“Tell me again what shocked you, lad?” Carson glances up from the tablet of Rodney’s scanner results.
Rodney rolls his eyes. “I didn’t tell you, because I don’t know. It was an Ancient device one of the exploration teams found. Sheppard said it was out of power, but I felt something when he handed it back to me. Not an electrical shock exactly. More like when you whack your funny bone.”
“The ulnar nerve, you mean.”
“Yes, yes. But in my hand, where it touched me.”
“Aye, well. I want to know if you feel anything else — pain or tingling or numbness. But you seem to be fine.”
He's flying a jumper, breaking atmosphere and sailing past Lantea’s moons. It's effortless for once, as easy as doing calculus in his head.
In the morning he has a fleeting thought that he might tell Sheppard about the jumper dream, but halfway through the breakfast line Zelenka comms him about some weird sensor readings.
He does tell Kate Heightmeyer, though. He tells her a lot of things. For all that Rodney thinks psychiatry is voodoo, Kate’s calm acceptance of Rodney's quirks (character flaws, Jeannie would say) is something he's never experienced before Atlantis.
He's in a cavern with Teyla, studying a set of images incised into the walls. Despite the difficult medium, the artist has communicated the panic and devastation of a Wraith culling beam with a horrifying accuracy.
Rodney ponders the dream that morning during an interminable hike with his team to a Ma'ansouri temple that might be an Ancient weapons lab.
Teyla must have mentioned Athosian stone relief carving at some point -- not that Rodney would have been paying attention, but his subconscious must have filed it away.
That's when the shouting starts. Genii bullets hit Rodney in the shoulder and chest as he dives for cover. The last thing he sees is John's stricken expression.
Some undetermined amount of time later, he claws his way back to consciousness. John is there, keeping watch by his bed in the infirmary.
There are Wraith on Atlantis. Someone in the astrophysics lab is screaming as Rodney charges in with Ronon on his six, just in time to see a Wraith raise its arm and slam it onto a man's chest. Then he's firing, spraying the Wraith with bullets.
The Wraith falls away, and Rodney can see that its gray, fragile victim is himself.
Rodney wakes panting and disoriented. The Wraith are gone; he's in bed, staring at the ceiling of his room in Atlantis. It's the first night he's been allowed to sleep in his own room since the mission to Ma'ansouri.
Breakfast is quiet that morning. John stares at his oatmeal, looking like he hasn't slept. Rodney is still rattled from his nightmare, and doesn't call him on it. It takes most of the day to shake his unease.
The ocean is blue-black under Lantea's moon. The stars seem impossibly distant, echoing the empty sense of longing he feels.
"And that's all it was. I was sitting by myself on the pier, feeling miserable."
"Miserable in what way?" Kate asks gently.
"It was how I feel when I think about the piano. And, you know. John. They're both unattainable."
"Rodney, I wonder if you've ever thought of telling John how you feel?"
"So he can feel sorry for me? Or disgusted? Jesus, he might never speak to me again! I mean, he's commanding a U.S. military contingent. Even if he's not homophobic himself, he can't afford for his men to know he's friends with a cocksucker."
"I think you're correct to anticipate John might feel a need for discretion, given his position. But why do you assume he'll react badly? Maybe you're more important to him than you realize."
There's someone in his bed, and it's been way too long since that happened. It's scandalous for genius to be so overlooked.
Having someone in his arms is so welcome, it takes a minute to realize what he's feeling: a flat chest, muscled arms. Rodney boggles a little. All the women he's ever slept with wanted to cuddle, but never the men.
John isn't around much the next day. They'd had plans to watch a movie, but Teyla needs a ride to the mainland and John postpones a couple of meetings to fly her over.
A jumper under the ocean. Fear like an iron hand, crushing his heart.
“Sheppard, are you feeling all right? You look like crap.”
“Thanks, McKay. I know I can always count on you to say something nice.”
“Seriously, I’m fine.”
An Ancient ship exploding, and grief warring with respect as he watches it happen.
"It broadcasts a person's dreams?" Rodney repeats, horrified. He'd asked Radek to search the Ancient database for anything about the elbow-whacking device.
"That is best translation we can come up with," Radek shakes his head. "Not to everyone, if database is correct. Only to one other person."
"That's still an invasion of privacy, damn it."
"True, but we all know you dream about winning Nobel, Rodney. No need for Ancient device to tell us this."
"Oh ha, very ha," Rodney retorts, but without force.
Suddenly, he has a very good idea whose dreams are being broadcast to whom.
There's someone in his bed again: someone who strokes his back with strong hands and then guides his head down for a kiss. He leans into the touch with a rush of tenderness and gratitude.
"I've been having weird dreams the last couple of nights."
"What are they like?"
"I'm with another man in them. Um, sexually."
"That's interesting," Kate says neutrally, in her Tell me more voice.
"So I was wondering if that means I want to have sex with that person."
"'That person'? Do you recognize the man in the dream?"
"Uh, no," Rodney says hastily. "Just wondering what it means."
Kate regards him quizzically. "We've talked about this before. Dreams often don't have a literal meaning; what's important is the emotional dynamic. How did the dream make you feel?"
He realizes later it's kind of amazing Kate's been able to help when he hasn't given her all the data.
He's riding a horse, something he's never done but it feels easy, natural, like he's one with the animal. His mount is huge and black, thundering across a field like a war stallion going into battle.
In the distance someone is shouting about idiots and fences, but the wind whips away the words. The fence in question is coming into view, tall as a man. Under him the black horse tenses with excitement, launches himself, and flies over without hesitation.
The thing is, Rodney realizes, is that John Sheppard is a risk-taker. Just as much as Rodney is a scientist.
And as a scientist, he recognizes that he has a good deal of evidence about John's feelings, now that he knows how to interpret it.
All he has to do is act.
(Crossposted from eccentricweft.dreamwidth.org)