Chapter 1 - The Rising (Pt 1)
Elizabeth didn’t know how it was possible, but there was a steaming cup of coffee on the desk in the office room she’d taken as her own. She wondered if the stress was getting to her and causing her to hallucinate. The city shook again, reminding her why this was an impossibility.
At this moment, Rodney McKay, who’d been running from console to console, discovered that he’d misplaced his mug of coffee. He didn't want to accuse anyone in case he got any comments about the appropriate times of coffee drinking. It was a common fact that any scientist under stress needs a stimulant. Preferably coffee.
Desperate after fruitless searching, Rodney finally spied his precious coffee. Just where he’d left it...in the small room off the command centre. He was dismayed to find Dr Weir sipping it appreciatively.
Rodney scowled and took what he hoped was an unnoticed detour, walking in without knocking. He said bluntly, “That is my mug.”
Elizabeth looked down at it. Masking tape had been stuck to the side with the words property of Rodney McKay - keep citrus products away.
Elizabeth smiled, mistaking his intent. “So you were the one who left it for me.”
Rodney was floored for a moment. First, he was a little miffed that she'd just assumed it was for her. But then a little voice in the back of his head reminded him that he wanted to keep in her good graces, even if it was only until the city imploded.
Rodney nodded mutely.
Elizabeth drained it, unaware that his eyes followed the movement of the cup. She held it out to him, saying sincerely, “Thank you.”
“Um...you’re welcome,” Rodney quickly took it back.
He turned to go.
Elizabeth, seeing this, quickly said, “Most people would be surprised that you would do this.”
He made a non-committal grunt.
“But,” she continued, “I know you’re really not who you pretend to be. Again, thank you.”
There was a moment in which they held eye contact.
“If we don't die, do you want to have coffee together sometime?” she asked - too light heartedly, Rodney thought.
Time ticked away for a few more moments. He cleared his throat, nodded and left the room. He had a city to save, after all.
Chapter 2 - The Rising (Pt 2)
Rodney was trying to find the person responsible for the food he was eating. If there was any citrus in it, his regret would be not having coffee. Well, not just coffee. Coffee with Elizabeth.
He turned to see her approaching him, smiling. She was holding an empty mug in her hand.
“Why don't we have that coffee now?” Elizabeth suggested.
All thoughts of lemon flew out of Rodney’s head. He quickly sought out his mug and followed her to the pile of instant coffee. When they both had steaming coffee in hand, they meandered a short way from the drinks table. Jubilant Athosian children raced past, knocking Rodney. He scowled.
“Outside?” Elizabeth caught the scowl.
The balcony provided relief from the noise of the party. Elizabeth leant on the railing and closed her eyes briefly.
“I always wanted a place by the sea,” she commented.
Rodney gazed out at the ocean and said quietly, “Me too.”
Elizabeth smiled. “This is strange. It feels like I'm by the sea on Earth. With the breeze on my face. I wonder what direction it is...”
“A southerly,” Rodney said immediately.
She asked curiously, “How do you know that?”
He showed her his watch, which had a tiny compass embedded in the face.
“You can't do that just with your eyes,” Elizabeth laughed.
He kept an innocent look on his face for a couple of seconds before conceding, “I wet my finger.”
“You mean that actually works?”
Rodney nodded eagerly. “Sometimes.”
Elizabeth pressed her finger to her lips and wet it with her tongue. She held it out to the wind.
“So which way is it going now?” Rodney challenged.
She answered cheerfully, “Towards you.”
Rodney also checked the wind. He told her, “Spot on. It’s an easterly. And – ” He glanced at his watch again. “You're standing exactly at east and I'm at west.”
“That means we have to have coffee again,” Elizabeth laughed. “Opposite directions have to meet some time.”
She drained her mug and left the balcony, leaving Rodney staring after her.
Chapter 3 - Hide and Seek
Rodney had few visitors. He decided it was because everyone was too busy doing vital things. Yes. That was it. Although, he was hurt when he didn’t get a visit from Elizabeth. Every half hour he flagged down Dr Beckett and asked if Dr Weir had been to see him when he was asleep.
“No, lad,” Carson always replied, growing more irritated.
