TITLE: NIGHT TERRORS
Spoilers: Set in season one, gen
Summary: Sheppard uncovers some, er, unexpected activities on base.
JOHN SHEPPARD really couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t worry over impending Wraith invasions, which he knew would eventually happen, or missions gone wrong, where instead of returning with a source of food and a new ally, they ended up with another enemy. He just wasn’t sleepy.
If there was one thing no one on Atlantis could complain about, it was the lack of any option to exercise. The incredibly long corridors that interconnected the massive base were great for running, jogging, or just a leisurely walk. With the excellent climate control on Atlantis, a person never had to worry about it being too cold or too hot. It was also dry. Outside, it had been raining cats and dogs for the last few hours. A dreary group of gray clouds had scudded across the horizon and swept over the base and the surrounding ocean. Now that night held the city in its embrace, it seemed even more closed off. A few hours ago, Dr. Weir had gazed out at the large rain droplets pummeling the windows and murmured longingly about hot chocolate, Danielle Steele novels and a fireplace. Sheppard smiled briefly as he recalled her remarks, and how quickly she had snapped out of that dreamy state, flushed slightly, and went back to discussing the next mission his team would embark upon.
Sheppard just felt that the rain made the base more confining, hence the long walk. He’d traversed Atlantis’ corridors so many times he knew how long it took to get from one intersection to another, or that the scientists down by Lab C-1 had a nasty tendency to leave bits of PowerBar or MRE wrappers outside their door.
If Atlantis lacked one thing, it was a dedicated cleaning crew. No one came by after work had ended for the day and dusted, vacuumed and took out the trash. At the South Pole, the people there had coined the term ‘house mouse,’ a rotating position of which everyone partook, no matter what their status on the base. In essence, the house mouse kept the base clean for the most part, or at least the common areas. Private areas were up to the individual.
On one of his walks several weeks ago, Sheppard had encountered several long strips of foil off a PowerBar wrapper that had been left outside that one particular lab. It wasn’t that he was obsessive-compulsive about order, but if you let one pigsty crop up, more would inevitably breed. Even Beckett had made some comments about the wrappers, although amazingly, McKay – their resident ‘eat anything that wasn’t nailed down as long as it didn’t contain citrus’ – didn’t litter. He was actually pretty neat. Beckett instead had elaborated on germs and vermin, although Atlantis thankfully was free of any kind of rodent infestation.
No, the culprit who’d blithely committed the heinous act of littering had been Dr. Irving Barrington, a very astute electrical/mechanical engineer with several PhDs, whose coal black eyes and hawk-like nose gave him the stern countenance of a no-nonsense military general. He could be a stern verbal combatant as well if the situation arose. When Sheppard had gone into the cluttered lab to point out the littering, Barrington just shot a withering glance at the Major and said that his job didn’t include cleaning, but that Sheppard was welcome to do it he wanted to. They’d had a terse exchange of words, which hadn’t solved anything, and just left both men with the distinct impression that thank God they worked on opposite ends of the base.
Sheppard realized that he was headed down that particular corridor toward Lab C-1. He’d drawn his path randomly but wondered if perhaps he’d find more foil outside the door. If that did happen, he sure as hell wasn’t going to bother pointing it out to Barrington. He’d just send Sgt. Bates down to take care of it. Bates loved to put the scientists in their place. Fortunately it wasn’t anything personal. Bates was just ramrod strict on security and if that included discarded foil wrappers someone might slip on, then so be it.
The corridor was empty and oppressively quiet as Sheppard stopped in front of the lab’s door. All the labs kept their doors shut, just in the event that an experiment went awry. The floor was spotless.
It was late at night. He knew that Barrington was a morning person, not a night owl, so Sheppard resumed his walk – until he heard an unsettling noise emanate from behind the door he’d just passed.
