Three years. John's third Christmas without his best friend.
Rodney had been zapped by a machine and had gained incredible abilities. The price of it, though, was his body was dying from its forced evolution. He literally had to Ascend or die.
John had held out hope for a last minute "Hail Mary" save. Only it hadn't come, and Rodney had Ascended.
And the long three years without him began. Radek joined the Team and life went on.
Every now and again, John or Radek would hear Rodney's voice. Ideas would materialise that were completely insane – but would work spectacularly. That, to John, was proof that somehow Rodney was hanging around.
They lost Carson and Elizabeth. Moved Atlantis to a new world. Had two new commanders. Lost Teyla and rescued her and Torren was born in Radek's arms. They found Carson and moved Atlantis to Earth and back to Pegasus.
All in three years.
And it all seemed somehow much less without Rodney there to share it.
It was Christmastime and John found himself once again on the southeastern pier. He looked up and as the first stars appeared and whispered the same wish he'd made for three years.
"I wish you were here, Rodney."
I can be.
John gasped and whirled to face a smiling, transparent – "Rodney?"
The smile grew. Sorry it took me so long. They're more obstinate than anyone I've ever worked with. Even you!
John beamed, hearing that. "Rodney! How--"
I'm coming home, John – but it's going to be up to you. He gestured at himself. They are going to let me return. But not like this. This me.... The smile faded. That's the price I have to pay to return to you. To Atlantis. I have to return as something else.
"But – But it'll still be you, right?"
I'll always be me. Just not.... the me you knew....before. And here... here's where you come in.
"Anything, Rodney. Anything!"
His eyes locked onto John's. You have to love me. Every minute of every day. You have to love me.
"Rodney...." He had to force the words out past the lump in his throat. "Rodney – I... I ...I already do."
As a friend? As a lover? As family?
"Family. Always family."
He nodded. I'll see you in your room, John.
And he was gone.
John stood there like he'd been slapped. "In... in my room?"
Then he was tearing down the halls at a run, determined to get to his room as quickly as possible.
When he got there, he saw a column of light hovering over his bed, with Rodney smiling in it. John, he said, love me.
Rodney nodded in return, and closed his eyes. Light flared and when it faded, John felt his jaw slam open.
A little boy with huge blue eyes and blond curls stood there, swaying. He couldn't have been more than three or four. Those eyes focused on John, and he knew.
He knew. "Rodney."
Rodney's small knees buckled and John lunged, catching the slight form. He pulled his own t-shirt off and maneouvred it onto the boy, then pulled him close.
The child's arms wrapped around him and a trembling treble whispered, "Love me?"
"Always, Rodney." He brushed a kiss to the small forehead. "Always, always, always."
John was only barely aware he was rocking on his knees. His entire world was focused on the child in his arms and he heard himself say the words that would change everything.
"Yeah, Buddy. I've gotcha. Daddy's here."
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