Disclaimer: I Own Nothing
A/N: This is one of those ideas that won't leave you alone, that's invading your thoughts while you should study and causes you nightmares when you don't write it as soon as possible. I don't know how long this is going to be but it will be more than five chapters for sure. It's a team/friendship-fic with focus on Rodney (naturally).
The title refers to the sleepwalking-scene from Macbeth "All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand." I might change the title later on if I find a better one but for now I'm sticking with this.
This chapter was beta'd by the wonderful everg8er23! Thank you for your suggestions and corrections. They are much appreciated. All remaining mistakes are my own.
All The Perfumes Of Arabia
Colonel John Sheppard strolled into the main lab of Atlantis as if he owned the place but none of the scientists present paid him much attention. They had gotten quite accustomed to John's daily visits by then, and would have been more surprised if the man hadn't stopped by to fetch his friend for lunch.
Sheppard searched the room until he found who he was looking for, but he couldn't help but frown at the sight that greeted him.
Rodney McKay looked awful. The man was currently hunched over a table and searching through the drawers, but even that simple task seemed to exhaust him a great deal, since he was sweating profusely. Blue eyes weren't so blue anymore but a dull grey, and the skin around his eyes was pale and tight with pain and exhaustion. McKay's clothes were rumpled and Sheppard was pretty sure that he was wearing the same ones as yesterday.
John thought that his friend looked like he did when they faced certain doom and he had to work 24/7 to save them all. That was pretty worrying by itself, considering that they'd just had the calmest two months since coming to the Pegasus Galaxy.
Rodney rummaged in various drawers, cursing and muttering under his breath, his movements jerky and uncoordinated. When he didn't find what he was looking for he slammed the drawers shut with more force than necessary and straightened up. He ran a hand through his hair and looked back and forth almost frantically before moving on to another table and repeating the whole procedure.
John though that Rodney seemed desperate. Like Rodney didn't really know what he was looking for, or rather, why he was looking for it. It reminded Sheppard of the one time that he'd been forced to give the Canadian a shot from his EpiPen. It had been one of their first off-world missions and nobody had spared a thought about Rodney's allergy, not even the scientist himself. They had been too excited and, although John would never admit it, still a little bit wet behind the ears when it came to off-world missions and locals that offered you unknown food.
They had never made that mistake ever again and Rodney was now more than cautious around alien food. John sometimes teased his friend about his excessive paranoia, but he was actually quite relieved, since he didn't think that his heart could take another of Rodney's allergic reactions. Witnessing how Rodney was fighting for every single breath of air and slowly loosing the fight wasn't something John or the others wanted to see ever again.
But the attack itself hadn't been half as bad as the minutes after he'd administered the epinephrine. Rodney had shaken like a leaf and the normally articulate man had had trouble speaking for a few minutes. John had felt his pulse and had been appalled by how rapid it was.
"Adrenaline rush." Rodney had explained later that day. "I probably should be thankful that I didn't die of tachycardia."
Needless to say, the team had teased him a lot less about his citrus allergy after that particular incident.
John knew that Rodney wasn't suffering from an adrenaline rush right now, but maybe too much caffeine? God knew that the man practically inhaled the black stuff... Sheppard watched Rodney for a few minutes, wondering how he could convince the man to share his problem with them.
Dealing with Rodney's behaviour for last few days had been like running the gauntlet for Sheppard and his team. The man had been in a bad mood all week and it just didn't seem to get better. In fact, it seemed to be getting worse with each passing day and it was beginning to unnerve his friends greatly. Rodney had never been a placid man and his friends knew how to deal with his little episodes, but lately he had become unpredictable, even to his friends. Even little, innocent comments seemed to irritate him a great deal and nobody knew what would set him off next.
Teyla had been the first one to openly express her concerns about Rodney's recent behaviour, and to point out that the man seemed to be under a lot of stress as of late. She had been very adamant about helping their friend and had pestered the two men until Ronon had finally, albeit grudgingly, agreed that it would be better to get to the bottom of this, sooner rather than later.
Both aliens had immediately decided that only John could be the one to talk to Rodney since he was the only one who was really able to handle the difficult man. John had moaned and whined and even tried to convince them to toss a coin, but in the end just accepted his fate when his two teammates wouldn't budge.
It wasn't that he didn't like spending time with Rodney or talking to the man. There where times when he sought him out to do just that. But he was terrible with this whole 'Let's talk about feelings' thing. And if Rodney's problems were only half as bad as they thought they were... well, a talk about feelings seemed inevitable if that was the case.
