Chapter 41 - No Man's Land
Set before Elizabeth has the meeting with the IOA.
The Earth Stargate, no matter how inferior in aesthetics to those of the Pegasus Galaxy, was still the most impressive sight in Elizabeth Weir’s memory. Staring through the glass at the circle that had changed her life, Elizabeth let a deep breath pass her lips. So much and so little time had passed since then.
Antarctica still appeared in her thoughts. Instead of ice, she was always reminded of a certain blue polo fleece and the quick, abrasive introduction that she had been given to one Rodney McKay. Nothing but professional respect had crossed her mind then. Well, after she realised that apart from the stream of insults and incoherent musings, Rodney really was the smartest man she had ever met.
Yes, that could be admitted when he was nowhere nearby to hear it. Smart. Genius, even. But when it came to matters of the heart…almost completely inept. Almost.
Elizabeth pressed fingers to her lips thoughtfully, then smiled when she realised herself making the gesture. She occupied her hands instead, wringing them slowly, trying to contain any impulsive motions. Every meeting – every moment – in life was just one more in a series of negotiations. This would be no different. But one or two glances over her shoulder towards the door were warranted. The IOA were taking their own time yet she intended to meet them with patience and authority.
The picture of a leader. The leader she was. Mistakes and successes – they made her.
Rodney. Where was he? Was he safe? Why had she discarded him so easily?
That would come close to one of her biggest mistakes. Rodney had been a colleague at first, a friend, a confidant – most importantly he had been there. And she hadn’t been. That was another thing he was right about. Unfortunately.
“Wherever you are,” Elizabeth said to the glass, “be safe, Rodney.”
Being detained in an enemy spaceship would be bad enough, but the disgusting slime that encased Rodney was too much. Even a squid would be repulsed. And that would be a stretch. A sharp twinge in his neck brought a wince to Rodney’s face. He highly doubted that the Wraith would allow a Swedish massage on the agenda – preferably with a masseuse that was blonde or…or…a brunette all in red – where did that come from?
Rodney wriggled impatiently, but his neck began to ache all the way to his ears. Waiting around for some low level life-sucking bipedal to deal with him was definitely not high on a list of his priorities – or anyone’s priorities, he figured.
“I knew this would happen,” Rodney declared darkly. “You ask for the VIP suite, they give you a bed that will probably warp your spine beyond all recognition – ”
“Should have let you sleep on the floor then, McKay.”
This just goes to show you that people have no appreciation for some good wit. Rodney subsided to the occasional grumble. The support of the cocoon was not so bad. A bit disgusting, granted, but had something of a calming effect. Hmm, calming effect.
Elizabeth. Probably worrying. Not enough, obviously.
But still worrying, watching the skies maybe…arms crossed in that way that made her look tough and lips…lips pursed in concern. Maybe she would even say some words. One of those pep talks that were totally useless, but would not necessarily be unwelcome here.
Worry. Would he see her again?
Atlantis that is, because there were so many things undiscovered. And who knew what Zelenka would be doing with his notes by now. The other scientist was probably already sitting on Rodney’s desk, swinging his legs and sucking a lollipop. He’d even be soliciting secret audiences with Elizabeth over how to run the city.
Elizabeth. Running the city without Dr Rodney McKay.
“We’re a packaged deal,” Rodney protested.
Ronon’s voice was clipped and agitated. “What now?”
“Shut up, I’m trying to concentrate.”
Focus. Focus. Elizabeth could always focus.
Not if I kissed her, he thought smugly, then batted the thought away.
Chapter 42 - Misbegotten
Once the blue glow had receded from the gate room below, Elizabeth returned to her desk and settled into her chair. She waited several long seconds before all seemed well and allowed the gust of anxious air to pass her lips. Immediately, her shoulders sank comfortably and her breathing evened out. She wondered how long she had been taking shallow breaths. But now Woolsey was gone, the IOA were appeased and she was home.
Elizabeth laid her hands an inch or so from the surface of the desk, patted the air indecisively for a moment before picking up a book from the piles she had left within easy reach. Not exactly Harlequin, but something about policies and regulations that leaned heavily on the UN – and almost entirely useless for another galaxy.
An impatient rap on the door made her look up gratefully to the control room entrance. Seeing no one through the panels of plexiglass, Elizabeth turned her attention to the other door. Anything was better than dry old passages on things she knew back to front all ready.
“Come in,” she called, not loud enough to betray her keen wish to avoid staring at fine print.
