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FIC: Rule Breaker (Amnesty Week - Rule)

Title: Rule Breaker
Author: Archet
Written for sga_saturday’s Amnesty Week #19 prompt: Rule
Characters/Pairings: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay, Jennifer Keller
Rating: R
Word Count: 2,027
Warnings: non-graphic but serious injury to major character
Summary: Jennifer’s hand covered his, a steady touch and John didn't want to look at her, but he did it anyway. He owed her.
Disclaimer: I did not create these characters, but I adore them anyway.
Feedback: welcomed and appreciated

John entered the infirmary almost at a trot, long legs eating up square footage. At the far end of the room Keller pulled a privacy curtain around a bed, a bundle of bloodstained bandages held in her gloved hand. John slowed his pace, took a deep breath, and approached the doctor.

“How is he?”

Keller turned and poked the tangle of bandages into a bin by the wall emblazoned with a black and yellow biohazard sticker. John’s gaze fixed on the bin and when Keller peeled off her latex gloves and slipped them into the slot he blinked, looked away.

“He’s stable and resting,” Keller said.

“Can I see him?” John asked.

“Sure, Colonel,” Keller replied, sounding a little tired, but when John started forward she reached out and caught his arm in a tight grip. She nodded toward the sink in the corner of the infirmary. “You’ll need to wash up, first.”

John had tensed under her touch, but relaxed as soon as she released him. Of course, he should’ve thought of washing. He moved to the sink, turned on the hot water tap, pumped a generous amount of antibacterial soap out on his hands from the receptacle affixed to the wall. He concentrated on thoroughly lathering up, all the way to his elbows.

The sudsy water swirled down the drain and for a moment John leaned on the lip of the metal basin, head bowed, hands held under the scalding stream of water. He smiled to himself, remembering the night before in Rodney’s bathtub. Rodney loved hot baths, and he loved sharing them with John, even more.

Giving himself a mental shake, John straightened, rinsed well, shut off the water and reached for the towel lying folded next to the sink and dried off.

Keller was in the middle of the room, standing between John and where Rodney lay on the bed, her head bent over a datapad. She didn’t immediately look up when John approached.

“All done,” John prompted.

Keller lifed her head, raised her chin. “You weren’t with him when it happened?” She’d tried for conversational, but hadn’t quite succeeded. John heard the accusation buried in the counterfeit tone loud and clear.

John shook his head. “No,” he replied tightly. “He was out with Major Lorne’s team. They got ambushed. Not Lorne’s fault-should have been routine-just checking out some weird energy readings.”

He shut up, not about to go into any further details. Not about to explain himself in the middle of the fucking infirmary.

Keller offered him a strained smile, perhaps a little apologetic, more a tightening of the mouth, than anything. Impatient, John frowned at the insistent urge to smack her pretty face. It wasn’t a nice feeling, and quite frankly he’d had enough of not nice feelings, for one day.

Keller turned abruptly, motioned John forward. “He’s still unconscious. Will be for several hours, I expect.”

“That’s okay. I can wait.”

Keller didn’t look over but acknowledged him with a single nod, walked to the privacy curtain and drew it back a little. “Please, try not to touch him, too much. He really doesn’t need that shoulder jostled and-well he really shouldn’t even have visitors yet.”

God, but John wanted to smack her. “Fine,” he said shortly.

Keller stared at him a moment, seemed to want to say more but stopped herself, turned and walked away. The curtain swayed gently in her wake. John reached out, pulled it aside.

Rodney rested beneath a light blue blanket, pulled halfway up his bare torso, and it hit John that they’d probably had to cut off his uniform, to get to his wounds. A thick pad of bandages covered Rodney’s left shoulder, a cocoon of gauze and surgical tape. A dime-sized stain shone red through the pad.

Fuck, hadn’t Keller just changed that? It was going to need attention again, soon.

