Jeannie backed away from the guestroom as quietly as she could, the words a whisper on her lips. The last thing she had expected to find when entering her guestroom was John Sheppard with his sweater on the bed beside him, a rubber tourniquet on his bicep, and a needle in his arm.
The door had been partially open, so she could only hope that she hadn't been seen. She needed to think. Her first thought was to approach things logically. This wasn't some stranger she'd seen shooting up in her guestroom, it was John. Her brother's boyfriend, and the military commander of Atlantis. It just didn't make sense. So she tried asking him about it, indirectly. She asked about family medical conditions, if there had been any recent accidents on Atlantis, anything that might account for why he was sticking a needle in his arm in her guestroom.
All she got was a warm smile and cheerful evasions. She began to wonder just how well she knew him, especially as she realized that she knew almost nothing about him. He was charming and witty, but then her first college boyfriend had been, too.
The third morning she found a syringe in the guestroom, she realized that this was serious. He was injecting something on a daily basis, and the syringe was the wrong size for insulin. She should know; her first roommate at college had been a Type I Diabetic. So John was using, and using often. She didn't even know if Mer knew. She didn't want to think that he was just ignoring this, because John needed help.
After another day of consideration, Jeannie decided on a course of action. Decision made, with righteous anger fully in hand and possessing all the best intentions, Jeannie stormed into the guestroom. John was in the process of putting away his paraphernalia, a rubber tourniquet still in place around his bicep.
She shook her head. "I don't want to hear it."
"No, really, I think I should explain." He looked concerned now, and she felt some small measure of justification. He damn well better be concerned.
She grabbed his arm, pulled off the tourniquet and threw it onto the bed as she hauled him to his feet. This was going to destroy her brother, but maybe he could get through it. She could feel the muscles in her jaw clenching. "You can explain to Mer."
"No, Jeannie, that's not a good – "
"Meredith! You get out of the basement and into the living room this minute!"
John flinched away from her as she put pressure on his elbow, but she refused to release her grip. A moment later Mer emerged, grumbling about obnoxious siblings. Mer stopped when he saw them standing near the couch, and his expression shifted. "What's wrong?"
Jeannie released Sheppard, pushing him toward the couch. "You, sit." He opened his mouth to protest, but seemed to think better of it. She turned to her brother and pointed to the armchair. "You, there."
Mer crossed his arms and didn't move. "No. I will not be ordered around like your errant spawn without explanation. You want me to sit, you tell me why I had to leave the stereo-system in pieces."
Jeannie fought the urge to roll her eyes; even with all his growth in the last few years Mer still acted like a wronged five year old. She really shouldn't be this surprised. She took a deep breath, and made an effort to at least appear rational. "You want explanations? Why don't you start by telling me why your boyfriend was shooting up in my GUEST ROOM!!"
There was a moment of pin-drop silence, and then both men started talking at once.
"Jeannie, wait, that's not what was going on..."
"Oh my God! I thought you weren't going to use that stuff!"
Jeannie's head snapped around. "You KNEW??"
Meredith shifted awkwardly and avoided her gaze. "Well, not exactly..."
That was it. It was an effort not to growl, but she managed it. Somehow. "Well, what, exactly?"
Her brother turned to John, instead. "You said you wouldn't."
John shrugged and looked about four years old. "I just needed something to take the edge off."
Meredith sputtered for a moment. "Something to take the edge off?? Do you have any idea what that can do to you? We talked about this!"
"No, Rodney. You talked. I nodded occasionally. You're an artificial; it's different for you and you know it." John had crossed his own arms, leaning back against the couch with a stubborn look on his face. This was obviously an old argument, but Jeannie wasn't sure it was still about John's drug addiction. Whatever it was, it was important – it was the first time since he'd been ten that her brother was demonstrating a nervous tick.
Her brother's hand shook when he gestured at John, and it was obvious that she'd been forgotten. "This is your brain we're talking about. Do you want to end up a vegetable? Because I'm sure Carson would love someone to try a lobotomy on and it would save years off my life. I'm a very important man, you know. I don't have time to be worrying about what experimental poison you're injecting into your veins." He looked down at his hand, and watched as it continued to shake. "Oh. That might not be so good." He swayed on his feet.
* * *
John was on his feet by the time Mer had finished talking. "Shit, Rodney!" John hauled him to the couch and lay him down. "Where are your pills?"
Jeannie blinked. "Pills?"
Meredith took a moment to focus before answering. "Laptop bag..."
John looked up at her from where he was adjusting her brother on the couch. "Could you?"
"Oh, um yeah." She found the bag just inside the guestroom and carried it over to John, who was speaking quietly, words she didn't recognize. "Here." John took the bag and promptly ignored her, rifling through until he found an unmarked bottle that rattled when he shook it. He stripped the protective plastic around the cap, and shook out two capsules before replacing it. Mer swallowed the pills without complaint, and then lay back with his eyes closed.
