PG-13 (one reference to pantlessness, otherwise pure pants on)
but thinking makes it so
In the dream, he’s running or falling or something like that, through mist. More like falling. He has somewhere to get to and he’s being taken there at an irresistible momentum, wind in his face, but he doesn’t know where and he can’t see through the grey and - he wakes up abruptly, his whole body coming on alert all at once.
Which - weird, and so is the lingering ache in his shoulders, the joint of his knee, like he’s been working out for days. But the weirdest part is that the ceiling and the bed and the room are completely unfamiliar, and that there’s a body next to him. A guy, an older guy, late thirties at least, and what, what the fuck did he do last night anyway? He sits up -- yep, naked except for boxer shorts -- and the guy snuffles and wakes up, cheek turning on the pillow, sleepy blue eyes.
“John,” he says scratchily, dreamily, and then blinks twice and wakes up all the way with a groan. One hand reaches to paw casually at John’s hip. “God, is it morning already?”
John stares. The guy stares back, eyes widening slowly at the exact pace of the sinking in John’s stomach. Oh. Oh, this can’t be good.
Another galaxy. Another galaxy, and he’s Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, and he’s. Forty. Fucking. Years old. He scrubs his hands over his face again and tries to focus on the babble around him.
“How could this --”
“ -- off-world, on --” what sounds like a string of random letters and numbers, “Ancient device --”
“You said there were no after-effects!” That’s the blue-eyed guy, whose name is Doctor McKay but who is, apparently, not a medical doctor. He’s glaring at the guy who is, whose hand is still on John’s shoulder, and who’s staring at the machine hooked up to John’s temples with a worried furrow in his forehead.
“There’s nothing wrong with his brain,” Doctor Carson says. John’s never met a Scottish person before, but he sounds pretty much like they do on TV.
“He thinks he’s twenty-three!”
“John,” it’s the woman in charge, Doctor -- Ware? Weir? Why is everyone a doctor? Her eyes are worried and focused on him. “Are you all right?”
She looks capable and sympathetic and responsible, like a counsellor or something, and there’s no point saying yes, is there? He’s in another galaxy. He shakes his head dumbly and everyone goes silent around him, even Doctor McKay.
“Okay, everyone,” Weir says, slowly. “How about we give the Colonel some space?”
The Colonel, God. John pulls his hands through his hair and by the time he looks up, there’s only five people in the room -- Doctor Weir, Doctor McKay, the huge guy with cool hair, Ronin, Doctor Carson, and the girl in the crop top, Teyla -- and they’re all silent, watching him cautiously. They all have really, really serious faces, weirdly intense in their focus on him. It’s incredibly awkward.
“I, uh,” he says finally. “I have some questions?”
Weir - It’s Elizabeth, John, please - gets him his personnel file and a bundle of mission reports, shows him to his quarters and, finally, leaves him alone. He sits on the bed and tries to take it all in. Air Force, okay. But McMurdo? The report on what actually happened in Afghanistan is frustratingly vague, though the words black mark make him flinch instinctively on behalf of his dad. That has to have sucked. But still, still, there’s nothing there to explain why, at forty years old, he decided that the thing to do would be to leave the planet.
He’s staring blankly round the room -- God, Johnny Cash got even older and are those seriously golf clubs? -- when the door chimes and then slides open. Doctor McKay’s outside, shifting from one foot to the other.
“Can I come in?”
“I -- sure,” John says, trying not to stare too obviously. With -- everything else, the surreal memory of this morning has faded a little, but it’s coming back now in vivid technicolour. McKay’s eyes are nondescript blue, his mouth lopsided, his face rough with stubble, and John doesn’t understand anything at all.
“We think we’ve isolated a cause,” McKay says, very briskly, not meeting John’s eyes at all. He seems very -- Canadian. “It was the device from P4X-89S -- we’re working on it at the lab now, trying to work out if it has an undo button.”
“Okay,” John says slowly, and McKay folds and unfolds his arms, fidgets.
“About -- this morning,” he says finally.
“You can’t tell anyone,” he blurts. “About that. I mean, it’s not exactly common knowledge and it, any rumours could seriously affect the Colonel’s, that is, your career.”
“Okay,” John says. There’s a moment of awkward silence, McKay hovering indecisively near the door. Finally, he turns like he’s about to go but then turns back at the last second, stares at John with more of that unnerving focus.
“Are you -- I mean,” he glances at the mission reports scattered over the floor, “is there anything you want to ask me? Or Teyla or Ronon, I could --”
“I guess. I just,” he exhales, hard, and wishes he could call his parents, or call Lorri and tell her how insane his life suddenly is, hear her rich startled laugh. He was supposed to get coffee with her this morning, he remembers, and stares down at the pile of open files in his lap. Wraith, casualties, Iratus, casualties, Wraith, Sumner, Genii, casualties. “I just don’t get how I ended up here.”
