A/N – Truly just a bit of fluff. I'm in the middle of a difficult story and needed
a break! I ended up with this. I know it has a lot of holes, and situations
that remain unresolved, but that's what fluff is for, right? Anyway, no
spoilers, so read safely. Thanks.
Rodney McKay lay on his back, doing his best to relax and go to sleep. His room was dark and still, lit only by the twinkling stars seen through his window. He flipped to his right side, punching at his pillow, and tugging the blankets up over his shoulder. Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried to turn off the myriad of thoughts racing through his mind. After five more minutes of fooling himself, he gave a long, drawn out sigh, then sat up.
It was no use. There was no way he was going to get any sleep tonight. He briefly thought of calling Carson Beckett and asking the physician for a sleep aid, but immediately dismissed the idea. Rodney disliked medication – any medication. Memories of his mother scurrying into her bedroom and popping who-knows-what so she could get through another day surfaced, and he angrily pushed them aside. No – the last thing he needed was chemical assistance.
He dropped his bare legs over the side of the mattress and ran a hand across his face. A glance at the clock revealed the time to be 11:48 – nearly the witching hour. Giving another sigh, Rodney left the warm comfort of his bed, and pushed himself to his feet.
Five minutes later, dressed and fairly presentable, he left his room. Work. That's what he would do. That's what he always when something was bothering him. Or when he was bored. Or he needed distraction. Or, in this case, he couldn't sleep. Work was his balm. His identity. His contribution to mankind. And his escape.
The hallways of Atlantis were eerily silent. When they had first arrived nearly two years ago, there had been far more activity at night. Atlantis was new and exciting, extraordinary and exotic. The people of Earth were intrigued by the city and so spent most of their time exploring and discovering. Even at night.
Now, though, the city was merely a home, a place to sleep and eat and work. Most of the hidden nooks and crannies had been discovered, and those that hadn't could obviously wait. Oh, whenever some new recruits were shuttled in by the Daedelus, they were fascinated and overwhelmed by the wonders of the city, but eventually the excitement was tempered into acceptance. And the nighttime hallways became quiet once more.
Rodney hit the controls in the transporter, then leaned against the wall, his arms folded across his chest. One look at his face revealed his exhaustion. Normally bright blue eyes were now underscored with dark shadows. His shoulders slumped, his head drooped. Even his crooked smile was absent, replaced with lines of fatigue. He closed his eyes for the few seconds it took to get to the second level, imagining himself back in his room, sound asleep and snoring. Wearily, he shook his head at the image, knowing that it was only wishful thinking.
He strode from the transporter, his feet automatically guiding him to the main lab. Rodney had a smaller, more private room that he considered "his lab," but he knew that if he got involved in one of his little projects, he would never sleep tonight. And he needed to sleep. His projects could wait.
Rodney paused at the entryway to the lab, his eyes falling on Radek Zelenka. Inwardly, he groaned; he thought the lab would be empty. Stifling a sigh, he moved into the room, making his way over to his work station.
"Rodney?" Radek looked up from his computer screen, his eyes bleary. Rodney paused, then turned and glared at his SIC.
"Radek." McKay's voice was curt, and Radek could see the fatigue etched on his bosses face. Rather than taking offense at Rodney's tone, he gave the chief scientist a small smile, then gestured at his desk. A small pile of Power Bars lay unopened, next to a thermos.
"Hungry?" Radek asked, and Rodney shook his head. No, if he ate now, he definitely wouldn't sleep.
"What are you doing here?" Rodney asked, reluctantly coming to Zelenka's desk and peeking over the scientist's shoulder at the computer screen. Various formulas were displayed, along with a graph that fluctuated wildly.
"Checking Kavanaugh's algorithms," came to tired reply, and Rodney nodded. Kavanaugh was a creep, but he was also the grand poobah of computer programmers. Somehow, Radek had become Kavanaugh's beta tester, due to the fact that no one else would work with the smug scientist – sometimes not even his own computer team. The work was tedious, but necessary, and Rodney felt a momentary pang of sympathy for his friend. He refrained from placing a hand on Radek's shoulder, and walked to his desk instead.
His own computer lay on the top of the workstation, surrounded by various off-world objects and piles of paperwork. He grimaced; it was the paperwork he had come to retrieve. If anything would put him to sleep, it would be the inane forms required by the bureaucrats funding this expedition. And, unfortunately, as the chief scientist of Atlantis, his name had to be scrawled on the bottom of each and every form. In triplicate. Yuck.
