They have a forty-two hour day on M3J-441 and Rodney is tired. It was already past noon when they left Atlantis, and he's been working on the Ukani's water purification system for close to six hours, though the last hour of that has mostly been spent staring at his hands, the pipes, the funny boomerang wrench they gave him to make adjustments to the central computer. He wants to tell these people about keyboards, mice. A wrench is not an input device, a wrench is -- heavy.
It's warm there, and beautiful, with bright blue skies and fruit trees with delicate pink flowers. Huge black and white seabirds soar over the open water and Rodney watches them swoop and dive, plunging suddenly into the sea and then bursting out again, straight up into the sky with wriggling fish caught in their talons. The sea is why the Ukani are there. They send their tiny reed boats out to catch its fish. They use it to farm a kind of kelp, and a penny-sized bivalve called a dota. They also rely on it for its water.
Rodney knocks at one of the computer's u-joints with his wrench. He's decided they function as a primitive bus, but for some reason they're not functioning at all. He peers at it with one eye. Maybe it's just got some gunk in it.
He sits back on his haunches, wrench hanging from one hand. He feels like a child, overtired and about to pitch a fit because it's just not fair. The people who built these systems are long gone, stolen by the Wraith; the Ukani have no more idea how to maintain this facility than the average earthling knows how to use Ancient technology, and yet they need it to survive.
There's the crunch of dota shells underfoot and Sheppard comes around the corner, whistling.
"Nice of you to come check and see if I'm still alive," Rodney says, but he doesn't have the energy to sound sarcastic. It doesn't matter. It is nice.
"Put your wrench down, McKay," Sheppard is saying. "It's time for a break."
Rodney has lost count of the hours he's been awake. He almost fell asleep twice while staring at the water machine. Maybe he's asleep right now. Sheppard gets him to his feet and leads him up the mountain to a narrow rectangular building. Sheppard has a key, and they stop at the front door and take their boots off. Sheppard's weren't tied and he slips them off easily, but Rodney's are double knotted and he fumbles at the laces and nearly tips over.
"Steady, there," Sheppard says. "Let me."
Sheppard kneels in front of him and patiently unknots, and then removes, Rodney's boots, Rodney resting a hand on Sheppard's shoulder to keep his balance.
"What are we doing?" he thinks to ask.
"It's nap time," says Sheppard.
Rodney scowls, lies. "I don't need a nap."
"Not just you. The days are so long here that everybody knocks off for an hour or two around this time, then they have a big communal dinner after the boats come in. You want to rest up for dinner, don't you?"
If Rodney weren't so tired, he would...something. He follows Sheppard, instead. They walk down a hallway of paper screens, Sheppard counting under his breath. He stops at one, taps at the wooden frame, then slides the screen open to reveal a small room with a woven mat floor and an open window overlooking the sea.
"This is us," he says.
Rodney lets Sheppard take off his tac vest and even rub his dirty hands with a washcloth and a gritty kind of soap. There are square pillows and light cottony blankets piled in the corner, dyed in the light mossy green the Ukani favor, a pigment they make from the kelp. Rodney sinks down to the surprisingly comfortable floor. The mats are stiff, but giving, and with a pillow under his head and a blanket tossed over him, he's happy.
Sheppard lies down next to him with his own pillow and blanket. Rodney drifts in and out, thinks he feels a hand against his face, Sheppard's thumb touching his ear. He rolls onto his stomach, listens to Sheppard speaking quietly on the radio. Their shoulders brush together and Rodney soars on the edge of sleep like the seabirds working the breeze. The screen slides open. Ronon and Teyla are there now and Rodney moves closer to Sheppard, Ronon settling down at his back, Teyla resting next to Sheppard, and together they sleep.