McKay/Sheppard (possibly R-ish), tiny S2 spoiler
John couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned. Thought the light on and tried to read War and Peace. Threw it across the room in disgust. Tossed some more.
The day kept flashing back to him behind his closed eyelids, but when he opened his eyes the patterns on the ceiling seemed to squirm and shift... and his heart kept stuttering into high speed every time memories of the day intruded.
Finally, he threw the covers aside, put on his clothes and wandered out into the empty Atlantean night.
I don't expect comments on every bit or anything. Just interrupt as you would for a campfire story--to add a witty aside, make a comment, heckle, whatever. Okay?
Also, I'm at work, so snippets will be bite sized.
He ended up in the Chair Room, staring speculatively at the chair.
Using it just to ease his boredom would be Wrong... but on the other hand...
It would fill his mind with something other than disaster scenarios.
He could do with the practice.
They had a full ZPM now, so it's not like the energy drain would matter.
And if it got up Rodney's nose that he'd done it without consulting anyone, well, so much the better.
John gave an emphatic nod and sat down. He wriggled a bit, cursed the Ancients for their sense of aesthetics, and then closed his eyes.
(stupid LJ just ate my first part 3. *kicks it* guess that's one difference to IM, right there)
John futzed about a bit with random menus for a while, trying not to accidentally initiate anything that would cause an major catastrophe.
Atlantis obvious got sick of that after a while, because a menu popped up and stayed up without any input from John. He stared at the green happy-face icon for a while, and then gave in and bopped it with his mental finger...
...and found himself in a colourful room, full of an impressive number of hologram animals, blocks and devices that looked like they'd make exciting noises if he fondled them.
Kindergarten! Atlantis had sent him to kindergarten!
John took a whole second to wonder if he should be insulted, and then decided that, yeah, okay, maybe he could use a bit of remedial Ancient eduction.
Gamely, he headed over to the shiney thing covered in Ancient-number symbols.
The Ancient's used base-ten, of course (which kind of made him wonder where the whole base-twelve thing had come from, because those must have been pretty freaky aliens that bought that idea through the 'gate on long-ago Earth), and he was just really getting into the way the Ancients had used colour to signify the different decimals when a new menu popped up and demanded attention.
John pressed it to make it go away, without really paying much attention, and then was jerked back into awareness of the chair as it turned itself off beneath him.
But there, at the edge of his conciousness, was the Kindy room.
He got up off the chair and then experimentally pulled the room towards him and pushed it away. Blocks and shiny number-thing. Chair Room.
Huh. That was really kinda cool.
With a jaunty spring to his step, John headed back to his own room.
Stress-related insomnia was much less of a curse, it turned out, when you were busy cramming at night school. John had managed to get through Kindy, Primary and what he figured must be the equivalent of about half of High School before he discovered the avatar program.
At first he just thought it was another cool thing; what's more, it was on the seriously, seriously cool end of the spectrum of Atlantis Cool Stuff too. He spent a lot of time lying in bed snickering, while creating an avatar of a seriously tall, stacked, pouty blonde. With every additional layer of beauty, he took a positively mean delight in knowing Rodney would never, ever see her. He'd never created a sex-bot before, and he was pretty stoked with how Nirvana was turning out... and if that helped him keep it polite and professional when he had to interact with Rodney during the day, well, bonus.
Once he clued in and realised that the avatar program was actually the first step in the Ascension primer, it took a bit of the gloss off the whole thing, but still... it was kinda fun walking around in an entirely mental body interacting with the virtual Atlantis, so he didn't let the wig-out factor stop him for long.
But even so, he didn't think about actually *using* the avatar for anything until the mission on PX8-R21.
The goddamned Boranians had tried to kidnap Rodney because, as usual, Rodney had been budgeoning people with his giant, and clearly valuable, brain. John had executed his night-time ninja-style assault with a grim determination.
Rodney's fear-clammy hand had gripped John's forearm in a tight, terrified hold as they'd wormed their way out of the citadel via a tiny, tiny ledge, the sound of Ronon and Teyla's distracting gunfire and grenade salvo sounding tinny and far away.
When they'd finally tumbled through 'gate, John's relief had been swamped by an immense tide of rage. He wasn't ready to be all concerned about Rodney again yet, and the fact he was made his stomach churn and his blood pound in his head.
Debriefing had been more torturous than the fucking mission, as Rodney sat across the table from him, a painfully hopeful look on his face every time he snuck a glance John's way.
Afterwards, it had been a relief to throw himself at his bed and disappear inside Nirvana's dreamlike reality.
And that's when it occurred to him to wonder if he could exorcise some of his anger at Rodney through his conveniently anonymous alter-ego.
When Rodney arrived at the lab the morning after the terror that had been Borania, it was to be met with bright-eyed looks and furtive snickers.
As an awkward teenager, he'd used to daydream that the day would come in which he was no longer the butt of jokes he didn't understand. Like so many of his daydreams, this one looked doomed never to come true.
