The first three nights Rodney dreams of fire and insects. Each time he bolts awake, panting; he stares at the wall, absent-mindedly rubs his sweaty hands against the mattress, and then gets up to work. He can't afford to sleep, anyway; there is the portal to get online and the city's systems and database to check for sabotage. He reaches for another cup of coffee when the room starts to blur.
On the third day he kisses John. Rays of warm light over the ocean.
The fourth night Rodney dreams of John. He dreams of John's green eyes, how they seem to glow faintly when he's sitting on the back of a whale, of the smile and the joy in them when they kissed. In his dream, John comes to him, smiling, and Rodney wants to throw away the knife but can't, and he stabs John and stabs him and stabs him; he is chained to pillars of burning flame, insects are crawling all over him, and he watches himself stabbing John. He wakes up and angrily scrubs the dried tears off his face.
He floats among the whales and watches John fly.
In the afternoon, Radek puts a headache amulet on Rodney's desk. Carson had run out days ago, so it must have come freshly from Earth; apparently the MD had sent some useful things along with their requests for reports and damage assessments. Rodney starts to say something and stops. Radek probably has nightmares of his own. They all do.
The fifth night, he sleeps in darkness. No fire, no bugs, no horrid greenish-black faces staring at him. There is only darkness. But behind the darkness it is black, and in the black there is danger. He waits for it to claw its way through to him, jump at him and tear him apart; it doesn't. In the morning, it seems to lurk in every corner, peer out of every shady spot, and smile at him.
He goes to the East Pier, dangling his feet and looking at the sky. The whales' concerned voices hum in his head, but for once, he doesn't answer. The towers of Atlantis glitter in the sunlight like a myriad of crystal shards, sharp and beautiful like a kaleidoscope.
Something bumps against his legs. Taken by surprise, he falls down, onto the fluid dynamics whale's back. The differential-calculus whale splashes water all over him and the other whales join in, splashing and spouting, clearly amused. Rodney sputters and complains and climbs onto the pier again, accusing them of ruining yet another set of clothes and he doesn't have that many of them, thank you. The whales' affectionate thoughts follow him all the way inside, and the weight on his chest seems to have lessened somewhat.
The sixth night there is darkness and fire burning all the way through it. And there is John, screaming, chained to the Chair in the middle of the fire, and John looks at him and shouts for help. Rodney tries to move, but he is slow, so slow, and he watches as John is consumed by the flames.
He wakes up when someone touches him and calls his name. It's John, of course, whole, alive, untainted. He holds Rodney until he stops shaking. “It's okay”, John whispers, “shhh, it's okay”, but Rodney knows that it isn't, not yet. Eventually, it will be.
In the evening, Rodney comes to the East Pier again. He can see Ronon flying on the horizon, a winged spot on blue. Teyla is in Athos for a few days to reassure her people, but she had promised to come back soon and help organize the welcome for Jeannie. He doubts that it will be a big party, but he'd nodded, and Teyla had smiled.
He rubs his eyes and squints, but he can't see Ronon anymore. He didn't fall, the whales reassure him. And he knows that, of course, but still, it is good to hear.
In the morning, he wakes up to find that he has fallen asleep on the Pier. Someone pulled him back from the edge and put a blanket over him. Rodney smiles and goes to find John.