Rodney was crestfallen. He supposed he would be out of the infirmary soon anyway. Just as he was about to stage a prison break, Elizabeth walked in the door, carrying his mug.
“That better be coffee,” Rodney said and took it as soon as she offered.
He put on a smile, as if he’d known she would come. Elizabeth noticed the look in his eyes though. She asked, “Did you think I wouldn’t come?”
“You have an expedition to run,” Rodney stated between gulps.
Elizabeth smiled at him. “An expedition that includes ordinary people who will do very brave things for other people. You did a very great thing, Rodney.”
“Were you surprised?” he asked, a little more bluntly than he intended. “Some of them looked at me like it wasn’t something I’d do.”
She frowned, saying adamantly, “You have more strength than anyone realises. I don’t doubt you would do it again.” She glanced at her watch and said apologetically, “I have a few things to do. I hope to see you later.”
She paused and waited patiently.
“Thank you for believing in me,” Rodney said quietly.
Chapter 4 - 38 Minutes
Rodney felt intense relief wash over him when Major Sheppard’s heart had started beating again. John could be frustrating, but he was a good man.
“That was too close,” Elizabeth said, eyes following the medical team as they took Sheppard away.
Rodney nodded mutely. He hadn’t felt so helpless before, unable to move the Puddlejumper and unable to help Sheppard. Seeing the vacant expression on his face, Elizabeth moved closer.
“You can't do everything alone,” she told him.
Rodney reminded her curtly, “I saved the city once already by myself.”
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows at him and commented, “I was wondering if you would develop a hero complex.”
“A hero complex!” he repeated in disbelief. “If anyone has a hero complex here, it’s Sheppard!”
She stared at him for a few moments, then shook her head, expelling a sigh. Rodney demanded, “What? What was that look for?”
“You save the city once and you think you’re a super hero,” Elizabeth said evenly with a tinge of rebuke. “Sometimes we have to admit that we can’t do anything.”
Rodney looked away, muttering, “You wouldn't understand.”
She caught the mutter and was quick in her defence, “Everyday I watch my people go through the Stargate. I could be sending them to their deaths. I felt so helpless today, Rodney. I wanted to reach my hand through the ‘gate and pull your team through. But I couldn’t. We have to know when we can do something, and when we can support those that can.”
Rodney was silent, his stance shifting in favour of the other direction. Elizabeth asked expectantly, “Will you at least think about what I’ve said?”
“Alright,” he allowed. “I’ll think about it.”
Elizabeth smiled at this small acceptance. “Good. I am glad that you listened.”
As Rodney watched her leave, he did think about what she’d said. He wasn’t one to back down easily, but her words had touched him. He resolved to better his attitude.
Chapter 5 - Suspicion
Everyone filed out of the infirmary, troubled looks on their faces. A spy on Atlantis was a very worrying thought. But this was the last thing on Rodney's mind.
“Can you stay for a sec, Lizbeth?” he asked hopefully.
Elizabeth clearly had more pressing matters, but she did stop and turn. She had to suppress the smile that threatened to break out as she remembered his recent predicament. She settled for saying civilly, “What is it Rodney?”
“My foot is numb,” he replied in a long-suffering voice. “And I can't get it to warm up.”
She rested one hand on her hip and said tolerantly, “And I can help how?”
Rodney merely held his foot out. She sighed and, despite duty looming over her, Elizabeth sat down on the end of the bed and took his foot into her lap. She began to massage it, knowing that he would be enjoying the attention a little too much.
“You don’t think Teyla really is the spy?” Rodney put forward, to his credit, in defence of his team mate.
She rubbed his heel and moved down the arch of his foot. She sighed wearily. “I don’t know what to think. It doesn’t look good for her at the moment.”
“I hardly think that someone who has reason to hate the Wraith would willingly spy for them,” Rodney stated stoutly, concentrating his eyes hard on his toes.
Elizabeth drew circles with her thumbs on the bottom of his foot. She said evenly, “I am more worried about the spy being unwilling.”
“You think the Wraith might be able to force someone’s will,” Rodney guessed.
Elizabeth nodded, massaging each of his toes. “We know so little about them. I do not like to be surprised or caught off guard.”
He allowed a small smirk. “I don’t think they’d make you massage my foot.”
