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The voice cuts into the vague blackness of his sleep and at first it's his mother. John's ten years old again, oversleeping the morning bus and forcing his parents to actually bother driving him to school. Someone grabs his shoulder and the voice isn't his mother anymore.
"Come on John--"
The voice modulates through being drill instructors, university professors, and exes who need him to sneak out before morning. The hand on his shoulder remains, however, and it belongs to none of them. It's not harsh enough of be military. The voice is too concerned.
"You're bleeding on the dashboard," Rodney chastises him as he finally drags his head up from the black metal in front of him.
He's right, John realizes. There's red-brown blood on the dashboard and has been long enough to grow sticky and start to dry. He lifts his left hand slowly to check his face. Right isn't moving as well, but he manages to fumble that up to the dashboard. The primary cut is on his forehead, just below the hairline in that sweet spot that probably means the pounding behind his eyes is a concussion.
"Shit," he groans and tries to force his eyes into focus on Rodney. It's slow going and the scientist slips in and out of being two or three people before his eyes finally settle.
"You okay?" Rodney asks and it's the quieter, concerned tone that means there's probably a lot of blood.
"Concussion," John mutters as Rodney brings up his flashlight to stab light into his eyes. Batting it away, John groans again when pain lances through his head. "Stop, stop, I said concussion! That means you don't need to check."
"Sorry," Rodney apologizes quickly but it's still in the quiet tone.
"Must look pretty bad," John teases as he tries to remember if they have towels or anything on the damn jumper that can stop the bleeding on his forehead. The blood in his eyelashes is pretty annoying because it's making them stick together.
"You're not arguing," John points out cheerfully realizes he kind of enjoys having that power.
"Well, right," Rodney hands him a towel and when John's slow to put it on his head, he does it for him. The scientist's hands clamp down over it and they're both just sitting there, quietly, waiting for the blood to stop.
"What happened?" John manages to fumble out through his dry lips.
"You crashed us into some kind of dark matter phenomenon," Rodney snipes at him but his eyes are soft and apology is written all over his face. "I said it was a lousy place to hide."
"Don't remember," John grins slightly, almost pleased he can't argue, but the memory loss is still worrisome. "I'm sure you were right."
"Hey," Rodney retorts, shaking his head as he looks at the floor. "Can you reach the water bottle? You should probably drink something before you pass out."
John stares at it trying to judge how far away the floor is. "Wouldn't want that, right?"
"Well, I'd have to drag you out of the chair and put you in the back," Rodney teases back sardonically as he nudges the bottle closer to his hand with his foot. "Might hurt myself."
"Right," John nearly smiles as he drops the bottle into Rodney's lap. "Fingers feel funny," he complains as he contemplates the screw top.
"Can you hold this?" Rodney tilts his elbow up towards the towel.
"Yeah," John agrees before he's really sure he can do it. He can't keep up the same pressure Rodney had, but he can keep the towel from sliding off his head.
"Okay, now drink," Rodney orders and suddenly the bottle's up to his lips. John can feel the water run over his lips, and some of it escapes, but he drinks enough to soothe the worry in Rodney's eyes. "Do you really not remember or are you just trying to make me feel bad?"
John blinks slowly feeling Rodney's hands clamp back down around his head. "I wouldn't--"
"Oh you would," Rodney teases back but it's lighter than usual. "Carter sent us to check on some weird readings Zelenka found in the edge of the system. You thought it was a trap so you wouldn't let me take Zelenka and go and insisted on coming because I can't stumble into a trap right without you."
"Is a trap?" John asks licking his lips and trying to ignore the taste of blood.
"No," Rodney shakes his head slowly. "Not at all," he pauses for a moment and reaches across the bloody dashboard to move the jumper. The darkness filling the screen fades away into brilliant light. Things move in the light and for a moment, John's convinced he hit his head a whole lot harder than he thought.
Outside the jumper, space is blue and purple and tiny blobs of light move around in it like insects on the surface of a lake. His eyes might be out of focus and John can't really tell the difference. He sighs and just stares. "We hit this?"
"Yeah, kinda," Rodney explains sheepishly as he brings his hand back to John's head. "I'm not really sure how it works, no one's really been this close to this kind of phenomenon before and though it reads like dark matter, we can see it so it can't really be dark matter--"
"It's pretty," John grunts as he leans back in his chair and tries to decide if the light-blob-insects can see them.