He stacked the papers into a loose pile, then shoved them into a manila folder. Why the powers-that-be couldn't use the computer for their records was beyond Rodney. It would make his job so much easier.
He paused as an unfamiliar sound came from behind him. He turned and his eyes widened as he saw Dr. Anya Sivenska, wearing only a T-shirt and sweats, her feet bare, walk through the door. Her step was unsure, almost fearful, and he watched curiously as she paused before her workstation. Before he could make a sound, she dropped to her knees and scurried under the desk, curling into a small ball.
"Ssshhhh!" Radek grabbed his arm, his grip tight in warning. "She's sleepwalking." Before Rodney could comment on that little tidbit, Radek walked over to a small metal cabinet. He removed a blanket, then moved silently over to the huddled woman. He carefully leaned under the desk, draping the blanket over the shivering form, then returned to his feet. Gesturing for Rodney to grab his papers, he reached over and closed his laptop. The two scientists made their way out of the room, Rodney's eyes never leaving the woman curled up under her desk.
Radek closed the door, then gave a sigh. He turned to see Rodney's blue eyes, confused and somewhat appalled, staring at the closed door.
"Does she do that a lot?" Rodney finally asked. He had worked many late nights in the main lab himself, and he couldn't remember the small scientist ever wandering in like a phantom. Radek gave a troubled nod, then began walking towards the mess hall.
"Anya is originally from Chechnya. She had…..a difficult childhood, I believe. When she is overtired, she sleepwalks. Dr. Beckett told me to leave her where she is, to make her comfortable. And not to wake her. Apparently, it could be dangerous." Radek fell silent for a moment, allowing Rodney to process this new information.
Chechnya. Huh. She was the chief linguist and cryptologist of the expedition, heading the team that was responsible for translating anything, oral or written, that was discovered on their off-world missions. And she was a good friend of Dr. Daniel Jackson. Rodney had often worked with Anya – quite closely, as a matter of fact – on a number of artifacts that he couldn't interpret himself. Until now, he hadn't given the linguist a second thought – other than when he needed her skills.
His exhaustion momentarily forgotten, Rodney found himself studying his SIC as they made their way to the cafeteria. He realized that although he trusted Dr. Zelenka with the care of Atlantis in his absence, he really didn't know much about the Czech. The man was brilliant, his I.Q. hovering just a smidge below Rodney's. The biggest difference between the two men was that Rodney was prone to dream up the more radical – and usually more dangerous - solution to a problem. Radek was more conservative. And he was more social. It was no secret that Rodney was impatient and difficult, and his demands on his staff were daunting. He refrained from socializing with his scientists, keeping his relationships strictly professional. Radek, on the other hand, could be seen chatting and smiling, smoothing the frequent bumps between colleagues. He was a kind man, a trait revealed by his gentle caretaking of the troubled linguist. For the first time, Rodney considered how much he relied on Radek, and how much more difficult his job would be without him.
Radek stopped in front of the cafeteria, giving Rodney a small smile. "See you in the morning, Rodney."
"Yeah….umm….you're not going to do anything about Anya?"
Radek gave a small shake of his head. "No – eventually she will wake up on her own and return to her room."
Rodney merely nodded. "Okay – I guess. Good night, Radek."
Rodney watched Radek disappear around the corner, the smaller scientist heading back to his own quarters. The sound of familiar voices coming from the mess hall beckoned, and, now fully awake, Rodney decided to see what was going on.
He entered the large room, skirting the chairs and tables placed haphazardly about the area. In the far corner, nursing a cup of coffee, sat Major Lorne, and he greeted Rodney with a small wave and a grin. Rodney nodded at the Major, then strode towards the kitchen area, following the sound of Ronon's voice.
"Now, you want to slice the pepperoni very thin, so it will crisp a little as it cooks," came another voice. Rodney poked his head around the corner, where five huge metal tables were bolted to the floor. Ronon Dex and Dr. Elizabeth Weir were stationed at the closest table, Ronon wielding a large knife. The big runner was covered with flour, his face smudged and his clothes protected by a white apron.
"Elizabeth?" Rodney asked. Dr. Weir's head popped up, her eyes welcoming.
"Rodney? I thought you went to bed hours ago," she said, then leaned over to inspect Ronon's work. "Yes – just like that." Ronon merely grunted in acknowledgement, his light eyes focused on his task.
