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He found him on one of the balconies at last.
"How did you get here?" he demanded, caught between curiosity, fury, and worry.
"Walked." The shadow of an insouciant grin. "You know, that thing you do to get out of your room, to the transporter and then here."
"Very funny." Rodney scowled and felt like shaking him until his teeth rattled. "Did the virus also scramble your brain, or is that just an aftereffect of the new state of your hair?"
"What about my hair?"
"It's -- flat. No life of its own. Did you finally run out of hair gel?"
"No." Bared teeth and a humorless smile. "But I decided to forego the effort of using it, considering it's a little bit hard to style yourself just right if. You. Can't. See."
John Sheppard stumbled to his feet and made his way inside Atlantis before Rodney had thought up an appropriate rejoinder. He was left with the afterimage of sightless hazel eyes and a cold, hard ball in his stomach.
So Sheppard was facing reality, but -- acceptance? No, there had been no acceptance in the aggressively-held body.
Kate was right, damnit. Sheppard wasn't coping.
He tried to picture the exercise room in front of his inner eye, but attempting to evade Teyla's sticks wasn't exactly conducive to remembering the room's layout.
He heard a stick whistling through the air close to his face, and stumbled when he tried to take a step back.
Teyla's voice was grave and, thank God, sounded just like always: "Major, you have to concentrate. You have learned a lot since our first lesson, but today you are making mistakes no warrior can afford even in practice."
He reflexively closed his fingers harder around the warm wood in his hands, shifted his grip a little so that the sticks were better balanced, and raised his guard to the correct position that Teyla had painfully drilled into him in endless sweaty hours of kicking his ass.
"Good. Now move forward ten steps so we may continue without you encountering the back wall in about five minutes."
And yeah, Teyla was the only one who could blatantly refer to his lack of sight without his internal defenses slamming into place. Perhaps because she was so matter-of-fact about it. Maybe because of her utter lack of pity.
The only one beside her in whose voice he heard no pity was McKay. But McKay was all guilt and worry these days, the usually acerbic tongue toned down to nothing. Except that moment on the balcony a few days ago.
He would have loved to know what Beckett and Heightmeyer thought of him, and who'd been the one to start operation let's-not-spook-the-blind-guy.
If just one more person walked on eggshells around him today, he'd shove one of his sticks were the sun didn't shine.
Major Sheppard's door was closed, but Rodney didn't even entertain the idea that there might be a reason for it. Sheppard coming out of the bathroom, pissed off and dripping wet, blew his painfully summarized speech right out of his head. He stood there, jaw hanging open, while Sheppard paid no attention to his state of undress and instead tried to wipe as much excess water off his body as possible.
"McKay! And I ask again - what are you doing here? I don't need a keeper, my docs make house calls these days, and Ford's my designated delivery service. Shouldn't you be in the department heads meeting with Elizabeth right now?"
Rodney swallowed and jerked his gaze back to Sheppard's face. Ever since the accident, looking his fill made him feel dirty, now that he had no chance of Sheppard ever catching him looking and busting his ass, or of Sheppard looking back.
"Major, I need you to come to the Control Room with me."
When Sheppard opened his mouth to argue, he cut him off. "John, do you trust me? I have an idea, and I hope it will work, but I need you - dressed - to come with me."
He averted his eyes while Sheppard put on his usual attire of black jeans and tight black t-shirt. The jeans were a little loose on him now, and Rodney cursed the Ancients and their damned viral labs, accidents, malfunctioning air vents and biochemical agents no sane race should ever have experimented with.
He dragged Sheppard to the Control Room with utter disregard for the way Sheppard stiffened up when he locked his fingers around his biceps, and gave him no chance to assert his bloody-minded independence in regard to where, and how fast, they were going.
It was worth it, he thought, as Sheppard's hand pressed on the sensor at Grodin's console, and his face was transformed into an expression of blinding joy when, for the first time, he was able to see again... with Atlantis' eyes.
Rodney truly was the genius he claimed to be, John thought, and he owed him more than he could ever repay in this lifetime.
Sitting day in, day out in the control room with his hand welded to Grodin's console wouldn't have been very practical indeed, and Rodney was the one who'd already thought of the second step, and had immediately dragged him into the next hallway, leaving Elizabeth behind mid-word.
