Chapter 11 - The Eye
Rodney swiped an impatient hand over his sodden laptop, splattering water across the last remaining dry patch of his laboratory wall. His eyes lifted to the higher planes of existence that most likely floated just above his head – a better position to make his life miserable. “Oh, come on. Enough. I know you Ancients get a kick out of messing with logic, but this is ridiculous. Because, obviously, my lab should have been spared. Not Zelenka’s. Just a reminder for the future.”
“I don’t think the Ancients have the time to interfere with your logic,” a wry voice commented from the door way.
Elizabeth was somehow not amazed that Rodney could manage to juggle a mug full of freezing storm water, a ruined laptop and an umbrella, all somehow pinched between five fingers. He lifted his free hand in an abortive greeting, before reaching out to catch the laptop as it slipped out from his grasp.
Elizabeth frowned, eyes straying to his arm. “You’re still bleeding.”
His own gaze travelled down briefly, and the confusion flitting across his face dissolved into a sudden pained recognition. Rodney’s cheeks tightened. “Well, maybe some of us have time to go running off to the infirmary with every little scratch…”
“That hasn’t stopped you before,” she pointed out, smiling through her concern.
Balancing his laptop back onto his other arm, he gestured around the lab dismissively. “This city isn’t exactly going to dry out on its own, is it? Unless you too can bend the rules of logic.”
Moving across the lab and surveying the wet floor cautiously, Elizabeth stopped a few steps away and tucked her damp hair behind her ears. She wove her fingers together for a few long moments before holding his gaze. “I wanted to thank you for – ”
The words jerked out of reach of her mouth as Rodney dove forward, throwing the umbrella up. An arm planted itself around Elizabeth’s waist, snagging her against him just as a monsoon of water splattered down from the ceiling, gushing harmlessly over their sheltered heads. Elizabeth accepted the laptop that he shoved towards her without protest. Soon enough, the water subsided.
“Rodney,” she said after a pause. “Thank you.”
His wide blue eyes peered down at her. “For what, Lizbeth?”
Elizabeth glanced to the large twinkling device sharing the small space with them. She looked from it to Rodney. He shrugged. “I didn’t want any more valuable systems damaged.”
“That’s valuable?” she asked, glancing back to the device.
“Only the thing that’s going to pump out the entire East Pier. So, no, not at all valuable.”
Elizabeth sized up the device and shook her head, smiling. Seeing how she focused on it, Rodney blinked and back-pedalled hastily. “But, um, not as valuable as you. Obviously, you’re still the most valuable system in the city. Otherwise I wouldn’t, you know…” He waved helplessly at the umbrella, with the arm that wasn’t still wrapped around her waist.
Suddenly remembering himself, Rodney withdrew from Elizabeth quickly, muttering something that sounded like an apology under his breath, but it was too quiet to tell.
“I was going to say, thank you for what you did during the storm,” she rejoined to cover his embarrassment. “That was very brave of you, Rodney. But the rest of the expedition should be returning shortly, so you should get that arm looked at in the infirmary. And then I’m sure you’d like to start pumping out the East Pier before Zelenka is around to offer suggestions.”
Handing back the laptop, Elizabeth turned and left. Watching the empty door way, Rodney shook out his traitorous arm and followed.
Chapter 12 - The Defiant One
Hunched under a balcony on the East side of the city, Rodney McKay forced his fingers to unclench and nimbly work through the crystals that hung like icicles, in just the same way that they did outside every Lantean apartment. He only became aware of the rain thundering down barely an armslength away when his shoes squealed over the slippery plastiglass that Atlantis was constructed of. It wasn't too much longer after he nearly went tumbling out into the ocean when he realised that Elizabeth was standing on the walkway a few feet away.
“Make yourself useful and get me a flashlight,” he announced.
“Rodney, I don't know if you've noticed this, but it's raining.”
Rodney peered over his shoulder at her briefly. “Oh, like the wet patch on the back of my pants couldn't tell me that. Get me a flashlight.”