Rodney McKay entered, hands uncertainly rubbing in front of him, before he seemed to notice her focus and dropped his arms to his sides. She knew that gesture. Motioning for him to fill the seat vacated by Woolsey, Elizabeth set aside the book – open, facing upwards. Important, busy and patient. Not like how she felt; breaths and pulse quickening until she found herself wordless.
He didn’t sit.
“I would have come earlier,” Rodney began in a clipped and precise tone that managed to deteriorate after the first two words. “But here’s the only problem about returning to Atlantis, wherein my absence the entire science department has this thing about the city being held together by duct tape and a paperclip. If a hive ship of any remote threat had appeared in the sky, all they’d have had to do was hose down the main spire and all the adhesive would come undone. Because it’s all about packaging, and if you don’t have the right packaging then…”
Elizabeth rested her chin in her hands. “Is there a point to this, Rodney? I have quite a bit of work to catch up on.”
Someone had to have some Harlequin books lying around in Atlantis, she reasoned, making a list of possible candidates. No one military, though Lieutenant Cadman was a possibility. Miko? Katie Brown? The last suggestion made her bite the inside of her cheek.
“So I see,” Rodney noted, taking in the piles of books on her desk.
“ – oh. And I don’t think we managed to cover the entire issue before, because…because we…we as in the team…are glad you’re back.”
“We?” Elizabeth asked lightly. “I believe we did cover this issue earlier.”
Rodney’s eyebrows drew closer together and he shook his head.
“Then what? Come on, Rodney, you’re not usually this demure.”
“Back for how long?” he exaggerated at last.
Elizabeth instantly roped in her wandering attention. She watched as his hands crept back into the security of his pockets, complemented by Rodney hunching over protectively. The blue eyes she had missed met hers…alright, for a moment, but long enough for her to doubt her ability to work – or indeed to enjoy any sort of romance novel.
“The IOA have chosen…” She paused, slow, teasing. “…to let me stay on Atlantis. For the time being.”
One of his hands escaped to run over his hair distractedly. Realising a response was expected of him, Rodney managed thoughtfully, “Good. That’s good. Very good.”
“Oh? Why’s that?” Elizabeth wanted to know.
Rodney’s expression flitted between a smile and a grimace. “So I can do this.”
Abruptly, he marched over to the desk and leaned over to rest his hands on either side of her face. Whatever plan Rodney had arrived with seemed to evaporate at this point. Almost nose to nose, he stared hopefully into her eyes. Elizabeth didn’t dare move. And then he covered the distance between them with a kiss, tentative and searching.
She gave him his answer, rising from her chair and taking him up with her. Grasping his shirt with her hands, Elizabeth pulled him hard into the kiss. His hands found the back of her neck, dropping down her shoulder blades. At this point, Rodney suddenly back-pedalled, scowling.
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said quickly. “I know I have no right. What I did to you…”
“It’s irrelevant. Ir-re-le-vant.”
Rodney gestured at the desk between them, then rubbed his legs irritably. She suddenly became aware of her own discomfit. A quick laugh, and then Elizabeth moved around the desk to meet him properly.
Elizabeth wondered if perhaps she should go away more often.
Chapter 43 - Irresistible
Laying out the herb on the lab bench in front of him, Rodney surveyed it was a mixture of distaste and disappointment. He rolled his eyes and then proceeded to fumble around in the various drawers in search of something flammable. Of course, using one simple match was out of the question – too long, too messy and it was entirely likely that inhaling the fumes too long could have some nasty enduring effect. Such as, people not being eager to clean his quarters.
Rodney at last found a Bunsen burner, most notably on Zelenka’s bench – which explained a lot of things. Well. It would have, if he could actually think of something. Gas – on. Match – agreeable. Holding a tray out underneath the herb, he dashed it across the blue flame. Instantaneous combustion.
He pinched his nose, eying the smoking remains with some degree of caution.
“How is it coming?” Elizabeth asked from the door way.
Rodney dropped the tray and muttered, “I wasn’t going to keep any, if that was what you were thinking. But while we’re on that subject, don’t you think it at least warranted a test against the Wraith? Because Wraith that don’t want to eat you…is kind of a good thing. At least from where I’m standing.”
“I’m not so sure that would work. The survival instinct is very strong, Rodney.”
“You’re proposing that if Lucius had asked one of us to jump off a balcony,” he said slowly, “that the survival instinct would overwhelm the desire to please. In fact, I was going to suggest…”
Elizabeth laughed shortly. “Of course you were. I hope that this situation doesn’t bother you too much.”
“Oh, well I’ll just pretend I never said the words ‘fly, Lucius, fly,’” Rodney grumbled. “Which is easier said that done, but considering what others were prepared to do, I would say that I managed to stave off any particularly stupid impulses.”
