Summary: Evan Lorne has a few... difficulties getting over his crystal induced nightmares. Tag to "Doppelganger".
A/N: I absolutely enjoy writing Lorne but every time I do, he inevitably turns out to have a really filthy mouth so I'm putting a language warning on this. I hope you still like it, squeakyoflight :)
Five People Who Helped Evan Lorne Get Over That Thing With The Nightmare Crystal
"In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To a river so deep
I know I'm searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
In the middle of the night."
Billy Joel, "River of Dreams"
"In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To a river so deep
I know I'm searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
In the middle of the night."
Billy Joel, "River of Dreams"
He should be used to it by now. He's been with the SGC for five years now and he's seen and been through some really weird shit. And yet he was still annoyed by the splitting headache that's the usual aftereffect of getting hit by Ronon's gun and that only stopped pounding him last night.
Also, not to mention the fact that Replicator Colonel Sheppard is still ghosting through his head, even three days later. That, in itself, wouldn't be out of the ordinary, seeing as handling bizarre shit also leads to bizarre dreams and a sleepless night now and then, and he's gotten used to that. The thing is that it doesn't just keep him tossing and turning for while, it also leaps at him at random intervals during the day.
One minute he's going through supply lists with his logistics officer, the next he's looking up and seeing Replicator Sheppard leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed in front of his chest, smirking. It only appears for the blink of an eye but it looks so real that it takes all his will power to pretend nothing happened and just go on with whatever he was doing that moment. It's starting to severely piss him the hell off.
Add to that the general "worrying about sleepwalking again" induced insomnia and it's really not that surprising that he finds himself in the infirmary at oh-dark-hundred only three days after the incident. It's still annoying him and honestly, it doesn't help at all that Keller visibly jumps when he addresses her from behind with a simple, "Doc? You busy?"
Okay so the infirmary is quiet and empty and she probably was kinda lost in thought, apparently doing inventory or something but really, there's no reason for her to flinch a second time when she turns around and realizes it's him standing in the doorway. It wasn't her he threatened to shoot, after all.
At least she seems to recover pretty well after very obviously pulling herself together. "No, just doing routine inventory. Do you need anything, Major?"
Yeah, he really needs for Replicator Sheppard to go the hell away - right now, he just appeared in Keller's back, giving him that smirk again before disappearing after he deliberately blinks - but he probably shouldn't tell her about that one, at least not yet. He's sure it's just an aftereffect, something that'll taper off after a while, like this stuff usually does so he decides not to trouble Keller with it and instead goes for, "No, just... I'm having a bit irregular sleeping patterns and I was wondering..."
"You're afraid you'll sleepwalk again." Damn. He should stop forgetting that despite the young age and insecurity, Keller is actually a highly capable doctor. Serves him right.
He clenches his jaw for a moment, sticks his hands in his pockets and hunches his shoulders for a moment. "Yeah, something like that."
She smiles at that, a practiced health care professional smile and he thinks that once she gets over the things that are currently holding her back, she'll make one hell of a successor for Carson. "If it helps, I think that's highly unlikely, given that it's been over twenty years since you stopped last time and that the last episode was triggered by an outside influence that's been removed." That doesn't change the fact that something in his subconscious keeps waking him up every two to three hours, if he manages falling asleep at all. "But I can give you a mild sedative, if you'd like."
Yeah. Yeah, he'd like that very much and he's kind of grateful that he didn't have to spell it out for her. Nearly fifteen years in the Air Force and he could always pride himself on putting even the weirdest shit behind him without having to resort to medication of any kind, and it's all that little shit Replicator Sheppard's fault that he can't help but nod and tell her, "That'd be great, Doc."
She nods and gestures for him to follow her along the rows of medication she's been cataloguing. It only takes her a minute or two to find the thing she'd been searching for and she takes out a small bottle, handing it to him with the words, "You know, when I can't sleep... I get up to do something routine." Like doing drug inventory? "Helps me to clear my head and all that."
