Genre/rating: Gen, PG
Spoilers: Tag to Ghost in the Machine (I so didn't plan to write a tag. Darn characters with minds of their own...)
Disclaimer: Do you really think I own them? Honestly?
Summary: Rodney breaks.
AN: Written for the LJ sgaflashfic Comfort Challenge.
They come at 2 a.m., when Rodney's legs are numb and his back aches from the way he's hunched against the wall. He's been staring at the night sky so long that his eyes have started to water and the moon has become little more than a blurry white splotch to him, but he doesn't turn when the balcony doors swish open. He knows who it will be.
"Hey, buddy," Sheppard says, and even without looking Rodney can tell he's leaning against the doorway, casually but not. "Want some company?"
Rodney wants a lot of things at this moment. Blankets. Extra strength coffee to keep him awake or extra strength sleeping pills to send him into oblivion. A time machine.
Company doesn't make the list.
But Sheppard is already coming, Teyla and Ronon a half step behind. They take up positions around him, like sentries: Sheppard on one side, between him and the door, bumping Rodney's shoulder lightly when he sits. Teyla on the other side, folding her legs under her as she follows Rodney's gaze to the sky. Ronon with his back to the railing, watching them all.
Rodney wants to tell them to go away. He is good at telling people to go away. He's done it on three continents and in two galaxies and in five different languages. He's shouted it and hissed it and backed it up with grand threats and forceful gestures.
But Sheppard's already talking, the rise and fall of his voice washing over the balcony like ocean waves, and Teyla's taking Rodney's hands, rubbing the cold away with determination, heat singing across his skin. So Rodney stares more at the moon.
He zones out for a moment — or maybe it's several moments, because Sheppard's jacket is around his shoulders and Ronon is the one talking now, his words rumbling together, and Teyla is holding his hands in hers, the rubbing done but the warmth bone-deep.
This alarms him, the zoning out, because it means his body is dragging him off toward sleep and sleep is what he's been fighting for days. Sleep, with its looping nightmares of nanites and Elizabeth and the cold, dark vacuum of space where everyone is dead, dead, dead —
He starts to shiver, hard, and Teyla's hands tighten around his and Ronon's words cut off and Sheppard appears in front of him, crouching, his ridiculously spiky hair blocking out the white splotch of moon. Sheppard is saying something, and it takes Rodney much longer than it should to make sense of the words.
"C'mon, Rodney, talk to me here."
Rodney chokes back a laugh because no one has ever implored him to talk. Shut up, yes. Talk, no. And it strikes him as incredibly funny that someone is begging him to speak now, when he has nothing to say, absolutely nothing at all in the world to say, because words have lost their power to perform miracles and so has he.
But something bubbles up and breaks through, and Rodney thinks it's laughter until he sees Sheppard's face crumple and feels Teyla pulling him close and he realizes it's a sob. Then there's another and another, until he's fighting to breathe and shaking like he's going to fly apart and trying to bend in half to hide his face because no one should have to see this.
But hiding proves impossible because Teyla has her arms wrapped around him and Sheppard has his arms around them both, and then Ronon is there, wrapped around them all. Rodney takes shuddering breath after shuddering breath, the smell of the salt air mingling with the faintly spicy scent of Teyla's shampoo and the soap-and-gun-oil of Sheppard's t-shirt and the leather of Ronon's armbands, and he's still shaking like he's going to fly apart, but they're holding him together.