jalabert (jalabert) wrote,

FIC: Lifeline

Title: Lifeline
Author: Jalabert
Rating: PG-13
Pairings: Ford/Sheppard
Category: First time
Spoilers: None
Warnings: None
Summary: "Whatever gets you through the night is all right..." John Lennon

It must be close to midnight. I've been lying here for about twenty minutes staring at the ceiling, waiting. Sure enough, my door opens and Ford walks in. The doors slide shut behind him as he kicks off his shoes, drops his pants and crawls into my bed. I'm draped in 165 pounds of shit-hot sexy Marine. I've got to do something about this. I know it'd be pointless to say something now. Ford's fast asleep, just as he was the three previous nights.

I had a talk with Carson about sleepwalking recently and he told me that certain traumatic events can trigger it. Ford's certainly had his share of those over the last few months. And it's not as though there was no precedent for coming to my bed when he had problems coping with stress. In fact, if truth be told, I went to his bed first. I was first the one to reach out when things got rough, so if anything, this is all my fault. Perhaps I ought to explain.

It began our first night in Atlantis; the night after our first encounter with the Wraith. Liz arranged a celebration, but after the music ended and everyone went off to bed, I knew that I wouldn't be able to sleep. In fact, I was sure I would never be able to sleep again. Not after what I had seen.

Ford had seen it, too. I found him sitting in a lounge after wandering through the corridors for an hour. He wore the same haunted look I did. We sat down and tried to pretend we were just excited about our first night in the Pegasus Galaxy. To a casual observer we were probably fairly convincing, too. But we couldn't fool each other. After two hours, during which we both struggled to stay awake, I offered to walk Ford to his quarters. By the time we got there, I'd come to a decision.

"Look, lieutenant; we both know we're going to be having nightmares about what we saw out there," I said, slumping against a wall to keep from falling over. I was that tired.

"I know, sir," Ford replied softly. "I'm not sure I ever want to close my eyes again for fear of--."

I placed my hand on his arm and opened the door to his room. He entered reluctantly. If he was surprised that I followed him inside, he didn't show it. Hell, he was probably too tired to be anything else.

"This is going to sound very out of line and if you say the word I'm out of here--."

"Sir?" Ford replied, barely able to focus his eyes on me.

"We're both scared shitless," I said bluntly. I didn't have time or energy to waste on subtlety. "We could be scared shitless together. Maybe we'll be able to get a little rest."

Ford frowned in confusion and I had to remind myself that I was not propositioning the man for sex, regardless of how hot he looked at the moment. Out of uniform, so open and vulnerable... those eyes... Under other circumstances I would have been all over him. But not now--I didn't need a lover. I needed a lifeline. I nodded toward the bed and he crawled in. I crawled in after him and turned off the light.

The Ancients must have been a tall race. Their beds are wonderfully long but rather Spartan affairs. The mattresses are firm and slightly narrower than a double bed. Ford and I eventually ended up spooned together after tossing and turning for about twenty minutes. When the nightmares came Ford took hold of my hand and squeezed it. I felt grounded, then, and the tension slipped away. And when he began to mumble in his sleep I shushed him and pulled him a little closer to my body till he subsided.

I got about four hours of sleep that night, which was four hours more than I expected to get. I left Ford before he awoke to return to my room for a shower and a change of clothes. I didn't see him again for several hours. He gave me a slight nod of acknowledgment, but we never discussed what had happened that night.

But that was only the first of many nights together. Over time, it became common practice to sleep together after a rough outing. We never planned it or talked about it. Sometimes we'd sit in the lounge till it was very late and then go to his room when we were ready to go to bed. On other occasions, I'd just show up, like after Ford got zapped by that energy thing that McKay sent through the gate. I didn't sleep for two nights while he was in the infirmary. The night he was released I showed up at his room. Ford thought I was just there to visit and I was afraid he was going to ask me to leave, but he didn't rush me out. Finally, he gave a huge yawn and I rose to go.

"You're not leaving, are you?" Ford asked.

"You look as though you're ready to fall out," I replied as I reluctantly started to make my way to the door.

"I am, but... you don't have to leave--if you don't want to, I mean," he said softly. I locked the door and kicked off my boots. Ford scooted over in the bed and waited for me to settle on the mattress before he laid down.

"I was worried about you," I confessed. Don't know why I said that; not that it wasn't true, but I'm not one for sappy declarations. But truth be told, I'd been worried sick about the kid.