And then it dawns at him. That's what was off. She wasn't scheduled for the graveyard shift this week, if he remembers it correctly, so she shouldn't have been here. She should have been in bed. She isn't here trying to get a quiet graveyard shift to pass by faster, she's here because she can't sleep either.
Right. He gives her a thankful smile and takes the bottle. "Thanks, Doc, appreciate it." She nods and turns to go back to her routine task and he turns to leave... when another thought hits him. Of course. Makes sense. Apparently, he isn't the only one who can't find back to a regular sleep cycle after getting crystalled. Alright. Maybe... well. "Uh, Doc?" She turns back at him, giving him only an enquiring look. "Do you need a hand here?"
He can see very well that her first thought is to very politely tell him to get lost but then she seems to decide a different road. "Actually, I wouldn't mind that, Major."
Okay, then. Maybe she's right. Maybe trying to get rid of his demons by following her example will help just as well as the medication she gave him. "Alright, then... what do you want me to do?"
She smiles, this time a genuine, shy smile that has nothing to do with her health care professional persona and then motions for him to come along again. From the corner of his eye, Replicator Sheppard smirks at him again. Just a question of time, he tells himself. Just a question of time.
It's been a week and he still can't find his way back to a regular sleeping pattern. He still hasn't touched the bottle Keller gave him because every time he decides to screw it and just take one, it feels like letting Replicator Sheppard win. Asshole's still there, appearing out of thin air, smirking at him, keeping him from doing his job. Keeping him awake at night, taunting him and waking him up just when he was about to finally dose off.
He'd considered "accidentally" appearing in the infirmary again, keep Keller company during her "routine tasks". He'd given her a hand with her inventory and they'd kept it up for about an hour before he excused himself. It wasn't that he was having a bad time - Jennifer Keller is still young and awkward but given enough time, she manages to relax a little and that was nice to see - he just felt like it might have been seen as unprofessional from a certain point on.
Anyway, infirmary is out of bounds for getting away from turning and tossing, so his next attempt is something tried and true: tiring himself out with doing the entire city circuit. Running always had a tendency to calm him down; the regular beat of his steps, the sound of his breath in his ears - that always used to put him in a relaxed state of mind. Zen-like would be a little over the top but yeah, probably close.
Only tonight he's already been through half the circuit and it still feels like running away from something chasing him instead of simply letting the rhythm carry him. His feet are pounding the ground but it feels too loud, too hard, and his breath is ragged, close to a wheeze. Everything feels just wrong.
Which, in hindsight, might not have been such a bad thing after all. If he'd been in his usual runner's mind, he would probably just have gone past the workout room, not noticing the shadow moving inside. He would have gone past instead of stopping to see who's using the room at past 0100, standing in the doorway, trying not to pant too hard - he has a reputation to uphold, after all - and seeing Teyla moving in the half dark of the room.
Huh. Of all the people who could have been in that room, he expected Teyla the least. Serene, calm, in control Teyla isn't someone he'd have connected with insomnia and yet here she is, going through motions akin to tai chi or qi gong. Alright, so maybe he should just... "Major. Can I help you?"
Damn. Of course she'd notice him. She comes from a people of hunters, trained to always be aware of her surroundings and she probably noticed him long before he noticed her. Wouldn't be surprising, considering how screwed up his running was tonight.
He rubs his neck. "No, uh, I was just in the neighborhood and..."
"Maybe you can help me." Okay. That came a little unexpected. "I'm in need of a partner." ...what? "For a bantos match?"
Unfortunately, bantos rods aren't exactly his forte. He took part in the introduction trainings the Athosians have been offering the newcomers since Atlantis reconnected with Earth and he has his share of wins - most of them against young enlisted Marines and a few very stupid Lieutenants of both branches who thought it would be fun to challenge "Sheppard's file rat" after only an hour of training - but he could never master them the way Sheppard or Cadman could. Then again, he probably could have spent more time improving his skills.
He shrugs. "Fair enough."