What if Rodney was homesick or, God forbid, unhappily in love?
John and Rodney talked about a lot - best buddy's and all that - but they never talked about... that. Maybe it was because they were both more the secretive types when it came to personal things, but maybe it was because they were both guys. And guys didn't talk about...well that!
Whatever the reason, they mostly talked (or rather argued) about sports, movies, their female colleagues and sometimes, when they were drunk and just escaped certain death (yet again), they talked about the things they missed about earth.
But manly talks about feelings? Nope, not so much.
And yet here he was, watching his best friend storm through the lab like a hurricane (the nasty kind, the one that snatches your cow away when you're not looking) and tried to figure out how he could ask Rodney how he felt without sounding like a complete idiot.
He eventually decided to go for the casual approach and slouched against a console. "Hey Rodney." he drawled, an easy smirk on his face. "What'cha doing?"
The smirk almost dropped from his lips when Rodney turned around to stare at him. The glare the scientist shot him was a lot more menacing than usual.
"Not now Colonel." he hissed trough gritted teeth before returning to his quest for... whatever it was he was looking for.
'Okay.' John thought. 'This isn't going too well.'
He'd apparently chosen a pretty bad moment to start his little interrogation (if there'd ever been a good one) and would have loved to just go and try again another time, but he knew that he couldn't do that. Ronon and Teyla were waiting in the mess hall and expecting some answers, especially the Athosian. John sighed heavily. You just didn't mess with a worried Teyla. That was like trying to take a Wraith down with your bare hands.
Well, Ronon could probably do it. But then again, Ronon was Ronon.
The Colonel took a step towards his distraught friend and was about to try it again, when a hand on his shoulder stopped him cold. He turned around and came face to face with a small scientist with reddish hair and brown eyes. She looked vaguely familiar but her name eluded him.
"I would stay clear of Dr. McKay if I were you sir." she whispered, casting nervous side glances at her superior. "He's in an exceptionally bad mood today."
"That I see." John muttered but he couldn't quite help the little smile that crossed his lips when a young scientist had been unfortunate enough to cross Rodney's path and was scared away by a mere animalistic growl that escaped McKay's throat.
The Canadian could be quite intimidating when he wanted to be...
"What is he searching for anyway?" John asked puzzled when Rodney practically crawled under a table.
"He's searching for a device that a team found in one of the abandoned labs. He'd left it on his desk when he went to bed but it was gone this morning. Dr. McKay wanted to examine it a little more closely today, but now that it's gone..." she trailed off and shrugged. They both knew how the man was when someone or something interfered with his work schedule.
John's eyes narrowed into slits when he'd finally processed what she was saying. "Wait. Are you trying to tell me that we have a thief in Atlantis?"
"What?" she squeaked and fiddled with the hem of her lab coat. Sheppard thought that she looked like a woman who had said more than she wanted to. "Nonono Colonel! It's nothing like that. It'll turn up again. Pretty soon actually."
"How do you know?"
"W-Well you know... This isn't the first time something like this happened. For a week now, every morning, certain devices or even tools would go missing. They just seem to disappear over night, only to be found somewhere else entirely. Yesterday we found a scanner Dr. McKay had been working on stuffed into an unused panel." She sighed wearily and ran a hand through her short hair and John noticed for the first time how tired she looked. "Dr. McKay is convinced that someone is trying to pull a prank on him because it's mostly his stuff that disappears. He's been yelling at us every morning since this has started and he's making us all work extra hours until the culprit turns himself in. But everyone claims to be innocent and Dr. McKay's mood gets more and more unbearable. We're all walking on eggshells around him and it's getting pretty tiresome."
John just nodded, his eyes never leaving Rodney's frenzied form. He felt oddly miffed and maybe even a little bit disappointed that his friend hadn't come to him with this problem. They were friends, weren't they? And Ronon and Teyla as well.
The Satedan would have hunted this prankster down like some wild animal and Teyla would have spent the next few days in the lab, just sitting there and watching the scientists with her calm, yet clearly accusing eyes, waiting until the person that was making Rodney's life difficult cracked under the constant pressure.
And John too would have made sure that this person got what was coming to him or her.
So why hadn't Rodney told them about this? They had a right to know if someone was bullying him, didn't they?!
Sheppard curtly thanked the woman for her help and approached the still fuming scientist with long and confident strides. He unceremoniously grabbed his arm and dragged Rodney towards the doors, all the while smiling sweetly at the staring scientists as if this was a perfectly normal occurrence. And in some ways it really was...