Rodney took his revenge in the usual way: by making every one within shouting distance cringe or cry.
Except for Radek, of course, who was made of surprisingly resilient stuff.
"You have a secret admirer," Radek said, taking pity.
Rodney wasn't sure whether it was pity on him, or pity on the crying scientists, but he was grateful either way.
"What do you mean?" he demanded.
Radek looked suprised. "You have not checked you email?"
"Of course!" said Rodney, giving him the are-you-stupid eye.
"From your LonelyHearts listing?" Radek said, with a very smug look in return.
Rodney sneered. "As though I'd waste my time with that, that, that..."
"Practical joke?" Radek suggested. "Tom-foolery? Workplace gag?"
"...inept waste of my time!" said Rodney. "Why would I bother looking at that?"
"Someone replied," said Radek, and the smugness radiating off him could potentially re-power several depleted ZPMs.
"Humph," said Rodney. "As though I care."
But later in the morning, when everyone was busy with their own work, Rodney loaded up the LonelyHearts site and, with hunched shoulders, clicked on "his" entry.
The LonelyHearts Bulletin Board had been started as a joke, back in the post-Surviving-the-Wraith silly season. A group of women from the botany department had set up a "dating service" in response to the sudden fuckathon that pretty much everyone seemed to be taking part in.
Every person on Atlantis had been given an entry, which had focused on their less attractive character-traits. The LonelyHearts group had refused all blandishments to reveal who had been responsible for which entries, and for most people the urge for revenge had quickly turned into genuine humour anyway. And from there, it was just one small step to people putting up real bios and actually using the damn thing.
Rodney didn't find LonelyHearts funny. Oh, maybe, it would have been *potentially* funny, if he'd thought there was any chance in hell he'd ever get an interested response for real. But as there wasn't, and as a decent revenge wasn't possible, he just tried to be mature about the whole thing. Mainly by forgetting its existance when he could, and pretending he had when that proved impossible.
He stared at the screen:
Genius seeks womb and ovaries in order to propagate important genes. Personality not required. Blonde and military a bonus.
Until now, no one had dared leave a message, knowing that Rodney would crack their anonymous email, no matter how cunning their stealth skills were.
And now, beneath his entry:
Nihilist seeks nothing. We sound like a perfect match.
Rodney stared at the screen in open horror.
It was much, much worse than anything Rodney had prepared himself for.
It was actually *clever*.
Not only because of the play on words, which was bad enough, and not only because of the way it implied he just wanted to use someone for sex, which was embarrassingly true, but because it was clearly making a reference to Rodney's recent... accident with that no-longer-there solar system.
God, no wonder everyone was laughing at him. This person was *evil*. This person *knew* him.
This person was *going down in a firey conflagration of death*
For the first time in weeks, Rodney actually felt a little stab of something like joy. Because maybe he couldn't make things right again in his world, but at least he could make someone else suffer right along with him!
Rodney cracked his knuckles and got down to tracing the anonymous poster. "N" wasn't going to stay anonymous for long! He almost pitied them.
Fifteen solid hours later, Rodney sat back in his chair and admitted defeat.
"N" did not map to any of the Atlantis personnel. There was no trace of hacking, or misused systems utilites. The message on LonelyHearts seemed, for all intents and purposes, to have been posted by... no-one. A ghost, who had come from nowhere, momentarily existed, left no trace, and vanished back ito the ether.
"N" it turned out, was not so much clever, as *fiendish*.
Rodney was, despite himself, intrigued. Fascinated even. He couldn't remember the last time anyone had actually been a match for him. In fact, if he didn't know better, he'd think he'd sent the damn message *himself*.
For a horrifying, but thankfully brief, moment, Rodney considered that possibility. But no. He'd always thought nihilism was a waste of time. He'd never use it, even to taunt himself, not even from another timeline, dimension, or state of existance.
Rodney stared at the message again. He reached out and traced a finger across the screen.
There was something so... so... stimulating about being outwitted. Almost seductive even. It was almost enough to make him want...
With an abrupt snap Rodney closed his laptop. Because, seriously, there was no way he was actually going to dignify "N" with a reply. Not in this lifetime!
Rodney's resolve lasted for nearly a week.
And then, on P87-666 (and oh god, they'd made *jokes* about the name in the pre-mission briefing), John was eaten by a giant, mobile termite mound.
The Mound-Thing had appeared behind John with an unexpected suddeness, given that it had no feet--although in hindsight, Rodney suspected it actually had about two million feet, which probably explained it. The Mound-Thing had extended a kind of flip-top lid and just scooped John right off his feet, so that he slid down inside it and out of sight.
Rodney had gotten to watch from the safety of the cave entrance John had pushed him into.
Of course, it turned out John was indigestable, and had been promptly vomited back up, only a little worse for wear, but nonetheless, Rodney felt pretty traumatise. The image of that gaping, writhing maw surrounding John's body kept replaying every time he closed his eyes. Which inevitably meant that sleeping was seriously not an option, but perversely, Rodney found that he couldn't settle down to work, either.
