Rating: PG swears
A/N: I promised to open up my folder weeks ago. Sorry it's late. More to come (and that second part of Legacy too).
The first time Rodney woke up, it was because the bed jiggled. He rolled over towards the disturbance and one eye pried itself half open and observed John sitting on the edge of the bed, already dressed, tieing his shoes. "John?" he mumbled, reaching out a hand. They'd only been back in the house all together for a couple of weeks, and while things seemed to be going okay, to tell the truth, Rodney was still a little unsure of himself and half expected that he would do something to screw it all up.
John turned around and, seeing Rodney awake, reached back and squeezed the proffered hand. "Go back to sleep. I'm just going for a run."
"Hurry back." Reassured, Rodney rolled back over and pulled the covers up.
"And here I thought I'd walk my whole run today," John snarked.
"Sounds good." Mostly back to sleep, Rodney had no idea what John had just said, but agreeing couldn't hurt, could it? He drifted off just as he heard the bedroom door click shut.
The second time Rodney woke up, there was a scraping noise across the room. He didn't have to roll over this time, and another half-look told him that John was at their dresser. "Back already?" he croaked.
"Yep. Just clearing out the dryer."
"Where's Caden?" The kid had been clingy with them both since they got back together, not really wanting either of them out of his sight. It was gradually getting better during the day, but he still ended up at the foot of their bed more nights than not and Rodney was surprised he wasn't there.
"I put him back in his bed so you could sleep." John continued fussing with clothes in the drawers.
"You don't mind? I was gone a lot this week." Rodney mumbled.
"Go back to sleep, Rodney. I got it covered."
BUZZZZ! The third time Rodney woke up, John's alarm clock was insisting on attention and it wasn't getting any. Startled awake, Rodney looked around and determined that it was evidently up to him to once again save the day . He scooted his way over to the nightstand and bopped the insolent piece of electronics right in its snooze button.
"Sheppard!" Rodney yelled as he fell back on the pillows. "You forgot to turn off your alarm!" Then he noticed what time it was. Why was the alarm set for 10:00? John usually got up at
5:00. And it was never turned up that loud.
He hadn't expected a response to his bellow, but perhaps some coffee and a bite to eat wouldn't be amiss, and he could harass John at the same time. Stretching out of bed, Rodney made his way downstairs, clad only in his t-shirt and shorts. He saw a pajama-clad Caden on his stool at the breakfast bar, but there was no sign of John. "Morning, kiddo." Rodney rubbed Caden's shoulders in greeting. "What are you working on?"
Caden was printing answers into a crossword puzzle book. "Nothing," he answered quickly.
"Is that the book that Aunt Sam gave you?" Rodney leaned over to look, resting his hand on Caden's shoulder as he did.
"Don't!" Caden slapped at Rodney and tried to wiggle away.
Rodney automatically took a step back, then took a better look at his son. Caden was as curled into as tight a ball as he could be and still stay on the stool, and he was writing in the puzzle book with hard, deliberate strokes. Obviously a very angry little boy. Rodney took a deep breath and pulled up another stool to sit on. Where the hell was John to help him deal with this?
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize I wasn't supposed to do that. I thought you liked it."
Caden shrugged, but didn't look up. He worked his puzzle in silence, and hard as it was, Rodney waited. Kate had advised them to do more listening than talking and he was going to do that if it killed him. Caden would talk when he was ready.
Three minutes, four, five, going on ten. Rodney considered getting up to make some coffee, but some inner sense told him to wait. At the eleven minute mark, Caden began wriggling on his seat.
"What did you do to make Daddy mad?" Caden was talking to his book, not meeting Rodney's gaze.
"What? Why do you say that?"
"Daddy left and he's not mad at me so he must be mad at you," Caden accused.
Damn you, Sheppard, for leaving me with this! Where are you? "I'm sure Daddy just went to the store or something."
"No!" Caden threw his pencil down on the counter and it bounced off and rolled across the kitchen floor. "He took his suitcase and put it in the truck and he said he's not mad at me but that I have to stay with you and I don't want to! You made Daddy leave!" he cried.
"Oh, Caden, no, I'm sure- " Rodney forgot and reached for him and Caden screeched and practically fell off his stool trying to get away. Rodney backed off again and let him run into the living room alone. He watched helplessly as Caden threw himself on the couch and buried his face in one of the throw pillows. Torn, Rodney finally went for the phone in the kitchen. John goddamn Sheppard was going to explain himself immediately if not sooner. He punched the shortcut for John's cell phone number.