"Huh?" Rodney asks distracted by trying to turn on the heads up display. "Can you ah bring it up?"
John has to think for a moment longer than usual. His head would rather throb than be useful but the display comes on. It nearly ruins his view of the lights, but Rodney seems happy so he's willing to let it go. Rodney seems satisfied with the bleeding on his head and he removes his right hand to mess with his computer.
Outside the jumper, the lights move back and forth, going about their business without being bothered by the big, black monstrosity of the puddle jumper. Maybe it's like a boat to them, John wonders. Something to run away from only as long as it's moving, and after that, a pleasant shade to hide around. His mind drifts to fishing and he wonders if Rodney's been fishing. Some of the best places to fish are actually in Canada but he can't really admit that. O'Neill would like fishing. Wasn't Carter just talking about that before they left?"
One of the lights stops in front of him, hovering over the viewscreen as if it can actually see him. John thinks it's kind of cool and doesn't say anything. It just sits there, oscillating through a few colors before it settles on yellow. Yellow like the display as it floats through.
Through the display because it's inside the jumper.
"Uh," John starts to interrupt Rodney's study. "McKay?"
"What?" Rodney asks without looking up. John knocks into his shoulder with his hand and as Rodney protests, he sees it.
It hangs in the air, as if it were still in space and seems to be watching them. "Is it?" John asks hoping he's not the only one who sees it.
"Yeah, it's actually in here," Rodney breathes in shock as he stares at the window. "It just floated through, no sound, no hole, nothing. That means it can transcend the properties of normal matter, do you have any idea what that means?"
The little yellow blob just studies him, darkening for a moment, as if it has to think. Part of it breaks off, a tiny speck of light that floats like a piece of dust in the jumper. The speck of light dims after a moment, and something, an arm- tentacle- tongue- reaches out and brings the speck back in.
John stares at the blood on the dashboard and thinks he understands. "I can't do that," he answers the question a blob of light certainly can't be asking.
Thankfully, Rodney's too busy studying it to notice him talking to an intergalactic firefly.
Yellow gets closer still, lighting his face and actually provided a tiny amount of heat, like a candle lantern being held up in front of him. Rodney starts to babble Something about getting out of the way, but his legs are wooden and tired. suddenly, he is yellow light and he's floating. Rodney's staring at him and taking readings so fast his fingers are flying.
His world changes and Rodney and the jumper become darkness and masses of moving lines and strange shapes he doesn't understand. Rodney fades away and all he can see is a blob of light nestled within Rodney, like it belongs there. Like a soul or something.
John's never admitting any of this if he's still alive, but it's beautiful. In that light is everything pure and good about Rodney McKay, and it's a hell of a lot more than Rodney would ever even know he had.
John's head doesn't hurt. He got so distracted by the warmth and the light and looking at Rodney that he totally forget his head hurt. Peeling the towel off his forehead, John feels for the cut and finds nothing. There's still blood everywhere but no longer any sign that it came from him.
He also remembers how he got here. How Rodney wanted to just go out and look at the darkness and he forced him to let him tag along because he was worried about two scientists alone in a jumper. Not that kind of worried, but, they might actually forget to eat if they got too excited.
"Thanks," he murmurs towards the light as it searches the rest of the jumper and stops for a moment in front of Rodney. It seems content though, and floats back through to where it came from.
Rodney's hands grab his head and check his hair and the scientist is just as flabbergasted as he is. Outside, the lights seem to come together before it's abruptly, suddenly, dark and they're gone.
"So, gonna write a paper about that one?" John teases as he brushes dried blood off the dashboard and activates the controls. The jumper seems to be working as well as his head, and the display says the dark matter is no longer blocking their path.
"You want credit?" Rodney asks in mock defensiveness. "I could have let you stay unconscious and you would have missed the whole thing."
"I'm just kidding," John retorts as he plots their course back to Atlantis and wonders how long Keller will keep him this time. "Though, the Sheppard-McKay intergalactic dark matter firefly phenomenon has a nice ring to it."
"Oh please, McKay-Sheppard at least--"