A shaft of white moonlight cut across the dark hallway, inviting, and Lorne paused at the window to gaze at the clear night sky. Indulging for a moment, he scrubbed his face and yawned. He'd already walked the jumper bay, command tower, recreation wing and training wing. With just an hour left in his shift, he only had to pass through the rest of the residential halls and take another sweep of the command tower before heading to bed.
The stars were bright tonight, the perfect backdrop for the city's silver spires, and Lorne thought — not for the first time — that night duty had distinct advantages. Great scenery. The chance to walk the city unhurried, free of panic, and generally without the need to either run toward or away from an explosion. He could enjoy the peace, the quiet, the —
"I am the very model of a modern major general."
Lorne pushed away from the window.
"I've information vegetable, animal and mineral."
What the hell?
"I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical, from Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical."
Off key. Slightly off tempo. It almost sounded like. . . .
"Good evening, Colonel," Lorne greeted, smothering a grin as Sheppard rounded the corner, his mouth open, the next verse already forming on his lips.
But instead of I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical, Sheppard shouted "Jesus!" and jumped at least a foot in the air.
"Late night, sir?" Lorne asked nonchalantly, noting his CO's bare feet, wrinkled clothes and haggard expression.
"I hate McKay," Sheppard grumbled and continued walking.
Lorne fell into step beside him and stopped fighting his grin. "Gilbert and Sullivan, sir?"
"Hate them, too."
"And words that rhyme. I really hate words that rhyme."
"Understandable," Lorne said, trying to keep the amusement out of his voice.
Apparently he failed, because Sheppard heaved a heavy, put-upon sigh.
"McKay was so exhausted he got loopy and started singing in the lab. I dragged him out and got him to bed, but not before his song, this song, got stuck in my head. I've been wandering around for an hour trying to get it to stop."
Actually, that was understandable. Lorne brought his niece to Disney World once and wound up with "It's a Small World After All" running in a continuous loop through his head for the next two days — the most agonizing two days of his life. And that's including the time he was shot in the knee, got separated from his team and had to walk five miles back to the gate in the middle of a snowstorm.
It's a Small World was so much more agonizing than that.
"Have you tried —"
"Stunning myself unconscious? Not yet, but it's definitely looking like an option."
"I was thinking more like listening to another song or singing this one all the way through."
"Done and done. That little rendition you caught was my third time around." Sheppard ran a hand through his hair. "I wish I were half as loopy as Rodney was."
"He's sleeping like a baby." Sheppard shoved his hands in his pockets. "I'm just coherent enough to remember —"
Lorne couldn't help it. "Many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse?"
Sheppard's stride didn't falter as he looked at Lorne and pointed. "You, Major. I hate you, too."
Lorne chuckled. "Yes, sir."
They walked silently for a few minutes, Sheppard alternating between singing softly and cursing under his breath. It didn't take Lorne long to see what the problem was.
"Colonel, you're not doing the chorus."
Sheppard looked affronted. "Of course I am."
"No, sir. You skip right over it."
Sheppard stopped and hummed to himself for a moment. He paused automatically at the chorus, then picked the song back up again. "Huh."
Sheppard wasn't your standard CO. It was one of the things Lorne appreciated about him. Belting out a Gilbert and Sullivan tune in the middle of the night? Bah! That was nothing. The man turned into a bug once. He flew space ships with his mind. He studiously looked the other way when some of his people (Lorne) asked the science department (Zelenka) to supe up a Slip 'n Slide and set it up on the east pier.
Still, Lorne paused and thought carefully before offering, "I have a suggestion, sir."
"Anything," Sheppard said immediately, and Lorne got the distinct impression he included the afore mentioned stunning in that 'anything.'
"It's dangerous, could make things worse, but I think — "
"Anything," Sheppard repeated, and yep, stunning was definitely on the table. He hoped he wouldn't need that option if this didn't work.
"It's really a two person song. I think that's why you're having trouble," Lorne said. "I could take the chorus for you."
Despite the bug-turning, space-ship-flying, Slip-n-Slide-ignoring facets of Sheppard, Lorne still wasn't prepared when he shrugged and said matter-of-factly, "Yeah, okay."
Lorne blinked. "The tune's really killing you, isn't it?"
Sheppard grimaced. "You have no idea." Then he launched into song.
The melody was off and the beat stuttered, but what Sheppard lacked in musical talent he made up for in speed. "— I'mteemingwithaloto'newswithmanycheerfulfactsaboutthe squareofthehypotenuse!"
"With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse," Lorne jumped in, almost missing his turn. "With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse. With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotepotenuse."
They strode down the hall, throwing the song back and forth.
"I am the very model of a modern major general."
"He is the very model of a modern major general."
"You'll say a better major general had never sat a gee."
"You'll say a better major general had never sat a gee. You'll say a better major general had never sat a gee. You'll say a better major general had never sat a sat a gee."
A few moments later, they stopped at Sheppard's door. Just in time.
"For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury, has only been brought down to the beginning of the century. But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral, I am the very model of a modern major general."
"But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral, he is the very model of a modern major general!"
The last cheerful notes bounced off the walls and the dark hallway fell silent. Deeply, eerily silent.
Lorne looked at Sheppard. Sheppard was looking into space, frowning.
"Uh, sir?" Lorne asked, hushed but not quite a whisper.
Slowly, deliberately, cautiously, Sheppard met his eyes. "I think it's gone."
Lorne smiled with relief. "That's great, sir."
Sheppard cocked his head, listening for the music only he could hear. "Yes," he said guardedly. "It's gone."
Then, pleased, "It's gone."
Then, the-wraith-are-dead enthusiastic, "It's gone!" With a wide grin and a giddy almost-giggle, he clapped Lorne on the shoulder and then disappeared inside his room.
For a moment, Lorne stared at the closed door. Then he chuckled and headed toward the command tower for his last sweep.
He knew Sheppard hadn't gotten much sleep over the last three days, but he didn't realize he was that exhausted. You had to be pretty damn sleep deprived to get that song stuck in his head. Modern Major General was catchy and all, but really….
"I am the pirate king," he sang, low and quiet as he walked. "It is, it is a glorious thing to be a pirate king."