She cleared her throat, and John looked up. "What's wrong with my brother??"
John sighed. "It's complicated."
Jeannie crossed her arms. "Try me." John settled on the couch facing her, and she noticed that he was gripping her brother's hand tightly. He still looked worried. "In case you've forgotten, I've got clearance."
John's free hand came up and rubbed at his eyes, the injection site on his elbow visible with the motion. It reminded her of exactly what had started this whole mess. Thinking back, John had been shaky every time before another syringe appeared. Shaky like her brother was now. "It has to do with Atlantis."
Jeannie gave up and rolled her eyes, allowing her hand to start fidgeting with the edge of an afghan. "And here I was thinking it was a result of Global Warming."
John winced. "Right. Um, so you know about the ATA Gene."
"Well, it turns out that if you use it for too long – say you live in Atlantis for a few years – it kind of becomes addictive."
She blinked. "You're addicted to Atlantis? Good one." She laughed, the sound more hysterical than she wanted to admit. When she calmed, she realized that John wasn't laughing with her. "Wait, are you serious?"
John shrugged. "It's worse for me than Rodney. There's something about my body chemistry that causes the ATA chemicals to integrate more fully into my nervous system. I'm on suppressants if I'm out of the city for more than a week. That's what you saw, before."
"Huh. So Mer is on what, oral suppressants?"
John glared at the now still form that had settled against his side. "He's supposed to be. But the bottle hadn't been opened." He poked her brother. "Someone hasn't been taking his meds."
Meredith grumbled and shifted. "They're Carson's science fair project. There's no evidence that they do any good what-so-ever."
Jeannie snorted. "So your little spell here was what, hypoglycemia?"
"Yes, if you must know. I'll be perfectly fine once I have something to eat."
John stood slowly, his knee cracking with the motion. "I'll go and get that 'something to eat.' You tell Jeannie everything I thought you already told her." He was out of the room before either of them had a chance to protest.
After an uncomfortable silence, her brother finally broke the silence. "I won't be back."
She blinked. "What??"
"As I'm sure John mentioned, Atlantis has turned out to be a little possessive. And by a little, I mean a jealous streak the size of the mainland. Carson, incompetent though he may be, thinks that the longer we're exposed to the technology the less time we can spend away from it without popping his wonder drugs." He waved a hand vaguely, and she was relieved to see that it was no longer shaking. "They're some kind of chemical suppressants that bond with the ATA-specific chemicals in our systems. It's all very complex and questionable science; I'm sure you wouldn't be interested. But it means I can't come back often, not until they find a few more ZPMs."
"So you came back, what, to say good bye?" He nodded. "You're leaving in two days, when did you plan to mention this?"
He shrugged. "I was waiting for the right time." At her glare, he had the good grace to look contrite. "So, possibly, the likelihood of that particular set of variables coming together in a one week period was a little slim, but I have standards."
She reached over and managed to smack him on the knee. "Meredith, the one time you tried to take one of my friends to a dance you brought her flowering skunk cabbage. You still can't bring yourself to make it through one of Kaleb's dinners without a running commentary on the ills of vegetarian cuisine."
He cocked his head to the side thoughtfully. "About that, do you think you could get him to use real meat just once this week? I mean, I eat enough strange things when I'm off-world as it is, and I don't think it's doing good things for my constitution to go so long without animal protein."
She glared. "Not. The. Point."
He waved her off. "No, no, I understand. It's just I think there's something in the Geneva Convention about fair and just treatment of in-laws, and Tofurkey counts as food poisoning in my book."
Giving up a lost cause, she sighed. "So you're really ok? I mean, aside from the whole dysfunctional body chemistry thing?"
He sat up straighter, and nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I am. You?"
She shrugged. "I just found out my brother's leaving the galaxy and probably won't be back." She stood, and started heading to the kitchen to let John know it was safe to continue. She paused on the threshold, and turned to find him watching her with an odd look on his face. "I'll be ok, Mer. Just give me some time."
He looked satisfied at the response, and leaned down to retrieve his laptop from its case. Jeannie avoided the kitchen and instead curled up in the big chair in the study and cried. After all this time, she'd finally gotten her brother back, really back, and now he was leaving for good again in two days. A week's worth of memories to last who knew how many years. It just wasn't fair.
But then, as Jeannie Miller nee McKay had learned at a young age, the universe was seldom fair.
~ Finis ~
Author's Note: Thanks to Cupidsbow, Mondy, ScifiFreak, and Saki for all their help. This was never supposed to actually turn into a fic; it started as a dream during an afternoon nap and kind of evolved.