A deep breath echoed through the rain, almost but not quite an exasperated sigh. Elizabeth crouched, crawling underneath the balcony until she could reach out to touch his shoulder. Rodney didn't move. “If you're here to make me talk about what happened with Gaul, I just want to point out that it's not a brilliant idea to surprise a scientist who has his hands in the city's sewage circuits. And I'd also like it noted that I don't need to talk.”
“Right. That's why you're sitting out in the freezing rain and fiddling.”
Rodney withdrew his hands from the crystals, resting his back against the city's outer wall so that he could sit comfortably. He narrowed his eyes at her bedraggled appearance. “Forget the flashlight. You should have brought an umbrella. How long were you standing there?”
Unanswering, she crossed her arms and scooted to sit beside him. Alright, silence was good. Silence was very good at this point. Rodney grumbled approvingly. They sat there while the rain splattered heavily against the balcony above them. His pants squelched when he tried to move, so it was probably wiser to just sit still.
“I can't feel my feet,” Elizabeth said softly.
Rodney reached down and pulled her feet into his lap. He slid off her shoes, rubbing his hands over her toes. After a moment, he paused. “Your feet aren't really numb, are they?”
“You owe me this favour, if I recall correctly.”
“Not for much longer,” he informed her, and resumed the foot massage.
Chapter 13 - Hot Zone
Set before the episode.
“No. Absolutely not. No, no, no. No.”
Elizabeth looked up from reports on her desk to find Rodney looming at the entrance to her office, scowling ominously. She rested her shoulders back in her chair before tackling the situation. “I didn't expect such eloquence from you, Rodney.”
“Well, I'm sorry. It's surprisingly difficult to express oneself when one has silt caked onto one's shoes.”
“One must make sacrifices,” Elizabeth said blandly.
Rodney took three long strides into the room and held up a slimy object in his hand. He shook it, sending dark splashes flying over the floor. Flecks of soiled white began to appear amongst the slime. He explained gruffly, “This used to be a sock.”
“This used to be a clean office.”
“I just spent the last three hours walking through sludge to ensure that a particularly filthy section of the city was structurally sound. Guess what. It is. And now you're making me walk through it again?”
“This time I want you to take a full engineering team with you,” Elizabeth replied, lowering the pitch of her voice authoritatively. “I trust your opinion, but you have just one pair of eyes. The storm did a lot of damage and I want to leave no room for error. Take some people down there. Go over it with a toothpick, if you have to.”
“We ran out of toothpicks a month ago,” Rodney pointed out gleefully.
He glared. Her eyebrows rose into one uncompromising line. He shifted his feet awkwardly. Her stern frown deepened. Rodney’s shoulders slumped. “Fine. But you owe me two pairs of socks.”
He moved his hand forward, as though to deposit the disgusting sock onto her desk. Elizabeth cleared her throat loudly and gestured towards the door. Rodney found himself battling the asinine desire to poke his tongue out at her. He settled for grumbling, “This is the last time I let you exile me to the suburbs.”
“Suburbs?” Elizabeth laughed.
“Atlantis is a considerable size, to the point where we should start dividing it up into postal codes. And I, for one, intend to inhabit the prime postal code of the main Atlantis tower.”
He managed to mask most of his hurt expression as she continued to chuckle. But the passing seconds made it seem funnier to him as well, and Rodney reluctantly offered a laugh of his own. Covering for his lapse in mirth, he shook the sock one more time and turned to leave.
“I'll miss you!” Elizabeth called impulsively.
The sock sailed back at her.
Chapter 14 - Sanctuary
The blue glow of the Stargate receded, leaving the faces of those watching from the control room colourless and plain. Tension hovered for barely a few moments before the curious crowd dispersed, voices tainted with both interest and a rejoining of the banal. Elizabeth watched the empty circle for a few moments, contemplating, before musing, “We may have just forfeited our first real chance at a worthy exchange of supplies and ideas.”
“Ideas?” Rodney snorted from beside her, crossing his arms. “What sort of ideas could they possibly give us?”
