Rating: All Ages
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Character: John Sheppard, Rodney McKay (mentions Jennifer Keller)
Challenge: 50ficlets / prompt table
Prompt: #15 Denial
Word Count: 1000
Spoilers: Very slight for S4:E20 (The Last Man) - set in some AU future where the Atlantis crew have been sent back to Earth.
Warnings: None, although it could be interpreted as unrequited love of the slash sort.
Author's Note: Same universe as After, but you don't need to have read that one. Also? I don't know why they're all coming out angsty!
When the nightmare woke him, he called John.
“Rodney. You do realize that it's four in the morning, don't you?”
“Well. Yes.” Rodney said, although the tone of voice made it clear that no, he didn't actually know that. All he knew was that he'd woken up afraid and instinctively reached for the phone to call Sheppard.
"I have to get up in two hours."
"So you're just ahead of schedule. That's a good thing, isn't it? Anyhow, I had a nightmare and I –"
Sheppard interrupted. “Don't you have a girlfriend to make the scary clowns go away?”
“She's gone. Well, not gone. She's working overnights this week.”
John ignored the tiny knot that had formed when Rodney said Jennifer was gone. He ignored it so much that he also ignored Rodney, who was still yapping in his ear.
"Are you even listening to me?" Rodney snapped.
"Of course I am."
"So you will?"
"Of course I will?" John fished in the silence, wondering what he was agreeing to.
"Great. See you in fifteen minutes." Rodney was the only person John knew who could hang up a cordless phone with such authority that it felt like having the receiver slammed in your ear. And apparently what John had agreed to was going over to Rodney's house. At four in the morning. Because Rodney had a bad dream.
Rodney was so going to owe him for this.
“It's not the one about the freshman Physics class again, is it?” John slouched against the door jamb and scratched his chin, which only made the prickly stubble itch worse. The last time Rodney had called him in the middle of the night Rodney had been dreaming that he'd been mistakenly given a class full of college freshman who were only taking physics to satisfy university requirements. (“There were English majors!” Rodney had shouted when he recounted the dream to Sheppard.)
Rodney made his way back to the sofa and sat down. A very large, already half-empty mug of coffee was on the table next to him. Sheppard noticed that Rodney was wearing pajama pants and a tee shirt that proclaimed "What I really need are MINIONS". He'd given Rodney that shirt on his last birthday.
John sat down on the other end of the sofa, leaning against the arm so his body was angled away from Rodney. They both stared at the blank screen of the television and lapsed into a comfortable silence.
As usual, it was Rodney that disturbed the quiet. "You know it's funny. All those years in Atlantis and I never had nightmares. But a few months back on Earth? It's a non-stop horror show inside my head. Who ever thought that graduate students could be more terrifying than Wraith?"
"You," John said casually. "You know I don't get why you went into teaching, anyhow. You hate working with totally competent, well-educated professionals, so why teach?"
John didn't mention that back on Atlantis, Rodney was known for his nightmares. He had, in the past, woken several security teams with his frantic calls, insisting that there were Wraith, Replicators, and Genii in his quarters. Security teams that were not at all pleased to find Rodney McKay dead asleep, unharmed, in his uncompromised quarters. And with no memory of the call.
After the third incident of Rodney "Talks In Sleep" McKay crying wolf the protocol was changed. Sheppard alone would respond. Then, if there really was a problem, Sheppard would call for assistance. John had spent more nights than he wanted to remember sitting at Rodney's desk, making sure the imaginary Wraith didn't come back.
Rodney waved one hand and groped for his coffee with the other. "Jennifer's idea. I mean, it's not like we need the money, but she got bored, wanted to get back into practicing medicine, and figured that teaching would be good for me. I don't know. I think she thinks working with kids will..." another flapping gesture while McKay gulped coffee.
John watched, one eyebrow raised. "Y'think your caffeine intake might have something to do with your nightmares? This stuff is a little more potent than the stuff we had back h-- on Atlantis."
"You wanted to call it home, too, didn't you." They exchanged a look and let melancholy settle over them for a moment before Rodney snapped "Why are you here, Sheppard?"
Sheppard blinked. "Be...cause... you called me? And asked me to come over?"
"Yes yes yes, I know that. I mean why are you here? Why are you in Baltimore? I mean Jennifer's at shock trauma. I'm at Hopkins and you? You're all 'Oh, I have to get up at six' but you never say for what. So what are you doing?"
Sheppard shrugged and looked around the room. "Stuff? And things. Mostly stuff. Top secret type stuff. You know. Classified. Need-to-know."
Rodney fixed him with a glare. "Right. Like there's anything you'd need to know that I wouldn't need to know. We've got the same clearance still. I can call up anyone and get access to anything if I felt like it."
"So why don't you feel like calling up someone and finding out what I'm doing?"
Rodney blinked rapidly, tipped his head back, and looked at Sheppard. "Well, I..." he stammered. "I figured you'd, you know, tell me? Because we always, well we always have in the past that is, told each other. Pretty much. Everything?"
"Not everything," John muttered.
Rodney didn't seem to hear. He launched into a rant about idiot graduate students who were going to blow up the world and teaching assistants that seemed unable to read. John nodded and occasionally grunted in the places where it seemed like Rodney was looking for some sort of input. It didn't matter what John was doing there. Not really. He was there because sometimes Rodney needed him to be there, and that really was something McKay didn't need to know.