Characters/Pairing: Rodney McKay/John Sheppard
Written For: 30_kisses, for the prompt 'The Sound of Waves'.
Notes: A very long time ago - and I do mean a very long time ago - I promised lavvyan I would write her a story as a thank you. She asked for skin hungary, first time, fluff. The story evolved from the original idea and its changed somewhat. Hope you still like it lavvyan!
Spoilers: This is a 'Grace Under Pressure' coda.
Thanks To: My wonderful beta 4amcoffee who was surprised at the fluffiness of this story! ;)
Summary: The first time it happens, Rodney sleeps through the whole thing.
The first time it happens, Rodney sleeps through the whole thing.
Sometimes, in the moments before he falls asleep, Rodney feels seasick. It’s ridiculous he knows, since Atlantis doesn’t move. There isn’t any conflicting knowledge being sent to his brain, no loss of balance, and no inner ear screaming that the sky is falling down.
He feels seasick anyway. Feels as if the sea is churning, waves bashing against the walls of Atlantis and making it rock.
Rodney falls asleep to the sounds of a sea he can’t even hear.
The second time it happens, he wakes up, only he’s not really awake. He can’t be. Sheppard is smiling down at him, teeth shining in the almost darkness of his room.
“Rodney why are you in footie pyjamas?” he asks and Rodney doesn’t know what to say to that – he sleeps in old t-shirts after all – so he just stares. Sheppard smiles some more and then snuggles up against him, hot air puffing against his neck.
Rodney falls asleep again in seconds.
When he wakes up the next morning, the sheets are cold next to him and there is no evidence Sheppard was ever there at all.
He decides in the end that it was just a dream – a bizarre dream – and tries to put it from his mind. It’s harder than he thinks to just forget about it. Working in the lab he finds himself thinking about Sheppard at odd moments, random thoughts that destroy his concentration. It doesn’t help that sometimes he sees Sheppard out of the corner of his eye while he is working, lurking in the doorway, silently watching.
When Rodney turns to face him directly all he can see is the back of Sheppard’s head as the Colonel vanishes down the corridor.
After a couple of days, Sheppard starts to come into the lab more, still oddly silent, still staring at Rodney whenever he thinks Rodney isn’t looking.
Rodney doesn’t know what is going on.
He hates that feeling.
“Do you ever think about it?” Sheppard asks him one day and Rodney actually pauses in his work, allowing himself to be distracted as he tries to figure out what random event in the past Sheppard is talking about now. He can’t think of anything that has happened recently that is worth ‘thinking about it’ and so is forced to admit defeat.
“Think about what?”
“You know… that day. In the jumper.”
Rodney doesn’t know what else to say to that so he turns back to his work, hoping that if he just ignores Sheppard, he will go away. It’s never worked before, but there is always a first time for everything.
“Do you?” Sheppard asks again, persistent as always. Rodney hunches up more in his chair, not trusting himself to look at Sheppard.
“No,” he says finally when it becomes clear Sheppard isn’t going to go away. “I don’t think about it.”
It’s not a lie as such Rodney tells himself, ignoring the slight tremor in his hands as he bends over his work. He doesn’t think about it.
The third time it happens, he wakes up disjointed, panicking, fumbling in the darkness against an unseen weight. For a moment dream and reality seem the same and he is under water again, scrabbling desperately against a cold unmoving surface and there is water everywhere, pressing against him, trying to invade his lungs and there is just no more time, and it’s enterin-
It’s little more than a mumble, but there aren’t any voices behind that particular door in Rodney’s personal nightmare land – admission free after your first time seeing someone die – and that is enough to pull him fully into awareness.
There isn’t a body of water above him, waiting to wash down and drown him. Instead it is just a body. Rodney blinks again and the body becomes that of John Sheppard’s.
“Sheppard?” he hisses. The man slowly looks up, and Rodney has to bite down the yell that threatens to escape because Sheppard has no eyes. The lights in his room rise at his mental panic and after a beat he relaxes slightly, because of course Sheppard really has eyes. He just has them closed.
Rodney blinks mentally at that, trying to work out just why Sheppard was in his bed with his eyes closed.
“I don’t use hair gel damnit,” Sheppard sighs, wiggling around in the bed to try and get comfortable.
“Umm… Colonel?” he whispers, giving the man a prod. Sheppard simply flings his arm over Rodney, his breathing steady and even. His eyes still closed.