So he hadn't been exactly surprised when McKay had removed some part of the hallway paneling, at least according to the swearing and clanking, tinkered in the city's innards behind the panel, and then pressed a lifesigns detector into his hand.
"Huh?" he'd asked intelligently, and McKay had huffed impatiently and prodded him to think it 'on'. Duh. He should have thought of that himself, and immediately, the small device had come to life and, just like that, it had been like in the Control Room. Instantly being plugged into Atlantis' systems, seeing with Atlantis' visual sensors. Only, this time, a less confusing mix of impressions -- just two perspectives showing the same scene.
A hallway with two people in it, one in the signature grey-with-blue-bars of the science department, and one in black.
Rodney, himself, a wall spilling transparent tubes, and -- wow, zoom and changeable camera angles. Cool.
Strange to see his hand closing tightly around a newly-dubbed 'direct visual sensor access', in geek speak: DVSA. Even more strange to see worry and exhilaration and even a few tears in Rodney's eyes when John had hugged him, hard, right there in the hallway.
The same hallway he was in now, fumbling for the closest wall. He'd been on his way back to his quarters after an exhausting few days of experimenting with Rodney's nifty little innovation in all the living areas the science geeks had adapted the sensor access points in, and somehow he'd been tired and not paying enough attention and dropped the fucking DVSA.
He punched the wall in frustration and bit back a moan of pain. He was still blind, damnit, and he couldn't allow himself to forget that ever again.
"I can get to Beckett's office by myself, you know. Thanks to a certain electronic version of a seeing-eye dog, I'm no longer in danger of getting trampled down by a horde of scientists in coffee withdrawal, or a bunch of marines with messy lockers escaping Bates' wrath."
Rodney continued to cheerfully ignore him. "Yes, I believe that's true, Major, and let me stress again, who spent the last week with his head in countless access panels to make that possible?"
"Zelenka. Kavanagh. Simpson. That Japanese assistant of yours. Was there anyone else?" A boyish grin, and Rodney couldn't even think of a rejoinder.
He sighed soundlessly. This was getting embarrassing fast.
Any possible sarcastic sarcastic answer was cut short by Carson's greeting, and then, of course, the medical mumbo-jumbo that followed.
Rodney only understood the gist of it, but that was grim enough and killed off any urge to continue needling Sheppard.
Basically, John would have to choose: continue as he did at the moment, thereby being confined to all areas adapted to his special needs, or gain a bit more independence -- with certain drawbacks.
"...you cannae go offworld unless you can act independently from the city - or the jumpers' - sensors. I know you can fly again, lad, we all heard the ruckus yesterday over the comm, what with Rodney yelling and threatening to kill you if you didnae decelerate upon landing, but you wouldnae be able to leave the jumper on a mission. Dr. Weir has said that as ranking military officer, she would prefer for you to stay in the city anyway, but I can imagine how you feel about that.
The only alternative would be for you to wear a set of visual sensors and power source on your body. I would suggest some sort of helmet, Major, but you'd be blind if someone took it from you.
The third - and most radical method - would be for ye tae wear them as a sort of biomechanical eyeball implants. Dr. Kavanagh's department has assured me they could construct an implant..."
Rodney nonsensically thought that Carson's Scots always got thicker when he was stressed, and then felt like hurrying out and throwing up. Carson was suggesting enucleation. The virus had destroyed only John's optical nerves, not his eyes, and Rodney was simply not ready to admit defeat. They would find a way to repair the damage; they just needed a bit more time.
When someone barreled around the corner and ran smack-dab into John, he desperately tightened his grip on the DVSA. He would not lose it another time, damnit!
The person he'd run into wore the color bars of a scientist on his jacket. John blinked and then called himself an idiot. He concentrated on the sensor array in the middle of the hallway behind him, and the scientist's face focused into a frowning Kavanagh.
Great. The man with the urge to have a human lab rat to play SpaceMasterTM on. John didn't feel like a privateer with money to blow on cybernetics. He wanted to keep his own eyes, thanks so much.
"Major Sheppard, I'm sorry; I didn't see you." Kavanagh blushed, evidently mortified at his own choice of words.
Great. Now he had Kavanagh, of all people, feeling sorry for him.
"Dr. Beckett is all set for removing my eyes, thanks to your suggestion," John said mildly.
Kavanagh paled, but stood his ground.
"It is your choice, Major, but I imagine you would want to be able to leave Atlantis in case of an emergency."