Teyla's reply is simply smiling at him, just this close to something like a cocky grin - she must have picked that up from Sheppard - and tossing him a pair of bantos rods. He nearly doesn't catch them and Replicator Sheppard seems to take that as his clue to blink into existence, then fade out. It's starting to get really annoying.
They start out slow, circling each other, twirling their bantos rods - Teyla more than him, and a lot more gracefully - and trying to gauge the other's intentions. He decides to go a more conservative road, waiting for her to make the first move so he can react and she does him the favor after two more rounds of circling each other.
She lunges forward, making a step towards him, her right arm stretched out and he sidesteps her attempt, leaning back slightly... and that's his first mistake. His balance point is off and she brings her other leg forward, kicking him into the hollow of his knee and making him fall backwards. They haven't even been in the ring for ten minutes she's already pinning him to the ground, her knee on his chest and one of her bantos rods against his throat. "Another go, Major?"
He probably should say no if he wants to be able to move tomorrow but something in him - probably the competitive streak that made him good enough to get noticed for a posting at the SGC, or maybe just Replicator Sheppard silently telling him that he lost his edge - makes him nod and get up after she releases him, to get back into the song and dance.
This time, he takes the initiative. Probably a way too predictable move but sometimes, bold actually works. He doesn't go for anything fancy, just plain out strikes forward, aiming to push her off-balance but yeah, he should have known that wouldn't work. As soon as he's close enough, she does some kind of hooking maneuver, pulling his arm upwards and breaking his balance. She finishes him off with another kick into the hollow of his knees and his head hits the mats with a painful thud. Jesus fucking Christ.
This time, she doesn't follow, and he slowly sits up, shaking his head and massaging the root of his nose. "Fuck me," it slips out, "that's the worst match I ever had."
Next to him, he can hear the sound of laughter, very faint when he looks up, he sees Teyla sitting next to him, a lenient little smile on her lips. "Usually, being well rested helps a lot."
Right. Said the woman who's been practicing Athosian tai chi at oh-dark-hundred. "Yeah," he growls, "being well rested sure helps with a lot of things."
Teyla doesn't answer immediately, just looks at him, with those eyes that seem to know so much more than she normally lets on and for some reason, he remembers that she was affected by Sheppard nightmares, as well. He heard it through the grapevine and it's this moment that he realizes it must be true. He breaks eye contact, desperately thinking about what to say when she beats him to it, "Maybe we have been going wrong about this." Uh, they have? "Maybe fighting isn't the right way to go." He's not sure if he really wants to know what else she is going to... "How do you feel about meditation, Major?"
Oh. Oooh, okay. Meditation. That's not... such a bad idea, right? He never tried it before but by now, he's gone far enough to simply nod and say, "I don't know. How'd you go about it?"
At that, she smiles again. "Very well, Major. Here is how we start..."
From the doorway, Replicator Sheppard smirks and he nearly gives him the finger. Fuck you, he thinks. Fuck you.
Two weeks after the fact and neither routine tasks nor running or meditation had any lasting effect on his sleeping schedule. It's still irregular as shit and that doesn't have anything to do with his shift schedules being rather theoretical. Something always goes wrong in Atlantis, and he's usually the go to person for non-scientific clusterfucks.
Usually, he doesn't mind that but combined with the bad sleep caused by the crystal nightmares from two weeks ago... well. He's tried a couple things now, and still Replicator Sheppard keeps appearing, in the same frequency and there are no signs that he's going to stop doing that any time soon. By this point, he's starting to become a kind of unwanted, but being used to companion. And that's what really pisses him off.
So tonight he decided to go for something new - honestly, he's slowly running out of options here - and try something that used to distract him just fine when he was a kid, and even later in college and beyond. He went painting.
After his shift, he packed up his gear and headed to one of the piers where he knew that he'd have enough light to tell the colors apart and not too much so that he can still see the city and the stars in all their nightly glory. He's been here for an hour or so now and he hasn't seen Replicator Sheppard appear so far so when he sees movement from the corner of his eyes, he's disappointed and pissed off enough that he can't help murmur, "Just fuck off, will you?"