His toes wriggled under her touch. Elizabeth scowled and threw his foot off her lap. She deduced, “Your foot wasn’t really numb, was it?”
“I’m not complaining,” Rodney sat back and crossed his arms casually.
She rolled her eyes and warned him, “You will have to return the favour sometime, you know.”
Chapter 6 - Childhood's End
Elizabeth walked Rodney back to the embarkation room. She didn't look very happy. It seemed the only reason she was with him was to make sure he did take the ZPM back to the planet.
“Lizbeth,” Rodney began defensively.
She shot a glare at him. “Have you found any justification for taking it?”
He looked like he did have some points in his defence, but Elizabeth knew there would be more argument following whatever he said.
“Just don't talk,” she ordered. “Get the ZPM back online and don't cause too much trouble.”
She quickened her pace, causing Rodney to lengthen his strides. He said quickly, “And what about the next ZedPM? Are we going to leave that one too?”
“This is different,” she replied shortly. “This ZPM won't work here.”
He had to concede on that one - he himself had reported that. Elizabeth noted his silence with relief. She couldn't handle any tirades with him. Even if he was wrong, he was able to make his argument seem so logical. They reached the embarkation room not long after that. The ‘gate was already dialled up and Lt. Ford was waiting.
Elizabeth implored of them, “Make it fast.”
“Will do, m’am,” Ford promised.
She watched the two of them move to the ‘gate. Rodney turned and told her firmly, “If it makes you happy, I do not feel morally superior.”
“Go!” Elizabeth commanded fiercely.
Chapter 7 - Poisoning the Well
The return to Atlantis from Hoff was a rather gloomy event. Everyone took to their respective places of solace after the debriefing had ended. For Rodney McKay, this solace was to be found at a nondescript balcony overlooking the stretch of ocean that surrounded the city.
He didn’t move when he heard the door behind him. He was about to cover up his being there with a comment about the weather when he heard her voice.
“I thought I might find you here,” Elizabeth Weir commented.
Typical, thought Rodney as she approached him. Without invitation, she stopped beside him – a little too close – and informed him, “We won’t be helping them again. Our relations are friendly but closed.”
“Good,” Rodney said tersely. “They treat their people like expendable lab rats.”
Elizabeth allowed a smile as she said teasingly, “I seem to remember you signing up for experimental gene therapy.”
“A necessity,” he defended, then added as she opened her mouth, “The Hoffans didn’t need to mass murder to protect themselves. They could have put more energy into actual defence.”
“They don’t possess your way of thinking, obviously,” Weir commented dryly.
It was hard to tell if her words contained a lecture or not. Rodney studied her face for a moment, discerning not reproof, but pity, in her eyes. Noticing his scrutiny, Elizabeth said, “Don’t get me wrong – I disagree also. It does create some unease within me about Atlantis and myself. I just hope we are never that desperate.”
“Somehow I think you’ll never let us reach that,” McKay told her sincerely.
Dr Weir knew she shouldn’t find it altogether surprising that he’d paid her a compliment, but it was still an unexpected moment. She did not show anything of her thoughts in her face, but inwardly she was pleased. A bit of encouragement was all that he needed to improve.
Elizabeth rested her hands on the railing casually. She said frankly, “I am not here to talk about ethicsI’m here because I want you to talk to Dr Beckett.”
“He’s not that type of doctor,” Rodney corrected, indignant at what she was suggesting.
Elizabeth managed a small smile. “I know, Rodney. I am not worried about you.”
He sounded disappointed that her attention was not wholly on him. Weir he was always eager to gain sympathy, but very reluctant to explain why.
“I am worried about Carson,” Elizabeth continued, allowing some of her concern to permeate her words. “He barely said two words during the debriefing. I think it would help if you talked to him.”
“I’m not going to talk to someone who has a history of wanting to stick needles into me,” Rodney stated irritably.
Dr Weir knew there would be resistance, but she had honestly felt that the scientist would overlook his own insecurities to help a friend. She told him in a voice tinged with rebuke, “If you do not take interest in those close to you, they will be lost before you realise that they were friends.”
Rodney looked up sharply at her, hearing weight in her words. He surmised, “You aren’t just talking about Carson, are you?”