McKay walked to the table, noting the lumps of dough sitting on the side, along with plastic containers of red sauce and mozzarella cheese.
"You're making pizza?" he asked incredulously, and Elizabeth nodded.
"Ronon heard Colonel Sheppard extolling the virtues of pizza, and decided he wanted to try it." She leaned in and poked at the pizza dough, smiling in satisfaction at the texture.
"Now what?" Ronon asked, his voice gruff. Inside, though, he was relaxed. As a warrior, on his own, he had prepared his own meals countless times. When he had cautiously approached one of the cooks about sampling this pizza, Elizabeth had overheard his request. She had called him into her office, offering to teach him to prepare the meal. Surprised, he had accepted.
"Now comes the fun part," she replied. "Rub a little flour on to your hands, like this." Elizabeth dipped her fingers into a small pile of the white flour, then briskly rubbed her hands together. Rodney watched as Ronon mimicked her movements, the scientist momentarily forgetting the folder of paperwork he clutched in one hand.
"Now, you're going to take the dough, shape it, and then flip it into the air – like this." Both men watched in amazement as their expedition leader expertly pounded on the dough, making a lumpy saucer shape. She then grabbed the edges, and started spinning and flipping the crust high into the air, watching it expand and smooth out.
"Cool – let me try," Ronon said, and she nodded at the remainder of the dough. Ronon copied her instructions, a bit awkwardly at first, then, his confidence growing, he tossed the dough higher. Rodney watched with a mixture of amusement and horror as the dough began to fall apart, and Ronon scrambled to catch all of the pieces before they hit the floor.
Elizabeth laughed lightly, and suddenly Rodney felt out of place, like he was intruding on a private moment. He never knew that Ronon even spoke to anyone other than Sheppard and Teyla, let alone the cool and reserved expedition leader. The two seemed comfortable with each other, and shared a grin as they bent to retrieve the globs of pizza dough splattered on the floor.
"Ummm….I guess I'll be going now," Rodney sputtered out.
"Come back later for some pizza if you want, Rodney," Elizabeth called out as she and Ronon stood, tossing the ruined dough into a trash can. "That is, if Ronon can get the hang of this."
"Hey! It was only my first time!" The runner retorted. Their voices faded away as Rodney spun around and headed back to the now empty cafeteria. Ronon and Elizabeth. Making pizza. At midnight. Weird.
The physicist walked the long corridors of Atlantis, his folder of paperwork tucked securely under one arm, but he was fully awake now. Rodney knew that staring at the indecipherable scribbles of his staff's requisitions would only end in a headache, rather than a good nights sleep. He decided to see if Carson was still awake; he wanted to ask about Dr. Sivenska's sleepwalking. Rodney knew little about the condition, and the thought of the linguist wandering off somewhere, and perhaps getting hurt, bounced through his head.
He entered the infirmary, unconsciously wrinkling his nose at the odor of alcohol and disinfectant. Two of the beds were occupied, both by members of SGA-4. They had been injured by an unexpected earthquake off-world, and as Rodney quietly passed by their beds, he could see them sleeping, one of the men snoring lightly.
He poked his head into Carson's office, and was disappointed to see it was empty. Making a mental note to speak to the physician in the morning, he turned and started exiting the room when he heard music. It was coming from the isolation rooms on the far side of the infirmary.
Curious, he dropped his papers on Carson's desk, and made his way to the rooms, the music growing louder. Under his breath, he started humming – it was a waltz, familiar from all his years sitting at the piano, plunking out the notes.
The sound of laughter stopped him in his tracks, and for a moment, he wondered if he had intruded on another private moment. Then the sound of Carson's Scottish lilt could be heard over the music.
"Now, lass, the proper way to do this is to let me lead." Rodney found himself standing in the doorway, watching Carson Beckett and Teyla Emmagen clumsily dance their way across the floor. He shook his head as the two fell out of time with the music, Teyla stepping on Carson's toes.
"Fred and Ginger you two are not," Rodney said, and Carson spun around, surprised. As the doctor reached over to turn off the music, Teyla heaved a defeated sigh.
"I am afraid that this is beyond me, Dr. Beckett," she said. She sat down on the edge of the bed, her face glum.
Giving Rodney an irritated glare, the Scot plopped down next to her. "You are naturally graceful, Teyla. If anything, it's probably me that's doing it wrong." When neither Teyla nor Rodney argued, he shrugged his shoulders. Then, a thought occurred to him, and he faced McKay.