John stepped in past the curtain, close to Rodney’s side. He reached out, but stopped short of touching Rodney, not sure he should risk breaking that rule, just yet. Rodney looked so…still. It freaked John out a little. He rested his hands on the bedrail and stared down at Rodney’s pale, slack face.

“God, you’re such a pain in the ass.”

Sedated out of his mind, Rodney couldn’t possibly reply. John stood frozen and waited, just in case. Sometimes with Rodney, you never knew.

The infirmary was quiet except for the steady beep and whir of machines crouched around the bed, monitoring Rodney’s vitals: heartbeat, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and a host of other things. John took comfort in the even rhythms of Rodney’s life - still in progress - measured out on the digital displays.

Rodney’s utter motionlessness had John afraid to even breathe in his direction. He stared at Rodney’s chest for a few tense seconds until he saw the gentle rise and fall. Something inside him gradually eased.

From just outside the curtain Keller waited a good ten-count, and then stepped alongside John. “He’s going to be okay, you know,” she said softly, voice kind.

John turned and met her gaze head-on. Keller hadn’t been kind to him in weeks.

“It was close,” he said, not guessing or questioning.

Jennifer nodded, lips pressed together, face tight as if to flatten out the emotion John could read plain as day. Keller had always been pretty transparent, wore her emotions on her face. She had that in common with Rodney.

“It was close.”

John turned away to hide the emotion on his own face, because god, he needed to touch Rodney, and he was pretty sure Keller was right, and that he wasn’t supposed to. That…just felt so wrong. His fingers tightened around the bedrail.

“Tell me,” John got out, managing to sound reasonable and sane.

Jennifer hesitated. Maybe she didn’t want to relive it, but John needed to hear it.

“He was shocky, bleeding out. The bullets-well, one was in his lung. The other one,” she paused, gathered herself, and John fought the urge to grab her, shake it out of her.

“The other one was lodged in his shoulder. He coded on the table, but we got him back.”

John abruptly sat down, and it was a good thing the chair was next to Rodney’s bed, canted at an angle as if put there expressly for the purpose of catching him when he legs turned to water. He wondered meanly, if it were anyone else but him, if Keller would’ve kept the part about Rodney coding to herself.

John drew in a shaky breath. Rodney had died. Rodney had died and been brought back, and John hadn’t been there for any of it. Goddamnit.

Rodney’s right arm lay outside the blankets, IV taped to the back of his hand. The majority of the blood had been swabbed away but John could see traces of it in the creases between Rodney’s fingers. He let go of the rail and scooted his chair until his knees bumped against the metal bed frame.

“The surgery went very well, actually. We’ll have to go back in, later, when he can handle it and fix some of the mess in his shoulder.”

John rested his hands on his knees, gripped hard, fighting the need to confirm that warmth, life, still simmered under Rodney’s skin. It was irrational, John knew Rodney was alive…but he’d never seen Rodney so pale, not even after the time they’d pulled him shaking, bleeding and a little crazy from the bottom of an ocean.

Jennifer’s hand covered his, a steady touch and John didn’t want to look at her, but he did it anyway. He owed her. She leaned slightly into his space, dark eyes catching his, intent.

“He’s going to be okay, John.”

“He is?” John hated the break in his voice. He hated it because he’d been breaking a little bit at a time since he’d gated back from the umpteenth harvest festival and found blood all over the gateroom floor. He hated it because this was the first human moment he’s had with Jennifer Keller since Rodney didn’t propose to her and didn’t move in with her, since Rodney had nearly stroked out trying to let her down easy, weeks ago.

“He is,” Jennifer said quietly. She made it sound like a promise and John had wondered if he would ever like Keller again, and maybe, this was that moment.

He swallowed thickly; spoke past the hard knot in this throat. “That’s good.”

A quick squeeze and Jennifer let go, stepped back. “Look, I’ll be here all night. You don’t have to-“

“No,” John blurted. “No, I’ll hang around.”

“All right,” she said, took one careful step away, paused. “You know, he saved that Marine.”