"I was worried about you, too," Ford replied. "Dr. Beckett told me what went on out there." I wrapped my arms around him and assured him that I was fine. He asked after McKay and I gave him my assurances that the doc was fine, too. We lay like that for a long time.

I was waiting for him in his room after he was injured in a firefight and spent a couple of hours in the infirmary. Teyla had dragged him through the gate unconscious and for a moment I feared the worst. Ford laughed when he saw me lying on his bed reading, but he stripped down to his shorts and tee and crawled in beside me.

It was odd, our little arrangement; we sought each other out for warmth and comfort, apparently nothing more. And though I was more than a little attracted to Ford--his youthful vitality, his physical beauty, even his sexy, soft-spoken voice--I wasn't in any hurry to take things further. I was content to lie in his bed a few nights a month with my arms wrapped around him, breathing in his scent and basking in the warmth of his body, sometimes sharing long conversations in the middle of the night. I always remained fully clothed, except for my jacket and shoes. I hardly ever even got under the covers. I suppose that's what I considered playing it safe.

Nonetheless, I allowed myself to become somewhat possessive of Ford. He had admirers of both sexes in Atlantis and everywhere else he went and I began to worry that someone would try to claim him--afraid that I'd lose him. When I noticed that one particular Athosian girl who had a crush on Ford always seemed to be visiting the base, I made sure he was busy whenever she was around. Not that I needed to do so; Ford didn't seem to be at all interested in her. It took a while for me to realize that he didn't seem to be interested in anyone. And while I was glad at the prospect of having him all to myself I couldn't deny that there was nothing normal or healthy about a young, energetic twenty-five year old with no love life.

I spent a few days feeling guilty. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Ford would find it hard, if not impossible, to start something with someone while his commanding officer was paying unexpected nocturnal visits to his room. “Not for sex, of course,” he'd eventually be forced to explain someday, “Major Sheppard's just here because he left his favorite woobie back in the Milky Way and I've become his surrogate.” That's when I decided to break the habit. Infrequent as my nocturnal visits were, I didn't want to deprive Ford of his chance to have a life.

It was easy, at first. We had a month-long respite from skirmishes with the Wraith or crises on base. I slept in my own bed every night and I rested peacefully. If I fell asleep to thoughts of Ford's body pressed close to mine, or nuzzling his neck to inhale the scent of his skin, then so be it. I was in my own bed and he was in his. And then I had my encounter with a Wraith bug.

Ford saved my life. He disobeyed orders and rescued my sorry ass after I ordered him to abandon me. Then he got me back to the ship. Our jumper got stuck in the gate on our way back to base and while Rodney worked to fix the controls, Ford and Teyla fought to get that damned bug off of me. Eventually, I forced Ford to stop my heart. I came to in the infirmary and learned that he had blown the hatch of the jumper in order to get us through the gate with seconds to spare. I spent two nights in the infirmary sleeping only when Beckett sedated me. When I was released, I spent the night in bed staring at the ceiling. That's when Ford came to my room for the first time.

I heard a knock on my door. I opened it from my bed, feeling too tired and too lazy to get up. Ford strode in and I was happy to see him. I promptly forgot about my resolution; we needed each other. He'd been through as much as I had and I wasn't about to refuse his company. I started to make some small talk, though I can't recall what I said. Whatever it was, I stopped talking when he pulled off his pants and got into bed without a word.

"All right," I thought out loud, "we'll talk in the morning." I told him to move over and he didn't budge. I nudged him and quickly realized that he was already asleep. I assumed that, like me, he hadn't been sleeping these last few nights, so I pushed him over and turned off the light. He snuggled in the crook of my arm and I slept better than I had in ages. When I awoke the next day he was gone, but he'd worked his magic. I slept great for the next week. And then he showed up again.

There was no crisis, no obvious reason for his appearance. He just showed up. I wasn't even in bed. I was at my desk writing in my journal when the knock came. I opened the door and he walked in. I was about to ask what was up when he walked straight over to the bed, kicked off his shoes, dropped his pants and crawled onto the mattress.

"Ford?" I called. I got no answer so I went to investigate. He was fast asleep. I just stood there and stared for a moment. We always turned to each other when we were hurting or stressed; maybe something was troubling him that I didn't know about. I went back to my desk and finished my notes before I joined him in bed.