"Rodney, can you dance?" The physicist squirmed, suddenly wishing he was still in his quarters, in his bed. After all, it was well passed midnight and he really should be getting some sleep….
"Oh no you don't, Carson. I can see where this is going, and there is no way I am…" he trailed off at the disappointed look on Teyla's face. And sighed. The Athosian woman had saved his life more times than he could count. The least he could do is show her how to dance. And it wasn't like he was doing anything else.
"Fine," he snapped. Carson reached over and clicked the small stereo back on, then stood as the music drifted throughout the room. "But I'm leading!"
"Okay Teyla. Watch Rodney and me for a few moments," Carson advised as he moved closer to the physicist. The two men stood awkwardly for a moment, then with an exaggerated sigh, Rodney reached for Carson's hands. He planted the physician's right hand on his hip, clenched the left, then, his head bopping slightly to the beat, started to move.
Teyla watched as the two men drifted across the floor, sensing the embarrassment wafting from them. Still, as they relaxed, their movements became more graceful, and with Rodney leading, they were in perfect time to the music. They spun and swayed for a few minutes more, Rodney's face still rigid, and Carson stumbling every now and then. She nodded as she started to recognize the repeated steps, the turns and positions.
"I think I can get it now," she offered, and both men immediately separated, heaving relieved breaths. Carson stepped back, leaning against the bed.
"You're a pretty good dancer, Dr. McKay," he offered. Rodney merely grunted.
An old girlfriend had insisted he learn some kind of social skill, and she had decided upon dancing. They had split up shortly thereafter, but not before the physicist had managed to learn a few steps. He never thought he'd be using them in a galaxy light years from Earth, dancing with the chief medical officer and an alien. Strange how life turns out.
Teyla moved forward, her eyes on the physicist. She and McKay were part of the same team, relied on each other during the most harrowing times she had known, but they had never really had much physical contact with each other. His vivid blue eyes fell upon her face, and she offered him a small grin. This was as awkward for her as it was for him.
He positioned her hands, then pulled her closer to him. "Don't look at your feet. Look at me," he instructed, and she nodded. He waited a few seconds for the beat, then slowly started moving them across the room. He relaxed as Teyla's natural grace, not to mention feminine shape, pulled him into the dance. The instructor always said you needed to feel the music, rather than hear it. Now, with their audience of one impressed physician, they waltzed around the small room, Rodney finally understanding what that meant.
The two moved together, and Rodney tried to remember the last time he had held a woman in his arms and danced. Years. Many years. His eyes focused on Teyla's face, her expression unsure at first, but now beaming as she enjoyed the movements. He, too, felt more relaxed, and gave her a grin as he suddenly leaned forward in a dip. She laughed, tightening her grip as he pulled her up and closer.
As the music came to an end, Rodney spun Teyla around once more, then released her. Her eyes were bright, and a happy smile was on her face. No longer awkward, she gave the startled physicist a hug.
"Thank you Dr. McKay. That was wonderful!"
"Yes, Rodney, it was," Carson added. He watched as the scientist squirmed uncomfortably, then gave a quick shrug. The doctor crossed his arms, a thought occurring to him.
"Rodney, did you need me for something?"
McKay shook his head. His questions about sleepwalking could wait until the morning. The music clicked off, and the sudden silence was deafening.
"Well, I guess I'll see you both in the morning," Rodney offered. He turned and walked to the door, but stopped when Teyla called his name.
"Rodney? Thank you."
He nodded. "Sure. Anytime."
McKay glanced at his wrist, noting that it was one on the morning. His stomach rumbled, and he wondered briefly if Ronon had gotten the hang of flipping pizza dough. Fresh pepperoni pizza sounded really good right now.
He retrieved his paperwork from Carson's desk, then strolled out into the hallway. In another five hours he was supposed to be in his lab, ready for another day in Atlantis. God – he needed to go to sleep. While the music and dancing had relaxed him, the physical exertion had left him wide awake. He knew that if he returned to his bed now, he would only lie awake, staring at the ceiling in frustration.
He followed his feet to a remote part of the city, his unconscious mind leading him to his sanctuary. There were many balconies on Atlantis – an odd feature seeing as the city had been underwater for thousands of years – and he had found one that seemed custom designed for an anxious physicist. Rather than over-looking the sea, and all its rolling vastness, it was focused inward, allowing one to dwell on the beauty of the city. Rodney often found himself staring at the peaks and valleys of the structure, imagining the bustle of the Ancient people as they lived, worked, fought, and died in Atlantis.