John nodded, looked over to another bed, another still figure under another blue blanket. He knew. Of course he knew. He’d spent the better part of the last four hours managing the situation from the control room while Rodney had fought to stay alive.

“Will Marks keep his leg?” John asked. The gunshot had been a bad one, just above the knee.

“He will. He’s gonna be fine. They’re both going to be fine.”

John let that settle, happy to just believe in it. Teyla and Ronon had told him the same thing, an hour ago when he was still stuck in the control room, coordinating with Lorne’s team. Rodney’s going to be fine and John doesn’t doubt it, but being there, guarding the stillness is what he needed more than the words.

By the time he managed to get his fingers uncurled from his knees Jennifer was moving back toward her desk.

“Thank you,” John said to her back, and when she turned on him her eyes were hard. It was a startling look on her open face.

“You don’t have to thank me,” she said, voice pitched low. I didn’t do it for you lay unspoken between them, but John heard it just the same.

“But I do. Thank you,” he repeated, and John knew she’d never believe him if he said that he’d never meant to hurt her, so he didn’t say it. Some of it must’ve shown on his face, though, because something in Keller’s eyes shifted, softened, and maybe she was more forgiving than John had imagined.

“John…I don’t…it’s still hard, for me sometimes.” She looked down at Rodney’s still face. “Especially like this.”

John nodded. The thing was, he did know. “I know. I’m sorry.”

Keller just looked at him for a long moment. “He’s going to be fine,” she finally said, then turned and walked away without looking back.

John released a long breath. Carefully, he reached out through the gap in the bedrail. Mindful of the IV lead, he gently laid his hand on the vulnerable skin on Rodney’s forearm, just above the wrist, a place he’d caught and held a hundred times before. Rodney felt cool to the touch but John waited it out, brushing his thumb slowly back and forth. He waited, waited, and yes, there was the warmth, slowly rising up through the coolness.

John leaned close. “You broke the rule, Rodney.”

Rodney answered with a breath, repeated it, and then added another. It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t nearly enough, but John could wait until there was more.

“You went and got shot without me. What did we say about that?”

The automatic blood pressure cuff wrapped around Rodney’s bicep suddenly hissed and filled, dutifully measuring Rodney’s life. John kept his grip on Rodney’s wrist from going tight as the numbers flashed up. They weren’t great…but they weren’t awful, either. John rested his chin on the bedrail; truly relaxing for the first time in hours.

“Hey, did I tell you what Ronon stepped in on the way that the harvest festival?” John asked, lips curved, almost, into a smile. “You would’ve loved it. Man, the look on his face. I don’t think I’ll loan you out to Lorne and his team, though, anymore. You missed all the fun.”

Rodney breathed, slow and steady, and John knew they’d laugh about it later. John looked forward to it. He counted on it, actually.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
I like this a lot. The suggestion of Rodney and Jennifer's past relationship and the cold yet mostly professional way John and Jennifer relate now is very interesting.
Nov. 10th, 2011 04:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really wanted Jennifer to still be carrying a torch for Rodney, and I envisioned she and John's relationship to be rather strained. It would be terrifically difficult for Jennifer, to be in the position of treating them both as patients and yet still having feelings for Rodney, and some animosity for John. Thanks for reading! ;)
Nov. 9th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. What a vivid and raw portrayal of John during such a vulnerable moment.

I like that Rodney saved the Marine, and the tension between John and Jennifer is real and tangible. Your opening line is exquisite--John's long legs eating up square footage is a line I won't soon forget.

Thank you for sharing this. I'm so glad we have these amnesty periods so we can see these pieces we might not have otherwise seen. You are a beautiful writer, and I look forward to more of your work!
Nov. 10th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I'm thrilled that John's vulnerability and anxiety felt very immediate. When I started this the tension between John and Jennifer was much, much milder, but somehow just kept getting wound tighter and tighter. I liked the idea of Jennifer carrying a torch for Rodney in a big way, and it interested me how she, and John, would cope with the situation and with each other.