“Rodney, why don’t you ever call me John?” Sheppard answers, his voice getting lower and lower.
“You’ve never asked me to,” Rodney replies, part of him wondering why he was having a rational discussion with Sheppard in his bed. Sheppard doesn’t answer and a few moments later, Rodney can hear light snoring.
Rodney corners Sheppard in the mess hall. He had woken up to find the bed empty bar himself, but this time he knows it is no dream. Rodney catches a glimpse of himself in a reflective surface and is surprised by just how angry he looks. There are twin red blotches on his cheek, the rest of his skin unnaturally pale. He looks sick, with his eyes almost poking out of his head, he’s looking worst than his stint under the sea.
Sheppard takes one look at him and the easy grin slides right off his face. He looks trapped, his eyes searching for an escape route before a second grin appears, one that Rodney knows is forced. He knows Sheppard so well, despite what the other man may think – or hope.
“I want to talk to you,” Rodney snarls, trying his best to keep his voice even. Sheppard slowly raises an eyebrow at the request-slash-demand but nods, trailing after Rodney as he leaves the room.
Sheppard claims to not know what Rodney is talking about.
The fourth time it happens Rodney simply opens his arms, allowing Sheppard better access so he can sleep closer. He wakes up enough to make sure it is Sheppard in his bed before he closes his eyes again, inexplicably reassured by the warm presence of another body. He plans to try and stay awake, to question Sheppard about these little night time jaunts but the warmth and the pull of sleep is so alluring. Rodney finds himself pressing back against Sheppard, seeking more contact before falling asleep.
As always, he wakes to find Sheppard gone.
Rodney wonders if he is going mad. He swears that the Sheppard in his bed some nights is real flesh and blood and not just a dream. But the man himself denies it and Rodney doesn’t know what else to think.
There are plenty of things it might be, if he were to indulge his imagination. He lives in a mythical floating city fighting space vampires – anything is possible after all.
Still, he can’t help but feel this is something a little closer to home and reality than a doppelganger or a clone or anything else in the realms of science fiction.
Rodney is standing on a balcony overlooking the sea. He can’t remember how long he has been standing there, his hands grasping the railing so tightly that his knuckles are turning white.
He stares down at the still sea and tries to ignore the crashing feeling of vertigo. He’s fine, he’s fine, and he is back on Atlantis in the air and the wide open spaces. He is alive.
Rodney leans over the balcony and throws up.
He is in the infirmary begging some pills off Carson – claiming a slight stomach ache –when the thought occurs to him. He’s not sure why he didn’t think of it before; random sentences, Sheppard with his eyes closed, not remembering things the next day – but now that he has, it seems obvious.
If he is right. But then he is always right, he always has to be. Even if he doesn’t know he is right.
This time he tracks Sheppard to the otherwise empty armoury, the Colonel firing round after round at the practise dummy. There is tenseness to his frame, belittling the relaxed facade Sheppard always tries to maintain. He senses Rodney before he can speak, Sheppard turning round to face him, a question in his eyes. Rodney searches that face for any sign of deception, of the knowledge that the night time trips are all part of some elaborate plan, but he can’t find anything.
“Do you sometimes sleep walk Colonel?” Rodney asks at last.
The realisation dawning on Sheppard’s face is the only answer he needs, and without waiting for anything else, Rodney leaves, surprised at the sharp pain caused by being right. It shouldn’t hurt that Sheppard is there only because of sleep walking, another random characteristic, created no doubt by his overblown hero complex, always trying to save everyone.
It shouldn’t hurt.
The fifth time it happens, Rodney is dreaming. He is in the puddle jumper, but this time he knows it is a dream. He knows that this has already happened to him, and that he is safe in his bed in Atlantis. It doesn’t stop Griffin staring at him with dead eyes, blank and unseeing and yet saying so much. It doesn’t stop the memory of the door slamming shut, trapping Rodney and condemning Griffin. He’s so cold and alone and even when the dream Sam kisses him, he feels nothing.
Then the dream is changing and it’s not just him and his mind in the jumper anymore. Sheppard is there too, a dorky grin on his face. He wants to talk about the jumper, about what happened while Rodney was done there alone. He wants to know the secrets.
Rodney gestures with his hand, indicating the sea water and the ethereal Samantha Carter, figuring that Sheppard can pretty much work it out without words. Only Sheppard doesn’t say anything and Rodney frowns in confusion. Then John is wrapping his arms around Rodney, holding him and it feels warmer than a dream should. It feels better too, it feels almost real.