"Hey." John answered way too calmly for Rodney's liking.
Rodney drifted into the utility room, trying to keep an eye on Caden without letting him hear the conversation. "Where the hell are you?" he hissed into the phone.
"Didn't you get my note?"
"No, I didn't get any fucking note, but Caden sure got your message!"
"What? What are you talking about, McKay? I told Caden - "
"Caden saw you leave with your suitcase and now he's hysterical and he thinks I chased you away."
"Oh god. Rodney, no, you know that's not it, don't you?"
"Right now I don't know what to think, John. And you still didn't tell me where you are."
"It was supposed to be a surprise." John tried to explain.
"I hate surprises." Rodney was not amused.
John sighed. "Let me talk to Caden."
"I don't know if I can get close enough to him to hand him the phone."
"What do you mean?"
"A few minutes ago I tried to hug him and got slapped for my trouble."
"Damn, Rodney, I'm sorry. I didn't think- "
"Give me a break here, McKay, I'm trying to help!"
"Then get your ass home and take care of this!"
"But I wanted... wait, wait. Put the phone on speaker and leave it near Caden. That way you can hear it too. If it doesn't work, I promise I'll come straight home."
"Is this surprise that important?"
"It was at the time..." John trailed off.
"All right, all right. Hang on." Rodney carried the phone into the living room, then pushed the speaker button. "You're on speaker now." He laid the phone down on the coffee table and retreated to the armchair on the other side of the room.
"Caden?" John called out. "Caden buddy, it's Daddy. Can I talk to you for a minute?"
Caden was laying on his side, clutching one of the throw pillows to his stomach. "Hi Daddy," he replied quietly.
"Caden, I am so sorry. I was trying to have a surprise for you and Papa and I've messed it all up." John didn't hear a response, so he kept going as best he could. "Papa didn't make me leave, okay? You have to believe me, Caden, it's my fault. I didn't make sure you understood before I left."
"But you took your suitcase!" Caden protested.
"I know, I know, that was supposed to be part of the surprise."
"What's the surprise, Daddy?" Caden sat up, still hugging the pillow.
"Hang on a minute, Padawan. I want to make sure you understand what's going on this time. You don't have any reason to be mad at Papa, okay? If you want to be mad at someone, be mad at me."
"Okay. I won't be mad at Papa."
"Cool. Thanks. Now, did you give Papa the note I left?"
"Where is it?"
"I throwed it away because I was mad." Caden bounced back and landed up against the back of the couch.
"Is Papa there?" John asked.
"Rodney, would you go see if you can find a manila envelope with both your names on it?"
"It's in the kitchen trash can, Papa, under the bananas," Caden directed.
"Under the bananas, lovely." Rodney left for the kitchen and, after some rattling and rustling, came back with the envelope in question. "Got it."
"There are two envelopes inside, numbered 1 and 2. Open the first one and read it to Caden. Please."
"Sure. Can I sit here, kid?" Caden nodded and Rodney took a seat on the couch. Next thing he knew, Caden was cuddled up against him. Okay. This was better. He opened the big envelope and fished out the number 1 envelope. "All right. Here we go." Rodney started to open it, but stopped and offered it to Caden, who grinned and ripped it open. Inside was a note card size envelope, addressed to him and Caden. He opened it and read aloud:
"That's tomorrow, Papa." Caden pointed out.
"I see that. Sheppard, is this for real?"
"Real as it gets."
"I was just wondering, since it says Summa-"
John cut him off. "Give a guy a break, would you, McKay? I worked my ass off for that."
"What's this mean, Daddy?"
"It means I'm going to graduate from a special school, buddy."
"It means that Daddy is going to be Doctor Sheppard just like I'm Doctor McKay," Rodney corrected.
"Then do I get to be one too?" Caden perked up.
"Someday, if you want to, but not just because we are, no." Rodney explained.
"Hey, that's not fair!" It was only a token objection.
"We'll discuss that later, please."
Caden picked up the manila envelope and looked inside. "Papa, what's in here?"
"John, can we open the other envelope now?"
"Be my guest."
Rodney did so and found two round-trip plane tickets to Boston for that very day. "You're actually going to graduation?"
"Figured you'd like to see me in a cap and gown."
Rodney thought about it and shivered. "We'd better have that conversation in private."
"You bet. Hey, you guys better hurry up and get down here."
"You're at the airport? Why didn't you just wait for us?"
