He’d been afraid of the dark for
years. Hated the suffocating feel of it bearing down across his face till it
didn’t just steal his sight but his breathing as well. His heart beat a rapid
tattoo against his throat now and he sucked in a panicked breath, trying to do
it quietly enough that no one but he would know how afraid he was.
“You okay, Dr. McKay?” The whispered voice came from his left and he turned his head in that direction, wincing as his headache soared to new heights and thundered against his temples, making him wonder if it really was possible for someone’s skull to explode from pressure. “Dr. McKay?”
He inhaled a shaky breath then blew it out through numb lips. “I’m fine,” he replied finally.
Lorne’s hand settled on his shoulder, clasping firmly and he couldn’t help but feel some of his panic leach away at the contact. “You can talk to me, if it’ll help,” Lorne said quietly, his voice pitched low enough to not wake the others sleeping exhaustedly nearby. “You know, keep your mind off what’s happening.”
Rodney couldn’t help but snort a laugh out at that, at the idea of giving Lorne ammunition for teasing. “I’m fine.” He swallowed hard against his fear of not just the darkness but the unknown. What if he never did regain his sight? What if this darkness was all he would ever know?
“You know, when I was a kid I was scared stiff of the dark,” Lorne said conversationally. “Even now my worst fear has never been dying but being blind.”
“Really?” Rodney wasn’t sure whether to believe him but he snatched up the offered crumb of comfort as eagerly as a starving sparrow anyway.
“Yeah, my dad was kind of a mean drunk and if I pissed him off he’d lock me in a closet. My mom used to come let me out once he’d passed out but even an hour can seem like forever to a kid.”
Rodney nodded, putting a hand to his head at the resultant agony of the movement. “It never bothered me till I was 12,” he said. “Some hockey bozos were pissed because I wouldn’t hack into the school’s computer and steal the answers to the final exams so they grabbed me after school and tied me up and put me in one of the gym lockers and left me there.” He took in a shuddering breath then banished the memory from instant replay. “I only got out when the janitor came in the next morning and heard me banging against the door. It was minus 12 degrees and I was almost frozen stiff,” he added.
“That sucks,” Lorne said. “Hey, you know the natives here said this is temporary, remember. That the plant sap only causes blindness for around a day. Anyway, we’ll be heading back home to Atlantis as soon as they can get a jumper here. Maybe Dr. Beckett can do something to get your sight back even faster than that.”
“I know.” Rodney rubbed at his eyes then groaned as his head pounded again. “Can you get me some Tylenol or something?”
“Sure thing, Doc.” A minute later Lorne was back, helping Rodney sit up and swallow the pills with a sip of water.
“Thanks, Lorne,” Rodney said.
Lorne’s hand gripped his shoulder again as he helped him lay back down. “Anytime. Hey, Doc, you won’t tell anyone what I told you, right?”
Rodney laughed for the first time since the nasty little alien plant had squirted its venom into his eyes. “Your secret’s safe with me.”