Fic: Before I Sleep (Mensa-verse) (PG)
Author: R. Tom Mato
Characters: Mensa!Weir, Mensa!Sheppard, Rod McKay
SGA-verse or MENSA-verse: Mensa-verse
Warnings: Character death, but that's rather obvious.
Notes: For the Stargate: Mensalantis challenge at mensa_au. I couldn’t think of a title and I wanted this posted before I went to bed, so here it is.
John sat in the back of Jumper Six, a tablet propped on his knees as he ran diagnostics. He had the rear door closed in case anyone came through the bay. It was unlikely, but all anyone had been talking about today was the person that had been found in one of the stasis chambers. Rumors were flying and the gossip mill was running steadily. The person claimed to be Elizabeth Weir, they were saying; her expedition had drowned when they first came to Atlantis and she had traveled back in *time* to save them.
Personally, he thought it was senile dementia. She'd been in stasis for over ten thousand years. Wake up from that and not be a little cracked. John snorted softly and tapped away at the tablet.
(Dr. Sheppard, report to the infirmary immediately, please.)
He tapped his headset, frowning. "Why?"
There was a guttural sound, an annoyed grunt from the Scot on the other end. (That was not a request, lad. Dr. Weir wants you to report here now.)
(Dr. Sheppard,) Weir's voice called over the channel. (Report to the infirmary immediately.)
John sighed and set his tablet aside, making sure it wasn't going to be running anything without him there. "I'm coming. I was running diagnostics in the Jumper Bay."
(This is more important at the moment.)
"You say that now," he replied, lowering the rear door and striding out of the Jumper. "But when this Jumper crashes the next time one of those inept Marines tries to fly it, I'll be saying 'I told you so.'"
The woman on the bed was old and crumpled, stringy white hair spread out around her head and over her bony shoulders. Her face was a map of wrinkles around thin lips and closed eyes. Her skin was pale and drawn tight, her knuckles like huge knobs and her fingers looked like skin stretched over bone. The white clothing she wore only enhanced the skeletal image she presented.
She could have been dead, if the sharp beeps of the machines she was hooked up to weren't telling him otherwise.
She looked like she'd been laid out for her funeral.
Her mourners were McKay and Weir, sitting on either side of the bed, both playing the part of the children left behind with their pensive expressions and dark circles under their eyes. McKay looked up and saw him, straightening in his chair.
"John," he greeted, waving him over. Weir looked up and gave him a tired smile. John walked over warily; he wasn't close enough to either of them to warrant this kind of familiarity. He and McKay hadn't gotten past the use of surnames, and he and Weir hadn't exchanged two words since they got to Atlantis outside of his briefings on the Jumpers.
Weir got up from her seat and gestured for him to sit. He did, stiffly, and had to fight down the surge of claustrophobia that came over him when she rested a hand on his shoulder. "She just fell asleep, so she'll wake up in a little while," she told him softly. "She wanted to speak with you."
"Are you going to get some rest?" McKay asked her, unknowingly cutting off John's protests.
"A couple of hours," Weir replied with a nod. She looked down at John. "Will you give me a call when you're done?"
John unfroze enough to give an awkward nod, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Weir gave his shoulder a light squeeze before her fingers trailed down and away. McKay grabbed her hand as she went by and clasped it tightly for a moment, the look of shared pain between them bringing back John's anxiety. He looked away, but that left him looking at the old woman and that was worse. He squeezed his eyes shut tight.
The doors opened and closed, the almost noiseless glide a minor comfort against the relentless beeping. With Weir gone he found his voice again, but he still kept his eyes shut.
"Why am I here?" he demanded.
"Elizabeth wanted to see you," McKay answered simply.
John's hands clenched into fists in his lap and he opened his eyes to glare at McKay. "You don't honestly believe this fabrication."
McKay stared back, his mouth turned down into an angry frown. "I've sat with this woman for the last day and a half," he said, his words slow and his tone lower than John had ever heard from the man before. "I know who she is."
"Great," John spat. "Wonderful. Why does she want to see me? I don't even know her. I don't even talk to this Dr. Weir."
"She'll tell you when she wakes up again," McKay told him, his voice back to that infuriating, compassionate calm.
"If she ever wakes up again," he shot back.
A flash of something came and went from McKay's face. "She's stronger than she looks."
John shook his head and leaned back in his seat, closing his eyes. There were so many things he should be doing right now, so many things more important than waiting for a dying woman to wake up. That was the problem with the elderly, they expected you to drop everything to wait on them and wait for them to stutter their way through their words and actions. It didn't matter if there were diagnostics to be done or if there was a statewide science fair that only you had qualified for out of your entire school; your grandmother--whom your mother hadn’t talked to in ten years anyway--had had a stroke and everyone related to her three times removed just had to be there for her.
