March 8-12, 2005

Disclaimer: yes. Mine: no. This was written for the enclosed spaces challenge on sga_flashfic. Many thanks to Merry, ebil pimp that she is. Do not archive without permission.

Lost in space

"Stay where you are, Major," Weir said over the radio, so of course Sheppard tried the door and it opened under his hand, and before McKay could tell him not to do anything stupid, he stepped through. There was a soft humming sound, and the door closed behind him and vanished.

"What the hell?" Ford, who stood closest, tapped his fist on the wall. Next to him, Teyla traced her hands up and down, fingertips searching for where the edges of the door had been.

McKay looked at the scanner in his hand, which showed the same thing it had shown a minute ago: intriguing energy readings on the other side of the door that no longer existed. He tapped his headset. "Elizabeth? We've, ah. Lost the major."

"Major Sheppard!" Ford tapped on the wall again. "Can you answer me? Major!"

Weir's sharp indrawn breath came through as clearly as though she were standing next to McKay in the corridor. "What happened? I'm sending a medical team, it may not be too late—"

"No, no," McKay said quickly. "I mean, Major Sheppard has managed to misplace himself. He went through a door and disappeared, and so did the door."

"Can't find a trace of it," Ford said, turning around. "But we all saw it. It was right here."

"Can you see him on the lifesign detector?" Weir asked.

"I'd love to be able to find out," McKay said, "except that Major Sheppard was carrying it. If you can raise him on the radio, you can always ask him if he can see us." He tapped the scanner readouts to see if he could recalibrate. "Get Grodin to look for him on the detection system on the mainframe."

"He can't." Weir sounded tense. "The section you're in is off the grid. Nothing's working—"

"Oh, of course you're right. Nothing's working. The vanishing doors and majors are just hallucinations." McKay walked across the hallway. The door reappeared. "Wait." He reached for the doorknob. "Maybe it was just a glitch."

"Hold it," Ford said. "Don't do anything stupid."

McKay snorted. "Of course not," he said, opened the door, and went through. Everything turned dark, and he nearly stumbled over his own feet. "Oh, crap. Ford! Teyla?"

"McKay?" Sheppard's voice was quite close. "Come over here and look. It's really beautiful."

"It's really dark," McKay said, but his eyes were adjusting. He could see... little points of lights. Many, many little points of light, an entire night sky full of stars growing steadily more brilliant.

"Let me get the moon up," Sheppard said, and moments later, a full moon began to rise. McKay could see things more clearly now. He could see Sheppard, who was standing with his head tilted back, looking up at the sky, a small smile on his face. "Isn't that great? I think there are comets." Something whooshed across the sky.

"Great," McKay said flatly. "Can you get it to do northern lights? Can you get it to let us out? Because I'm pretty sure the door disappeared again, since Ford and Teyla haven't followed me in."

Sheppard tore his attention away from the stars. "The door disappeared?"

"Yes, Major," McKay said, "the door disappeared. Then it came back. Now it's probably disappeared again." He turned around and looked. He saw nothing but night sky. Spinning around, he lost his balance and stumbled into Sheppard, who caught him by the arms and steadied him. "As spectacular as it is to be in the middle of an Ancient planetarium — oh, God, I can't even see the floor."

Sheppard looked down. His brows drew together. "I can't either. But I'm pretty sure it's there."

"Well, maybe if you turn the stars off," McKay said, and the stars winked out and everything grew pitch black, "and the lights on..." Nothing happened. "Major!"

The stars came back on. "Maybe the lights are broken."

"Maybe your gene is broken," McKay said, and thought off at the stars. The complete darkness was just as unsettling this time around. He thought on at the lights. Nothing happened. He thought on at the stars. More nothing happened. "Ah, Major, could you..."

"I thought you said my gene was broken," Sheppard said. The stars and the moon came back on with a slight stutter. "Maybe we should just walk towards the door and hope Ford and Teyla don't come in to join us."

"They can't," McKay said. "The door responds to the ATA gene — to yours at first, then to mine when I came across the corridor. Ford's gene therapy didn't take, and Teyla's never received it." He sighed. "Can you make the sun come up?"

Sheppard was silent for a while. "Apparently not." A second moon came into view. "Seems that's the best I can do. Do you see the door?"

"No." McKay looked down at his scanner readings. "This is... hmm. This is drawing a lot of energy. We should probably turn it down a bit."

The moons faded out, and the stars grew fainter. "As much fun as it is to stand here and be your personal dimmer switch," Sheppard said, "I think we should concentrate on getting out."

"We wouldn't even be here if you hadn't ignored Elizabeth and me and gone through the door," McKay said.

"That accounts for me being here," Sheppard said. "I don't remember dragging you in here with me to see the galaxy by moonlight."

"Oh, now it's my fault that I have to come in here and rescue you?"

Sheppard spread his arms. "Rescue away. I'll just stand over here and count the stars while you get on with it."

McKay grabbed the closest arm and started towing Sheppard back the way they'd come. "We're bound to find the door if we just get to the wall and follow it."

"Wow, you really are the smartest person I've ever met," Sheppard said, but he didn't resist, just lengthened his stride until he was walking next to McKay rather than being pulled along behind him. After a while he said, "I didn't think I'd come this far into the room."

"Maybe we got turned around." McKay considered letting go of Sheppard's arm. Then again, they might get separated. "It doesn't matter. Presumably there's a wall in every direction. Rooms tend to work like that."

They kept walking. When McKay looked down, he couldn't quite see his feet. The invisible floor was smooth and even, and their footsteps made no sound. "I guess secret rooms full of stars in other galaxies are different," Sheppard said after a while.

"Think about finding the exit."

