John's seatbelt. John grabbed the front of Rodney's jacket and pulled him close for a kiss: why the hell not? Rodney put up with the kissing for longer than John would have thought possible before Rodney's internal need-to-talk pressure had to be released. He grinned when Rodney broke it off, looking dazed under his surface annoyance.
"My sister's house," Rodney said. "Vancouver, remember, and — oh, crap, do I look okay?"
John twisted around, making his back pop this time, to see a woman — who looked startlingly like Rodney — open the front door of a cookie-cutter suburban house and then run across the lawn with her arms out. Rodney extricated himself with only a minor bump to the head and hurried around the front of the car. John grinned to himself: those excitable McKays. Rodney was three paces into the yard before he was caught up and swept right around in a ferocious hug. Rodney's sister was laughing and crying at the same time, wiping her face on the sleeve of her cardigan and touching Rodney as if cataloguing years of changes.
John hung back, getting their bags out of the trunk and setting them at the kerb, and then tried to be unobtrusive. Hands in his pockets, he studied the little cul-de-sac and the matching houses and guessed at the makes of the cars in the driveway.
"Sheppard," Rodney snapped, over-loud, and John blinked out of reverie. "He's still asleep, don't let the fact that he's upright fool you," Rodney went on as an aside to his sister. John raised his eyebrows at Rodney and smiled at his sister (not many people could do that; it was a talent). "Jeannie Miller, John Sheppard. John, Jeannie. Try not to hate each other."
Jeannie stuck out her hand. When John took it, meaning to shake, she reeled him in and squeezed him as if she was trying to pull him inside. "It is so good to finally meet you," she said right into his ear. "We never thought Rodney would find someone. I want to hear everything." She tightened her arms once, pressing her forehead to his shoulder, and then stepped back, grabbing his hand. "Let's get you in the house — need help with that, Mer?"
Rodney had one bag in each hand. John rolled his eyes and reached over to grab the heavier one.
"Show-off," Rodney said under his breath. John stared hard at him and mouthed, Mer?
"Boys," Jeannie said, her tone just sharp enough to shut them both up. John was amused (mentally picturing her in the military), but as soon as they were in the house he started to suspect he might be out of his depth. There were kids everywhere, it seemed, leaping at them from the furniture and jumping out with toys and other treasures to show off.
"Madison, Bradley, Robin," Jeannie said, pointing in rapidfire succession. "Kaleb, my husband. Kids," she said (not raising her voice much, but with the same intimidating authority), "Uncle Mer. Uncle John."
"Hiya," Rodney said, blinking under the sudden curious scrutiny, and hefted the bag in his hand. "Um. We brought presents."
John took a big step back, feeling no qualms about leaving Rodney to his fate. Jeannie sidled up to him and stood a little too close as she watched her husband and her progeny experience the wonder of eight million Lego robot parts, some assembly required.
"I appreciate," John said, and then had to stop and figure out how not to sound insulting.
Jeannie elbowed him. "How open-minded and tolerant we are, for Canadians? We're vegetarian academics, you think we agree with our homophobic laws?" She jabbed him again. "You might want to save the public kissing for when you're back in the U.S., though, much as I hate to say it. We've had. . . incidents."
John frowned. Rodney had told him about the sort of things that happened north of the border. "I'm kind of protective of your brother," he said, thinking that he'd be hard put not to beat the crap out of anyone who so much as insulted Rodney.
Jeannie gave him another bone-crunching hug. "I'm so glad that you are. You know," she said, lowering her voice, "we didn't hear from Mer for the first four years after we got married. He just. . . disappeared." She sounded a little lost. John took a breath and put his arm around her shoulders. "But then I started getting e-mails — random things, physics problems and essays on leadership and itemised lists of his favourite snack foods. And your name kept coming up, John this and John that, and I asked Kaleb, John, who's John? And he said, new boyfriend. He's usually wrong about that kind of thing," she confided. "He gloated for days when he found out he was right." She leaned into John. "So I hear you're going to Las Vegas after this."
"I have some loose ends to tie up there," John said, which was kind of true.
Jeannie looked up and gave him a flat, threatening stare. "If you two are planning on getting married without inviting us, I will be very, very upset."
"Who's getting married?" Rodney asked, walking over and crossing his arms defensively. His hair, for some reason, was sticking straight up.
"Your sister thinks I'm going to Vegas to get hitched to some guy named Mer," John said, smirking.
"Oh, hell no," Rodney growled, and jabbed his finger first at Jeannie and then at John. "That's at least two conversations I can't even consider having without being fortified with strong drink."
"Coffee maker's in the kitchen," Jeannie said. "You can explain about the name while we wait."
John couldn't tell if Rodney was really annoyed or faking. He hated when he wasn't reading Rodney right. "You don't have to," he said, catching Rodney's sleeve.
Rodney tilted his head, and then gave John a lopsided smile. "It's a family thing," he said. "That's why you're here. I mean, this is my family, and. . . and you're my family, too." He shrugged. "Plus, I'm pretty sure she won't have any pictures of me as a naked baby."
John ducked his head and kissed Rodney on the cheek. "That's one of the most romantic things you've ever said to me, Dr McKay."
"I expect you to reciprocate with embarrassing stories from your childhood."
John grinned wide. "In your dreams, Mer, in your dreams."