At least the infirmary didn't smell as bad as the hospital did. There was salt in the air, not the stifling sterilization cleaner the nurses used on everything. It was warmer than it had been there also, with the air conditioners going because it was too much work to turn it on and off depending on the weather. Winter had died reluctantly that year, unlike her.
"John." Someone was tapping his arm, and John jerked in his seat. His eyelids were heavy and his mouth was dry, and the beginnings of a backache were forming in his lower vertebrae. When he opened his eyes, McKay was standing next to him and watching him carefully. "You dozed off."
"What?" he rasped, pulling himself upright in his seat. "How long has it been?"
"An hour or so," another voice, sandpaper dry, answered. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting."
John turned away from McKay and met milky-white eyes with just a hint of color in their middles. The old woman was half smiling at him, as though he amused her somehow. The chair had no arms to grip, so he kept his hands on his knees, carefully not fisting the material of his pants.
"Yes, well, I was told it was important that you speak with me, so I suppose I can take some time away from my work," John explained woodenly, ignoring McKay's frown.
"Would you two like to be alone?" McKay asked, looking to the woman.
John's heart lurched in his chest, pounding wildly, and he looked up at McKay with wide eyes that clearly said 'don't you dare leave me alone with her.' "There's no need, is there? You already know what she wants to say to me, right?"
"You can stay, Rod," the woman agreed, thank goodness.
McKay stood there for a moment, then nodded and went back to his seat. "Are you all right?" he asked her. "Do you need anything? Water?"
"I'm fine," she assured him, lips stretched even thinner as she smiled. She turned her head to look back at John. "I wanted to thank you in person, Dr. Sheppard."
At least she hadn't called him John. "Thank me for what?"
"For saving this expedition."
His mind blanked and he stared at her, eyebrows raised. "I...what?"
She was quiet for a moment. "When the shield started to fail," she finally said. "Many of us ran to the ships--"
"Puddlejumpers," he corrected her automatically, then flinched back.
The woman just smiled at him. "The Puddlejumpers," she started again, "to escape the water. Not all of us made it there, but you and I did. We waited for the others but everyone was trapped.” Her voice gained pitch as she spoke, her rate increasing until she was shooting the words out one by one. “We waited until it was too dangerous to linger any further and you went to the front. The Puddlejumper did something when you sat down and suddenly we were in space.”
John leaned forward in his seat, surprised and disbelieving. "I flew?" he asked, heart skipping a beat.
She nodded. "That was when we were attacked. That was when--was when--" Her voice stuttered to a stop and her eyes rolled back into her head. McKay was on his feet and shouting for Beckett before John even realized what was happening. He was hauled out of his seat and away from the bed as Beckett and another doctor rushed in.
"Elizabeth!" McKay shouted into his headset as he dragged John to the other side of the infirmary. "Get down to the infirmary NOW!"
John's heart was thudding in his chest again as he watched Beckett trying to stabilize the woman. The machines were shrieking, Beckett and the other doctor yelling back and forth at each other to do this or do that. As they moved he could see glimpses of her face, expression slack even as her body jerked and twitched. "Oh, God, I killed her," he breathed, going cold.
"What?" McKay turned to him, frowning. "You didn--John!"
He bolted from the infirmary just as Weir sprinted in. McKay was yelling something to her and then there were footsteps following John's through the hallway. He had no idea where he was going; he'd started toward the Jumper Bay but for once the ships sent a sickening lurch through his stomach. His quarters was an obvious choice but he could lock the doors, so John turned left instead of right and went that way.
He had run track in high school, but apparently McKay had taken some sport as well because he was gaining ground. John only had the moment's realization that the other man was right behind him before there were arms around his chest and he was crashing to the ground in a tangle of limbs.
"You are completely and utterly cracked!" McKay yelled, shoving him down by his shoulders when he tried to get up.
"Me! You just tackled me!" John screamed back as he tried futilely to get away.
"Elizabeth has been dying since we revived her! Carson's had her on stimulants to keep her aware and she's already had one episode like the one that just happened," McKay explained, panting heavily.
"So she just happened to stroke out while talking to me? Bullshit, McKay!"
"I'm serious! She's ten thousand years old, John; you try it sometime!"
Their headsets crackled to life, interrupting their shouting match. (Dr. McKay, Dr. Sheppard.)
McKay shifted off of John, keeping one hand in between his shoulder blades to make sure he didn't run off again and tapping his headset with the other. "McKay and Sheppard here."