"Oh, did I just meet your Mr. Hide version, Major?" Ah, shit.
Hoping that the semi-dark will hide the blush he feels creeping on his cheeks, he straightens up and turns around. "Sorry, ma'am, I didn't... uh..."
"Expect me?" Yeah, uh, no. No, he didn't expect Samantha Carter to come out onto the pier in the middle of the night. "Sorry, I didn't want to intrude, Major."
Oh, right. He clears his throat. "You're not, ma'am. I'm just... uh... it's just a hobby."
Hopefully, she still gets that he'd rather be alone out here and will... "May I see it?"
Or not. He takes a step aside. "Of course, ma'am."
She nods at him, takes a step closer and looks at the half finished painting of Atlantis at night. It's not his first time painting the city - he still has the one he did on the day Carson died in his quarters, unfinished - but he never tried painting it at night before, so he's a little apprehensive. He usually doesn't mind people seeing his paintings before he finishes them but yeah, Carter's his commanding officer. And she's... Sam Carter so he can't help feeling a little nervous while she surveys the intermediate result of his labors. Then she straightens and looks at him. "Not half bad, Major." Oh come on, serious... "Okay, that was mean. I like it. You've got some real talent."
Yeah, that's what his mom used to say, even a year until after he'd joined up, lamenting that in the end, he decided against art school and for the Air Force but she learned to accept it and now he just gets a wistful sigh now and then when he shows her non-OPSEC threatening sketches he made on missions or in the city. He shrugs. "My mother's an art teacher. Runs in the family, I guess."
Carter makes an appreciative face. And then surprises him by saying, "And here I thought you were out here because you had difficulties with sleeping." Holy shit. He honestly hadn't expected her to say anything like that. "But since they're simply artistic reasons..."
He nods, maybe a little too emphatically. "Absolutely, ma'am."
She doesn't answer right away, just cocks her a head a little to the sight and he feels uncomfortably like she's trying to read his thoughts. Then, "You know, after Jolinar, I had a really hard time finding back to a normal routine. Wish I'd had a hobby like that back then."
He blinks. "Jolinar, ma'am?"
At first, she gives him a surprised look, which is followed by, "Oh, right, you came to the SGC years after that." Yes, obviously. So... what's a Jolinar? "Jolinar of Malkshur was a Tok'ra who needed a host and entered my body during a battle." Oh, oh good. A snake. Sam Carter was once possessed by a snake. Friendly snake, granted but still... ew.
However, she really did pique his interest, enough that he can ignore Replicator Sheppard appearing way too close to his half-finished painting. "What happened?"
Carter shrugs. "Jolinar was on the run from an assassin and during a battle, I stumbled across her last host. He was dead, and she needed a new one to survive, so she took the one who was closest."
"And that was you." Smart, Major. That really was a no-brainer.
"Yep, that was me. There were a few... difficulties and I nearly died but she sacrificed herself for me. That's how we ended up discovering the Tok'ra." Okay, yes, he remembers hearing about that in the compulsory history lesson every new SGC recruit gets. He just apparently hadn't been able to connect "finding the Tok'ra" with "Samantha Carter being possessed by a snake" but really, it should have been logical. That kind of stuff only happens to one of the original four.
But, "You said something about a hard time..."
"Yes, that. When Jolinar died inside of me, she left a few things behind." Such as? "I can use technology that requires naquadah in your blood, can sense other symbiotes... and she left me her memories."
Huh? "Memories, ma'am?"
"Yes, not even Janet, that is Dr. Fraiser could find conclusive answers to the how but I ended up remembering things I knew hadn't happened to me, dreamed of people and places and things I knew I'd never seen before... once or twice, I had short hallucinations." Okay, that's it. He's now convinced that Carter can actually read her subordinates' thoughts. For whatever reason, Carter knew very well why he's out here, and he's pretty sure that neither Keller nor Teyla told her anything about his nightly roaming through the city.
He's really, really screwed. "Ma'am, I..."
"You know, I'm a really untalented painter." O...kay? "I always wanted to learn, though, but I never had the time. You learn a lot of technical drawing at the Academy but there's not much in the way of artistic exercise."