"Pick up the phone."
"Okay, you're off speaker."
"You weren't around back then, but it turns out that I get really wound up before promotions, ceremonies, whatever. My run didn't help much and I didn't want to drive you bats and us end up in a fight."
"And what was the big deal about letting me sleep late?"
"You had a hard week. I was just being nice."
"Papa, are we going to the airport?" Caden was tugging on Rodney's t-shirt.
"Yes, we're going, as soon as I get us packed."
John heard and answered, "Oh, you're already packed. Your suitcases are in the front closet."
"You really were wound up."
"Just get here, okay?"
"As quick as we can."
John walked to the window one more time. Once he'd identified every plane on the tarmac for the forty-third time, he went back to his seat and tried to relax. The gate waiting area had filled up and emptied three times since he'd been there, and was filling up again, but there were two more flights before the one to Boston was due to board. He donned his iPod headset and dialed up a playlist, but then pulled it right back off again. The faces he had been scanning for in the corridor had finally appeared. Rodney and Caden were walking towards him, pulling their suitcases behind them. When Caden spotted John, he dropped the handle of his suitcase and came running.
John stooped down and gathered him into a hug. "Hey, buddy. I'm glad you're here." He pulled back out of their hug. "I am so sorry I upset you. Forgive me?"
Caden smiled and smacked a kiss onto John's cheek. "Forgive you!"
"Cool." John stood, still holding him, and reached an arm out to Rodney, who was now pulling both suitcases. "Sorry."
Rodney pulled their bags up next to John's, then slid under his arm. "Forgiven. You may be an idiot, but you're our idiot, right, Caden?"
"Right!" Caden agreed cheerfully.
"Hey, I'm not that much of an idiot! I'm getting a PhD, after all."
"Yeah, but how much of a degree can it be if I didn't review your thesis?" Rodney questioned.
"It is a perfectly fine thesis, Rodney. Perhaps John will let you read it if you are nice," a familiar voice answered from behind Rodney. Radek was standing there, holding two cups of coffee in a carrier, which he set down in one of the chairs.
"Radek? What... how do you know?"
"I was one of John's advisors. He was kind enough to invite me to your celebration and I managed to get the time away from work."
"Strýček Radek, are you going on the plane with us?" Caden hugged Radek around the legs.
"Yes, Synovec Caden, I am going too. I am looking forward to seeing Boston again. I am guessing that your Papa would like some coffee too," Rodney nodded fervently, so Radek continued, "Why don't we go and get him some and find you something to drink as well?"
Caden's answer was to take Radek's hand and pull him towards the food carts. "Okay!"
"We'll be right back!" Radek called as he was being dragged away.
Rodney and John waved, then turned back to stare, each at the other. "John-" "Rodney-"
They both laughed and John reached his arms around Rodney's waist. "I really am sorry."
"I know. I am too. I jumped to a few conclusions there myself."
John tipped his head down on to Rodney's. "Starting over once has been hell enough. Let's not have to do it again. Agreed?"
"Agreed. Now, there's just one other thing I have to know."
"You obviously didn't just start on your degree while we were separated. Why on earth didn't you tell me?"
"It's a long story, McKay." John guided him to the seats and sat down.
Rodney plopped down next to him. "I have from now till we get to Boston to listen, now don't I?"
"I'd rather talk about what I'm going to wear under my cap and gown." John leered.
"Oh god. When am I going to learn? You always do this to me in public!" Rodney shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
John leaned over on Rodney's shoulder. "I have one word for you."
"Here I go," Rodney whined. "What? What are you going to kill me with now?"
John whispered in his ear. "Commando."
"I hate you, John Sheppard," Rodney insisted, then realized what he had said and immediately backpedaled, "I mean, not hate hate, but you know, hate."
"I know, Rodney, I know." John took Rodney's hand and squeezed it tight. "Relax. We're doing okay."
"Right. Okay. We're doing okay." Rodney repeated. "Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. Trust me."
"I do, Sheppard, I do."
John felt Rodney relax into him and leaned back into his own seat, crossing his feet out in front of him. He had known it wouldn't be easy when he moved back in, but he'd agreed to it and he was damn well going to see it through. If this was the biggest bump in the road they were going to have, knock on wood or something, then maybe they really could handle it. He hoped so. He really liked seeing that smile on Caden's face, the ear-splitting one he had plastered on now, walking back with his Uncle Radek in hand. John looked over at Rodney, who smiled and squeezed his hand. And he had missed that smile too.