The migraines began on the very first day. Sheppard was fine with baiting scientists and watching them spazz, it was likely the only entertainment he'd get for a very long time. And frankly watching geeks debate Star Trek vs Star Wars was cute, not fuzzy bunny cute but albino python cute. But once people started trying to hide under him from the evils of photons while begging the gods of caffeine to spare them, spare their most loyal of subjects...
"My sense of smell gets very sensitive when I have a migraine," Kavanagh warned. "And we're stuck here in a very small enclosed space with no windows and poor air circulation. The way I see it we're damned lucky these things come with a waste disposal system." He got a chorus of solemn nods in response to that one. "But! But I tell you all this," he warned. "I will personally punch in the gut the first person who dares pass gas in here."
"Just don't be loud about it," Rodney pleaded. He curled down and hid his head between his knees. It kept out some of the light and if he sat up every now and then to a symphony of popping vertebrae then he could keep his spine from hurting.
"I'm missing out on some truly epic lootz," Lee said randomly.
A number of confused, pitying, and 'wow what a nerd' looks passed among the prisoners of the puddlejumper. "World of Warcraft?" Rodney asked.
"You know, I could never forgive Blizzard for shelving Starcraft: Ghost in favor of moving resources to the World of Warcraft release," Kavanagh said, baiting Lee into hopefully a long and amusing discussion.
"WoW is their primary moneymaker," Lee explained. "Of course they were going to shelve a second-tier game."
"What?! Starcraft: Ghost was in post-production! It was essentially finished! Maybe a month or three of finishing touches and it would have been done! But no, three years of work down the drain just to work on an addictive little MMO."
"And that's a bad thing?"
"Somehow I have never heard of the results of an international World of Warcraft tournament causing South Korea's organized crime to call on hits against the family of the winner just because said winner wasn't representing Korea."
"Wait what? You're not serious..."
"I am serious," Kavanagh said sagely. "Last time South Korea didn't take the title was a kid from Germany. The Korean Mafia stepped in. That's all I really need to say." He drank in the sight of everyone in the jumper looking at him in disturbed awe. "And that's why when Blizzard woke up and smelled the hitmen they polled South Korea as to what they wanted in the next Starcraft. And built it for them. Starcraft 2 was announced last year in Seoul."
"If you build it they will come?" a marine asked.
"If you build it they won't kill you," the other commented.
Near the door of the cockpit John tried to quietly let one rip. It wasn't all that quiet and when Kavanagh's murderous eyes turned toward him he gave an unmanly squeak and hid in the cockpit, mentally commanding the door between them to close.
Sheppard gave a sigh of relief at being safe from sciency wrath, settled himself down in the pilot's chair, and slipped on his headphones. And resolutely ignored the nagging voice telling him that the only access to the waste disposal was in back. As was all the food.
Maybe he could sneak in.
Deodorant started breaking down on the second day.
"Something smells like fish," Kavanagh complained.
"And why would it smell like fish in here?" Rodney asked. He surreptitiously sniffed at his armpits. He didn't think he smelled like fish...
"We don't have any of the fish MREs," offered a marine. "There's nothing in here that can smell like fish."
"None of you have a working sense of smell," Kavanagh accused. "I tell you, something smells like fish in here."
"There is nothing in here that can smell like fish," Lee affirmed. He crossed his arms and leaned back next to Rodney. "You're right, though," he said ponderously. "Something does smell fishy."
"I-I don't smell fish," Rodney stammered.
Kavanagh gave Rodney a long, suspicious stare. "What have you been eating recently, McKay?" he asked accusingly.
Rodney didn't answer, instead curled up under one of the seating benches, arms crossed and pout in full force. "It's not my fault," he whined before lapsing into quiet muttering about moronic scientists with absurdly strong senses of smell.
Looking back, Rodney found himself surprised that the dreams hadn't started right away. No, it was all of three days before he found his sleep disturbed by more than the usual whale attack. He was never good with small spaces and while being trapped in a puddlejumper with these nuts was certainly distracting it didn't really change the facts. Thus when he woke up to Kavanagh shaking him awake and telling him to shut up he didn't panic. Barely.
Rodney found himself shoved to one side of the jumper, Kavanagh shaking him by the shoulders. His throat was sore from screaming, his chest was heaving through terrified constriction, his eyes darted wildly around trying to find the water he was sure was filling the jumper and oh how embarrassing would it be for someone like him to die of drowning...
