Title:Rest For the Weary
Rating/genre: PG 13 (language), gen
Words: ~ 2,000
Warnings: Mentions of imprisonment
Summary: Rodney just wants to be left alone and Sheppard tries to accommodate. . . while being there.
AN: Wow, this came out completely different than I'd planned. For example, I'd wanted to write a team fic. But would John and Rodney invite the others in to help? Noooo. Sheesh. Blasted characters with minds of their own. ;0) Fic is unbeta-ed, so the mistakes are all mine. Actually, the mistakes are always all mine, but this time they weren't added in after beta. Written for the h/c challenge over at LJ flashfic
He doesn't need to be the focus of so much attention.
He's not dying. He did almost die, yes, okay, but he doesn't need nurses to handle him as if he's made of glass and doctors to smile and tell him he's "doing great, just great" and visitors to encircle his bed. So many people around him. Too many. All the time. He just wants to be away, to sleep without the people and the nightmares and the nightmares of people.
So he leaves.
Rodney slides the IV out of his hand and totters out the door. He's moving slowly — too damned slowly — and the thought of someone coming along and dragging him back makes his heart feels like it's going to jump out of his chest. But the hallway is deserted and the transporter is dead ahead and he makes it without a problem.
When the transporter doors slide shut, Rodney takes a moment, bending with one hand pressed against his aching ribs, the other braced against the wall. He's a little dizzy and more than a little nauseous, but he's surrounded by walls and quiet and thank god, finally, walls, and for the first time in two days he feels like he can breathe.
But he has no more than two minutes left before someone misses him. He'd slipped out during a rare moment of solitude, the lucky convergence of a longer-than-usual infirmary shift change and Ronon, this evening's babysitter, leaving to grab dinner. Two minutes. He can't get far in two minutes, but he can get somewhere.
Rodney straightens up as well as he can and jabs a spot on the map.
The abandoned lab is dark, windowless, cramped. It's perfect.
Except the door won't close.
Rodney briefly considers pushing over the lab table as a barrier, but he's trembling and sweating just from the walk here. There's no way he'll be able to move the table two inches let alone topple it. So instead, he shuffles to the farthest, darkest corner and slides down into it.
The floor is hard under him and the walls are solid around him. It feels like a little bit of heaven.
He'll have been missed by now. He feels a twinge of guilt for that, for making everyone worry. But he needs time. . . away. They'll never think of this room. His quarters, yes, and his main lab. The mess hall after that. The jumpers. His auxiliary lab. Maybe the pier — if they're stupid. Because there's no way he'd go. . . not after. . . just no.
The sensors in this part of the city haven't worked for weeks, too low on the priority list for a fast fix, so there's no finding him through his sub cu transmitter, either. He's alone. Enclosed. Safe. Rodney lets his eyes drift closed. Maybe now he can sleep.
The floor is hard, which is good, but it's also cold, which is not good at all. He starts to shiver, turning small aches into big aches and big aches on fire. Rodney draws up his knees as far as he can and gingerly tucks his hands between them. It helps conserve his body heat a little, but not much. Not enough. Muzzily, Rodney thinks about getting up, abandoning his corner in search of some place warmer. But before he can make a choice between staying and going, exhaustion makes the decision for him.
He slips under imagining the feel of a blanket being draped around his shoulders.
He's surrounded. Surroundedsurroundedsurroundedsurroun—
Rodney wakes with a scream, jerking upright so fast that he bangs his head and smacks his still-healing shoulder into the wall.
"Ow," he whines to himself, hunching over as far as his ribs will allow and rocking a little. Dammit. Even alone he can't sleep. He pulls the blanket around him and over his head like a hood, desperate for the small comfort. "Ow, ow, ow."
Rodney slides the blanket over and off his head, wincing as it brushes the stitches at his hairline. It's soft, blue, Athosian.
"Oh for the love of — " Rodney struggles to get up, but he's cramped and sore and his body doesn't let him get even halfway up before it concedes to gravity and he slumps back down again. He gathers his breath, then shouts, "I know you're out there!"
When no one immediately appears, Rodney silently counts out thirty seconds. Then sixty. He's psyching himself up to take another stab at standing when Sheppard's suddenly there, slouching in the doorway oh-so-casually.
"Hey," Sheppard says, as if this is an everyday thing. Staff meeting, team breakfast, find Rodney slumped in the dark corner of an abandoned lab.
Rodney is not amused.
"How did you find me?" he demands. He's tired and embarrassed and hurting and really just wants everyone to leave him the hell alone.
"Oh, you know," Sheppard says vaguely and offers a half shrug.
Rodney scowls. "Are Ronon and Teyla here with you?"
Sheppard offers another half shrug and makes a show of looking back into the dark hallway behind him. "Do you want them to be here?"
"I don't even want you to be here!" Rodney shouts. Or tries to. His throat scratches at the end, sending him into a coughing fit. His injured ribs won't let him draw a deep breath and coughing steals what's left and — air is important! — Rodney panics. He closes his eyes and works on pulling in enough air, works so hard, so desperately, that he can feel the sweat dampen the neck of his scrubs. When gray spots start to cloud his vision, he doubles over frantically wheezing.
Rodney's only dimly aware when Sheppard takes his shoulders, pushes him back upright and steadies him there.