"What do you think I'm thinking about?" Sheppard stopped. "It's got to make more sense to go back where we came from. Let's try this way." He turned right. "I'm pretty sure I was walking towards those really bright stars."

"And our next event in the Atlantis decathlon is indoor celestial navigation." McKay turned right, too. "We're probably walking in circles."

Sheppard pointed ahead. "See that star to the right of those other stars that kind of look like a pretzel? We'll just head for that."

"And straight on till morning. Right." McKay squinted. "That doesn't look anything like a pretzel. More like a guy with a round head wearing a really short tie." They kept walking. "How long have we been in here, anyway?" He dug into his pocket and got out a powerbar. "We'll probably starve to death and they'll find our bodies two years later. And one of the skeletons will have teeth marks."

"It's good that you're staying positive." Sheppard slowed down and peered up at the stars, then walked faster again. "Could you at least wait till you're out of powerbars before you kill and eat me?"

"Oh, please," McKay said. "You've had all kinds of survival training and you think I'm going to eat you?"

"Why not? Does training make people taste bad?" Sheppard slowed down again, and stopped. "I think the stars are moving."

"I think we're walking in circles. And I'm sure you taste just fine, or at least just like chicken, that's not the point, the point is that if one of us is going to survive this—"

"McKay. It's not like our plane crashed in the Andes. We're exploring an undiscovered room in a section of Atlantis, and Ford and Teyla know where we are. If we don't figure out how to get out, they'll figure out how to get in."

"Yes, that will be good," McKay said. "With four of us, we can play bridge."

"Let's try this way." Sheppard started walking again.

"Always provided someone remembers to bring a deck of cards. And a flashlight."

"Or I could kill you now and plead temporary insanity."

"I knew you'd—" The stars went out. McKay blinked to make sure it wasn't his eyes. "Did you do that?"

"No." Sheppard's voice was a little more grim heard in absolute darkness. "And I can't turn them back on."

"Maybe this place runs off a separate power source," McKay speculated, tightening his grip on Sheppard. "Maybe it just ran out."

"Maybe I'd like to get some blood to my hand," Sheppard said and started prying McKay's fingers loose.

"Maybe it would be a really bad idea if we got separated in the dark." McKay resisted, but Sheppard had very strong hands.

"We're not going to get separated. I'm less than a foot from you. Just relax," Sheppard said. He lifted McKay's hand away from his arm.

"Yes, well, for the record, I still think it's a bad idea." McKay flexed his fingers. "Do you even remember which way we were going? Or are we just going to stumble around blindly in the dark until we walk into a wall?" He flexed his fingers some more. "Major?" When he swept his arm out in the direction he thought Sheppard had been standing, he met with no resistance, and nearly overbalanced. "Major! Major Sheppard!"

The darkness was complete; McKay could not see his hand in front of his face even when he smacked his nose with it. He crouched down and touched the floor, which felt almost but not quite like vulcanized rubber, then straightened up carefully and started to walk again, one arm out in front, sweeping slowly from side to side. Now and then he stopped and shouted. The darkness seemed to swallow his voice.

After he'd walked a while and shouted a while and waved his arm around for a while, he stopped and got out his scanner. The screen lit up a comforting blue, and he could see his fingers. McKay smiled. He tapped the readout. He'd had the right idea before, in the corridor, and now whatever had powered the stars was off, this should work. An energy reading was an energy reading; all he had to do was calibrate low enough.

He hunched over the small screen, tweaking parameter after parameter, and was almost done when someone slammed into him from behind and he dropped the scanner.

"McKay!" Sheppard sounded a bit out of breath. "Thought I'd lost you."

"You did lose me," McKay said. "And then you found me again. And now you're... hugging me."

"I remembered I had the lifesign detector," Sheppard said, and didn't stop hugging him. "And there you were."

"And here I am. And there you are. Hugging me."

"What, you've got a problem with that?"

McKay considered the question. "Not really." In an experimental spirit, he hugged Sheppard back, and no, he really didn't have a problem with that. At all. Sheppard shifted his weight, moving closer. "Mind where you put your feet. I dropped the scanner here somewhere."

"Not actually thinking about my feet," Sheppard said, the words moving on little puffs of air from McKay's jaw across his cheek to the corner of his eye, "could you just hold still for a moment," and McKay tipped his head back a little, because it seemed the helpful thing to do, until their mouths met.

All the stars, three moons, and five comets lit up at once. McKay jerked back, startled, and Sheppard pulled him back in, and the second kiss was slow and warm and comfortable. McKay shifted his weight, too, felt the toe of his boot kick at something, and didn't really care.

Some time later, he became aware of a high-pitched, whining noise. McKay drew back just enough to be able to speak. "Do you hear that?"

"No," Sheppard said and kissed him again. "Oh, hell. Yes."

They pulled apart, the stars went out, and moments later, a door swung open not ten feet from where they were standing, flooding the room with light. Zelenka pushed his welder's glasses up onto his forehead and blinked consideringly at them. "You were lost in here?"

McKay looked around. There the walls were. All eight of them.

"Well, it's bigger than an airplane bathroom," Sheppard said. He looked around, too. "Not by much, though."

Teyla appeared behind Zelenka. "Major Sheppard? Dr McKay? Are you all right?"

"Fine," Sheppard said, walking towards the ruined door. McKay bent down and picked up the scanner and made sure it wasn't broken before following Sheppard out into the corridor.

"Very peculiar room," Zelenka said, looking inside.

McKay ducked around the welding torch. "You don't know the half of it."

Teyla had turned around in place, still speaking to Sheppard. "It must have been very boring for you both, but at least this time you were safe."

"I don't know about safe," Sheppard said slowly. "And I don't know about boring, either." He looked up over Teyla's head and winked at McKay, very fast. "I could have sworn I saw stars."

* * *

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