McKay surprises him with a small laugh, sliding down the wall to sit on the floor like he’s done it a hundred times before. “I don’t think any of us do. I mean,” he smiles, small and smug, at his hands, “I am something of a genius, and I’ve been on the fast-track since high school, but even I - I could never have imagined anything like Atlantis.”
“Right,” John says vaguely, looking down at the report in his hands. It’s open on a list of casualties, the names in alphabetical order. His signature at the bottom.
“What is a Wraith, exactly?” he asks and McKay’s eyes dart up, smile falling away.
“Most of the details should be in the reports.”
“They’re not exactly large on context,” John replies. McKay hesitates for a beat, and then nods, stands up abruptly.
“I think it’d be best if you talked to Teyla and Ronon about that? They both know more about the, uh, context than, than anyone else really.” He looks at his watch. “Ronon should be in the gym right now, but Teyla’s only going to be back from the mainland in about half an hour. We, uh, we usually get something to eat then. Together.”
Together. With Teyla, part alien-soul-sucking-space-vampire and part, like, President of a planet, Ronon, sole survivor of a civilisation, and McKay, the guy he’s sleeping with. God, he really want to call Lorri.
“I think I’ll pass,” he says, tries not to notice the way McKay’s mouth twists down with disappointment at that. “I’m just kind of tired.”
“Right,” McKay says, backing towards the door. “Okay. Um, good night then.”
“I usually sleep here?” John asks, and McKay almost trips over backwards, clutching the wall to stop himself.
“Yes!” he says quickly. “Yes, always. Last night was, um.” He’s going slow red, John notes with detached fascination, colour creeping up from under his collar. “We were careless.”
“Oh,” John says, and McKay finally backs his way out of the door, still pink. We, he thinks, hearing the low conspiratorial tone of McKay’s voice again, remembering his flush, and something turns over in his stomach, a flash of heat. Oh God. He really is - this body really is - attracted to Doctor Rodney McKay, thirtysomething Canadian astrophysicist. He looks around at Johnny Cash, War & Peace, the set of golf clubs. Who is this guy?
The city’s alien, all long spiral towers and golden light on the water. Pretty, he guesses, but not like a city. It’s so clean. And there aren’t any malls out there, or crooked crowded streets, or jumbled Chinese and Mexican restaurants. He feels a stab of homesickness so intense he can’t breathe through it for a second; then someone touches his elbow and he jumps half a mile, spins around.
It’s Ronon, Jesus the guy is huge, and behind him, Teyla, over her shoulder, McKay. It’s a very Three Stooges effect and he laughs before he can help it, even though it comes out kind of rough.
“John,” Teyla says, and he shivers at the recognition in her voice. “If you cannot sleep -- we are watching movies in Rodney’s quarters tonight. You are very welcome.”
Right, of course they have movie nights. He opens his mouth to excuse himself again but, “what movie?” comes out instead and McKay’s eyes brighten, so transparently hopeful that he can’t take it back.
“The Matrix,” he says, triumphantly, and when John looks blank, “oh, God, you don’t remember watching it, right? Wait till you see this.”
The Matrix is -- really very cool, even though McKay glances over at John’s face every few minutes and beams like he made it himself. Teyla’s grabby about popcorn, in a sneaky sort of way. Ronon’s got the best deadpan ever, even after four beers. He still doesn’t understand how this is his life.
When he wakes up, Teyla’s curled almost against his chest, snoring very faintly. Ronon’s gone: must be past time for his morning run. The room’s full of pale blue Atlantis light, a shaft of white sunlight cutting across the room. Rodney’s watching him.
“Hey,” he whispers, trying not to jostle Teyla, “hi, Rodney,” and she wakes up anyway, blinking and then smiling straight up into his eyes. “John!”
“Hi,” he says, grinning idiotically, feeling tension drop out of his body, and Rodney jolts upright, wide-eyed, his hair sticking up.
“The device, it must have, I should check at the lab,” he says, trying to extricate himself from one of Teyla’s big embroidered blanket-shawls, ducking his head to cover his smile. Teyla uncoils and pats John carefully on the shoulder, touches Rodney’s arm, takes the shawl.
“Welcome home, John,” she says and stretches, smiles down at him, and leaves. Rodney just stands there, looking down at John, hands hanging loose and open by his sides.
“I should check at the lab,” he says again. “and you should go see Elizabeth, and Beckett. I’ll, ah, catch you later?”
“Count on it,” John says, hauling himself to his feet, and Rodney goes faintly pink again, nods and beams and looks away.
“It’s, uh, I’m glad you’re back,” he whispers when John leans in and John grins against his mouth, buries his face against the solid warmth of his shoulder for second. Rodney’s fingers are firm on the back of his neck, anchoring. God, it’s good to be back.