The noise sounded suspiciously like a muffled scream. Sheppard really really wanted to believe that someone was in that lab watching a horror movie on one of the base’s few portable DVD players, but that thought evaporated like water in a hot desert when a low guttural moan followed. He knew the voice. Dr. Mariann Donner. A testy engineer, she and Barrington had worked together on some projects and had had a pretty nasty screaming match over some test results a few months back. They’d been civil since then, but…
When a pained scream rent the air, Sheppard withdrew his .9mm gun from its holster. Having the Ancient gene was a blessing in this instance: he could gain access to virtually all areas of the base with a simple touch. Placing his palm against the touch pad outside the door, he charged into the lab, gun held straight out in both hands.
He froze in his tracks, a wave of shock sweeping over him.
Two pairs of very startled eyes stared back at him like rabbits cornered in their den by a hungry fox.
Several different responses warred in his mind to find an utterance, but all Sheppard could manage to croak was a weak “Uh, never mind,” before he turned and left the room in haste. The door shut behind him with a heavy snick, at which point he realized he still had his weapon in hand. He reholstered the gun and quickly headed down the corridor. Where he was going, he had absolutely no idea, but he definitely had to get as far away from Lab C-1 as possible.
If there had been a Wraith in that room trying to suck the life out of one of his people, that he could have dealt with. If a scientist had snapped and was trying to stab another one to death with a beaker, no problem.
He heard the sudden slap-slap of bare feet pursuing him down the corridor.
Sheppard shut his eyes, but risked a look when he felt the presence stop in front of him.
“Um, Major Sheppard,” began Barrington, and rather contritely at that.
Thank God, thought Sheppard in relief. At least the scientist had thrown on some clothing before running out after him. The blue shirt had been hastily buttoned in one spot, two buttons off, creating a totally disheveled appearance. His pants were on, which was a 100% improvement over a few seconds ago. Shoes, socks and any sense of dignity, however, were undeniably absent.
“This really doesn’t have to go any further,” suggested Barrington, hiking up his pants.
Sheppard felt a surge of anger go through him, which he immediately realized was actually embarrassment.
“I’d say ‘get a room,’ but obviously the lab is good enough,” said Sheppard, waving his arm at the lab down the corridor.
Barrington crossed his arms against his chest, assuming a slightly confrontational pose, but then put his arms down by his sides, as if realizing contrition was a better strategy. “It wasn’t planned.”
“Maybe get a ‘do not disturb’ sign?” Sheppard realized he was rambling incoherently.
“I’d prefer that Dr. Donner’s and mine … affairs… did not become the fodder of base gossip.”
Affair? Sheppard couldn’t believe that Barrington was using that innocuous term to describe what he’d just witnessed.
Sheppard stood there dumbfounded for a moment, his mind still trying to take it all in. Barrington began to look worried.
“My lips are sealed,” Sheppard finally replied, taking in a deep breath. The base gossip wouldn’t do much to Barrington or Donner if news of this ‘affair’ leaked, but he didn’t need the ribbing he knew he’d get if it got out that he’d charged into the lab, gun out, expecting an attempted murder or worse, only to find two of the base’s most unlikeliest scientists engaged in some very wild sex.
“Thank you, Major.”
And Barrington meant it. The man quickly ran back toward the lab.
Well, at least Barrington had something to run to.
“Think about some soundproofing!” Sheppard yelled after the man as he continued down the corridor.
A tacky thing to say, but good lord, they were so noisy when—
Sheppard smacked himself in the side of the head as the visuals of what he’d just seen danced annoyingly and tantalizingly in the forefront of his thoughts.
He certainly wasn’t a monk, or a prude, but he definitely wasn’t a voyeur either. Seeing Dr. Donner in all her splendid glory had been the last thing he’d expected when he’d run into the room to enact what he envisioned would be a rescue. And Donner and Barrington certainly hadn’t needed rescuing! What was worse, he realized that the loose Atlantis uniforms hid a lot. Donner, who was all science and had a wit as dry as the Sahara desert, could easily give any Playboy model a run for their money.
Sheppard walked into a wall.
Bouncing off the wall, Sheppard regained his bearings as he rubbed a sore shoulder. He was at a juncture where he had three choices. Or a fourth, which, considering just how flustered the incident had made him, seemed to be the best of all options.
Continued at Part 2 - http://wraithfodder.livejournal.com/6510