“Spirituality, a sense of inner peace...the opportunity to attain cultural fulfilment,” Elizabeth finished, smiling wistfully.
If she didn't know any better, Rodney began to seem as if he was clearing his throat compulsively. But further investigation out of the corner of her eye revealed him sucking in his cheeks and frowning at out at 'gate. She turned to him. “Do you realise what we have lost?”
“Major Sheppard's virtue?”
The technician on duty snickered into his laptop.
“No!” Elizabeth couldn't help the laugh curdling in her throat. “There are more important things to trade than grain...or coffee.”
Rodney's expression became guarded. “You shouldn't have made me run those scans, then.”
“Not to split hairs, Rodney, but you were the one who insisted.”
He watched her stonily, before reaching up to skim the palm of his hand over his forehead. Worry petered over his frown until he asked as calmly as he could, “Is it that noticeable?”
“Is what noticeable?” Elizabeth was bemused.
“Sheppard must have said something,” Rodney continued gloomily. “With all the incompetence I have to deal with in my department, it's hardly surprising that my hairline has started receding.”
Leaning over to peer intently at his scalp, Elizabeth smothered her grin with a hand and made thoughtful noises. His left ear gave a remarkable twitch, a reaction that she had to admit was cute, though at his expense. She spent several more long seconds pretending to be concerned over his hair, before he finally snapped.
“What's taking you so long? Have you found lice or something? Oh God, I probably need to see Beckett now. Do you think he has one of those special comb things? I had lice in fourth grade and...”
“And there's nothing wrong with your hair now,” Elizabeth assured him. “In fact, I think it makes you look more distinguished.”
Interest sparked in his eyes. “Really? You think so?”
“Of course. Give it five more years and I'm sure you'll look like the most distinguished member here. Although, I don't suppose you'll have gained much maturity by then...”
Rodney's lips twitched and he evaluated her uncertainly, probably trying to figure out if she really was insulting him, or if it was an appropriate moment to exercise some laughter. The thought he was giving the situation warred over his face and Elizabeth knew she ought to put him out of his misery. A placating smile cracked the stern expression she had been fighting to maintain.
“Or it could just be lice,” she offered.
“No, you've said it! You can't take back something you've said. You think I look distinguished. You like my hair. Dis-tin-guished.”
“Dis-tin-guished?” repeated Elizabeth, amused. “Thought it’s hardly as interesting as John's hair...”
Rodney assessed this, panic thinning his lips. “Wait a minute. I'm pretty sure distinguished trumps interesting. Wouldn't you agree?”
“Seems like Chaya found his hair very interesting.”
“Noted, but her opinion isn't the important one, is it?” Rodney pressed.
Elizabeth paused for a moment, taken back by his intent gaze. “No, I suppose not.”
Chapter 15 - Before I Sleep
Set one minute after the last scene.
Pacing was a skill that Rodney McKay had perfected to a superb, if clinical, art. Hands wearing holes in the pockets of his pants, he fussed for a few more minutes, just a few he promised, before making calculated moves towards the balcony. He stopped dead again and backed up two – just two! – steps, retrieving one hand to tap at his chin thoughtfully. Once the voices of the nearest intruders to his sanctum had faded, he dropped the pensive act and re-attempted his scheme.
Although, this particularly common part of Atlantis was hardly any place to turn into a sanctum, however temporary its use. Soon enough, some of the passing expedition members would figure out that he was poorly disguising an approach towards the lone figure on the balcony.
Rodney lifted his chin and bravely ventured forward towards the door. Skidding right up to the edge, he abruptly reached out to run his hand over the plexiglass, importantly jerking his head up and down several times. Glancing out of the corner of his eyes at the technician striding past him, he waited just for the right moment to announce in an important voice, “All external exits seem to be functioning properly.”
The technician made no comment, merely moving along. Rodney let out a long, deep breath.
“Rodney, did you say something?” Elizabeth asked from outside.
Sprung! Rodney coughed nervously and shuffled out onto the balcony. Securing his hands back into his pockets, he slouched his shoulders and grunted a greeting. Her lips pursed into a small smile, before her focus returned to the object in her hands. Peering over at what looked like a brown pot, Rodney probed, “What’s that?”