Your opening line is exquisite This line was inspired by the way (I think it was in The Shrine) John takes off running from the gateroom to the infirmary to check on an unconscious Rodney, after they come back to Atlantis after being stuck in the puddle jumper.

Thanks for reading! ;)

Edited at 2011-11-10 04:30 pm (UTC)
Nov. 9th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
This is heart-breaking! I loved the tension between John and Jennifer and John telling Rodney that he broke the rule! Naughty of him! Perhaps John should punish him when he recovers from his injury! :D
Nov. 10th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm really pleased the tension and John's concern for Rodney came across so clearly. There was a lot for both Jennifer and John to cope with!

Naughty of him! Perhaps John should punish him when he recovers from his injury

Mmmm, I like the way you think! Maybe a good spanking is in order, *g*
Nov. 9th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
Nice work. Really nice.
Nov. 10th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you liked this, ;)
Nov. 9th, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)
This is great - really liked how you had John and Jennifer interact here.
Nov. 10th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC)
Many thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed John and Jennifer's moment here. Thanks for reading! ;)
Nov. 9th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
Very nice--focusing on this intense aftermath, both of the injury and the emotional fall-out from Rodney's having rejected Keller for John. The details in thoughts, dialogue, and description make us feel and live through these moments with John. You do a really good job of capturing the complexity now of John and Jennifer's current ongoing professional relationship.
Nov. 10th, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your kind comments. I'm really pleased that both John and Jennifer's feelings and motivations seemed to come across clearly and strongly. I think in this version of them, John and Jennifer's relationship is extremely complex, it was a lot of fun to explore--I'm happy to hear some of that complexity shone through.

Thanks so much for reading, glad you enjoyed this, ;)
Nov. 10th, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC)
You are most welcome.
Nov. 10th, 2011 12:54 am (UTC)
I loves me some hurt!Rodney and angsty!John. So wonderful. I loved the emotions of this. How understated and yet gripping it was!
Nov. 10th, 2011 04:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm thrilled you enjoyed this, they way John and Jennifer related to one another here. Thanks for reading! ;)
Nov. 10th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
Agonizing and beautifully understated. Lovely writing!
Nov. 10th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed this moment with them, even if it was a little tense. Thanks for reading! ;)
Nov. 10th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)

Awesome angst, as we has RodneyWhump coinciding with the fallout of the McKellar breakup. John and Jennifer are obviously barely able to keep it professional, while both worrying over Rodney's injury. Interesting twist. :)
Nov. 10th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I found it really interesting to explore this scenario. I'm a big fan of Rodney!whump, and worrying!John! *g* So glad you enjoyed this particular take on their relationship/s. Thanks for reading & letting me know you liked!
Nov. 13th, 2011 12:02 pm (UTC)
This was wonderful. I loved how you told this huge story, how you showed us the emotions but in such a spare, controlled way. Not one superfluous word. Fantastic storytelling!

(And as a person guilty on many many occasions of having enough superflous words that I often can't get my stories finished by the deadline, I admire this skill very much)
Nov. 13th, 2011 07:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you so, so much! I really wanted this to feel immediate and 'real' but not over the top, I'm glad you felt their feelings here seemed authentic.

And as a person guilty on many many occasions of having enough superflous words that I often can't get my stories finished by the deadline

Eeee! I have that problem too! Sometimes I get too caught up in the image or idea of something, and have to remember to just pull back and tell a story, you know. (and I could really benefit in finidng a regular beta-er! ;P ) Thanks so much for your kind comments, I'm really happy you enjoyed this.!

Edited at 2011-11-14 07:24 pm (UTC)
Nov. 15th, 2011 12:06 pm (UTC)
Nice job of John and Keller coming to terms....and so John like at the end.....

Nov. 16th, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you liked this, and thought John's was true to characther. Thanks for reading!
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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