"Easy, buddy. You're okay. C'mon, slow and easy. Slow and easy."
Rodney can barely hear him over the blood pounding in his ears, but Sheppard repeats "slow and easy" over and over until Rodney gets it, gets the rhythm, and catches his first good breath.
"There you go. You're okay. Slow and easy."
It takes a minute, but when Rodney's finally able to sit up on his own he feels Sheppard's hands draw away. Minutes more and he's able take a breath without wheezing. He opens his eyes to find Sheppard's returned to his place at the doorway, a good ten feet away.
Rodney lets his head thump softly back against the wall with relief.
"Thanks," Rodney says, his voice rusty.
"No problem." Sheppard says.
Rodney expects Sheppard to call Keller to haul him back to the infirmary. Instead, Sheppard sits down, hands loose on his knees, back against the doorway. As if he has all the time in the world.
"What're you —"
"Thought you might want to catch some sleep."
Rodney frowns, confused. "What, you want to give Keller time to get here with a sedative and a wheelchair? Because that's the only way I'm going back, you know."
Sheppard's mouth twitches and he looks almost amused. "Gee, that sounds familiar."
"Yeah, I'm turning into you. Next thing you know I'll be running off on some heroic yet stupidly self-sacrificial mission."
At that Sheppard does grin. He gestures to the stitches on Rodney's head, the bandages around his ribs. "Too late, buddy."
Rodney snorts. "Hardly heroic to let yourself get captured."
Sheppard's grin vanishes instantly.
"McKay!" he snaps with such sudden ferocity that Rodney jumps. "You didn't 'let' anything. You understand me? You were taken." Sheppard's hands clench tight into fists. "You were trying to help people and you got taken. So that crap ends here."
Rodney stares at him.
"Ends now," Sheppard persists, still angry but with added you-scared-the-hell-out-of-us. "All right?"
Rodney almost plays it off, almost makes a smartass comment about how this is his super secret abandoned lab and he can say anything he wants to, but he looks at Sheppard's face and the words die on his lips. Instead he says, "Yeah," and when that doesn't seem enough, "All right, yeah. Okay."
Sheppard slowly unclenches his fists. He doesn't say anything and Rodney can't think of anything to say and the silence hangs heavy in the air between them.
Rodney's pushes the heels of his hands into his eyes trying to rub away the dry, gritty feeling there. He can't remember the last time he slept. Really slept. Not the one-eye-open-so-the-thousand-other-prisoners-don't-kill-you-in-the-night sleep he got for two weeks on Kartha. Not the mere doze he's been getting in the infirmary because even when drugged, sometimes especially when drugged, he feels like he's still there, still captive, and it doesn't help that there are people around him all the time, just like on the planet, and —
"So I thought you might want to catch some sleep," Sheppard says.
Rodney looks up blinking. "What?"
"Sleeeep," Sheppard explains slowly, as if Rodney were not only sleep deprived but also 5-years old and dim.
"What, here? No. I'm fine. I —"can't sleep here now "— don't need to."
"Because I can keep watch," Sheppard offers nonchalantly.
"No," Rodney says automatically, "I — "
And then it hits him.
"I didn't really escape the infirmary on my own, did I?" Rodney hitches himself up to sit straighter. "You orchestrated the whole thing. Told Ronon to go get dinner, delayed the shift change somehow and. . . what. . . followed me here?"
Sheppard at least has the grace to look chagrined. "I prefer to think of it as a strategically silent pursuit."
"Was it just you or did everyone get into the act? Got a med team with you on standby in the hall?" Rodney feels betrayed. His skin crawls at the thought of so many people so close without his knowing it and he struggles to stand up so he can leave.
"Jesus, Rodney, no, no one else. Shit. Sit down. It's just you and me. Sit down," Sheppard says, the last word both plea and command and Rodney automatically stills. Sheppard looks ill, as if Rodney's accusation was a punch to the gut. "Listen, people crowding you, open spaces where you're exposed, I get it. I've been. . . I just get it, okay? Keller not so much. So when you looked like you were about to use your IV pole to beat to death the next person who put their hand on your shoulder and asked if you were okay, I thought you needed to get out of there for a while."
"You followed me," Rodney says angrily.
"Yes. And I called Teyla to bring by a blanket when you got cold," Sheppard says, unrepentant. "But she left right away. It's just you and me. No one else knows you're here and no one's going to unless you want them to."
It sounds too good. On Kartha he thought he found a safe, out-of-the-way place to sleep once only to be woken an hour later with a homemade shock probe to the back.
"I'm not coming in any further than this," Sheppard says, as if he can read Rodney's mind. "No one will disturb you."
Rodney's eyes start to close at the possibility of real sleep. No! He jerks his head up, pulls his eyes open with effort.
"How do I know?" Rodney asks.
"Because," Sheppard says with determination, "I won't let them."
And Rodney believes him.
But habits are hard to break and his mind and body fight to stay alert, aware, even as fatigue forces his eyes closed again. He fidgets in the corner, restless, some part of him still struggling against exhaustion.
"It's all right," Sheppard says quietly. "Go to sleep now, buddy. You're safe."
The words are like a switch. Rodney's mind and body both shut down. He's asleep within seconds.
And for the first time in weeks, he stays asleep.