“Hmm? Oh. John gave it to me. For my birthday.”
“Oh there we go,” Rodney said, disgusted. “He always has to make sure there’s an apple on the teacher’s desk before the bell goes.”
When her eyes moved back up to his face, Rodney noted with some apprehension that the usual twinkle was missing, though her eyebrows slowly shifted up her forehead. The firm lines setting around her mouth were enough warning for him, but Elizabeth merely asked, “Is this always a competition to you, Rodney?”
“What? No! Sheppard’s the one turning this into a competition. I got you a present and I made the rather impetuous decision to tell him, so he went ahead and gave you one before I had the chance.”
“Rodney.” A frustrated sigh slipped from her lips. “I don’t suppose it means much to you, but I’m not in the mood for this right now.”
Something sharp pinged against the left side of his chest. Rodney rubbed the patch of shirt over the area, perplexed, before realising that he was offended. His hands dipped back down to clench material inside his pockets until he heard and felt some of the stitches popping. He said stiffly, “Fine. I’ll try to find room in your schedule, you know, a block of free space you might feel like using to talk to me.”
Elizabeth tracked his movement towards the door, before reaching out to catch his elbow. Stride faltering, he stopped and glanced over at her, not bothering to hood the frown shadowing his features. Holding his stare evenly, she gave a gentle tug until his body grudgingly leaned towards her. She lead him out to the railing again, dropping her hand from his elbow at last to press briefly at the small of his back.
“I’m sorry, that was rude of me,” she said quietly.
Rodney shifted his feet. “Understandable. I think. Are you coming to the briefing now? Sheppard said you’d be along in a minute, but I noticed that when you didn’t arrive after sixty seconds that maybe you needed me to come get you or something. Or your watch could be slow, but I guess not. This isn’t to do with you is it? I mean, the other you, the old you. Not that you – she – was too old or anything…”
“I will be fine.”
“But that means you might not be fine, you might think that you’re fine. And five years later you’ll be sitting on Heightmeyer’s special chair telling her how you weren’t actually fine.”
“I appreciate your concern,” Elizabeth acknowledged, smile breaking at last. “Thank you. I might not be fine now, but I will be. I think I will be. I have so much to look forward to, so many birthdays.”
“Hopefully not ten thousand more birthdays,” he said with a tentative grin.
The small laugh was reward enough for Rodney, and he found breathing a little easier now that the air between them wasn’t so heavy. A small twinkle lurked in the corner of her eyes as she asked, “So about this birthday present you got me…?”
“Oh. Right.” Rodney cleared his throat, feeling panic rise in his throat. “It’s in your office, but it’s not imperative or anything. You can check it out later. Briefing now, remember?”
It wasn’t until some time after Major Sheppard’s team had left through the Stargate that Elizabeth Weir managed to find her way back to her office, but the wait was well worth it. Smiling down at the standard issue mug adorning her desk, she lifted it up and read the words written neatly on a piece of masking tape that was stuck to the mug.
Property of Dr Elizabeth Weir – keep citrus products away.
Chapter 16 - The Brotherhood
Set after the opening titles.
“Rodney, a moment please?”
Affecting a long suffering sigh, Rodney McKay turned around and drew up his shoulders in what he hoped was an imposing and dignified gesture. When confronted with her flat, unimpressed expression, he threw in a hand pointing back over his shoulder.
“Tick, tick, Lizbeth,” he announced. “If you want us to find any semblance of a ZedPM any time soon, we should be getting back to the planet...unless you have a more valuable use of my time?”
In what he hoped was a subtle manoeuvre, Rodney dropped his hand to his hair, smoothing over wayward tufts in the hope he could look a little more distinguished. He added a smile for good measure. Elizabeth's lips warred with a frown before breaking out into mirroring a reluctant smile of her own.
She shook her head. “No, nothing so valuable, I suppose. It's just something that Major Sheppard brought to my attention.”