I made a point of talking to him the next day. I found Ford in the mess, sitting with a group of Marines. I shamelessly used my rank to clear the table and sat down to find out what was going on.

"Is everything all right?" I began. Ford looked up from his cereal and smiled.

"Sure; everything's cool," he said, looking as though he hadn't a care in the world. I stared at him for a minute. "What?"

"Ford, why did you come to my room last night?" I asked softly. In all the time we'd been on Atlantis, this was the first we'd ever broached the topic of our sleeping together out loud.

"Last night? I didn't come to your room last night, sir," he replied.

"Yes, you did."

"No, I didn't. I went to bed about ten after listening to some music. I woke up at 0600 in my own bed."

I could see that he was in earnest. His expression was open, honest and confused.


I shook my head. I was summoned by Liz just then and left the mess hall more confused than before. As soon as I got the chance, I sought out Dr. Beckett and spoke to him about sleepwalking.

It was an awkward conversation; the Doc instantly assumed that I was talking about myself and I wasn't about to disabuse him of that notion. I wouldn't betray Ford's confidence unless it became absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, the doc seemed to think that my concerns were unfounded.

"While sleepwalking is not rare among adults, major," he assured me, "you're probably just dreaming that you're walking the halls late at night."

"What makes you say that?" I demanded.

"If you were sleepwalking, you probably wouldn't know. A somnambulism episode is generally followed by amnesia." The doc launched into a lecture about the causes of somnambulism.

"Is all that stuff true about it being dangerous to wake a sleepwalker?" I asked anxiously.

"The greatest danger to a sleepwalker is injury; but he'd be in such a deep sleep state that you probably wouldn't be able to wake him."

"And he'd need professional help," I said bleakly.

"Aye; psychological help, usually, although benzodiazepines have been proven to be useful, as well as hypnosis. But as I said, John, it's not likely that you've been sleepwalking. There's generally some underlying cause when an adult develops somnambulism--severe stress, fatigue, psychological disorder--."

"Yeah," I said, rudely cutting him off. But I was desperate for answers and there was something I needed to know. "Is there any way to prevent it?"

"Well, the best thing you can do is establish a routine to assure that you get plenty of rest, minimize stress and avoid fatigue. Relaxation therapy is good, too."

"Relaxation therapy?"

"Yes: meditation, a hot shower or bath, massage, sex--anything you can do to help you relax is likely to improve the quality of your sleep."

"Thanks, Doc," I said, rising to my feet.

"Any time, major," he replied, "and if you really think you might be sleepwalking, come in for a full exam. I'll do a proper diagnosis."

"Okay, Doc," I said. I left his office feeling more worried than before. I went looking for Ford and found out he was down in the gym, playing ball with a few members of the security team. I went to the lounge and hoped he'd return soon.

He didn't show up for the evening movie so I decided to swing by his room and see how he was doing. He wasn't there. He wasn't in my room, either. I didn't know whether to be relieved or worried, so I opted for the latter. I went back to the lounge and waited for about a half hour. Finally, I saw him. He was with a woman, one of the technical staff. They looked as though they'd just returned from the observation deck.

There was nothing in either person's demeanor to suggest that there was anything going on between them, however that didn't prevent the surge of jealousy that nearly overwhelmed me as they approached, speaking softly. Ford looked up and saw me before his companion did. He froze in his tracks and blanched.

"Ford," I said affably. "And Park, is it?"

"Sir," he replied curtly.

"Major," she said, and I recalled that I was always confusing Maggie Hsu with the Korean technician in McKay's lab.

"Sorry; it's Maggie, right?" I said lamely. She nodded with a small smile before turning to Ford.

"I'll see you later," she said shyly. She ducked her head at me again and walked away. Ford averted his eyes from both of us. He waited till she was out of earshot before he spoke.

"Were you looking for me, sir?"

"No," I lied. "I was just hanging out. The doc said I've been under too much stress and suggested that I try to relax."

"Too much stress?" he said with obvious concern. I, however, was more concerned about Ford's stress levels and was belatedly cognizant of the fact that I was probably adding to them by making him worry about me. "Is there something going on?"

"No, no," I said, suddenly at a loss as to how to proceed. He was clearly uncomfortable about having been "caught" with Hsu. If I tried talking to him about sleepwalking I would only exacerbate things. So I rose to my feet and took my leave. "I'll see you in the morning," I said as casually as I could.