"You have read far too much Lovecraft," Kavanagh sneered once Rodney seemed to recognize his surroundings.
"What?" Rodney asked. He took another look around. Everyone was wide awake and clustered on the far side of the jumper. Both marines had their fingers in their ears and were wincing with remembered pain. Lee was huddled in a corner, watching Rodney like he was possessed. Even Sheppard had the cockpit door cracked open and was peering through with impressed concern. "Oh," Rodney said in a small voice. "Sorry for waking you up..." He tried to turn away from their stares and curl up to get back to sleep.
"Oh no you don't," Kavanagh challenged. "McKay, you're no longer allowed to sleep when the rest of us are sleeping. I'm tired of Cthulhu fhtagn-ing. You're the one who apparently spent your teenaged years obsessing over gothic horror; you're the one who has to live with it. Sit up. If Cthulhu is going to fhtagn you then he'll do it when we're not trying to sleep."
Rodney sat up with a hmph and a glare. "Wasn't obsessed with gothic horror," he mumbled as Kavanagh flopped down on the floor and started falling asleep. "Lovecraft wasn't all fiction. Did my undergrad at Miskatonic. Read the Necronomicon."
"Will you go be crazy somewhere else?" Kavanagh demanded, eyes stubbornly held closed.
Rodney hmphed again and shoved himself to his feet, taking advantage of the open cockpit door to slip inside and think it closed behind him.
"You okay?" Sheppard asked.
Rodney shrugged. "I don't like the dreams," he admitted.
"I can tell."
"Thank you Colonel Obvious."
John gave Rodney half a worried smirk and handed him the headphones.
"You sure?" Rodney asked. Through the cockpit door they could both hear Kavanagh scolding everyone there for snoring, mumbling, moving in their sleep, even thinking too loudly.
"Take 'em," Sheppard insisted.
Rodney put the headphones on without another word and let Ozzy's voice flow over him. His eyes drifted shut and he leaned back in the copilot's chair. His breathing calmed as he let himself drift in that state between wakefulness and sleep where the dreams could do no more than whisper.
"You know you really do smell like fish," Sheppard said once Rodney seemed distracted enough not to hear him. "Not a dead fish or anything, very alive in fact. But you definitely smell like fish. I've noticed it before, too. Any time you've been awake and without a shower long enough to start smelling but frankly there's no way for me to just come out and ask why your BO smells like tuna fish."
"Not tuna," Rodney mumbled. "More like freshly caught salmon." He opened one eye to see a nervous, sheepish Colonel. "I'm still awake, John. I can hear you." He took the headphones off and handed them back. "You don't have them all that loud, really."
John took the headphones and twirled them in one hand, watching them in thought. He'd already broached the subject and since Rodney never spoke of it the likelihood of it being something really serious was probably small. Unless it was something really big but what in either galaxy could be big like this and have as its only symptom a fishy smell. "Salmon?" he asked suddenly, mentally cursing his mouth for not waiting for his brain to agree to actually begin this conversation.
Rodney shrugged and looked away. It wasn't that he didn't trust John, it was more that he was still hoping that maybe he could put it off long enough, maybe it wouldn't start really happening until after he'd left Atlantis in whatever manner or form he did end up leaving. He gazed down at his hands, the scars an angry red at not being exposed to water for so long. He'd hoped the Change would come late for him...
But it was already happening.
"It's a family thing," he whispered. "Genetics, really. It's the same reason I have the dreams."
"Hereditary night terrors?" John asked.
Rodney snorted. "I wish it were that simple. No, this is a great deal more real."
The pranks began on the fifth day. Kavanagh slept rather light so it became a challenge to prank him. The feather trick was hard to pull off when the handful of stuff ended up on the prankster's nose. To the scientist's dismay he was really only good for two pranks, one talked out of each marine.
Lee was his own prank as he tended to snuggle with a handy marine while mumbling about a puppy. No one felt they could in good conscience disturb that level of cuteness.
Pulling pranks on the two marines seemed wrong somehow. What with all that had happened and especially what they were putting up with now, nobody wanted to pull a prank on a guy and be rewarded for it with a pistol to the head or a fist to the face.
Sheppard slept in the cockpit with explicit instructions to the jumper not to let anyone through unless it was an emergency. Made it hard to prank a guy when he had the ship itself on his side.
