Centaur Lullabye

~ Deal with the inconsistency. Pretend it's TV.

The second time Radek nearly hit his forehead on his mug, John decided that maybe someone should escort him to his quarters so he could sleep without injuring himself. The moment John thought that, he realised that *he* was the one who would be doing it.

Sure, he could order Carson to do it. But something faint niggled at him and he knew he'd rather do it himself. He gave Carson a nod as he stood up. "I'm going to make sure our science department doesn't lose one of its physicists to a tragic coffee accident."

Carson grinned knowingly as John grabbed onto Radek's arm. John just rolled his eyes. "All right, fine. I'm herd stallion. I've been herd stallion for months and never noticed. And now I have to look after the air-headed scientist contingent of my herd. Personally." He glanced at Radek, who didn't appear to be following the conversation.

Carson's smile didn't dim. "I'll let Will know."

At least it explained why a contingent of Marines would obey an Army Major, John realised. He'd thought it was because under the circumstances of being the only military unit in the entire galaxy, they'd rather have a Major in charge than a Sergeant.

But apparently the Marines did what Bates told them, and Bates did what *his* herd stallion told him.

Even if his herd stallion was a moron who didn't know he had a herd following his commands.

That was a conversation he hoped never to have, so he just gave Carson a nod. Let him do it, and let him and Bates laugh about it in private.

"Come on," John urged, as Radek looked around, totally confused. "When was the last time you slept?"

There was slow blinking and John could visibly see gears in Radek's head trying to churn out an answer. "May," Radek finally said, sound utterly certain.

"We don't have a month of May in Atlantis," John pointed out. "They made up all new months to correspond with the longer calendar year." Which was information Radek knew, of course. When his brain wasn't half-dead with lack of sleep.

But Radek nodded, and he stumbled along beside John as they left the mess hall. "May. On Earth. Before we came here. Then, I slept."

"We left Earth in September," John pointed out, steering Radek as best he could.

Again Radek nodded. "There was much preparation. Great deal to--" He was cut off by a yawn that cracked his jaw. Radek shook his head slowly, as though the yawn had made him dizzy.

"Well, how about you get some sleep now?" John suggested. Radek nodded willingly and stopped walking, closing his eyes. "OK, clarification," John said quickly. "How about you wait 'til we get you to your quarters *then* you sleep?" He knew it wasn't a matter of herd obedience -- this was just a brain too fogged to think clearly.

Either that or Radek wanted to be asleep badly enough he didn't care if he slept in the hallway.

Radek blinked and looked around. "Where are we, now?"

"Just outside the mess hall."

He watched as Radek screwed up his face. Then he said, "426 steps. Very well. But no more."

"All right." John smiled. "You count. I'll drive."

Radek nodded, and as they continued walking, Radek began counting. After a gentle suggestion, he counted silently.

~~~~

When they reached Radek's room, he'd got to 414. They stopped at his door and Radek looked around, confused. "This is not right room," he said.

"Yes, it is. We started a few steps beyond the mess hall." John opened Radek's door and steered him inside, ignoring how Radek was pointing 12 steps further down the hallway. John kept him moving until they reached the bedroom, with Radek looking around in recognition of his own quarters. John started to push him onto the bed when he noticed something rather odd -- or something rather not at all odd. Radek didn't use his bed.

It wasn't just neatly made. The mattress was completely flat, unlike every other bed being slept on. The Ancient's idea of a good mattress was some sort of liquid foam that got semi-permanent dents and dips in it after just a couple nights' use. John had to agree it was comfortable, but he -- like Radek, it seemed -- preferred to sleep standing, even on the hard floor.

The spot where Radek slept was easy enough to identify. The only clear edge along the wall, furniture pushed back and crates filling every other available space except one area just long enough for a centaur to stand sideways.

Radek was even wandering over to the spot, so John finally let go of his arm. He was safe enough now from walking blindly over a railing, or into someone else's room. But apparently the handholding wasn't over. Radek had leaned up against the wall and closed his eyes -- still standing on only two feet.

"Come on," John said. "You're gonna fall over like that." It was possible to sleep standing on two feet, but it wasn't very comfortable and for more than quick naps it was impossible to stay upright, even leaning against a wall.

Radek nodded, but didn't move. With a sigh, John went over. He bent down and tapped Radek's left leg.

"Give me your foot," he said, and Radek did so. John held Radek's leg between his knees and undid the laces of Radek's boot. He pulled it and the sock off, then set Radek's foot down. He only had to tap Radek's other leg to get him to lift his right foot. After removing the other boot and sock, John tossed them towards the dresser.

Then he turned Radek towards him and undid his trousers. Radek's eyes were closed again and his head was still tilted back, resting on the wall. John rolled his eyes, trying not to smile. He pulled Radek's trousers off, noticing the usual centaur-style of not wearing underwear. No point in it, when it just created more clothing to take on and off when changing forms.

"OK," John said, and stepped back. Radek just stood there and John wondered if maybe Radek hadn't been kidding about not sleeping since May. He moved forward and tapped Radek's shoulder. "Come on, Radek. Change so you can sleep."

Radek nodded, and, a second later, he changed. John sighed in relief; he'd been half-afraid he'd have to walk him through it like a newborn who hadn't quite got the knock down. He patted Radek's side, noting that his coat hadn't been brushed in a long time. Clean, and healthy, but -- of course most bachelor stallions didn't have anyone to brush them down. For all he knew, none of them had even brought any brushes.

He decided not to think too much about it or he'd send a team off to canvass the planets across the Pegasus galaxy, looking for one that made brushes suitable for something equine-shaped.

He ran his hand down Radek's side, again. Radek was sound asleep, not stirring as John moved away. John pushed a chair back out of the way; in his current state Radek was likely to trip over it on his way to the bathroom and break an ankle. Assuming he remembered to change forms first -- otherwise he'd trip and break two ankles.

Path to the bathroom cleared, John started to head for the door. He looked back one more time. Seeing Radek sleeping so deeply made him think about how little sleep *he'd* gotten recently.

Hell. A short nap wouldn't kill him. And -- really, there wasn't anything like catching some sleep with someone leaning up against you. He hadn't done it since before he'd been fostered out, but of course he could remember it clearly. Much better than a cold, metal wall.

He sat on the edge of the bed and took his boots off. He took off his vest as well, then his pants, laying everything neatly on the bed. Then he changed and walked over to stand beside Radek.

The moment he was in place, Radek shifted. Without even waking up, he leaned away from the wall and against John, the warmth and solidity of Radek's body pressed up against his made John relax and practically fall asleep before he even got his eyes closed.


Previous Story: There's No Place Like A Mythological City To Call Home | Next Story: Tetrameter