"Night, sir," Ford replied. I could feel his eyes on my back as I walked down the hall and I knew that it would only be a matter of time before he appeared in my room again. He showed up three hours later.

He appeared again the next night... and the next. I laid in my bed with Ford draped over me like a security blanket wondering what the hell to do about this. First and foremost, I was scared for him. There was something very wrong and I didn't know how to help him without exposing our little arrangement to Dr. Beckett. But that was probably my only recourse. I did a little research and found that the U.S. military doesn't enlist people with a history of sleepwalking because they can present a danger to themselves and others.

I was also concerned about the possible reasons for Ford's sleepwalking. Was he interested in Hsu? Is that why he was under stress? I'd never seen them together before; I'm sure I would have noticed if they were interested in one another. But maybe Ford's been hiding his interest from me because he was afraid how I might react. What if I were the one responsible for his somnambulism? What if I was keeping him from the woman he wanted to be with? I shook my head to erase the thought, causing Ford to mumble something in his sleep. I reflexively rubbed the back of his neck to soothe him, as I'd done on many a night to keep his nightmares at bay.

I tried to suppress my own feelings for Ford as I pondered all this. Adding them to the mix only confused things, but there was no sense in denying the love that I felt for him. I wasn't even sure how to characterize it; there was a strong element of lust involved, but it was mostly a pure, almost platonic love. It's difficult to describe; hell, it doesn't make sense. Part of me would be happy to just have him like this--in my bed and wrapped around me every night. The rest of me wants more of him--more of us.

For the first time, I was awake when Ford left. He sat up suddenly, rubbed his head and crawled out of bed. He pulled on his pants and his boots--one of which was actually mine--and left my room. I scrambled out of bed and pulled on my pants to follow him. I raced down the hall after him, since he had a good start on me by the time I got my pants on. He turned the corner and I heard voices. I froze in my tracks but the owners of the voices turned the corner and we came face to face.

"Major," Rodney said with a curious expression. He was obviously trying to put two and two together and I knew it wouldn't take long for him to conclude that Ford and I were returning from some sort of assignation. Carson, however, wore a different expression. I didn't spare any time worrying about it.

"Have you seen Ford?" I said hoarsely. Rodney gestured over his shoulder, though his eyes were on my bare feet. "Thanks." I squeezed between the two of them and went around the corner, not caring--for the moment, anyway--what the hell they thought.

I opened the door to Ford's room and saw him lying in his bed, fast asleep as though he'd been there for hours. I turned and saw Carson standing behind me. I sighed and went into the room to collect my boot before I closed the door.

"He's the sleepwalker," Carson said. I nodded, looking around for Rodney. "He's gone to bed," the doctor explained. "Let's go to your room and talk."

It felt good to talk about it. I told him everything, from the beginning right up to the moment we nearly collided in the hall. I even told him how I felt about Ford, though I don't know why. Carson is a wonderful listener. He didn't interrupt, encouraged me when I needed prodding, and perhaps most importantly, he never questioned what Ford and I had found together. When I was done, he asked me something I'd never considered before.

"Has it occurred to you that he might feel the same way?"

I was stunned. I'd spent the better part of the last few days worrying that Ford might be falling in love with someone else.

"Why would he be sleepwalking, then?" I asked. "After all, you told me about it being triggered by trauma or psychological problems--."

"Think, man! You've said it yourself," Carson replied. "You want more from Ford but you're afraid that he wants someone or something else. So you've contented yourself with what you've got. Ford's done the same."

"So since he doesn't think he can have me when he's awake he comes to me in his sleep?"

The doctor found my assessment amusing, but he nodded.

"You've got the right of it, more or less. I'd be willing to bet that the fear of not having you is what's causing his distress."

"So what do I do about it?"

"I think you can figure that out for yourself," Carson said, rising. "I'm for bed," he said with a yawn. I glanced at the clock; it was nearly 0400.

"Should I ask why you and Rodney were walking around at three in the morning?"

"No, you shouldn't," he replied with a wink. I laughed and walked him to the door. "I'm taking Ford off the duty roster for three days. The young man needs some rest."

"He's not going to like that," I protested. I wasn't going to like it, either.

"It's for his own good. I'll have a word with Liz in the morning and tell her your entire team is sorely in need of some R and R. I suggest you make good use of the time. Good night, John."