He exited the city, walking out on to his balcony. He dropped the paperwork by the doorway, then leaned against the railing. Rodney drew in a deep breath, the night air cleansing and cool, a slight breeze ruffling his short hair. He braced himself against the cold metal, closing his eyes against the dizzying view. Instead, he took another breath, then released it with a sigh.
"You okay, Rodney?" John Sheppard's concerned voice broke through his reverie, startling the physicist. He let out a strangled yelp, then whirled to face the Colonel. The soldier was seated nonchalantly on a lounge chair of sorts, his hands behind his head, and his feet crossed.
"You idiot! You scared the hell out of me!" Rodney snapped. All thoughts of relaxation vanished as he realized his balcony had been discovered – and invaded.
John rose to his feet, an apology in his eyes. "Sorry. I thought you saw me."
Rodney angrily shook his head, his hands still clenching the railing. "What are you doing here, Sheppard?"
"Couldn't sleep. I decided to take a run, and I ended up here." Sheppard moved next to McKay, and he took in the physicist's worn out appearance. John was well aware that out of the three of them – John, Rodney and Elizabeth – Rodney was pushed the hardest. He had to control all of the scientists that resided and worked in the city, and that in itself was difficult. Scientists were civilians, not military, so they didn't respond well to orders. And every scientist on this expedition was brilliant, many with huge egos. Just keeping his staff in line was a full-time job for McKay.
But the man also insisted that he remain a member of SGA-1, and travel off-world. The fact that nine times out of ten they got into trouble, with McKay sometimes ending up injured, only added to the scientist's burden. It didn't help that McKay wasn't in the best physical shape, and had an attitude that would sour milk. John had often considered removing McKay from his team, and replacing him with a younger, more amiable scientist, but, the truth be told, John liked Rodney, and liked having the man on his team. But, looking at McKay now, and the lines on his face, John began to reconsider once more.
"Rodney, you look terrible," John said, half hoping McKay would take the bait. The man was notoriously closed off, and usually the only way to draw him out was to get him angry.
"Yeah, well, I'm tired, Sheppard. Excuse me for being human." Rather than filled with biting anger, though, Rodney's words were merely dull and worn. John nodded his head; life had been busy in Atlantis lately, and everyone was feeling the strain.
They remained silent for a few long minutes, Rodney's eyes focusing on the lights that dotted the city structure. Behind them, muffled by the buildings, he could hear the gentle lap of the sea, solid and steady. He could feel his eyelids start to get heavy, his head drooping slightly.
"Hey, why don't you take my seat? I was just leaving anyway," John said. Rodney's head swiveled, taking in the lounge chair, and he gave a sigh. It would be nice just to sit and stare at the city for awhile. A couple of minutes, anyway.
"Thanks," he said roughly, avoiding Sheppard's eyes. He sank on to the chair, unable to repress the deep sigh of satisfaction as he reclined backward. He folded his arms across his chest, feeling truly relaxed for the first time tonight.
"Are Ronon and Elizabeth done making their pizza?" John asked, pausing before he left the balcony.
"You know about that?" Rodney asked, then shrugged. Sheppard knew about everything that went on in Atlantis – it was his job.
"Of course. I knew Elizabeth would take the bait," John replied. Rodney gave another shrug, this time letting his eyes close, and John gave the man a closer look. He couldn't remember the last time he saw McKay appear so tired. Tomorrow he would reschedule their off-world activities, and give the team a much needed rest. Until then, he would leave the chief scientist to his balcony.
Rodney didn't hear John leave, his exhaustion finally grabbing hold and guiding him into sleep. He was snoring gently, curled up on his side, when Sheppard returned, bearing a warm blanket and two slices of pepperoni pizza. He stared down at his teammate, knowing that shaking Rodney awake to
sample Ronon's first foray into the culinary arts –at least here on Atlantis, anyway – would probably result in a verbal assault from the scientist. Instead, John carefully set the plate down on the ground, then unfolded the blanket. McKay didn't move an inch as John gently covered him, his light snores never breaking their rhythmic cadence. The Colonel stood, giving his friend one last look. He paused before exiting the door, then turned and reached down. Shoving one of the now cold slices of pizza into his mouth, he left the slumbering physicist to his dreams.