Rodneyâ€™s memories of leaving the mountain are blurry at best â€” arrested images of John shaking him awake at some indeterminate hour of morning, since all time in the SGC passed in the same smear of suffocating concrete gray. And then suddenly thereâ€™s a Jeep and the windows framing startling-blue skies, and Rodney remembers falling asleep again, huddled against a door, the warm weight of Johnâ€™s hand on his knee. Heâ€™s on the airplane before he even bothers to ask where theyâ€™re going.
â€œWhere?â€ he mumbles, face mashed into Johnâ€™s shoulder. Heâ€™s been covered with one of those flimsy airline blankets, a pillow tucked in behind his lower back. He doesnâ€™t remember much of this, but then heâ€™s got another week of Percocet to go before his prescription runs out, and the world tends to go a little neon and fuzzy-edged on the drugs.
â€œNew York.â€ John closes a palm around the back of Rodneyâ€™s hand, underneath the blankets. â€œFeeling okay?â€
Rodney nods his head, bleary, rubs his nose on Johnâ€™s collarbone. â€œJust sore.â€
John nods. â€œGood,â€ he says, and holds up the SkyMall magazine with his free hand. â€œWhat do you think would be a better gift â€” giant crossword or shower CD player?â€
â€œDepends on how much you hate the person,â€ Rodney mumbles, and closes his eyes again.
â€œI guess I could always send flowers,â€ John decides, and Rodney goes back to sleep, listening to the pilot tell them theyâ€™re three hours out from JFK International Airport.
Part of Rodney â€” the part that spends most of its energy writing in a metaphorical Lisa Frank diary in pink sparkle pen about how AWESOME John is â€” has speculated that John comes from better breeding than heâ€™s willing to let on. The fact that they end up in the Mandarin Oriental only reinforces this suspicion. The lobby is all power colors and sleek post-modern jumbles of subtle flower arrangements, staff that melts away from awareness. Thereâ€™s a woman at the reception desk, backed by a triptych of paintings that look like a smear of color, who smiles and says, â€œYes, of course Mr. Sheppard â€” your suite is ready,â€ and â€œWeâ€™ll have your luggage sent up in just a few moments,â€ and, laughing, â€œYes, of course we can send up dinner.â€
â€œBring coffee,â€ Rodney tells her, half-dazed. The 23 hour to 24 hour transition plus the dirty sucker punch combination of pain killers and exhaustion is still keeping him comfortably numb, but John has a hand on the small of his back, guiding him gently, and Rodney knows that if there was anything heâ€™d need to worry about, John would be doing the worrying for him. â€œStrong coffee, please.â€
â€œOf course,â€ the woman agrees, voice kind, and a bellhop comes running.
They end up in the Oriental Suite, which looks like something out of a hash dream, so Rodney says so and John says, â€œYeah, I think itâ€™s time I get you back into bed.â€
Rodney lets John take off his shoes and shirt and jeans and roll him into soft, cool linens, arrange the pillows and draw up the sheets. In the background, he hears their luggage arrive and dinner come, and the slide of silverware, John pouring himself coffee and the faint sounds of the television murmuring as he falls asleep again. Itâ€™s early evening now, and the coffee (strong!) will be cold when he wakes up again in the middle of the night â€” but heâ€™s only 14 hours into making up for a near-80 sleep deficit, his heart going arrhythmic and his body screaming and then somebody had broken two of his ribs, so Rodney tells himself that John will reheat the coffee, and goes to sleep.
When Rodney wakes up, the suite is empty and draped in light, sun melting across the floors and warming Rodneyâ€™s fingers where they rest on the blankets, the pillow, the heavy, expensive linens. Johnâ€™s left him a note that reads Morning, sunshine â€“ out acquiring breakfast, back soon. J. Rodney folds it into his palm and puts his face into his pillow, moaning softly. Thereâ€™s a glass of water and one of his painkillers on the bedside table, but Rodneyâ€™s felt disconnected and disoriented for what feels like days now; he wants to feel something with edges.