Rodney was woken by a thump and a moaned curse. He allowed himself a moment to roll his eyes at the low ceiling of their visitor's tent and listen to John's raspy breathing, then he threw back his – thick, comfy, warm – blankets and climbed out of the surprisingly large bed, crouching down to grab John's upper arms.
There was a pause during which he waited for the argument, but then John just sighed.
His voice was hoarse, the one syllable enough to induce a bout of coughing that sounded positively painful. Rodney pulled a face, clumsily patted John's back and waited patiently until the fit was over. John was breathing in hard, short gasps, listing against Rodney as he pulled him to his feet.
His body felt far too warm.
"Ready?" Rodney asked again, and this time, John only nodded. If Rodney had been inclined toward metaphors or New Age nonsense, he might have mused on the exhaustion hovering around John like a heavy black cloud. Thankfully, he was a rationalist.
"Come on," he said, and together they made their way through the torch-lit Athosian camp, stumbling toward the closest outhouse.
Such was Rodney's life these days.
When the first people on Atlantis had started to fall sick with what Jennifer diagnosed as a harmless, but nonetheless annoying strain of the common flu, the Team had exchanged a Look and, with Woolsey's blessing, fled to join the Athosians on the mainland.
Rodney wasn't sure why they'd even bothered. John had a cold at least once every winter, regular as clockwork. His nose started to run if someone even so much as mentioned the word "snow" in passing. Of course he'd catch the flu.
"How is he?" Teyla's voice came from just outside the tent flap. She and Ronon were as healthy as anyone could hope for, but what with her taking care of a baby, neither John nor Rodney were prepared to take the risk of letting her into their germ-infested yurt. This meant that Ronon was forbidden to enter too, on account of his playing babysitter to give Teyla and Kanaan some private time, but then Ronon found sick people boring anyway.
"Pathetic," Rodney replied, safe in the knowledge that John was asleep and wouldn't retaliate. The silence outside spoke volumes, though, so he sighed and relented. "His Royal Crankiness is asleep, but earlier he was coughing so hard I thought he'd hack up a lung. His fever's gone down a little, but he's still got a sore throat and barely enough strength to fluff his own pillow. And he won't admit it, but I know his head is killing him."
"You are a true friend, to take such good care of him." Teyla sounded amused, and Rodney scowled at the tent flap.
"Well, somebody has to," he said darkly, wishing not for the first time that said somebody wasn't him.
Rodney, of course, took great care in getting vaccinated against every virus and bacterium he allowed even the slightest chance of jumping the bridge between two galaxies. He paid no heed to Jennifer's gentle teasing nor his supposed friends' more blatant accusations of paranoia and/or hypochondria. In a sea of diseases, Rodney was the lone rock of immunity.
Annoyingly, this made him the perfect caretaker.
"I brought you some tea. Bernin says it's soothing."
They had decided – that was, Rodney had decided and Teyla had backed him up – that for the time being, John was to rest his voice lest he end up sounding like a chain smoker. Rodney had taken great joy in thoroughly dismantling John's favourite pet theories about the Joker being Jason Todd's father, John fuming silently beneath his heap of blankets all the while.
John's expression right now was more than a little dubious. Given that the back of his throat was inflamed a painful red and he had trouble swallowing his own spit, never mind scalding-hot liquid, Rodney could almost understand. Except for the fact that Rodney was, hello, a genius.
"Oh, please. Give me some credit."
John glared from red-rimmed eyes, but Rodney ignored it in favour of pulling John upright and pressing the mug into John's hand, nudging it against his lips. With a mulish expression, John took a sip.
The tea was cold.
With a small, blissful sound, John closed his eyes for a moment as the cool liquid soothed his raw throat. Then he gave Rodney a look of such utter adoration that Rodney's mouth went dry so fast he thought, a little hysterically, that there should be steam coming out of his nose from the evaporating moisture.
"Yes, well," he muttered, keeping a hand on John's back to help him sit upright as he drank, and if his voice was as hoarse as John's had been the night before, neither of them mentioned it.
John with a fever always meant John with nightmares. They were all used to that by now, reluctantly ignoring the moans and twitches because if there was one thing John hated more than nightmares, it was the mortification of being woken from one.
But when he'd let out a pitiful noise and shouted, "McKay!" in a voice so heartbroken and devastated it was almost a physical pain to hear it, Rodney had been at his side before he'd even consciously decided to move, a hand on John's shoulder to shake him out of his dream. John had blinked himself halfway to wakefulness, his eyes glassy and disoriented and wild until his gaze fell on Rodney, upon which his expression had relaxed into a relief so profound that for a moment, Rodney had forgotten how to breathe.
Even after John had fallen back into a restless sleep, there'd been an ache in Rodney's chest that wouldn't go away for hours.
Rodney was woken by the bed dipping beside him and his sleep-heavy body rolling against what felt like someone's knee.
"What?" he mumbled, too tired to open his eyes.
"I'm cold." The whisper was still hoarse, but the anticipated coughing fit didn't come. Bernin's tea – and the meds Jennifer had sent with them as a precaution – appeared to be as effective as she'd promised... Rodney could even hear the whine in John's voice.
"You were the one who insisted on his own bed," Rodney reminded him indignantly, the effect only slightly marred by a yawn, but he scooted over when John's knee gently prodded his side.
"Changed my mind," John said, now sounding distinctly petulant. A draft of cold air made Rodney shiver as John slipped beneath the blankets, but his body was enticingly warm. Rodney pressed against it before John had finished settling down, one arm thrown across John's waist, head on his bony shoulder.
"You're still running a fever," he said, feeling a little guilty for enjoying the heat nevertheless.
"Hmmm." John's body relaxed against his own, fitting into Rodney's side like it belonged there. Which it did. "Missed you."
Rodney's throat went unaccountably tight.
"I was right here, all the time," he said, and pressed a kiss against the soft stubble on John's cheek. John let out a small sigh, and moments later his breath was even and slow, if slightly congested.
Rodney briefly tightened his arm around John's waist, pressing his nose against John's neck, John's familiar scent following him into sleep.
John's run-in with the flu lasted eight days, during which Rodney had to leave the tent twice to take a prolonged walk through the woods surrounding the Athosian settlement, working off some of his frustration. It was either that or smother John with his own pillow. John coughed, sniffed, glared and generally sulked a lot, and Rodney wasn't the most patient man to begin with.
On the ninth day, though, John woke bright-eyed and energetic, the only remnants of his illness a reddened nose, dry lips and a slightly rough voice.
"Thanks for not killing me in my sleep," he said, one corner of his mouth pulled up in a self-deprecating smirk. His hair was limp and a little shaggy, the stubble on his cheeks well on its way to a beard, and the skin was peeling left and right of his nose.
Rodney felt his own cheeks heat up even as his heart decided to skip a beat or two.
"Yes, well." He cleared his throat and circled a finger between them. "In sickness and in health, and all... that."
John's smirk softened into a smile, affection clear in his eyes.
"Yeah," he said, and reached up to pull Rodney down on the bed with him. "Me, too."
Summary: John had a cold at least once every winter, regular as clockwork. His nose started to run if someone even so much as mentioned the word "snow" in passing. Of course he'd catch the flu.