And... that's it. After that, she only throws him an expectant look and for a moment, he has some real difficulty finding out what the hell she wants from him. And then it hits him. "Uh, if you'd like, I could show you a few things, ma'am?"
She smiles at him, a real, genuine smile, one of those you don't get to see too often from someone like Samantha Carter and it's ridiculous how proud it makes him to be the source of one. "Well, if you don't mind, that would be wonderful, Major."
Right, so, "We, uh, could start right now, if you'd like?"
She gives him a very interested nod and he moves to carry the easel closer to the light from the door, launching into the words and phrases he's been hearing since he was old enough to hold a brush, slipping into his mother's explanations, familiar and comfortable like an old, well-worn sweater, and he nearly manages to ignore Replicator Sheppard lurking in one of the dark corners right outside of cone of light the doors throw. Maybe he'll just have to learn to live with him or something. Maybe that will work.
Three weeks after the fact, and he thinks he'll never learn to live with that bastard. He's been on a mission the entire day, visiting a tribe the Expedition trades with, mostly meat and sometimes fabric, talking to herders and spinners and healers the entire day, noting down what they have to sell, what they expect to earn, some gossip they might have heard from other traders, watching Cadman put on a little fireworks show for the kids living in the temporary village of tents... always accompanied by Replicator Sheppard, keeping up his appearing out of the blue and smirking silently at him thing and by the end of the day, he'd been ready to wring the asshole's non-existing neck.
The worst thing is, though, that tonight he can't fall back on any of the practices to keep him occupied and tire himself out so that he'll get at least four or five hours of sleep before he has to be on duty again because they're supposed to stay overnight with the villagers since there's supposed to be some big ceremony tomorrow morning they were invited to and that they were advised not to miss by the entire Diplomacy and Anthropology Departments.
So he's lying in his sleeping bag, behind one of the logs they use to sit around the campfire in the middle of the village square and trying to not move around too much. Cadman's lying next to him, apparently dead asleep while Kaspianov is being prepared for his part in the ritual tomorrow morning - he still has no idea why they had to rope his senior NCO into this but again, resistance against Diplomacy and Anthropology was futile - and Hergen, the other NCO is pulling guard duty on the perimeter surrounding the tent village.
Okay, one more attempt... "Sir, no offense, but I swear to God, if you turn around one more time, I'll have to put some fucking restraints on you."
Apparently Cadman wasn't dead asleep. He holds back a sigh. "Reprimanding you for insolence wouldn't end well for me, Captain, would it?"
In the semi-dark all he can see of her is a conglomerate of lumps illuminated from behind by the flickering fire but her voice is telling enough when she says, "You could always go ahead and try, sir."
Yeah, right. As if he's that dumb. "In your dreams, Captain."
He can hear her snort and realizes that they must be lying face to face in the dark and yep, now that his eyes are slowly adjusting to the semi-dark, he thinks he can see her eyes glitter in the dark. "You got some weird ideas about what Marines dream of at night, sir."
Nah, he's got some pretty good ideas, actually. Getting an Abrams M1 tank for Atlantis, for example. It's his turn to snort now. "DeVere wants a tank, Mariano dreams of a fleet of Humvees and Ortega still keeps badgering me about getting an entire squadron of Harriers. Want me to go on, Captain?"
That makes her laugh, a short, annoyed little bark of laughter he by now knows as one of the signs of her getting tired of talking about male Marines and their fantasies. "Will it make you stop tossing and turning?"
Ah, so either she hadn't been asleep at all or he'd been a lot more obvious about his difficulties falling asleep than he'd thought. "Nah, but it might put you to sleep?"
"Definitely would, sir." Of course it would. Additionally to being a semi-permanent member of his team, she's also in charge of a platoon of Marines, and all three of those he just enumerated are in that one. She's probably been pelted with their slightly unrealistic requisitions far more often than he. "So..." Uh-oh. He's pretty sure of what will come now. "What's got your panties in such a twist? I've been back from leave for three days and I can already see that something's eating at you. Want to unburden your Air Force overlord heart?"