“As opposed to myself?”
Catching this particular hint quickly, Rodney fiddled with the zip on his jacket. Elizabeth smiled though, which was nice because apart from being an exoneration, it was…nice to look at. She made her way across the lab and took the tray containing the herb’s cinders, before shaking the contents into the nearest bin.
Elizabeth turned back to him and said, “Rodney, you would never need to resort to that to get my attention. I happen to like you well enough. And…let’s see, I don’t seem to recall you complaining before this whole mess started. But if you prefer, I can avoid you. Just in case.”
“No…no need to overreact,” Rodney amended. “And besides, Sheppard should be grateful he’s only cleaning my quarters. You know there are plenty more deserving tasks…”
“I can imagine.”
“Oh sure, take his side. After all the – ”
“Rodney, calm down. I would never take sides. I just think it…wise that you rely on your individual charm than that herb to get along with your team.”
Given that the herb was now gone, Rodney didn’t think he needed the caution. It was always completely unnecessary to make the word ‘charm’ sound like something as unpleasant as his cat splattering the carpet with a fur ball. He said stiffly, “If you don’t mind, and would rather not take up so much space in my concentration, I need to get as much work done as possible before the next scout.”
Elizabeth seemed to completely ignore this statement before slipping her arms around his waist and then kissing him. Once she’d started out towards the door, Rodney berated the air soundlessly before attempting to expel a cross between an apology and a protest. This didn’t work so much, but at least she did turn around.
“I expect your charm will return to normal by tonight,” she told him with that same smile.
“Oh, sure. In your wildest, most far-fetched dreams. Go right ahead and think that.”
“Mess hall at eight?”
Chapter 44 - Sateda
Set before John goes to talk to Rodney.
Elizabeth hadn’t expected to hear from Dr Beckett so soon – it had almost been a given that Rodney would be occupied with pretty colours and horses for a while yet. But she supposed she should never discount the obscenity of her head scientist, especially when wounded pride and body parts were involved.
Taking slow strides past the various groups of arguing scientists in the corridors, Elizabeth schooled her expression into one of pensive concern – the type of expression that could relate to anyone, and not to the wellbeing of Rodney McKay. It was a blessing that the rumour mill of Atlantis was quiet on this matter, but it was only a matter of time before anyone caught on. And then there would be resistance from the IOA, of course. Professional distance, duty, whether or not a conservative military leader might be better suited…
Elizabeth shook away the thought, sweeping her hand though the hair on the side of her head to steady her shaking fingers. Offering a quick courteous nod to those that tried to engage her with whatever problem they wanted solved, she kept her eyes focused distantly ahead. It was almost a surprise to arrive at the door to Rodney’s lab, considering how much attention she’d given to appearing not to arrive there. Then again, she was requesting a status report.
Rodney stood with his back to her, furiously tapping away at the laptop and spitting out the occasional reproval. After patiently watching this, Elizabeth asked, “Are you making sense now?”
“If by sense, you mean the vernacular of the common folk,” he responded, “then I’m afraid you’re out of luck. I make more sense on the scientific level.”
“Rodney. You make perfect sense to me, even when some of your words are unrecognisable. What I meant was – ”
“I know what you meant,” Rodney said stiffly.
Elizabeth noticed that his shoulders were rigid, and his back too straight. The usual slump was gone, though he seemed to be shifting the weight on his feet more – and not due to any particular awkward subject matter. Arranging herself beside him, she squeezed his shoulder. “Have you been standing long?”
“Here’s the little known fact about being shot in the ass with an arrow. It tends to sting. While not the most common of experiences, this simple fact should not be hard to grasp. Therefore, standing hurts remarkably less.”
“A little less on the cynicism, please,” Elizabeth told him firmly, but the corners of her lips twitched. “I wanted to check how your progress was going.”
Rodney’s expression soured. “Oh, well, until the Wraith introduce one of those universal adapters, this is going to take a while.”
“I didn’t mean the tracking signal.”
“Oh,” Rodney said and fell silent.
Elizabeth sighed. “I thought so.”
Leaning over, she swiped the laptop from his hands and ignored his protests and she carefully set it on the floor. Raising one eyebrow, daring him to argue further, Elizabeth sat down and patted the space on the floor beside her.
Rodney’s response was to indicate his posterior.
Elizabeth shifted onto her knees before lying on her stomach and mimed typing at the keyboard. This apparently did not appease Dr McKay. He finally said out loud, “Oh, well, you enjoy the thousands of Pegasus-based bacteria that everyone keeps walking into my lab. One of the biologists bent down to pick something off the floor just last week – and do you see her walking around anymore? No, no I don’t and I doubt you have either.”