"Such as? I'll never be able to do first contact anymore anyway. The Energizer Bunny is only clever advertising, haven't you heard?" He bared his teeth in a sharp smile. "No battery, poof! no more sight. I'd be a danger to my team in any number of situations."
Then Kavanagh told him about his sister Louise, and what he wouldn't do to give her back her hearing.
John spent the rest of the evening pacing in his room, thinking, until he absolutely had to see a sane, logical person, and left for Rodney's quarters.
Rodney woke, gasping, a half-remembered memory wrenching him out of sleep.
Oh, God. He rubbed his hands over his face and shuddered in reaction. He'd been there when Carson had done the surgery immediately after John had been allowed out of containment, the virus eliminated by the vaccine Dr. Biro's people had scrambled to replicate according to Rodney's reconstruction of the Ancient scientists' lab notes.
John's dissolved optical nerves had pressed onto eyes, paper-thin bone and brain. The operation had removed the dead tissue and the blood.
Rodney had insisted on being there. He'd hurried out after the first twenty minutes and spent the next hours vomiting in his quarters.
He was allergic to a carefully outlined number of things, lemons and assholes ranking among the most mentionable ones, but the sight of blood had never aroused anything in him save some kind of morbid fascination that humans relied on this carefully balanced red liquid to think, breathe and walk.
He never wanted to see John's blood again. He never wanted to see John bleeding again.
There was a short rap on his door, and his overtired brain seemed to have conjured up the subject of his most recent thoughts.
John Sheppard on his doorstep.
"You could call me 'John' more often than once in a blue moon, you know?" John pushed him back a few steps into the living area. The door closed. And John kissed him.
"I feel like Darth Vader," John complained, "only without the weird breathing noises. Or the nose guard, or the strange grille over his mouth."
"You're telling me to shut up, Rodney? Is that any way to talk to your military commander?"
A muffled snicker from Ford in the back of the jumper. John glared. Teyla just raised her eyebrows.
"My military commander? Hel-lo, you're not even my team leader anymore. Aren't you mistaking me for someone?"
"Hmmm. Let me think... five foot ten inches. Canadian. Genius and pain-in-the-ass, plus my favorite geek. Nope. No mistaking."
"I'm not military, you ass. Ergo, I don't jump when you say 'jump'--" McKay blushed, which was really cute, "-- well, not usually, anyway." Hastily.
John had to look away for a moment to get his face back under control.
Rodney whapped him onto the so-called "helmet" and scowled in a friendly way. "Stop complaining. It's not a helmet, it's more of a baseball cap. With benefits. You don't look like more of a dork than usual. In fact, wear it with that hideous track suit, and no one will notice it at all."
Just for that, John did an extra barrel roll. The jumper handled like a dream, and he focused two of the visual sensors on Rodney's face to catch the wince and the slight tide of green, just because.
"I'm really looking forward to tonight," he said. Smirked at Rodney. Explained to Ford and Teyla about intending to force Rodney to finally experience the joys of a "Die Hard" movie marathon with him, and thought all through it how truly lucky he was.
He'd lost his sight, and not lost it. Due to an obnoxious, smug, arrogant Canadian astrophysicist, he'd gained back even more: a lover, and a relationship he intended to keep for however long Atlantis, the Pegasus galaxy and the Wraith allowed them both.
"Stargate: Atlantis" ficlet by allaire mikháil, 2.430 words, McKay/Sheppard, alternately McKay/Sheppard POV, rated PG-13.
This was triggered by watching the first few episodes of "Blind Justice", which reminded me of my penchant for a certain scene in the second "Dune" book by Frank Herbert, and gave birth to the image of John in a similar situation. How could it have happened? How would he handle it?
With thanks to koschka, shalott and Karen McFadyyon for lengthy inspirational fic, and to mamoru22 for her McShep vidding marathon and for the certainty of SG:A being a major topic of conversation whenever our mailing list has been meeting recently. An even greater thank-you goes to frostfire_17, sdrana and Teza for their very helpful beta suggestions. I may have been too enamored with some of my sentences to heed their advice, so it can be safely said that all final blame rests on my shoulders.
Set mid-first season sometime after "Hot Zone" and originally intended for the Blood Challenge on sga_flashfic, but alas, I was too late. A virtual cookie for anyone who recognizes the "Sports Night" reference.
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