John shuffles into the kitchen to find Rodney standing at the counter like he's about to give the Ancient microwave a stern lecture.
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing!" Rodney says, spinning around, one hand deep in a huge bag of chocolate chips. John looks at the bag and Rodney removes his hand and shoves a few chips in his mouth defiantly.
"Okay." John shuffles over to the fridge, carefully opens the door, and stares down into it. Why is his beer so far away? All the way on the bottom shelf? He'll never be able to reach it down there. He wiggles his fingers at it. "Come to papa."
"You know you're not supposed to drink while you're taking those pills," Rodney says from behind him.
"It's just beer. It's like bread. In a can." He looks at Rodney out of the corner of his eye to see how his argument is being received. From his crooked frown, Rodney's not buying it, but John's on a roll.
"It's got yeast," John says. "And grain."
"And alcohol, so, no," Rodney says. "What are you doing up, anyway? I thought you were taking a nap."
"Aw," Rodney pouts at him, "grumpy baby."
John tries to hold him off, but his ribs hurt too much and Rodney nestles up close to him, fitting his body to John's, and kisses him on the face over and over, making wet smacking sounds until John snorts out a short, painful laugh. "Stop it, you freak."
"Poor baby," Rodney says, sounding serious now, and kissing him on the mouth, dark and chocolatey.
Over Rodney's shoulder, John sees that the flour, sugar, and salt canisters that Jeannie gave them as a housewarming gift have been pulled away from the wall and are staggered drunkenly across the counter. Their lids are off and one of them actually seems to have flour in it, which is weird because where did it even come from? Jeannie's too practical to ship flour over on the Daedalus, even as a joke, and John certainly hadn't bought it.
Rodney's lab scale is also on the counter.
"No, really, what are you doing in here?" John asks, eyes narrowed.
Rodney's chin comes up. "Baking."
"Why?" John asks slowly.
"I wanted to do something nice for you," Rodney says, irritated, like John has been taking up all his time with his cracked ribs and unreasonable demands instead of spending most of the day sleeping or staring at the walls.
"You're baking for me?"
"Why not? Any fool can follow a recipe. Of course, I had to borrow some things from the mess so I don't know what planet this flour came from, but Corporal Dharuna assured me it would work for cookies."
John takes a closer look at the flour and notices that it's brown and flaky, like tiny, tiny oats.
"I wanna help," John says.
"Really?" Rodney gives him a sweet smile. "Well, obviously you can't do anything strenuous, so creaming the butter and sugar is definitely out, but you could weigh the--"
John carefully grabs the bag of chocolate chips and cuddles it to his chest. "I'm in charge of these."
"So you're in charge of the chocolate chips," Rodney says, rolling his eyes, "and I'll do everything else."
"Mm," John agrees, shoving his hand in the bag.
Rodney wakes up the scale with a couple of sharp raps to its side. "Read me the ingredients. How much flour do I need?"
John looks around him for the recipe, then realizes he's got it in his hands. He focuses his blurry eyes on the back of the bag. "Thirteen and a half ounces." Rodney grunts and John does some messy math in his head. "Three hundred and eighty-three grams."
"You're so--" Rodney puts the flour down hard. "Here, I'm just going to say this: I know yesterday was hard for you because Ronon and I were on the other side of a blast door and there was a lot of shooting, but thank you for calling Lorne and waiting for backup instead of rushing in and trying to storm a heavily guarded bunker all by yourself. I like you, and I prefer you in one piece, and without your brains scrambled. So."
John waits to see if that's everything. When Atlantis finally got not one, but three new shrinks, John passed the news along during the next all-hands, encouraged the military personnel and support staff to take advantage of the resource, and didn't think any more of it. Then Rodney started going to therapy twice a week and John found himself blanketed in the frank expression of Rodney's innermost thoughts and feelings. John hated it. He didn't want to know everything Rodney was thinking, and he really didn't want to know how much time Rodney spent worrying about him, but it wasn't like John was going to tell him to stop. So it kept happening and John kept wishing it wouldn't, but eventually he got used to hearing how Rodney was feeling, and now it makes him feel strangely safe to know that Rodney has concerns about them and still thinks John's worth the trouble.
"I just asked myself what would Teyla do," John says, though that's only partly true. He did think of Teyla, relaxing on the seven beaches of Kalis with her husband and baby, but what really made John slow down was the thought that maybe he and Rodney could have that one day, a honeymoon, maybe a kid. Except they couldn't if John did something stupid and got himself killed like Rodney was always saying John was going to do, so he went against his instincts and called for help.
He got on the radio and told the team guarding the gate to get Lorne and something that could blow open a mountain. Then he found a good hiding place and settled in to wait. He didn't know why their attackers had left him behind. One moment his team had been strolling through the jungle searching for Ancient ruins and the next John was hit in the chest with a baton round and bunch of Genii-wannabes in mismatched uniforms were dragging Ronon and Rodney away in restraints. It was over by the time John got back to his feet. The wannabes had taken his P90 and now all he could do was sit around while his backup hiked in from the gate. It took forty minutes and felt like forever. John was about to stick his head up over the hill (and possibly get it shot off) when Lorne radioed to say he was five minutes out.
