Fandoms: SGA/SG1/ER/Lost/Grey's Anatomy/Eureka
Summary: John calls Rodney his Halley's Comet - but they both know it's more than just a pet name.
Follows Life Less Ordinary
John is willing to admit that he's not such a big fan of summer in Chicago. The heat and humidity drive people to desperately stupid acts, and before he knows it, he's up to his eyeballs in patients - each with a more ridiculous story than the last. He's just about ready to call it quits when a kid comes in with third degree burns because he tried to fry an egg on his forehead.
So when someone starts knocking on his door at seven in the morning on his day off, he's not amused.
'Er, hello,' says Rodney McKay like it hasn't been a year. 'How are you?'
Rodney's story may just win the prize.
'I didn't know where else to go. Sam's still in Colorado, so I couldn't stay with her. Um, I've been in Antarctica the last year. Special project...researching penguins. Did you get my letters?'
'You mean all two of them?' says John, leaning against the door frame in a wrinkled t-shirt and boxer shorts. 'Yeah, they made it here.'
Rodney looks crestfallen, and starts to explain, but John cuts him off with a gesture.
'You know what? I really don't care. It's good to see you.'
And he means it.
Rodney refuses to enjoy the Art Institute, but he salivates over the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, though he tries to disguise his joy with a mask of criticism and sarcasm.
John suffers through what he essentially considers a science lecture, because afterwards Rodney agrees to go to the Adler Planetarium.
'I always sort of wanted to be an astronaut,' John admits. 'Soar among the stars. I even considered joining the Air Force like my dad so I could fly, but I eventually gave in to family pressure and went into medicine instead.'
This sparks another long rant on wasted talents, and John is deeply amused when several people lean over to shush Rodney so they can hear the presentation.
'This is nothing like the real thing,' says Rodney smugly.
'How would you know?' John asks.
Rodney pauses, but then he says, 'If you're a real good boy, maybe some day I'll tell you.'
He never does.
Without warning, Rodney pops into his life every few months for a whirlwind weekend, and then disappears back to his secret government posting where he's incommunicado.
John calls Rodney his Halley's Comet, but they both know it's more than just a pet name.
John doesn't really mind - most of the time. He's very busy, doesn't have time for a proper social life, so Rodney's infrequent visits suit him just fine. Though there is something about the situation that bugs him just a little.
It's around Rodney's fourth fly-by that John asks, 'Am I the only person you know? Do you even have a family? Where do you live?'
'My sister and I aren't close,' Rodney replies stiffly. 'But if you'd prefer, I could go visit her on the rare occasions that I have time off from work instead of you.'
John doesn't feel the need to dignify that with a response.
Rodney's with him the day he gets the phone call, trying unsuccessfully to make pancakes on John's broken stove.
'John? It's Derek. Jack was on a flight from Sydney to L.A. The plane went down somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. They haven't confirmed it yet, but it's presumed everyone on board died.'
John doesn't remember crying, and he doesn't remember telling Rodney about how his cousins are like his brothers, but he does remember Rodney's palm rubbing circles on his back, and the mumbled reassurances that everything will be okay.
They say goodbye at the airport, John on his way to Seattle, Rodney off to who-knows-where, each clutching a worn duffel bag. John thinks that all he wants is for Rodney to say, 'Hey, why don't I come with you?' but they just stare at each other without speaking. Rodney pulls John into an awkward hug and releases him too soon, disappearing through the gate.
Seattle is cold and wet and rainy, and John doesn't like it at all.
'There's a spot open here for you if you'd like,' Derek says as they sit squashed uncomfortably in his trailer, poking at their food. 'I've got an in with the Chief, it'd be easy.'
'I have a job,' John replies tersely.
Derek's sigh is messy and rough. 'I'll be honest - my life is kind of shit right now. Now, with Jack - I could really use a friend around. Family. Come on, what's keeping you in Chicago? I know you, Johnny, you never stay in one place too long.'
John misses Jack. Jack broods and is often sullen, but he's the perfect compliment to Derek's ceaseless prodding. Jack would see how confused and disoriented John is, would be able to talk him down from the ledge he's climbed on. Jack knows what it's like to have a hero complex.
'I'll think about it,' says John.
'Seattle Grace, huh?' says Carter. 'I didn't know you were interested in surgery.'
'I don't know that I am,' John says, checking the board, trying to ignore how much everything aches. 'But they have other kinds of doctors there. It's a family thing.'
Carter nods; he understands about family things. 'I'll miss you, Shep, this place won't be the same without you."
John eats a hot dog on his last day in Chicago, and then wanders through the city's museums, but that only makes everything hurt more, so he goes home with a headache and decides to get drunk.
He ends up sleeping with someone whose name he doesn't remember in the morning, and flies out of O'Hare two hours later, heavy with inexplicable guilt.
Seattle Grace is almost the opposite of County: rich and clean and well-staffed, it's almost a joke. This isn't how a real hospital should look, John thinks, shiny with spit and polish, a facade, a mask. How can anyone be expected to save a life in a place this pristine?
John likes Miranda Bailey, a no-nonsense surgical resident with enough confidence and attitude for the entire hospital. He respects her from the first moment he meets her, after she takes one look at him and says, 'Oh, no, not another one.' She reminds him of some of the doctors back in Chicago; she's real.
She and Derek are good friends, as close as any surgeons can be, in John's opinion. He knows, after watching Derek interact with people, he doesn't want to be a surgeon; medicine is lonely enough without the insane competition and the desperate drive for perfection.