Tingles of mild discomfort approached panic, squirming in Rodney's chest.
“Oh great. Look, I was going to tell you about the sewage leak, but I figured you had problems enough with the dwindling supplies that you didn't need to lie awake at night wondering if your toilet was going to drown you...I know it kept me up the past few days...”
“Let's pretend for a moment that I didn't hear that,” Elizabeth interrupted, her amused expression failing to abate. “John tells me he is concerned with your attitude on off-world missions. According to him, you aren't enjoying yourself enough.”
“What? How am I supposed to enjoy myself when lives are at stake? I have to concentrate on trying to find that ZedPM hidden somewhere – one which might not even be there. What am I meant to be enjoying?”
“I tend to like thinking of the ZPM as half full...”
“...too bad ours isn't even half empty at this point,” Rodney reminded her.
Elizabeth closed her eyes briefly in exasperation. Forced patience softened her voice. “Rodney. In this galaxy, cut off from Earth, your team is your only family. If you do not allow yourself to enjoy your time with them, you are wasting a perfectly good opportunity to strengthen your closest bonds.”
“But I enjoy my time with you,” Rodney grumbled, droppings his arms to cross them stoutly in front of his chest. “I shouldn't have to put in any more effort.”
An odd twinkle sparked in Elizabeth Weir's eyes. Her smile returned, broader and more sure. “I'm glad you think your time is well spent with me. Would it be too difficult to find out if you will also enjoy time spent with your team?”
Rodney mumbled something in response and hurried off towards the gateroom, hopefully before she noticed the burn he could feel rising on his cheeks.
Chapter 17 - Letters From Pegasus
Set towards the end of the episode.
For five minutes already, her desk had swum before her eyes. Elizabeth sipped water from a cup, clenching hard enough to dent the plastic underneath her fingers. She rubbed at her eyes slowly, but hard enough to make her eyeballs ache.
“I do not need glasses,” she insisted quietly.
Her fingers came away from her face damp. Briskly, Elizabeth brushed her palms over her cheeks, smoothing out unbidden tears and worry lines. When she remembered the camera blinking opposite her, she reached out a trembling hand to touch the off button. For a moment, she hesitated, unsure if she had or hadn’t seen a glimpse of Simon’s face in the rim of the lens.
No. His face wasn’t…it couldn’t…
“Less coffee I think,” Elizabeth decided. “And more sleep.”
“I tried that for a while, but the idea of impending doom kept me up.”
Hurriedly casting her face down to the desk still wavering in her vision, Elizabeth responded calmly, “Rodney, have a seat.”
“Uh, you know, I think I’d rather stand because if I sit down even for a second, I might – you know – fall asleep or something. And you do not want me falling asleep right now.”
“Why, is the sewage system still in need of your skilful expertise?” she asked dryly.
Rodney’s expression became scandalised, though she didn’t mistake the twitch of a smile on his lips. “No. I don’t think you want me snoring in here.”
“I actually have proof. See, I made a recording…”
“Do I want to know why?”
“No, no, I guess not.” Rodney stopped, a frown creeping onto his face.
The idea of her head scientist taping his nocturnal sounds for some sort of experiment steamed all remaining moisture from her face. Elizabeth smiled carefully and patted her desk. At his bemusement, she explained, “Then don’t sit in a chair. Sit here.”
“And that will help how?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Hard surface, perhaps? Or I could keep talking into your ear to make sure you don’t doze off.”
Rodney considered this and shrugged. Throwing a quick nervous glance over his shoulder, he gingerly leaned on the desk before shimmying closer. Seeing him bite his lip and wiggle uncomfortably, Elizabeth clamped her teeth together to keep from laughing, but her jaw soon throbbed with the effort.
“You’re laughing at me,” Rodney realised, chest heaving in a sigh.
“No. Not at all.”
“Well go on, everyone else has a laugh at my expense.”
“Rodney.” She tilted her head back to regard his narrowed blue eyes. “I trust that you will find some way of staving off the Wraith attack. I trust that in two weeks time, we’ll still be in this office, having some banal conversation about sewage, socks or…”
“Sheppard,” Rodney supplied quickly.