When Rodney wakes up, he knows that he can no longer lie to himself; he is slowly falling apart.
His thoughts are constantly running round in circles now, memories and dreams overlapping and Rodney doesn’t know what is real anymore. Rodney knows he has always had a shaky grasp on reality, paranoia being the main reason, but this – this is different.
This is waking to the sound of Griffin’s goodbye ringing clearly in his ears, the feel of cold, unrelenting water up to his chin with only a hallucination caused by his own mind to watch him die. This is being alone and being expendable.
This is not saving the people Rodney knows he should have been able to, if he had only been faster, quicker to notice the obvious answers. If he had just used the dizzying intellect he often claimed to have.
He recognises the futility of these thoughts, knows they are similar to ones he routinely blames Sheppard having.
The sixth time it happens is different. It is not really a sixth time, because he is out of his room at the time, unable to sleep, his mind jittery and frantic. He wanders the corridors of Atlantis, seeking out something, some kind of relief from his mind. The lab doesn’t help, and neither does his empty room, the cold air silently mocking him.
So he walks through the corridors, looking into deserted rooms, rooms that hadn’t been used since the Ancients left. He half heartedly makes attempts to mentally catalogue anything he finds, meaning to go back later with a team to ‘discover’ them.
His brain is just starting to wind down when he hears voices ahead. The last thing Rodney wants is to explain to someone why he is wandering around Atlantis, in case it should filter back to Carson who is already looking concerned enough. So Rodney slips into an empty room, his heart pounding. The voices become louder and Rodney recognises them as being two of the marines. Rodney bends his head over a consol, keeping quiet and hopes that if he is discovered they will simply just think he is hard at work.
There is another set of footsteps and Rodney tenses, turning his head ever so slightly so he can see the person walk past, never looking to his right or left – Sheppard.
Sheppard with his eyes closed, looking as if he was sleepwalking. Rodney panics a little at that, worried about what might happen should Sheppard make it all the way to his room only to find he wasn’t there. Rodney even takes a step forward, intending to do – something.
The marines see Sheppard before he can, walking up to the Colonel and speaking. Sheppard’s eyelids slid open, without a trace of sleep in them. He smiles and jokes with his men before walking on.
And Rodney’s world shatters.
Rodney manages to avoid Sheppard for three days after that. He enlists the help of Zelenka, Carson and a few others that he trusts. They don’t ask questions for once, don’t ague with his sudden desire to be as far away from Sheppard as possible. They look concerned but help anyway. The few times he sees Sheppard there is an unreadable expression on his face.
He even manages to sweet talk some of the systems into obeying his orders over Sheppard’s.
He can sleep in his bed knowing that it is only him there and that he will have no unwanted dark haired visitor pretending to be asleep simply to tease Rodney about it in some vague future. Rodney is tired and sick of the joke always being on him.
For some reason he has trouble sleeping those nights, lying awake for hours, staring up at the ceiling with the sound of waves in his head and the ghosts of his past lurking just out of view.
Sheppard corners him at last though. Still, Rodney has spent three days preparing for this event and he manages not to flinch at the other man’s sudden appearance. He adopts his best dismissive sneer, determined not to let Sheppard get to him in any way, shape or form. The Colonel looks pissed, even though he attempts to remain calm, acts as if he is the injured one here, pretending to have no idea why Rodney was mad at him. He adopts a hurt expression, one with sad eyes and a protruding lip, designed to maximise his aurora of innocence and get the other to back down.
It’s not going to work this time, Rodney vows. After a few moments, Sheppard seems to sense this as well because he lets the pout slid a bit, a frustrated look on his face.
“Is this about the sleepwalking?” he asks with a huff. “Honestly Rodney, I thought you were better than that, I thought you wouldn’t let something like this affect our friendship…” Rodney has to admire the stubbornness of the man, the way in which he acted as if everything was Rodney’s fault and that he was being unreasonable about it.
“Yes Colonel, very astute of you. This is about your… sleepwalking,” Rodney answered, making air quotes with his fingers around the word ‘sleepwalking’. He eyed Sheppard balefully for a moment before carrying on.
“Or rather, this is about you pretending to sleepwalk and don’t you bother denying it. I. Saw. You. What, you thought it would make a good joke, a nice way to pass some evenings. Got bored and couldn’t decide what to do so you decided to poke the bear with a stick? Well? What?”