(Elizabeth's been stabilized,) Beckett told them, sounding relieved. (Are you two all right?)
"Yes, yes, we're fine," McKay replied. "We're on our way back."
"I'm not going back in there," John protested over Beckett's sign-off.
"Yes, you are." McKay said, standing, and John was dragged up with him. "Elizabeth needs us. Both of them."
"I don't even know them! You're her friend, not me," he tried to explain. "I'm just a scientist. I'm not even--"
"You died in that ship, John."
John's words stopped and piled up in his mouth, nearly choking him. "I--what?"
"The Puddlejumper ended up in space, above the planet, ten thousand years ago." McKay's hand, on his arm now, squeezed. "There were Wraith above the planet and they shot down the Jumper. Only Elizabeth survived."
"I died." John backed away, slumping against the wall. "I knew--I mean, everybody died--but that makes it..."
"Yeah," McKay said in a heavy sigh. "I drowned."
John looked at him, dazed. "In the city?"
"Control room. I was trying to get the doors unlocked and the bay hatch open so you could fly out." He nodded. "You shot a Dart."
McKay gently pulled him away from the wall and guided him back to the infirmary. Weir was sitting in one of the chairs next to the bed. The woman--the other Weir was asleep. The machines beeped steadily.
Weir looked up as they came over, her gaze settling on him. "Are you all right?"
John nodded. "I'm good."
McKay pulled up a chair next to Weir and sat down, so John took the chair on the other side of the bed. They sat in silence, the machines making the only sounds in the room. Weir scooted her chair forward and rested her fingers against the other Weir's cheek.
"Carson said she probably wont live through the night."
McKay leaned forward and carefully slid his hand under the other Weir's, cradling it. "I'll stay up with you tonight."
"I'll stay, too," John stated before he could think it away.
Weir glanced over at him and gave a shaky smile. "Thank you."
He nodded, dropping his eyes to the bed. The other Weir's hand lay there, pale and dry and too still.
It took him half the night to reach for it, to slip his hand under hers, both their fingers limp. Two hours later she passed away.
John was sitting in the back of Jumper Six with the door up, tablet on his lap, when the door suddenly lowered and revealed McKay on the other side. He walked into the Jumper and held up the remote to one of the other ships by way of an explanation.
"Do you want to get out of here?" he asked.
John frowned, pausing his work. "What?"
"Do you want to go somewhere. Away. The mainland," McKay clarified.
"What about Dr. Weir?" John asked haltingly.
McKay shook his head. "I asked; she wants to be alone right now."
John stared at him, noting that it didn't look like he'd slept much on their personal day yesterday. He knew the feeling. "Okay." He closed down the programs and set his tablet aside.
McKay nodded and closed the rear door. He strode to the front of the Jumper and sat down in the copilot's chair. "You fly."
John stood quickly. "What? But I don't..."
"Did you know that I am severely hydrophobic?"
The non sequitur made him pause. "No." He followed McKay and stood in between the two back chairs. "You're hydrophobic and you came to a city that's surrounded by water?" He narrowed his eyes.
"You're aviophobic and you work on planes, John," McKay replied, tipping his head back to look up at him.
John tensed, lips drawing back in a sneer. "I am not."
"Mm." McKay held up a hand. "One, you have not asked for any flight time, nor asked to be taught how to pilot a Jumper despite your absolute possessiveness of them. Two, if you're ever in a Jumper in flight, you sit in the back; if you're forced to sit up front, then you're always in one of the back chairs; if you're forced to sit in the copilot's seat, your eyes never leave your tablet."
"I run system checks and take readings!"
"Three," McKay continued without pausing. "When Elizabeth told you that you flew the Jumper, you nearly fell out of your seat in surprise. Your pallor was worse than usual and you started sweating. I don't even want to know what your heart rate was."
"That doesn't mean anything!" John objected. "And I know how to fly a Jumper!"
"In theory," McKay said with a nod. "First time for everything, right?"
"If we crash..."
"You can aim for the ocean, just to spite me," McKay offered.
John stared at the pilot's seat and cautiously sat. The controls lit up easily. He could do this, he told himself. He'd done it before and...well, he hadn't died of heart failure. There were no Wraith Darts here, either.
"Control, this is McKay and Sheppard," McKay announced into his headset. "We're going to take Jumper Six to the mainland. We'll be gone the afternoon and we'll remain in radio contact."
(This is Control; the hatch doors are open and you're ready to go.)
"Says him," John muttered, reaching up and gripping the controls tightly. "Why are we going to the mainland, anyway?"
McKay shrugged, staring straight ahead. "I feel like going for a swim."