"Sheppard." Rodney spluttered while he tried to wrench his arm out of Sheppard's grip. "What are you doing?"
John pulled the resisting man through the door and approached the nearest transporter. "We had a date for lunch, remember? Ronon and Teyla are already waiting for us in the mess hall."
"I remember." Rodney huffed. "But I'm sure you didn't fail to notice that I was pretty busy before you practically kidnapped me. What's with that anyway? My arm could have been dislocated you know. And I bruise easily so if you could-" He waved his free hand towards John's and the Colonel stopped and loosened his grip, but didn't let go.
"Why didn't you tell me about those incidents?"
Rodney looked confused for a second before his face darkened. For once he, thankfully, didn't feign ignorance and came straight to the point.
"Why should I?" he snapped. "I'm perfectly capable of handling this myself. And it's none of your business anyway!"
"Of course it is, McKay. I'm the Head of Security. I need to know about such things first-hand."
Rodney puffed his chest, a dangerous glint in his eyes. "And I'm the head of the science department and since this is a matter of the science department it is solely my responsibility. Or do you think that I'm not able to handle some dumb trouble makers?! 'Cause I have to tell you that I've done that ever since high school so I'm quite experienced, thank you very much."
Any other time Sheppard would have appreciated the brief glimpse into Rodney's childhood, since the man wasn't very forthcoming when it came to that kind of information. But right now he was too preoccupied with the hidden bitterness in his voice and what it told him about Rodney's real reasons for keeping this a secret from his friends.
The man was embarrassed. He was embarrassed because someone was taunting him in front of his colleagues and there seemed to be nothing he could do about it. He'd said it himself; he was the head of the science department. It had to sting that no disciplinary action seemed to work. Rodney probably thought that others would see that as some kind of failure on his part, that he couldn't keep his underlings in check. And everyone knew what Rodney thought about failures.
"I know that you can handle this buddy." Sheppard said in a placating voice. "I just want to help, that's all."
Rodney stared at him for a long time until his stony expression finally softened a little bit. "Yeah, well thank you, but I'll be okay on my own." He was finally able to free his arm and walked back towards the labs. "Tell Ronon and Teyla that I'm sorry, but I'm really busy right now. I'll meet you guys tomorrow for breakfast, okay?!"
"Sure." John called back, feeling strangely lost. Now that he knew what the problem was and that he was actually able to do something about it without much talking he felt sorry that Rodney still wouldn't accept his help.
A mischievous smile tugged at his lips.
But there was no reason why he couldn't take a little midnight walk through Atlantis tonight. And if he just so happened to pass the labs and see someone who shouldn't be there... well, Rodney could hardly blame him for a coincidence like that, could he?
Sheppard yawned loudly and rubbed the back of his neck as he walked through the darkened corridors of his beloved city. He had fallen asleep despite his plan to stay awake. The only reason why he wasn't still sleeping was the window he'd opened before lying down to read the first chapter of 'War and Piece'... Again. The nights on this planet could be freezing and so he'd been woken up by the clattering of his own teeth and an unnaturally cold room.
A hot shower and some warm clothes later he was on his way to the main lab, still drowsy with sleep. It was way past midnight and Atlantis' hallways were deserted and ominously dark.
The silence usually didn't bother John too much. He loved this city, no matter how eerie she appeared at night or how many dangers she still harbored for her new inhabitants. But tonight he felt queasy and almost uncomfortable. He was on edge and the feeling was only reinforced when he neared the main lab and saw that it was brightly lit.
He swallowed hard, not understanding why he was suddenly so nervous, and edged forward until his back was pressed against the wall beside the open door.
For a few minutes he did nothing more than listen. Someone was obviously moving in there and John was pretty sure that it was only one person. This person, however, seemed to be pretty light-footed because Sheppard could barely hear any footsteps.
'Maybe it's a woman' he thought and couldn't contain his curiosity any longer. The Colonel took another deep breath and finally peeked around the corner.
He needed a few seconds to understand what he was seeing, but when he did, he couldn't help the small laugh that escaped him. John actually didn't know if he should be relieved or exasperated.
Rodney was standing in the middle of the lab with his back to John, completely oblivious to his sudden audience. He was barefooted and wore nothing but sweats and a baggy t-shirt. His get-up didn't surprise John, though. Rodney would often wake up in the middle of the night with some kind of idea and just rush to his lab to work on it without bothering to change clothes. Those nights usually ended with Zelenka shaking him awake the next day where he'd found the man slumped over his desk and Rodney whining about his stiff neck all morning.