“No, I’m not,” Elizabeth answered truthfully. “Now I know you care more about others than you let on. You may think you’re good at hiding it, but you’re not.”
Dr McKay had the grace to look slightly abashed. He said somewhat regretfully, “All I seem to hear from you is how pathetic my faults are.”
“That’s not true,” Elizabeth rejoined. “You’re a good man and you know it. And I don’t suppose you have heard an expression to do with ‘warts and all’.”
Rodney didn’t speak for another minute or two. He drew his jacket closer around him when the breeze sharpened. He asked tentatively when he found his voice, “Do you really think Carson will talk to me?”
“I don’t see why not. Just don’t push it when it comes to your charms.”
She certainly hoped he caught the hint about his charms. The wind reached a point where it was almost blowing them off the balcony. Dr McKay moved towards the door, though he stopped for just a few more moments.
“You see the good in everyone,” Rodney said, delivering the compliment with ease. “This expedition needs you almost as much as it needs me.”
He was foremost confident in his abilities and Elizabeth did not dispute his thinking. If he thought her at his level, then the praise was truly valuable. She hoped that Rodney would confide in her more now that he seemed to think her equal.
Chapter 8 - Underground
The debriefing had been quiet with embarrassed and awkward movements on John Sheppard’s part. There had been no dressing down – in fact, Dr Weir had avoided the subject of failure all together. She listened with polite patience then dismissed the team easily. She did her best not to show her agitation. She mostly succeeded and no one lingered to see this emotion. Or so she thought.
Elizabeth walked to one of the glass walls of the debriefing room and crossed her arms. She looked out, expelling an exasperated sigh. She didn’t know how to express her thoughts on the matter – certainly not to a flyboy like John. She didn’t feel she could dress him down directly.
“Well that was awkward,” a voice said dryly behind her.
Startled, Elizabeth turned her head to see Rodney McKay standing behind her, power bar in hand. She wondered how she had not seen him stay behind. She said briefly in response, “Yes, it was.”
Rodney studied her side on face for a moment then demanded, “Are you going to give him one of your lectures?”
“Here I was keeping them just for you,” quipped Elizabeth, rewarded with a half scowl, half small smile from her head scientist.
Rodney moved beside her and also looked out the glass wall. He adopted a slouch which brought a smile to Weir’s lips. She queried while studying the pose, “Are you friends with John?”
“What do you mean?” Rodney demanded suspiciously.
Elizabeth smiled gently. “During the debriefing, you copied his stances no less than ten times.”
“I did not!”
“You did, even that little smirk of his.”
“That smirk? Why would I copy that?”
“John is a popular person…”
“I don’t need to copy him to be popular!” exclaimed Rodney indignantly.
Elizabeth could no longer contain the laugh welling up inside her. She pressed her hand over her mouth, but it escaped her lips. Rodney realised she was laughing and tried to feel and look hurt, but instead he found an unwanted spasm of his mouth curving upwards. She prodded, “Well, as the accused you may defend yourself.”
Rodney was thoughtful for a moment then admitted haltingly, “Maybe – just maybe – I am imitating Major Sheppard. It’s not because I want a flyboy’s glory, it may be due to – ”
“Rodney, I get it,” she interrupted to save him from more embarrassment. “You respect him. He’s your friend.”
Dr McKay tried to make a casual shrug, but he made a half-hearted attempt. He nodded to her words, then said smugly, “You drink coffee the same way I do.”
“You copied me.”
“No, no, no I did it first.”
“No, no, no,” Elizabeth repeated, grinning.
Rodney’s lips twitched. He inwardly cursed the smiling spasm. He changed the subject by asking hopefully, “So are you going to tell Sheppard off?”
“About the Genii?” Elizabeth paused slightly. “Yes. I am unsure of exactly what to say. Are you suggesting I lecture him?”
Pleased that she was taking him seriously, Rodney considered agreeing to the idea of a lecture. Then he glanced at her trusting eyes. She was waiting for a sincere answer and was turning to him – him of all people – to help her. She deserved a genuine answer from him. He told her, “No, a lecture would only make him defiant. Play on his ego. The other team managed to get allies didn’t they? People like Sheppard don’t like to be reminded of these things.”