Elizabeth laughed, remembered herself and threw her hand over her mouth. But he was smiling down at her. Although, smile wouldn’t exactly be the definition. Smirking in that same insufferable way, enough to make her entirely forget about desperately reaching out to Earth for help, to forget about breaking up with Simon over video…
“Did you record a message after all?” she queried abruptly, trying to shake off her thoughts.
“Yes, actually. Don’t look so surprised. You know Stargate Command would want to hear everything I have to say about the expedition.”
The same insufferable, know-it-all smirk was still there. But Elizabeth could swear there were distant sparks in his eyes. Maybe she imagined it. Those eyes…so much easier to lose herself in than Simon’s.
Rodney cleared his throat. “So. How about you?”
“Oh the usual…” Elizabeth paused as his face shifted lower to meet her eye level. “A brief report, messages for some of the families that lost people…” His breath warmed her face. “And…and something I had to say to someone.”
Rodney nodded hesitantly. “Me too. I mean, you know, something to say to someone. My sister.”
“I didn’t know you had a sister.”
He said nothing, shifting on the desk awkwardly. When Elizabeth caught his gaze again, she felt as though barriers had risen up in his blue eyes again, shutting her out. But she felt his sigh, hot on her cheeks. She also felt the accidental touch of his knee on her arm, felt the jolt of his reaction. Rodney muttered some kind of apology under his breath, but she couldn’t be sure.
“Rodney.” She found her voice soft, needy. “Do you remember when I came to see you in your lab, after the storm?”
“Eh, sure. What about it?”
“You said I was valuable. Did you mean that?”
Confusion wove over his features, dimming his smile. “Well of course I did. You’re the expedition leader. Or hadn’t you noticed that? Because if you haven’t figured that out by now, then – but you know, that’s not even the point. I mean, I think you’re a valuable – ”
Elizabeth felt more than heard him fall silent when the gap closed between them and she kissed him. Just for a moment, one simple moment, she could forget about the messages going back to the Milky Way Galaxy, forget about the hive ships…
Rodney pulled back swiftly, slipping off the desk onto his feet. “I better make sure Zelenka hasn’t turned on the self destruct. Or fallen asleep. Because either would be really bad at this point, don't you agree?”
She watched him hurry away, wondering if he felt as perplexed as she did.
Chapter 18 - The Gift
Set after the conference.
Absently swatting at a peculiar buzzing in his ears, Rodney McKay contemplated the bench in his lab. When the noise did not desist, he decided to tilt his head to one side and hum in a vain attempt to drown it out. This seemed to numb some of the buzz. Then a hazy film invaded his vision and the buzz was quite forgotten in the mad blinking counterattack that Rodney bravely mounted to fight off the tired twitching in his eyes.
He flattened his hands on the bench and jerked his head side to side. His eyes watered, but then his vision cleared and all buzzing gave way, revealing the steady clipping of shoes behind him. Rodney rolled his eyes.
“Look, unless you’ve somehow come up with any brilliant options – which I so very much doubt – then you can make yourself useful and create some coffee out of thin air.”
“Sorry to disappoint on both fronts,” Elizabeth’s voice answered him.
Rodney wheezed in an abortive attempt to simultaneously cough with embarrassment and clear his throat in a manly fashion. He swivelled around on the chair and exclaimed, “Lizbeth! Uh, I thought you were Zelenka. I’m kind of glad you’re not. And there’s a…ninety-nine percent chance we’ll have options of dealing with the Wraith before the week is out. You have the full Doctor Rodney McKay guarantee.”
“What’s your guarantee on the remaining one percent?” Elizabeth asked, smile radiating across the short distance between them.
Rodney grasped his knees to keep them from bouncing.
“Direct all complaints to the biology department,” he bit out over clenched teeth.
Elizabeth’s eyes fell to his knees and Rodney hastily dropped his arms to his sides. He absently slipped one hand into a pocket of his pants, worrying a hole in the hem. Her smile lost some of its lustre in the silence. She explained neutrally, “Much as the current situation is unnerving, it’s not why I came.”