“I think what you need to ask yourself,” Elizabeth mused, “is whether or not you will be able to work properly standing on your feet for several hours.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. These feet are fine where they are, because I’ve stood up for longer than this before – and with more menial tasks, let me assure you.”
“Rodney, give your feet – and pride – a rest.”
For extra effect, Elizabeth pursed her lips invitingly. Either the ache in his feet was a strong enough influence, or the added incentive worked as intended, Rodney made a few more comments before gingerly sinking to his knees. A few more signals of encouragement from Elizabeth and he was on his stomach.
“I think my work here is done,” Elizabeth remarked.
Rodney shot her a long-suffering glance, which earned him a quick peck on the cheek. Rubbing his back gently, Elizabeth waited until his focus was once again locked on the laptop before quietly leaving his side. Several tentative sweeps of the corridor outside with her eyes allowed her to leave unnoticed.
Chapter 45 - Progeny
Precisely two hours after all others had left the control room, Rodney McKay looked up from his laptop and took notice of this. Someone had very thoughtfully switched off all the lights, leaving him alone in the glow of the console. Despite a brief indignation at being ignored in this way, Rodney allowed a relieved smile and returned to his work. Silence. Wonderful, constructive silence.
Sunk into muted light, Rodney almost couldn’t feel his fingers as they tapped in front of him. He shook them out irritably before poising them above the keys. Right at that vital moment, when an important idea on how to search the database more effectively began to surface, two hands dropped out of nowhere and covered his. Rodney twitched – and then the idea swam away, practically hurling taunts as it went.
“Great, well that’s going to take a while to remember,” he complained.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your work, Rodney, but I hope you noticed that you’re the only one here.”
Rodney loosened his fingers, letting Elizabeth weave her own through his. Her chin rested on his shoulder, a bit hard but not an unwelcome intrusion. Companionable silence stretched between them while Rodney stared at his laptop screen without seeing it. Without even uttering words, she was more distracting than an entire room full of bickering underlings. But this could be overlooked from time to time. Now being one of those times.
Her cheek brushed against his, the contact sending an uncomfortable sensation into his chest. Rodney tightened his grip on her hands. “Elizabeth…”
“It wasn’t your fault,” her voice assured him. “Rodney, you already said sorry on the ‘Jumper. But it was unnecessary. You couldn’t have known.”
“Couldn’t have known that a human form replicator was dangerous?” Rodney interjected disbelievingly. “It’s a little obvious, don’t you think? I shouldn’t have even let him on the ‘Jumper.”
“That was not your decision to make. I recall it being mine, as a matter of fact.”
“I’m so sorry,” he said again.
Elizabeth reached over and closed the laptop. The console dimmed even further, and the crawling against his eyeballs reminded Rodney that sleep was overdue – what with missing various lab-naps between having a hand stuck in his head and engineering their escape. Or the eyeball thing could be do to with the fact that she wasn’t mad at him, when she clearly should be. He opened his mouth to explain, but one of her hands lifted to stroke the back of his head.
“I don’t want to hear it,” Elizabeth remonstrated. “You need some sleep.”
“I can’t just leave the control room unguarded. Do you have any idea what could just stroll in off the street? Last time I checked, Atlantis wasn’t a halfway house.”
“But yes, sleep first. I assume you’re taking over my shift?”
Elizabeth’s soft laugh tickled his ear. “No, the technician who is supposed to be on duty can be found. Or he will wish he was soon enough.”
I’m sorry, Rodney thought, turning his head to fix his eyes on hers.
“I’ll even tuck you in, if you like,” she baited.
Not that that suggestion didn’t sound tempting. But if she’d just let him apologise, then the squirming in his stomach would go away. Rodney cleared his throat. “I appreciate the distraction, but if you’d just…”
“No. I won’t be hearing any apologies from you. Bed. Now.”
“Well, it all depends, doesn’t it? Are you just tucking me in, or do you have a little more incentive?”
“That’s much better,” Elizabeth approved, easing him out of the chair. “As for incentive, what did you have in mind?”
Smugly, Rodney lowered his voice and told her.
Chapter 46 - The Real World
Set either just before or right at the beginning of the episode.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She shouldn’t be lying on the ground, eyes closed and hands still curled around the empty coffee mug in her hand, the contents of which spilled out on the ground. But right now Rodney McKay didn’t care as he knelt in the mess and stroked hair from her face, while frantically tapping his radio. Someone was responding in the earpiece, but he couldn’t recognise the voice, and he suddenly distrusted it.