Elizabeth considered his words for a few moments. Then she awarded him with soft appreciation in her captivating brown eyes. She said approvingly, “Thank you, Rodney. That’s a good suggestion.”
“Always happy to help,” the scientist said, a little more cheerfully than he intended.
Elizabeth studied his face. She asked with a smirk, “I won’t catch you saying something like that outside this room, will I?”
“Whatever gave you that idea, Lizbeth?”
Rodney managed to keep the smile from his face but there was a twinkle in his eyes as he turned and left the room. Elizabeth watched him go, finding herself unsurprised at what she’d brought out in him.
Chapter 9 - Home
“Well that was a total waste of my valuable time,” Rodney griped as soon as his feet landed on the floor of the ‘gate room.
Elizabeth didn’t want to agree out loud. She allowed a small sigh of disappointment that she masked with a deep breath. She had been thrilled for those few hours that she thought she was on Earth. She announced a debriefing in an hour before retreating to her office to gather her thoughts.
Once there, she realised Rodney was trailing after her. He was frowning, clearly on the warpath. She could almost see the steam rising from his darkened face. He repeated himself in disgust, “A waste of my valuable time. They could have at least told us before I put so much effort into it.”
“Weren’t you at all happy to see everyone again, even if it wasn’t real?” Elizabeth asked in puzzlement.
He snorted, then answered dryly, “There’s nothing for me on Earth but my cat.”
Elizabeth knew better than to patronise him. She eased into the chair behind her desk and made a quick inventory of the pens in her vicinity. She supplied after another few moments, “I have a dog that I left in the care of a friend.”
“Dogs have a nasty habit of running away,” Rodney said vaguely.
They’re more loyal than cats, she thought but did not voice her comeback. She instead settled for leaning back in her chair and confidently telling him, “Sedge wouldn’t run away from a familiar environment.”
It was a challenge. Her head scientist shot back sullenly, “You’d be surprised.”
Elizabeth couldn’t help but imagine SGA-1 encountering a canine animal. She didn’t meet his eyes, afraid she might start laughing at the mental image. She mused lightly, “I think I should bring Sedge over to your place some time when we’re on Earth.”
Rodney didn’t look too pleased with the suggestion. He said flatly, “That would not be a good idea. I’m sure you know cats and dogs aren’t exactly bedfellows.”
“You’re forgetting one thing, though,” Elizabeth informed him with a smile. “A dog and a cat in the same household end up becoming intimate friends.”
Chapter 10 - The Storm
A sneeze exploded somewhere over her ear drum, and Elizabeth winced as the static coursed after it. She lifted two fingers to tap at her radio, asking, “How’s it coming, Rodney?”
“You could at least sound sympathetic,” the answering growl shivered over her ear.
“Am I interrupting you?”
“What – no. This is so basic I could probably do it in my sleep.”
Rodney’s indignant spluttering turned into a full seated cough, again shooting more feedback over the radio. Elizabeth checked her pockets in some sympathy, pulling out one sodden tissue from the recesses of her uniform. She sighed. “Sorry, Rodney. I don’t have anything to help you with.”
“What’s taking Carson so long on the mainland?” the scientist rambled on breathlessly. “You’d think he’d have the decency to show up with a flu tablet, or something.”
Elizabeth patted her pants pockets again, just in case, but apart from one or two patches of damp cloth, she couldn’t find anything to put Rodney – and even herself – out of misery. She stopped briefly to glance out at the surging sea and the ominously dark horizon closing in on them. She rested her fingers over her radio again, wondering whether or not to just cut him off so as to not hear his diatribe.
Sympathy won as usual.
“With any luck, we’ll find a box of tissues in the control room,” she coaxed.
Rodney’s voice crackled with suspicion. “Are you finished already?”
“You can’t be finished. I’m not even finished yet.”
“I assure you, Rodney, it’s done.”
“This is so not time for competition,” sulked McKay. “You’re just trying to psyche me out, right?”
Elizabeth tried very hard to fight the smile spreading over her lips. “Keep going. I’ll meet up with you on the way back. I just want to check in with Major Sheppard.”
“You didn’t answer my – Lizbeth!”