'Although', John admitted when his eyes once again landed on Rodney's bare feet, 'he usually puts on some shoes...'
"Geez Rodney." he chuckled softly. "You really need to stop doing that. Some day someone will mistake you for a ghost or something."
At first the only indication that Rodney had heard him was a slight tilt of his head. John was beginning to think that the man was still mad at him for earlier and was ignoring him, until he finally received a small "Hi John".
Sheppard's eyebrows shot up, not so much because the scientist had used his first name (which he only did when one of them was dying) but because the voice that had answered him hadn't sounded like Rodney at all.
It had been even and soft and meek and...well, everything that Rodney wasn't. And he'd sounded way too...distracted, like he wasn't even fully aware of his own words and actions.
For the first time since he'd entered the lab, John took a moment to really observe Rodney. He noticed that his arms were full of equipment, for example a LSD, and different tools. But what surprised John the most were his next actions. The scientist approached Zelenka's table, crouched down, opened the bottom drawer and dumped everything he'd carried into it.
John warily approached the crouching man. Rodney's steps had been too slow and almost overcautious as he made his way through the lab. The whole situation and Rodney's silence were beginning to unnerve him.
"What are you doing Rodney?"
And he really didn't know why he was still whispering.
Rodney's movements stilled for a second, but he once again needed agonizingly long to form an answer. "'m hidin' stuff."
Why was Rodney mumbling so badly? John almost didn't understand him and the man always made sure that everyone understood what he was saying, whether they wanted to or not.
Sheppard had reached his friend by then and got his first good look at his face and what he saw made his eyes widen with shock. Not only did Rodney seem to purposefully avoid his eyes, but they were glassy and hooded, like he wasn't really seeing anything at all. His face was oddly slack and it almost looked like he was still-
"Rodney." John muttered, still not quite believing what he was seeing. "Are you sleepwalking?"
His friend didn't answer but got to his feet and walked back to his desk to collect more stuff'.
John merely watched him for a few minutes and felt at a loss. Should he call Carson? But then again; what could the man do that John couldn't do himself? He knew that you weren't supposed to wake someone who was sleepwalking but gently steer the person back to bed. He could do that, right?
John couldn't help but chuckle as he watched how Rodney emptied another armload of devices into Miko's desk. So it had been Rodney himself who'd made his own life miserable without even realizing it. And he'd accused his innocent co-workers of his own crimes. It was kind of funny...
"Okay buddy." Sheppard said in his most soothing voice and placed a hand on Rodney's back. "Let's get you back to bed, hm?!"
Rodney didn't move at first but soon abandoned his task to let John gently steer him away from the table.
John had to admit that the ghost-like voice and the long delay of his answers were starting to freak him out. He tried to speed things up a little bit as soon as they were back in the hallway, but Rodney suddenly began to stumble, so John slowed down again. He found it curious that McKay seemed pretty okay in his own lab but had trouble walking as soon as he left it.
The trek to Rodney's quarters couldn't have taken more than five minutes but to John it felt more like five hours. Rodney would constantly just stop walking and stare at something to his right or left (never at John though), muttering under his breath words that John couldn't make out but sounded suspiciously like equations. He had to use more and more force to get Rodney to move again and John found it harder and harder to remain calm and speak in a non-threatening manner.
It was a relief when they finally reached Rodney's quarters. The scientist fell asleep (well more than he already was) as soon as his head hit the pillow. John was about to leave when he decided that that wasn't such a good idea after all. What if Rodney decided to take another walk? He'd better stay the night and keep an eye on his friend.
He plopped into the only chair and tried to get as comfortable as possible. He would have to talk to Carson first thing tomorrow. And Elizabeth and the rest of his team since he'd already told them about the situation in the labs. Rodney wouldn't like that of course, but John knew that it had to be done and that the man would probably need all the help he could get with this pesky little problem. A smirk touched his lips and he had to suppress the evil laughter that threatened to rise to the surface.
Well, this could prove to be fun after all...
A/N: So? Worth continuing? Well I'm gonna do it anyway. Remember? Nightmares and all that? But it would be nice to know what you think. :)
I've got my input about sleepwalking from the internet and I'll explain some things the next chapter, with Carsons help of course! Next chapter could take a little while but I'm trying to get it up as soon as I can.