Rodney inhaled sharply, then covered it quickly with a half-hopeful sneer. “You wouldn’t happen to have a secret coffee stash?”
“No, but that’s not a bad idea,” Elizabeth conceded. “Rodney, about last week – ”
“This week is just, oh, a little more important than anything that happened last week. Or maybe I’m the only one losing sleep over the Wraith armada.”
Creases appeared around her eyes. “While I agree – ”
“And you want options by then,” Rodney babbled, fast and furious. “So I need some alone time to meet your deadline.”
Elizabeth started openly at him. She crossed her arms, opened her mouth and closed it again. After a few moments, she let out a breath. “Okay. I didn’t realise I was such a hard task master. But Rodney, we should talk about…this.”
Sizing up the now very uncomfortable lack of distance between them, Rodney stabbed three fingers through the hole in his pocket. He felt more than heard the tiny threads tearing apart. Leaning backwards in the chair, he wrenched his hand out of his pocket and snapped it back onto his knee.
“What’s there to talk about?” he managed indifferently.
Elizabeth’s lips parted for a sigh. “Nothing right now. Get back to work.”
Immediately shifting his attention back around to the bench, Rodney waited until her shoes started tapping off in the opposite direction before sneaking a hooded look over his shoulder. Once the echoes of her footfalls had fully died away, he tapped his radio.
“Patch me through to…” He paused. “Get me Heightmeyer.”
Chapter 19 - The Siege (Pt 1)
The rational part of Rodney McKay's brain told him that the various compensation systems within the Puddlejumper kept the gravity as close to nine-point-eight Newtons as possible, but his stomach stubbornly refused to take any notice of this simple function. The floor of the 'Jumper crested like waves on a rough sea, until he felt last night’s power bar surge upwards.
“You alright, Dr McKay?” Grodin enquired from the cargo bay.
“Let's see, three hive ships are closing in on our position and we're flying out to meet them with the slim chance of firing up some ten thousand-year-old satellite that might already be fried beyond anything useful. Ask me next week, huh?”
The technician rolled his eyes and moved off towards the back of the 'Jumper. Rodney ignored the sideways glance directed at him from Miller, busying himself with a scan of various readouts on the HUD. Not long now – hopefully by then he'd have his sea legs. Or space legs. Whatever. But he'd been in space before, why was this happening now?
The radio crackled and hissed. “Come in, Rodney.”
Forcing himself to swallow any nauseous squirming back down his throat, Rodney choked momentarily before settling back in his chair.
“Reading you loud and clear, Lizbeth. What's the problem?”
“No problem,” her voice answered him, almost quiet enough to disappear into static. “Just wanted to wish the three of you some good luck. You're going to need it.”
A mix of cold terror and hot embarrassment washed over Rodney. Tapping his fingers over his knee, he stared blankly through the HUD towards the stars. Focus. He needed to focus. The silence, broken by interspersed interference, pushed hard on his shoulders. His fingers clenched a bunch of wrinkles from of his red flight suit.
“We’re also going to need some radio silence,” he said curtly.
Her response was brisk and cool. “I’ll still need progress reports.”
“All radio silence...” Rodney repeated, but desisted as two pairs of eyes narrowed in on him. “…except for progress reports, then.”
“Agreed. And Rodney...”
Brushing his hands over the legs of his suit, Rodney became aware of the damp fingerprints permeating the cloth. He jerked his fingers away and began clicking furiously away at the ‘Jumper controls until the HUD winked out. Focus. Focus.
A long pause. “Come back in one piece.”
“No problem, I’ll just tell the Wraith to stand still for us,” Rodney muttered, not sure if she heard it or not.
“I imagine we'll have much to discuss when you return.”
His chest seized momentarily and Rodney clutched at the front of his flight suit. Hunching in his seat awkwardly, he wondered if he was having a heart attack. It wouldn’t be that surprising, given all the stress he’d had to put up with. After a few torturous seconds, his breathing evened out and he dropped his arms to his sides.
