Notes: Thanks to Eureka's writers, from whom I got the "spark" line.
John stood on one of the many balconies, staring out at the Ancient city spread before him, marveling despite himself at the wonders he was seeing. He wanted to feel like shit. He should feel like shit. But all he felt was... wonder. He let his gaze trace the gothic pillars of the city rising from the water, eyes taking in the sky above him. He felt different than he had on Earth over the past who-the-hell-knew how long. Since Afghanistan. Since his divorce, maybe. Since too long.
Atlantis. Beautiful, yes, but he didn't want to be there, despite the fact that he'd sort of chosen to come; that choice felt more forced than wanted. But he had to admit, the place had its charms.
He tensed when he heard raised voices behind him, moving past the doorway and on. McKay and Zelenka arguing; no surprise there. He slid away from the door, hoping they hadn't seen him.
The place had its charms, right. McKay wasn't one of them. Barely here a week, and John was already able to recognize those two voices, always raised, always arguing. Too many people here, anyway. Too many civilians in the city, and now the Athosians. And now with the freekin' Wraith a factor. What they'd done to Sumner... What he'd had to do... John closed his eyes, trying to block out the memories.
"You, there, military man," McKay snapped. Literally, snapped his fingers behind John's back.
John suppressed a groan, but he turned, deliberately slowing his response to a careless drawl. "You called?"
McKay stood in the doorway, Zelenka peering over his shoulder owlishly. "We need someone to help us turn on one of the Ancient devices -"
"Please," Zelenka interjected, shoving McKay in the side.
"Please," McKay added, rolling his eyes.
"And you are the one who," Zelenka added, hands miming touching something, then eyebrows up, hands waving John forward, he nodded expectantly.
Yes, John was a natural carrier of the ATA gene, and had been told he had a natural affinity for it, which basically meant he was better than most at turning stuff in the city on and off. Even just in his short time here, he'd become the go-to guy for some of the more delicate or difficult Ancient technologies. Nice to know his military training was valued, he thought sarcastically.
McKay interrupted his train of thought with a sharp, "Coming?"
John didn't bother to answer, instead brushing past the scientists, letting them follow along behind.
John slumped in his chair, cup of coffee in hand. Thank God the mess was empty; he needed some serious alone time. Tired. He was so damn tired, but the thought of sleep, and dreams, was too much to bear. So instead, coffee and silence.
It was amazing how exhausting five hours of turning stuff on and off could be. Well, five hours of that, plus a week of Atlantis, the Wraith, death, rescues, loss, waking all of the stupid Wraith up, having to put down his CO like he was some sort of sick animal...
His head snapped up when someone slid into the chair opposite his. He needed to pay more attention. These people were relying on...
"Hey, military man," McKay said, his own cup in hand. He cocked his head to the side. "You look like shit."
John straightened in his chair, covering his annoyance with a sip of his drink and a shrug.
McKay peered at him over the lip of his cup. "Thanks for all your help today."
John raised a brow at that.
"What?" McKay said, putting down his cup.
"I'm not used to you being polite without prompting."
McKay frowned, leaning across the table. "You've know me for, what? All of 3.245 seconds?"
McKay waved a hand in John's general direction. "Right, yes, right. Yes. I know I can be abrupt. I'm trying to be less..."
"I am. Trying, I mean."
John nodded again.
"Do you actually talk?" McKay asked.
"Do you actually know my name?" John shot back. "Or is 'military man' all you -"
"No. Yes. Sheppard. John," McKay stammered. "Anyway, I'm sorry, I tend to be a shit when I'm under stress and terrified. Rodney."
"Excuse me?" John asked, nonplussed.
"My name is Rodney," McKay shrugged. "You're John, right? Pleased to, um... I mean I know we met formally, so I guess less formally now." McKay shoved a hand across the table. Not knowing what else to do for it, John shook it.
"Amazing place, eh?" Rodney said, obviously unconscious of the Canadianism.
John let his eyes rove the space around them. Even the room they were using as the mess was amazing, with stained glass panels sending a soft blue glow all the way up to the ceiling high above them. Again, John thought about the similarity of the architecture to gothic churches back at home, or - no - the US Air Force Academy chapel; modern gothic.
"Oh!" Rodney said, grabbing John's hand and pulling as he stood. "Have you seen...? You haven't..." He tugged John to standing, and then took off at a fast walk. John had no choice but to follow.
"Here!" Rodney said, waving John forward. "You need to see this."
John stepped through the opening, and then smothered a gasp. To say it was a room did the place a disservice. It was a cavern, reaching to the heavens... God, that had to be an optical illusion, because he couldn't see the damn ceiling, it seemed so high.
"Yeah, there are no words, are there?" Rodney said.
"Who else has seen this?" John asked.
"I brought this guy here," Rodney said, sounding vague.
"How'd that work out?" John asked, picking up on... something.
"We don't work," Rodney said quietly. "We just have a... spark."
"So why'd you bring me here?" John asked, equally quietly.
Rodney sighed audibly. "I was..." He hesitated. "You... Listen, I kind of like you, and despite me being, well, me, you don't seem to hate me or anything, at least at the moment, so I was wondering if..." Rodney winced, then turned to look full at John. "We might try dinner or something."
John answered, "This is unexpected."
"I've been accused of being a bit forthright at times."
"I'll bet." John surprised himself with these next words - "And yes to the dinner."
"Really?" Rodney asked, seeming just as surprised as John.
"Why not?" John said. "After all, I've only known you for 3.245 seconds. Figured I should give you more of a chance than that." He hesitated, then added, "But the US Military -"
"I know the deal," Rodney said. He nudged John on the arm. "I'll tell you how I know later."
John smiled. Rodney mirrored the grin, and nodded toward the floor. "You mind?"
John raised a brow.
"Please," Rodney said with a laugh.
John crouched down, touching a hand to the floor beneath them. He stood. And with that, the entire room lit up.
"Sometimes a spark is all you need," Rodney said softly.
"That's what I'm hoping," John replied.