Yep, there she goes. He considers lying to her, telling her everything's fine but he knows her long enough to know that unlike Keller, Teyla and even Carter, she doesn't accept bullshit, not from him. Never has, never will. It's why he keeps trying to free her from her platoon leader duties and add her to the roster as a permanent team member. He does sigh now. "Promise not to blab, Cadman?"
"Cross my heart and hope to die, sir." Well, for him, that's good enough.
Now, how to go about this? "Happened three weeks ago. You'd just gone on leave and Sheppard touched something he shouldn't have."
"The crystal incident?" Right. He should have known she read that mission report. People - and by people, he mainly means Rodney McKay - like to complain about Cadman's sometimes very casual bordering on flippant nature but they like to forget that despite that, she's still one hell of a Marine, always on top of things because she likes it that way.
He nods, knowing she can't see it anyway. "The very one. You read about my involvement?"
"Uh-huh. Sounds nasty." He's glad for the cover of semi-dark. Without it, he probably wouldn't feel safe enough to go on now.
"It was. And it's not... over." There, he said it.
Behind her, Replicator Sheppard sits on a log and smirks. Goddammit.
"You keep seeing him, don't you?" How could she know that? How? "After... after being in Rodney's head, I kept hearing him. Right as if he were next to me."
Okay. He hadn't known that about her. "What did he say?"
As if she'd tell him... "Nothing out of the ordinary. For Rodney, I mean. Just a running commentary on everything I did." Sounds nasty, too. He's about to remark on that but she's not done. "Wasn't what kept me awake at night, though."
Huh. "It wasn't?"
"Nope." He can hear her take a deep breath in the dark and realizes that whatever she's going to tell him now, she never even told Carson. He doesn't know how to feel about that. "What kept me awake was feeling... as if I was about to disappear."
He frowns. "What do you mean?"
"You know, that last seizure Rodney had before they got me out?" Yes, he remembers that one. Pretty bad, and he's not a big fan of Rodney McKay but that definitely looked like something you don't wish on your worst enemy. "It started shortly after that. It really felt like I was disappearing. I kind of... felt like slipping away, piece by piece. It was weird."
"And scary?" He bets it was scary. He doesn't expect her to admit to that but yeah, he can imagine that pretty well.
"And scary. Really, really scary. Scariest thing that ever happened to me." Okay, apparently today is one of those days when she likes to surprise him. He wouldn't have reproached her at all for not admitting to it because he's not so sure if he'd have admitted to it. "Scary enough that it kept me awake for weeks afterwards. I felt like if I fell asleep... it would happen and I wouldn't be able to stop it."
God, he kinda feels bad for never actually asking her if she ever got over the entire thing. He's her superior officer. He should have asked her.
He swallows. "So... how are you sleeping now?"
In her voice, he can practically hear the shrug. "Okay." Okay's okay, right? Okay's good. Isn't it? "Gets a little bumpy sometimes but that's par for the course."
Yeah, par for the course. He knows he should follow up on this and he resolves to do it, in less open circumstances but right now, he's got a pressing question and he has a feeling she wouldn't elaborate, anyway. "What helped?"
"Time." Yeah, well, he's been trying that and Replicator Sheppard is still getting on his nerves. "And therapy."
Wait, what? "Therapy?"
"Everyone would need therapy after being in Rodney McKay's head." Okay, fair point. "'Sides, it was mandatory."
Another fair point. The only reason he still hasn't followed up on his mandatory psych eval/therapy requirement is that after Kate Heightmeyer's death, he doesn't really know which of the other shrinks to trust. So, maybe a little stalling will help to keep her from asking why he is still bumming around his appointments. "For how long did you go?"
"Now, aren't we inquisitive tonight?" Damn, she really is way too smart for her own good.
Also, now he's feeling bad for sounding her out like that. "Sorry, I wasn't trying... I just..."