I locked the door and turned off the lights, then promptly stumbled over Ford's boot in the dark. By the time I made it to my bed an idea was percolating in my head. Roughly two hours later I appeared at Ford's door. When he opened it he looked thoroughly pissed. I held up his boot and he went from looking pissed to looking confused.

"Where did you find that?" he demanded.

"I found it in my room. Sit down, Ford," I said as I locked the door behind me. He did as he was bidden, still looking confused. He'd apparently been searching for his boot, judging from the disarray on the floor of his usually immaculate room. "We need to talk."

"If this is about the other night--."

"This is about last night--."

"...We just ran into each other on the deck."

"...And the night before that and the night before that and the night before that."


"You've been sleepwalking, Ford," I said. "Your boot was in my room because you left it there this morning when you returned to your own bed."


"It started four nights ago," I said with a sigh. "You just began to show up late at night. You'd walk in, kick off your boots and pants and crawl into my bed. A few hours later you'd return to your own bed and wake up as though nothing happened."

"I don't believe you," Ford said, shaking his head.

"How did I come to have your boot, then?" I asked. Ford could only shrug. "There were witnesses, Ford. Don't worry," I added hastily. "You can be assured of their discretion."

"But why? I thought sleepwalkers were--."

"Sleepwalking is generally caused by stress, according to Dr. Beckett. We had a long talk about your condition and we're going to help you deal with it."

"But I'm not under stress. No more stress than the next guy, anyway," Ford said.

"Maybe not, but most people find a healthy outlet for their stress. The doc seems to think that you haven't."

"So what does that mean?" he asked suspiciously.

"It means that we've earned a little vacation." I said reassuringly. "The doc has ordered three days downtime for the team. Teyla will probably spend it on the mainland and Rodney will hole up in his lab. I was thinking that you and I might spend our downtime together."

"Sure, if you want," he said uncertainly. It wasn't hard to see that he was scared to death. "What did you have in mind?"

"Well, frankly, I'm too tired to think," I said with a yawn. "I got a lot less sleep last night than you did."

"Sorry," Ford said softly. I reached out and took his hand. He flinched at the contact but didn't pull away.

"I've been worried about you," I said earnestly, "but everything is going to be all right now. I promise."

"Yeah," he said, clearly unconvinced. I patted his hand and released it.

"Tell you what. Since you were obviously on your way out to eat, why don't you go ahead and do that? I'm going to catch a few more hours of shut-eye."

Ford let the boot that he'd been holding all this time fall from his hands.

"I think I've lost my appetite."

"Then come lie down with me," I said as I rose and headed to his bed. It was made up already and I unceremoniously flopped onto it face first. I was beat and it felt wonderful, but sleeping was the furthest thing from my mind as I rolled over and extended my hand. Not unexpectedly, he hesitated.

"I'm not sure this is a good idea," he said timidly. "Maybe our sleeping together is the problem."

"I don't think so," I said, folding my arms behind my head and kicking off my boots. "We've always slept together for comfort. How can that be a problem?"

"You just told me that I sleepwalk to your bed!"

"Yeah--you come to me because that's where you feel safe and comfortable, Aiden," I said patiently. I sat up and regarded his frightened expression. "What are you afraid of?" He shook his head. "Then come here."

He pulled off his cap and tossed it away before crawling into bed and snuggling in my arms. He rested his head on my heart and I wrapped my arms around him. I didn't fall asleep and neither did he, but I felt his heart rate slow and after a short time we felt comfortable with each other again. We lay like that until our com links went off. It was from the command center, informing us that we were on downtime for the next 72 hours and all scheduled meetings were canceled. We both acknowledged the message and then I sat up and pulled off my jacket. Ford snuggled into my arms as soon as I was on my back again.



"I'm going to kiss you," I announced. He turned his head to look at me and I lifted my head to meet him halfway. Our lips met, barely. Ford shifted a bit and we made better contact on the second try.

"Why the hell didn't we ever do that before?" I asked.

"Can't imagine," Ford replied. We were both lying and we both knew it, but confessions could wait till later--much later. The only way to cure Ford's sleepwalking was to deal with the underlying causes, and we both needed to be completely honest about our hopes and fears. But at the moment I was draped in 165 pounds of shit-hot sexy Marine and I had to do something about it.

The End
Tags: ford/sheppard, lifeline, pre-slash

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