And suddenly, he didn’t need his reflection in the plexiglass to warn him about the unsure smile twitching at his lips.
“I look forward to it,” he stated carefully. “McKay out.”
The radio faded into silence. Rodney found his feet on solid, completely non-seaside reminiscent floor. He stalked back towards the cargo bay to find his spacesuit, deciding not to check if Miller or Grodin were exchanging suspicious glances. Okay, maybe he checked. Once or twice. But the quiet before the storm was already stealing away those thoughts, and any other thoughts about his boss.
Now he could focus.
Chapter 20 - The Siege (Pt 2)
Set during the montage of setting of guns around the city.
The walls loomed on all sides of Elizabeth Weir as she walked towards the main science labs. The air tasted stale, smacked of desperation and attempted to claw its way down to her lungs. Absently patting down the sides of her jacket, she blew out the breaths that had been choking her. A few more steps cleared her head some more, and then her footfalls became more sure, leading her towards the chair room.
She drew in the sight of Dr Zelenka and Dr McKay working on the chair and exchanging terse insults, feeling relief. Letting her shoulders sag, Elizabeth entered the room quietly, simply watching their methodical, if constantly interrupted, work. It made no sense to her, but the smooth and steady flow of Rodney’s fingers was mesmerising.
Until he looked up with those equally distracting blue eyes, that is.
Swiftly abandoning his colleague, Rodney rose and settled beside her, still watching Zelenka with a scrutinising frown. Elizabeth waited until the Czech scientist’s attention was entirely on the chair before allowing her neutral expression slip. The warmth of Rodney’s presence, her shoulder inches from his, threatened to overwhelm her.
“I believe we agreed to discuss something of great importance,” she began, official and clipped.
Rodney shifted in her peripheral vision. “Now? Haven’t you got a date with Colonel Everett in the boxing arena?”
“I wish.” Elizabeth smiled wryly. “He didn’t quite make the weigh in, and seems to have made himself scarce since. Something or rather about stashing armaments around the place.”
An odd sort of snort came from her right. If Elizabeth didn’t know him as she did, she would mistake the sound for dismissive boredom. As it was…she suspected he had a swallowed a laugh. It seemed that in the time since kissing him – she could admit it had been that – every gesture or movement he made signified something only she could see.
After a few long seconds, Rodney commented flatly, “This may come as a surprise to you, but I do want to discuss certain…recent developments. The, ah, interesting recent developments, I mean. But this is not the time.” His voice dropped a few decibels. “Not that I don’t regret that.”
Elizabeth felt her breath catch, but it formed a pleasant warm lump at the back of her throat. “Do you have a minute?”
“Lizbeth…what would you say to me if you had a minute?”
“Then I would say nothing,” she answered quietly.
Rodney frowned. “Doesn’t that defeat the purp – ”
Moving to silence him, she moulded her fingers around his fist. Rodney tensed, but his hand opened, allowing her to slip her palm against his. A trail of sparked skin followed the wake of his thumb as he brushed it over the back of her hand. Elizabeth pressed her lips together hard, keeping her eyes focused on Zelenka as he worked. The tentative squeeze of his hand stole her attention entirely and she returned the gesture. His breathing, she noticed, had evened out. Her fingers found his pulse in a vein, slow and steady.
The minute passed.
“I’m having enough trouble getting any work done with Zelenka here,” Rodney groused. “I don’t need you adding to this break in my concentration.”
“Be safe, Rodney,” Elizabeth requested.
“Yes, yes, I know you can’t live without me.”
She dared to tilt a smile in his direction. “Oh, Rodney…”
Deep lines of impatience wrote themselves onto his forehead. Elizabeth forced her smile away, nodding briskly at him. His hand fell from hers. As she walked from the room, she felt his eyes boring hot on her back.
It wasn’t until she was several corridors away that she paused, resting her temples between two fingers and staring unseeingly at the ground. Drawing a deep breath, she released her forehead and fixed her steady gaze ahead. He was right. This was not the time.