Rodney ended up being the perfect target for pranking and not just through the process of elimination. He'd changed his sleeping patterns for the comfort of those who didn't like being jolted out of peaceful dreams by bloodcurdling screams. When he did manage peaceful sleep it was deep and accompanied with snoring suitable for mocking. And to top it off, when successfully pranked he'd usually go into an arm-waving rant cut off in the middle when he'd hit an arm or wrist on a wall in the cramped quarters, falling into quiet mutterings of madness and revenge.
One good prank against Rodney usually meant two or three hours of solid entertainment.
If there was anything Kavanagh learned from his time on Atlantis it was that pranking was serious business. The only way to survive after angering either McKay or Zelenka for whatever reason was to prank right back, anonymously. If it couldn't be traced then a silent unending war of doped coffee, magnetized ceilings, and blackmail-worthy photographs was fought right underneath administrator noses.
And here in a puddlejumper a million light years from any acting administrator there was no one to stop Kavanagh from really letting go. Which is why he found himself listening to Rodney's nightly screaming, finding that the tongues spilling from his sleeping mouth had patterns. Not just patterns, words. He recognized some of the words and names from his own youth misspent in the horror section of the library, others were new, most he had no idea how McKay was pronouncing them.
It was days of careful listening and planning before Kavanagh gestured Lee and the marines to absolute silence while Rodney slept deeply. He leaned down so his lips were next to Rodney's ear, all the easier to whisper blasphemies.
"That is not dead which can eternal lie," Kavanagh purred. "And with strange aeons even death may die."
Rodney twitched in his sleep as the whale chasing him changed tactics, dragging him deep underwater rather than killing him.
"The Old Ones are, the Old Ones were, the Old Ones will be."
The dream's human form was shed and water coursed past gills as the whale pulled Rodney down through blue-green light to a shining sunken Atlantis. Her spires sparkled, her windows shimmered, her piers spread into the silt of the abyssal plains.
"On the plains of Leng, in the space between worlds, Yog-Sothoth waits. Yog-Sothoth is the key, Yog-Sothoth is the gate."
Rodney marveled at what his descendants and the descendants of those he held dear had done with the place. The city thrummed with power, abounded with knowledge, all carefully controlled. The stars had long gone right and he was happy. "Ia Dagon," he murmured through the veil of sleep. "Ia Hydra. Ia Cthulhu. Cthulhu fhtagn. Cthulhu R'lyeh fhtagn ph'Atlantis..."
Kavanagh caught the mention of Atlantis and ran with it. "Cthulhu R'lyeh fhtagn ph'Atlantis," he whispered.
Rodney swam the corridors of his dream, purred in greeting at those he found there; Sheppard's twin grandchildren with those chaotic dorsal fins always raised in wonder and excitement, Zelenka's beautiful daughter with her gleaming silver scales, Madison wandering around in lazy circles around the spires, hundreds more all familiar. "Yog-Sothoth wgah'nagl ph'Atlantis," he murmured. "R'lyeh'nagl. Atlantis fhtagn. Ia Cthulhu. Ia Yog-Sothoth! IA!!"
Kavanagh shot away from Rodney as though burned and the cockpit door slammed open to reveal a twitchy Sheppard. "Whatever in hell you're doing will you stop it?!" John demanded.
Rodney sat up, gasping for air and eyes darting manically. Hands grasped at his neck in panic, no water in his gills, no water anywhere, can't hear the others where am I whereamIwhereamI...
Oh. The puddlejumper. Deep space? Stars... I can see stars...
John gave the others a look of warning and knelt down next to Rodney. "Snap out of it, McKay," he murmured. "You're in a puddlejumper in deep space. The dream's gone. You're safe here."
Deep space? Stars... Sheppard's words reached through the panic to remind him of what had happened, what was happening. "Easy for you to say," Rodney shrieked. "You're not dreaming of... Trying to summon... Forced to watch..." He gestured wildly with each failed sentence, unwilling or perhaps unable to finish any of them with words. Speech trailed off into silent gasping eerily reminiscent of a fish before he gave up and sulked.
"How about we try not to dream anymore, k?" John suggested. He ignored Rodney's dirty look.
"Everyone stand back! We're popping this thing open!"
Soldiers stepped back from the puddlejumper they'd just picked up from the wreckage of Midway Station. It was meant to be used as an escape pod in case something happened. No one knew what might or might not be inside there after almost two weeks.
Even if it were filled with friendlies no one really wanted to be close to that thing when the seal was cracked.