“That’s not… I didn’t…” Sheppard stammers and Rodney turns away because he’s mentally prepared himself for a lot of things; for arguing, denial even the famed Sheppard stoic silence but this, this… uncertainty, the way Sheppard’s voice grows almost timid and shy, this he can’t fight. He doesn’t know how to deal with a vulnerable Sheppard.
Sheppard lets him go.
The seventh time he wakes to a weight on his chest; someone is straddling him and pinning him down. Rodney panics at once, his hips thrusting up as he tries desperately to unsettle the thing holding him down.
“I don’t think so Rodney,” Sheppard says grimly, and Rodney struggles even more at those words, recognising the ultimatum for what it really is – time to talk, to have his secrets dragged and ripped from his psyche against his will.
He isn’t ready.
He doesn’t think he ever will be for this particular secret. How do you say they you lost faith in them coming for you after only a few minutes? Rodney had given up on the rest of Atlantis too quickly he knew – and he also knew it wasn’t just because he thought he was the only one capable of saving himself.
Zelenka is a bastard and he will pay, Rodney thinks as Sheppard stares down at him, knowing that Sheppard would have had an accomplice in this. There was no way that he could have orchestrated this by himself.
“Rodney, come on, talk to me,” Sheppard pleads, acting yet again as if he is the one being wronged. It makes Rodney so mad and yes, that’s good. Rodney can handle Sheppard if he can just stay mad at him.
“Oh, so what? Your original plan to humiliate me didn’t work so you’re going with Plan B, forced confessions? In count those don’t stand up, and they won’t stand up here,” he snarls, twisting this way and that in an effort to dislodge the man on top of him.
“I wasn’t trying to humiliate you!” Sheppard snaps back, leaning over Rodney more until he’s almost lying on top of him. “I wasn’t…” The Colonel looks frustrated, the same vulnerable look on his face as the last time they talked and with a sinking feeling, Rodney knows that he won’t be able to fight this.
“Then what were you doing Colonel?” Rodney asks, suddenly drained of his anger as he feared he would be.
“I… Rodney, I came here tonight to talk about you. To talk about what happened in that jumper.”
“I don’t care. Why should I tell you anything when you pulled that… trick on me?” Rodney replied stubbornly. Sheppard sighed and for a moment it seemed as if he was going to pull away and let this matter rest.
Rodney should have known he isn’t that lucky.
“The first few times Rodney, I swear… I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going. I woke up and saw you sleeping next to me and I freaked,” Sheppard shifted slightly, derailing any protest that may be forthcoming at that announcement.
“I freaked because I thought you would. Then one night I woke up and there you were, snuggling into me and I thought… I thought I could get you to open up. But more than that…” he blinks a few times as if steering himself for something. “I wanted to sleep with you.”
“Ah,” Rodney mutters, his mind unable to process that news for what it really was. “That’s… good. Brilliant in fact.”
He smiles widely, feeling better than he has in days but Sheppard is a man on a mission and not even this will stop him.
“Now you,” Sheppard whispers, leaning closer until he is nose to nose, eye to eye. He stares unflinchingly down at his pinned captive. “Talk to me.”
The words spill out into the dark, Rodney keeping his eyes tightly closed. He can’t bring himself to look up at John and somehow it is easier to tell the truth in the dark.
They spill out faster now and Rodney can feel himself stumbling over the words, desperate to explain himself, to explain away the fear and the uncertainty.
Rodney breaks completely apart in the darkness of the night, Sheppard the only thing keeping the pieces from sliding away from each other for good.
He trusts Sheppard to piece him back together.
He has no other choice.
And so the seventh time it happens is the last time it happens. It’s the last time he will fall asleep to the sound of phantom waves and the last time he will sleep with a queasy stomach. It’s the last time he will dream of good-byes and good lucks that are not what they seem. It’s the first time Rodney smiles as he reaches out for John and it’s the first time John smiles back – a true, shy smile. It’s the first time they kiss, John leaning down, letting his body rest against Rodney’s own, hands clutching at shoulders, stroking skin and causing shivers of pleasure to run through them both.
It’s the first time Rodney really runs his fingers through John’s hair, marvelling at the way it feels so soft, despite the obvious use of hair gel. It’s the first time they really sleep together.
It’s the first time but it won’t be the last.