John's gittern bounced on his back as he ran from the chaos. He had to get away. It was a bloodbath and if he didn't get out now, he never would. Something grabbed his arm and he swung around with his fist raised to hit whoever it was trying to stop him.
It was Holland.
He stood there holding John's bicep, looking stunning in his formal Guard Blues, silver braiding decorating the jacket at the collar and cuffs. "Holland," John breathed, lowering his fist, his heart twisting. "Oh gods, Holland, I've missed you so much."
Holland regarded him with serious eyes. "John, I've failed." Spots of wet darkness started to spread on his jacket. "I've failed in my duty and I need you to take over for me."
John stared, horrified. "No, Holland, you haven't failed! Don't do this to me!"
Slashes opened up on Holland's face and blood began to pour out of them, dripping down his neck into the collar of his jacket. Blood dripped onto John's arm as the sleeve of Holland's jacket became soaked through. "You have to take over for me, John! There is no one else!" Holland shouted.
John shook off Holland's hand and then grabbed his shoulders. "No, Holland, stay! I can't do this on my own!"
"Protect the king, John! Protect the king!" Holland pleaded pale creatures suddenly appeared and tore him away from John.
"HOLLAND!" John screamed as he shot upright in his bed. The room around him was dark, and his harsh breathing echoed off the walls. There was a knock at his door.
He shoved the covers off and put his feet on the floor, roughly rubbing his eyes to get rid of the tears. He reached for Atlantis and she sent back a gentle, sleepy pulse of comfort. The person behind the door knocked louder and John took a steadying breath, got up and answered it.
It was Rodney, in the loose shorts and old, stained shirt that he usually slept in. "Um, Hi. I was awake and I heard...uh, it sounded like you're having a bad night," he said tentatively, his eyes wide as he took in John's bare chest and reddened eyes. "Do you, do you want to play some chess?"
John cringed a bit the slightly freaked out look on Rodney's face. He must have been screaming before he'd woken up. "Uh," he said, rubbing the back of his neck, trying to loosen the tight muscles there, "I'd be a crappy opponent tonight, I'm afraid. I'm sorry I disturbed you." Nights when Holland showed up in his dreams were particularly rough, and he didn't think that he could pull his head together enough to play a game. John wondered if he shouldn't just grab his blanket roll and curl up next to Atlantis out in Companion's Field for the rest of the night. It wouldn't be the first time he'd done that. And he genuinely needed the rest in order to deal with Court the next day.
Rodney waved his hands dismissively. "Well, yes, the shrieking was extremely disconcerting, but I was awake, so I wasn't really disturbed, disturbed, if you get my meaning." He then shuffled his feet awkwardly. "If you want...I mean, if you'd like...we don't have to play chess if you just wanted some company for a while. We could, um, hang out and talk. Or not. Either way." The look he gave John was frankly worried.
You know that I'm always here for you, sweetheart, Atlantis commented sleepily, but I believe it would be a good idea for you to spend some time with him before you decide to come to me. You close yourself off from human contact too much and he needs the practice, I think.
John sighed and stepped aside to let him in. Rodney quirked an uncertain smile at him and took his accustomed chair as John shut the door and then sat down on the edge of his bed.
"Um, so," Rodney began, nervously drumming his fingers on his knees, "Would you like to, to talk about it?"
John looked warily at him. "About what?"
Rodney gave him an annoyed look. "About why you were screaming in your sleep for someone not to leave you. Somebody named Hollis?"
John breath caught. He'd never talked about Holland with anyone after he'd told the Queen what had happened. It hurt too much.
The look on his face must have been pretty bad, because Rodney's eyes cut away from him and he then he mumbled uncomfortably, "Right. None of my business. Sorry."
"Holland," John found himself blurting out. "His name. It was Holland." He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, staring at the floor. "He was....a friend. He was, he was killed a while ago."
"Oh. Um," Rodney replied softly, awkwardly.
John closed his eyes and continued. "It's...I have nightmares about it, sometimes. I..." he stopped, unable to complete the sentence.
You miss him, Atlantis finished for him.
Yeah, he replied, feeling raw and broken inside.
He heard Rodney shift in his chair, then ask, "Uh, how'd he die? Was he a Herald?"
John shook his head. "Guard. He was....he was protecting the King."
"Oh," Rodney replied. "So he died when the King did, then."
"Just before," John rasped.
"Oh," said Rodney again. "You were there, I take it."
"Yeah," John managed croak out, and then he fell silent, his throat tight and feeling like sandpaper from having forced the words out. He had no idea why he'd even told Rodney any of that.
He heard Rodney shift again and was startled when he sat down next to John on the bed, their thighs touching. "Look, I'm not really any good at this, this consoling thing. But I am sorry about your friend," Rodney said, his blue eyes concerned as John looked at him in surprise.
John sighed and ran a hand through his hair, a little of his tenseness easing as the heat from Rodney's body soaked into his, warming up his side. "Thanks,"he replied, and leaned into Rodney's shoulder a little. It felt comforting.
He felt the hay and sunshine that was Atlantis in the back of his mind, and she said sleepily, You are calmer, dearling.
Yeah, he responded, a little surprised. She was right. He was calmer.
Good, she replied approvingly. He is a good man. You should speak with him like this more often.
Maybe, John replied, hedging. He wasn't a talky kind of guy. Going back over the past had always seemed like a bad idea to him. After all, there was nothing that one could do about it afterwards, so there was no point in rehashing it. But he couldn't deny that the pain he still felt over Holland's death had been eased a bit by the conversation, was not so overwhelming. Maybe.
John bumped against Rodney with his shoulder. "Wanna play some chess?"
Rodney gave him a relieved look and smiled crookedly. "Only if you're prepared to get your ass handed to you by my superior intellect."
"You wish," John snarked back, and got the board.