Which is how he ended up sitting in his bed in the middle of the night, laptop on his knees, writing a furious, impassioned rant about how stupid nihilism was as a life philosophy.
He wrote until the world was going fuzzy around him, and then with a vindinctive stab, he pressed the Post button, closed his computer and dropped into an uneasy, monster-filled sleep.
John stared at the screen in consternation. The first few pages were pretty much what he'd expect from Rodney in rant-mode.
...most idiotic life philosophy even a moron with no sense of humour could possibly come up with, or perhaps I should more accurately describe it as a *waste of life* philosophy...
But then, about three-quarters of the way through, it became something else entirely.
...And furthermore, as you clearly have brains and a considerable level of technical expertise...
John smirked. He'd just known that would get Rodney into a lather.
...it makes it even more revolting that you should waste it all on a pointless joke. Obviously you have never had to watch while someone you love is killed right before your fucking *eyes* or you wouldn't think nihilism was *funny*, even in response to a site as peurile and wretched as this one. Ha ha. Yes. I am made to look the fool. But ha ha, the joke is on you, because you're smart enough that I'd actually be interested, if you weren't so invested in your stupid, negative, unproductive vendetta. Wouldn't you rather be having sex right now? I know I would, because it's those kinds of joyful moments that make life worth something. But then you wouldn't understand that, would you?
That was the part John just couldn't grok, no matter how many times he re-read it. Because, yes, he'd expected the spleen. And the length of the rant. And even the passion.
But not to be someone Rodney could casually say he *loved*, and the timing alone wiped away any potential doubts John might have otherwise entertained that Rodney was talking about someone else.
And certainly not that Rodney was attracted to John's *mind*. Enough to want to have sex with him, sight unseen!
It was all freaky and strange and disturbing, and John couldn't stop thinking about it. How weird it was, and all the questions it raised, and what Rodney would say if he knew John was "N", and if he'd still be attracted. But the can of worms any of those questions would open was just... horrifying to contemplate.
So all John knew for sure was that he definately wasn't going to respond to Rodney. Not in this lifetime. Not ever.
Rodney woke to the horrible feeling he used to get after university parties--that feeling that he'd done something unspeakably embarrassing, but couldn't quite fumble the memory into focus.
When he strode into the lab, coffee mug held like a defensive shield in front of him, he was met by wide-eyed looks of... something.
So he yelled. A lot.
And once everyone was suitably cowed he powered up his computer and...
... remembered the LonelyHearts post.
Oh, god. He was so totally, totally screwed. N was going to skewer him with cool, cutting wit and then disappear back into the ether.
Rodney opened a window dedicated to LonelyHearts, minimised it, and waited.
And eventually, once the strange looks had faded from people's faces, and it was obvious N wasn't going to respond, he told himself that it was just as well. That he'd gotten off easy.
That he was not at all disappointed that N seemed, for some inexplicable reason, to have let him off the hook.
He'd almost put the whole thing behind him when they went on the mission to PR0-969.
It had seemed like such a pleasant world at first, all sunny and grassy and full of butterflies, and miracle of miracles, since the whole "N" fiasco, John was actually speaking to him again without looking like he wanted to shoot holes in something Rodney-shaped. It was so nice, that Rodney had been lulled into a sense of something close to wellbeing.
That, of course, was when everything went to hell. A nodule had pooked up out of the ground, swung around like a tracking beacon, and poofed in their direction.
Rodney felt a sting in the side of his neck, and his last thought, before he slipped into darkness was that he'd been living in the Pagasus galaxy too long, because he wasn't the least bit surprised.
He woke in the infirmary, feeling like a million dollars worth of shit. Like some kind of parasite was burrowing int his brain and disconnecting from his body, bit by bit.
Knowing that it was just an overdose of downers really didn't make much difference, and he barely even had the energy to rouse himself when Zelenka bought him his laptop.
Until he opened it and found the LonelyHearts window flashing at him, telling him that he had a new message.
His fingers shook as he clicked, and his mouth felt dry and fuzzy and it was hard to swallow. None of which was surprising given his current medical condition. But his heart was also trip-hammering at stroke-out speed, which was, and Rodney could barely focus his eyes on the screen long enough to read the message waiting for him...
When you're right, you're right. Want to meet?
Rodney rubbed the blur from his eyes, his fingers coming away wet, and read the message again. Then he ran a quick check to make sure it really was from his friendly ghost.
And then, when the result came back confirming it, he threw up spectacularly all over the infirmary floor.
Dammit! I think I'm going to have to admit defeat for today and finish this at home, as there's still a whole *waves hand* subplot thing before the happily ever nookie part.
(My god. It's at 3,000 words! *boggles*)
Sorry, guys. But I will finish it. It's not gonna be one of my endless WIPs. ETA: And here's the conclusion.