Lorne brought five Marines and one of the Yosu bombs Radek had been tinkering with and they blew the front door and went to get their people back. The bomb had turned the surrounding rock into glass and the rippled ground was hot under John's boots as he slid down into the crater where the door used to be.
The bunker was a dank maze filled with enemy soldiers and gunfire. John systematically worked his way deeper into the facility, stunning everyone in his path and listening to the patchy reports coming in over the radio. When Sergeant Cuinn announced she'd found them, John sagged against the wall and had to take a moment before he could start moving again.
Somehow John was the last one out. Lorne and the Marines were waiting inside the tree line and had formed a loose circle around Rodney and Ronon. Rodney was bleeding from the head and gripping a pistol he must have taken off a guard. Ronon's fists were bloody.
"About time you got here," Ronon said. Rodney just stared at John blankly, like he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
In the end, everyone made it home with only minor injuries. Rodney had a slight concussion from one of the guards slamming his head into the wall, and two of Ronon's fingers were broken, sustained while punching that same guard in the face. Lorne's still deaf in one ear, and the Marines who were closest to the blast are being treated for inhalation trauma, but John didn't ask them to do anything he wasn't willing to do himself. The only difference was that he wasn't doing it alone this time.
"Figured I could use the extra hands," John says.
Rodney jostles the crumbly flour into a bowl. "How unexpectedly sensible of you."
"We should make a double order," John says, feeling lighter, as if he were the one who'd unburdened himself. "Bring some to Lorne and the guys in the infirmary."
"Yes," Rodney sniffs, "along with the advice that one should duck when setting off experimental alien explosives."
"But did you see the crater it made? It was awesome. Lorne says it was totally worth the ringing in his ears."
Rodney turns around, a big wooden spoon in his hand. "You idiot, like I was interested in the size of the crater, mostly I wanted to know if you were still alive or if Ronon and I were going to have to carry you out of there in pieces."
"Hey, I'm here."
Rodney pokes him in the sternum with his spoon. "Keep it that way, mister."
"Crap!" Rodney drops the spoon. "I'm sorry. It's all this flour and baking powder; I'm turning into my sister. How are your ribs? Do you need an extra pill? Jennifer said you could take two if it gets bad."
"I'm okay," John says, because the spoon didn't hurt that much, he just wanted to move the conversation away from his impending death and onto happier subjects, like cookies. "Did you put the extra flour in?"
"I suppose," Rodney says, not really answering the question. "But this sets a dangerous precedent. If I have to make cookies for someone every time they rescue me from unfavorable circumstances, I'll never get any work done."
They get the dry ingredients measured out and John consults the recipe again. "This calls for four eggs."
Rodney points at a bowl that holds a speckled red egg the size of John's fist.
"Yikes. Where'd that come from?"
"You don't want to know," Rodney says. "Trust me."
John has to crack the egg because, seriously, it's got to be from an ostrich it's so big. The shell is thick and it takes a couple of good whacks before the egg falls out with a wet slurp. It looks normal enough, though the yolk is much bigger than it would be in a chicken egg and John wonders what kind of huge brainy babies this was meant to produce. He jiggles it in its bowl.
"It's still a bird egg, right?" John asks. "It's not, like, a lizard egg or anything."
Rodney just shakes his head. "Seriously, it's better if you don't know."
"Is it a lizard egg? Will Ronon know what it is? Wait, have we been eating these things all along?"
"It's from a bat," Rodney says, probably just to shut him up.
John feels his face twitching. Then he pictures what size the bat would have to be to lay an egg the size of his fist. "You're right," he says. "I didn't want to know that."
"I'm almost always right," Rodney says, and this is another product of regular therapy, a more realistic view of his abilities.
Rodney dumps an entire pound of government surplus butter into another bowl and starts smashing it with the back of his wooden spoon. John watches Rodney's arms flex for a while, hypnotized -- who knew baking was so sexy? or that you had to be so strong to cream butter? -- until it gets too exciting for him and he has to go sit on the couch.
Ten minutes later, Rodney comes into the room to retrieve the bag of chocolate chips and John wakes up enough to turn on the wireless. Radio Atlantis is one of Woolsey's pet projects and every Sunday evening, weather and Wraith permitting, he plays two hours of the best string music Pegasus has to offer. Right now it's Dr. Bosch-Gluck's program, which means Orillan trance and bird song. John breathes with the deep notes of the bass, slow and steady. It makes his ribs ache, but it's okay. It could have been much worse.
John comes out of a light doze when Rodney sits next to him and offers him a plate of cookies, still warm from the oven. John takes one, then another. They're lumpy and misshapen and some are a little burnt on the bottom, but they're made with love (and one bat egg) and they taste sweet and nutty; perfect.
"Thanks," Rodney says, "for rescuing me."
"Ditto," says John.