John sat by Rodney's bedside, watching the measured rise and fall of his breathing and trying hard not to look at the obscene tube coming from his mouth.
The surgery had gone well, Carson had told him. Rodney was going to live. The explosion that had picked him up and thrown him across the room into the wall had done a number on his insides – but he was going to live.
And he was ultimately going to be okay.
After the Seige they'd just gone through, and then to have this happen --- it was unfair. It was just flat-out unfair.
They needed to have a moratorium on crises around here for awhile. Give everyone a chance to recover.
John snorted. If it were only that easy.
His radio chirped and he pressed the button. "Sheppard."
"Colonel." Radek's voice, very soft. "You need to hear this."
And voices filled John's ears. What they said had him straightening in his chair as his lips thinned. Abruptly, with one smooth motion, he was out of the chair and striding out of the Infirmary as fast as his legs could take him while he radioed Teyla to come sit with Rodney for a bit.
John strode into the Mess Hall and right over to a long table full of new soldiers and new scientists. They didn't notice him at first, and went on badmouthing Rodney, making jokes out of it.
Suddenly one of the new soldiers noticed him and jerked to his feet. "Colonel, sir!"
"As you were," he said, and the man sat down. He studied them for a long moment, then said, "So I hear you don't like McKay."
"The man's irresponsible!" one of the scientists snorted. "He's reckless and mule-headed and won't listen to anybody!"
"He can be that way," John agreed. Then he leaned forward placing his fists on the table and leaning in so he was closer to them all. His voice dropped to a dangerous, soft purr.
"But if it wasn't for McKay, you wouldn't be here now. Two hundred and fifty-nine people stepped through that Gate to get here. Because of Rodney McKay, two hundred and two are still alive."
"Colonel," a young lieutenant spoke up. "Scuttlebutt at the SGC is that he's prickly and persnickety and doesn't play well with others."
John looked at him. "Yeah, well, scuttlebutt hasn't seen him up to his elbows in Ancient tech to try to save the city. Scuttlebutt hasn't seen him go for nearly 72 hours without rest and very nearly work himself into a hypoglycemic coma just to try to keep everyone around him alive. Scuttlebutt hasn't seen him drag himself from his room at 4 AM after going to bed at 2 AM just because there's a malfunction that only he can trace. And scuttlebutt sure as hell didn't see him five hours ago get caught in an explosion as he tried to evacuate the Jumper Bay!"
He looked over the table again. "The SGC hasn't stood beside McKay as he fires a weapon he'd never even touched three months ago and trusted him with its life because it knew McKay wouldn't let it down. The SGC hasn't set up with him and listened to him cry because he couldn't save a friend who blew up on a satellite. Or the one who put a bullet in his own brain because McKay was trying to save him when he couldn't be saved. Or the ones who melted from the inside out when they triggered a disease that McKay specifically told them not to mess with."
John straightened up. "You only knew him from Earth, gentlemen. That wasn't where he belonged. Atlantis is not his posting – it's his home. You wondered who needed Rodney McKay?" He gestured, his movement taking in the city. "Look around."
"Colonel," one of the scientists began. "I--"
"And you know something?" John interrupted. "I'd rather have McKay at my back in a firefight than ten squadrons of you newcomers." He looked at the scientists again. "I'd rather have him working on Atlantis's systems than ten shiploads of your lot. Because McKay gives a damn."
He tapped the table with his fist. "Atlantis needs Rodney McKay, gentlemen. She doesn't need you."
And with that, he spun on his heel and walked away, leaving a table full of stunned silence in his wake.
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