"Couple of months, with Kate." Right. So far, she has decided to play along. Maybe she'll keep it up for a little while longer? "Dr. Heightmeyer, I mean."
Well, that's kinda the problem, isn't it? "I..."
"You know, if I'd have to do that again, I'd absolutely go for Dr. Guerrero." Okay, she isn't going to play along. She just decided to be lenient and not be as blunt as usually. But she has fully seen through his pathetic attempts at veiling how much everything is grating on his nerves. Again. "Guy did some time in the Corps, worked at the SGC for three years... he'd be my man."
"I uh... Good to know, Cadman." He should probably thank her or something but he just hopes that she hears that, anyway.
After all, he can totally hear the smirk in her voice when she says, "I bet it is." Then he hears her shift a little, realizes that she's getting ready to sleep. "Good night, sir." Yeah, she is. Damn. He was somehow in the mood to... "That is, unless you need another, less scary bedtime story to fall asleep."
Yep, he definitely needs to find someone to take over her platoon. Laura Cadman is probably the only person in all of Atlantis who can see through him that well and he doesn't mind it. Better have her on his team full time before someone else snags her off. He can't help grinning a little. "You still haven't told me how your shore leave went."
"Yes, I have." Now she's just playing hard to get.
"Details, Cadman. I demand details." Especially about how that meeting with a potential supervisor for a Master's thesis went. She'd been especially tightlipped about that one, and he'd figured he'd catch her in a quiet moment to find out about it. So... here is a quiet moment.
She seems to have realized that she won't get out of it by now because he can hear her sigh in the dark and mutter, "Oh, he demands details. Well, if that's how it is..."
In the end, she does launch into telling him about how her leave went and just as she's about to tell him about finally having found someone willing to accept a long distance Master's student, he can see Replicator Sheppard stand between the two tents closest to them. He ignores the bastard. Best thing he can do, all circumstances considered.
It's been six weeks now and he'd be lying if he said that he's fine now but things are starting to look up. He still sees Replicator Sheppard but for some reason, it doesn't bother him that much, anymore. One or two nights he even got to sleep more than five hours, and maybe tonight would have been the third if someone hadn't decided to use the common room on his level for late night TV watching.
That in itself wouldn't be so bad. Unfortunately, his quarters are right next to the damn room and whoever is watching TV is in for some serious... Or not. He knows that shock of hair. Would recognize it everywhere. Shit. Okay, tactical retreat seems his best... "Whoever you are... oh, Major."
Damn. "Evening, sir."
"Evening." Sheppard blinks at him a little owlishly from behind the couch's backrest before remembering the TV in the background and shutting it off and he wonders if his superior officer just fell asleep in front of the TV. "Oh... oh, sorry. I didn't realize... your quarters are next door, aren't they?"
He nods, making a face. "Yeah."
Sheppard looks a little sheepish now. "Sorry. I must have... whatever. Better get to bed now."
Yeah. He's tempted to simply agree with Sheppard and let him leave but he recognizes that look in Sheppard's eyes, mainly because he still keeps seeing it a few times when he looks in the mirror. A sigh nearly escapes him. Executive officers don't let commanding officers pretend everything is fine. "Sorry for asking, sir, but what were you doing here anyway?"
At that, Sheppard puts his forehead on the backrest and raises his index finger for a moment before looking up and trying to school his face back to his normal, half casual face. "A very good question, Major." So? "I uh... the TV in my quarters wasn't working?"
Was that a question? And since when is Sheppard someone who feels like the need to beat around the bush? "Of course, sir."
He probably shouldn't have added that touch of sarcasm but seriously, who is Sheppard trying to bullshit? "Yep." Him, that's who. He's trying to bullshit his second-in-command and he nearly feels insulted by the attempt. Seriously, Sheppard. Seriously. "My TV broke and I couldn't sleep and this is the most comfortable common room."
At least no question mark this time. "Yeah, no shit about that."
It gets him a grin from Sheppard, probably because that one at least is true. The common room on this level is by far the nicest decorated one, has the comfiest couches and the nicest stuff in the fridge, all owing to a bunch of bored Air Force lieutenants who had too much time on their hands at some point. He made sure that never happened again. But he does appreciate the common room.