John's on a coffee break, still trying to get the lay of the land though he's been there a month, when he hears shouting.
'John Sheppard! How hard is that? I know he's here, just find him!'
John's heart catches in his throat and he has to force himself not to break into a run as he sees a familiar figure with lightly rumpled brown hair.
'It's okay, Olivia,' he says to the nurse, looking up at Rodney, stomach doing somersaults. 'I've got this.'
John asks, 'How'd you find me?'
Rodney blinks and stutters, 'I can always find you.'
John doesn't know what to say, but Rodney stumbles on.
'I mean, you told Dr. Carter you were moving here, so I just switched my flight and figured I'd bully the nurses until one of them told me where you were.'
'You flew to Chicago then to Seattle just to see me?'
'Well, I'm looking into a job posting in Oregon, so it's on the way...' Rodney trails off, then grabs John's arm. 'Aren't you going to say it's good to see me?'
John's never been great with words. 'I hate Seattle.'
But Rodney understands. 'Yeah, I know.'
'You remember how you said you wanted to become an astronaut?' Rodney asks, leaning on his elbow, his eyes especially blue in the half-light of John's bedroom. Torn clothes are flung every which way because John, so desperate for a connection with someone, anyone, can't be bothered with anything so prosaic as buttons or zippers.
'Sure,' John mumbles, half-asleep, listening to the patter of the rain on the roof.
Rodney sits up straighter and runs a hand through his hair.
'I'm not good at the big gesture,' he blurts out, and John's eyes open wider, his attention caught. 'In fact, I pretty much suck at this whole thing.'
'What are you talking about?'
Rodney leans over John to get something out of his duffel bag, then thrusts a piece of paper into John's hands.
'You're wasting your brilliance here,' Rodney continues a mile a minute, 'and I know I came into your life too late to talk you out of being a doctor, so I figure you might as well put that training to decent use.'
John stares at the letter.
'You said you hate Seattle,' Rodney adds, biting his lip. 'Oh, hell, would you just say something?'
John blinks, thinking he must still be dreaming. 'What the hell's a Stargate?'
Rodney says, 'Just come to Colorado. Talk to Samantha Carter. You don't have to decide now.'
What John should say is, 'Can't, I'm working.'
What he says instead is, 'Okay. Why not?'
John doesn't know much about Rodney McKay, doesn't know where he works exactly or what he does exactly or if he's really a career criminal or even his middle name, but somehow he has no problem agreeing to fly off to another state with the man - and it has nothing to do with being half-asleep.
That's the moment John realizes he's in love with a strange Canadian astrophysicist who passes in and out of his life like a shooting star.
Samantha Carter's just as beautiful and brilliant as he remembers her. It's fucking intimidating, especially after being dragged to Colorado and shown a secret military base beneath Cheyenne Mountain. Then there's the whole, 'hey, we can visit other planets through this giant metal ring' thing, and John's really kind of surprised he hasn't thrown up yet.
'John,' she says warmly, taking his hand. 'It's good to see you again.'
'How's your cousin?' he asks, mostly because he can't think straight.
'He's getting married,' Samantha replies, smiling at Rodney who hovers in the background, nervous. 'But he's added his enthusiastic recommendation to Dr. McKay's.'
'Oh.' John looks around for moral support, and Rodney steps up to the plate.
'I've explained the program,' he says, and a look akin to a smirk crosses Samantha's face. 'He knows what he'd be getting into.'
'Somehow, I doubt that.'
'I understand the risk,' says John, and though his stomach is in knots because, hey, he's only a doctor, at the same time he's exhilarated, because maybe, just maybe, this is what he's been waiting his entire life for.
'Well, John,' says Samantha. 'We're starting a new Stargate program out of Eureka, a small town in Oregon where my cousin Jack is sheriff. We're going to have to build a new team, and McKay here thinks you'd be a good addition to the medical roster.'
Life has been moving just a little too fast for John Sheppard in the last few months, and he can't wrap his head around it. All he knows is that he hates Seattle and doesn't want to be alone anymore.
Rodney's watching, holding his breath, and John thinks he must be losing his mind because he says, 'Great, where do I sign up?'
Derek asks why.
John considers saying for the sex and the chance to meet aliens, but decides his cousin's had it rough enough.
'I came here for you,' John says bluntly. 'Now I'm going to make myself happy.'
'I'm sorry I tried to turn you into Jack,' Derek says, equally as blunt. 'Good luck. Don't forget to write.'
Hands loosely entwined, John and Rodney lie out under the stars. Rodney points out Polaris, the North Star. John asks if they can visit it, and Rodney replies, 'Of course not, it's a star, not a planet, and it hasn't got a Stargate.'
They settle into a comfortable silence again.
'So this is your idea of "the big gesture"?' John comments.
'Letting you in on the biggest secret of my life and offering you the chance to fulfill a childhood dream? I'd say that's pretty big, yes.'
'You could have just given me a key to your apartment. Or, you know, at least told me where you live.'
Rodney snorts. 'And when I told you that I've lived in the lost city of Atlantis for the past two years, in another galaxy, I'm sure that would have gone over well.'
'At least now I know why you never called.'
'This is the big gesture. I don't want to be just a comet anymore.'
'Great,' says John, staring at the cosmos, wondering just what the hell he's gotten himself into. 'Rodney McKay: not a comet. I think I'll have that printed on a t-shirt.'
And even though they still don't know each other's favorite flavor of ice cream, or worst high school memory, Rodney knows John all too well.
'It's Meredith, actually. Rodney's my middle name.'