Ronon stood in front of the hatch as it opened. And could feel an oppressive cloud push everyone back, away from its source. Ronon's nose hairs curled a bit at the stench of ripened human barely covering a strong note of fish.
"Where are we?" came the question from within. There were people, survivors of the explosion. Ronon saw two marines, Dr. Lee, Dr. Kavanagh, and Dr. McKay.
"Daedalus 302 bay," Ronon answered. "Saw you guys, scooped you up, heading back to Atlantis." Kavanagh tried to hug him and was easily brushed aside.
"Midway was destroyed," Rodney said.
"Yeah, we saw. Where's Sheppard?"
"Lasted about a day," Rodney mocked, opening the cockpit door. "Sealed himself in there." Ronon was about to ask about the fish smell but missed as Rodney bolted out of the jumper shouting something about a days-long shower.
"No wonder he didn't hear the radio call."
Ronon poked at the sleeping John until he jumped awake and blinked owlishly. "Thank god. I almost shot myself listening to that," he complained.
"Yeah, I understand," Ronon said.
Considering the initial argument with water management, the deed, and the secondary argument with both waste and water management, it was a good seven hours before the Daedalus's rumor mill got hold of the legendary Five Hour Shower. Those hearing the rumor were sure that the clawed and fanged monster hissing at intruders daring to interrupt its soak was an exaggeration. Maybe not much of one but still...
The briefing took hours and by the time it was over Rodney felt ready for another shower. Or maybe sleeping in the shower while the water ran over him. He wasn't sure if he should be annoyed or relieved when Sheppard followed him to his quarters. "We need to talk," John had said. So once in Rodney's tiny assigned room he plopped on the bed and gazed pointedly up at John as the man paced.
"You wanted to talk?" Rodney asked.
"I wanted to make sure you were okay," Sheppard said, giving up the pacing to straddle the one chair in the room. "You know, after Kavanagh made the dreams worse."
"Ffft," Rodney dismissed, hands waving the idea away. "They're no worse. I just didn't make the effort to keep quiet after Kavanagh's sad attempt at a prank."
"You know, while you were in here using all the ship's water Kavanagh was out talking to people. Apparently he's now convinced Lovecraft wasn't all that fictional and that you really do worship the Cthulhu gods."
Rodney snorted at Kavanagh's reported antics. "That's because Lovecraft really wasn't all that fictional," he pointed out. "You have a security clearance; you can probably bug the Department of Defense about the raids on Innsmouth in 1928. The real reports without all the classified blacking-out of most of the text."
This surprised John. "Wait, Innsmouth is a real town?" he asked.
"Was," Rodney corrected. "It was a real town. Now it's just a patch of ruins reclaimed by the salt marsh north of Arkham."
"How do you know this? I mean I know you said you went to Miskatonic for your undergrad but I thought..." John trailed off, not sure what to say.
"My grandmother was orphaned during those raids," Rodney said. He tensed up as he realized what he'd just done. "Please don't tell anyone," he begged. "I mean it please don't tell anyone because we're usually surrounded by military and I have no idea what their standing orders are on anyone they missed during those raids and I really do not want anyone looking too deep into what I've been dreaming and you have no idea what nor why I'm saying so I should really shut up now, huh?" He made a very real effort to be quiet but couldn't hide his look of nervous fear.
"Hey, hey, it's okay," John said, trying to calm Rodney down. He left his sprawl on a too-small chair to sit next to Rodney on the bed, hand drifting up to grasp a tense shoulder. "I'm not going to tell anyone. Even if I had any clue what that meant."
"Thank you," Rodney said, relaxing slightly.
"So, two weeks in a puddlejumper with Lee and Kavanagh," John said, trying to change the subject. "Without deodorant."
"Smells like monkey," Rodney snorted, relaxing a bit more. "No coffee made it harder. Still, they're going to have to bleach that jumper."
"Feel human again now that you've had coffee, shower, and blessed silence?"
Rodney tensed up again before giving John a blank look. He forced himself to relax, told himself Sheppard didn't mean anything by it.
John noticed Rodney's shift, noticed it in a big way. Interesting. He'd planned to just forget the whole Innsmouth thing but maybe he'd look into it...
Summary: Two weeks in a puddle jumper in deep space. No coffee, no entertainment, no deodorant. Tagged for Midway. Crossover with the Cthulhu Mythos.