Sheppard gets serious. "It was a shitty idea, wasn't it?"
Kind of. It's his turn to look sheepish now. "Not really." He'd been tempted to agree with Sheppard but then again, that would be mean. And dishonest. "Considering what I've been trying to get some decent sleep in the last couple weeks..." He shrugs.
Ah. That seems to have roused Sheppard's interest. Damn. "And what would that be?"
Yeah, he'd love to know that, wouldn't he?
Oh well. It would only be fair. He shrugs and sticks his hands in the pockets of his track pants, taking a few steps into the common room. "Let's see..." Okay, it's probably a little over the top but he makes a bit of a show of scratching himself in the head. "There was doing inventory in the infirmary with Dr. Keller, a bantos rods match with Teyla, a painting lesson for Colonel Carter..."
"You do get around, Major." Funny. Really funny.
"An overnight mission with Cadman," and now for the kicker, "and four sessions with Dr. Guerrero so far."
A very good moment to see if he really knows his commanding officer as well as he thinks. If that is correct, the thing Sheppard would ultimately go for should be, "Guerrero? Isn't he one of the shrink brigade?"
He nods. "Yep." Okay, he'd originally thought that that might be enough to get his meaning across to Sheppard but his boss has obviously decided to play dumb. Great. "I figured that after all of that other crap not working, I might as well try something more conservative. And to quote this Marine I happen to know: 'sides, it was mandatory."
Sheppard nods, too, slowly, more to himself. Then, "Is it working?"
Mh. Good question. Realistically... "It's starting to." It really is, that's the weirdest thing about it.
Sheppard seems to consider that. "And here I thought Heightmeyer was the only one able to deal with nightmare crystals that make you fight yourself."
Ah. So that's what the crystal did to Sheppard. Yeah. He can see why that would make someone rather fall asleep in front of the TV in a public common room than face your demons in your own four walls. He shakes his head. "Nope. Guerrero's a professional, sir. He was recommended to me by a Marine, so I figured I'd give it a shot."
"A Marine, huh?" If he were honest, he's probably phrase it more like "Cadman made me go" but he hopes Sheppard gets it anyway. This time, at least, it looks that way. "Alright, maybe the Doc has some space in his itinerary next week."
Well then, that was his good deed for the day, wasn't it? So he can go to bed with a clean conscience.
Or... "What were you watching, anyway?"
Sheppard grins. "Last year's Army-Air Force game."
Ah, right. Sheppard's weird fascination with watching old football games. He remembers that. "Falcons wiped the floor with the Black Knights. 43-7, was it?" Sheppard smirks. For a moment that nearly throws him but thankfully, it lacks the maliciousness of Replicator Sheppard's smirks. Ah, hell. He grins. "Be right back, sir."
Sheppard doesn't say anything at first but when he turns to leave for his quarters to get that beer that he purposefully didn't put into the fridge he can hear him yell, "Bring popcorn!" and he can't help but laugh a little and return with the last bag of microwave popcorn still left over from the last war movie marathon he did with his team.
So while the popcorn is doing its rounds in the microwave, Sheppard puts on the game again and when the popcorn is done, he hands the bowl to Sheppard, does a little hop over the couch's backrest and... thinks there was movement in the corner of his eyes. He can't help it, he has to turn around and... the doorway is empty. Huh.
"Major?" Mh? "You okay?"
Yes, he thinks. Yes, things are pretty fine, actually. He turns back to Sheppard. "Yeah, I'm good." He holds out his bottle. "To the Falcons?"
Sheppard acquiesces and clinks his bottle. "To the Falcons."
So... back to the game. Sleeping for more than five hours is overrated, anyway, at least for tonight. Tonight, it's just him, his commanding officer and the most successful military academy football team in history giving the most pathetic one a run for their money. It really could be a lot worse. Sometimes, despite all the bizarre shit, life is good in Atlantis. Life is just really fucking good.