“Wake up,” Rodney ordered her. “You’re supposed to wake up. Look, it’s not that hard. You open your eyes, and you – you say something. Say something.”
Did she even have a pulse? The hand fell from his ear and began scrambling along her neck. More of her hair fell in the way. Rodney closed his eyes, concentrating. Pulse. Where was the pulse? No pulse.
“No, no, no, no. There’s a pulse. You’re just not letting me feel it. Beat a little harder. Come on!”
A vein throbbed underneath his fingertips. Another beat. His eyes opened and he drew a ragged breath. Then he felt a weak brush of air over his wrist. Her lips. From her lips. Pulse, breathing – great. The radio squawked urgently. Fumbling for the earpiece, Rodney palmed it and stared at it blankly. Who had he called?
Infirmary. A doctor finishing the night shift in the infirmary.
“Rodney McKay here,” he responded, wondering if he’d already said that. “I say again. Dr Weir is…she’s not awake. She collapsed in my quarters. I can’t…I can’t wake her. I need someone here. Preferably someone who knows their way around a stethoscope.”
Disjointed words travelled down his eardrum, unravelling into even less sense than to begin with. Why was this taking too long? Shouldn’t there be stretchers and weird smelling clothes? Rodney frowned worriedly at Elizabeth in front of him, before demanding, “Get me Beckett. I don’t care if he’s asleep. Wake him up. And while he’s doing that, why don’t you do something useful and help me get Elizabeth to the infirmary?”
More sentences peeled back at him, each more confusing than the last. Frustrated, Rodney wrapped his arms around Elizabeth’s waist and tried to haul her up against him. He met resistance at first – which was expected – but he got her sitting up against him. Her neck hung forward loosely. Rodney hated that, but he couldn’t let go of her. He couldn’t.
“Don’t make me carry you. You know I’m hopeless with any kind of exercise. You’ve got to stand up. Please stand up. I can’t lift you.”
His vision swam and Rodney winced. “I can’t. I’m so sorry.”
This wasn’t supposed to be happening. She’d gone out to get some coffee for him from the mess. She was meant to bring it back. She was meant to make it back. What could possibly go wrong after all this?
Replicators. It had to be. A bit sketchy on the how, but he needed a reason. Any reason. Niam. The replicator had grabbed her, and it had been his fault. Why did she say it wasn’t?
“You can’t go now,” Rodney said furiously. “You’re supposed to tell me it isn’t my fault, even when it is. And I haven’t even got you to read any of my papers. You can’t back out now. You can’t.”
The door hummed open and Rodney almost slackened his hold with relief. Angrily, he tightened his arms around Elizabeth’s body and looked up into the concerned face of Carson Beckett.
“Good Lord,” the doctor said and rushed to his side.
Rodney became aware of the coffee soaking into his pants. It smelt stale. The stench followed them all the way into the infirmary.
Chapter 47 - Common Ground
Set before Chuck goes to talk to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Weir appraised the Stargate from the landing in the control room, leaning on the railing perhaps a bit too much and rarely blinking. Her eyelids felt like sandpaper, but even if she wanted to rest, there would be no point. Glancing down at her white knuckles, Elizabeth blew out a breath and released the railing. She could feel him behind her, which wasn’t surprising. They’d barely had a few sentences together during the course of the – situation.
“I just stood there…” Elizabeth swallowed as the words faltered. “Just stood there and watched John’s life being stolen from him.”
A gentle pat on her waist made her glance sideways as Rodney stood next to her. Notably, his hands were on the railing, though she was fairly sure he had touched her. The seconds ticked away, further into silence, further into what little chance Colonel Sheppard had left. Elizabeth tried to take a deep breath, but her lungs disobeyed.
She found her voice again. “I know I shouldn’t question my capabilities, especially in this situation, but if morality had no part in my decision-making…I might not have let Ladon go.”
“Oh, as if anyone would have disagreed,” Rodney pointed out.
“That’s not any justification, Rodney. Relying on the ethics of others has never been my aim in diplomacy.”
Rodney said nothing, but he put his arm around her shoulders hesitantly. The public nature of this display should have bothered her, but Elizabeth was overwhelmed with a heaviness starting at her burning eyes right down to her legs, making it impossible to move away from the comfort of him. It wasn’t wise, but somehow necessary at that moment.
An uncomfortable cough in Rodney’s throat was the only indication that he was thinking the same thing. After a minute or so, he tried again, “Handy reminder – you let him go. Which is an obvious indication that you possess some ethics, more than is safe, but that’s not the point. The point is instead of having no leads with him in the cell, we’re stuck here with no leads – and no Ladon. I don’t see a big difference…not one that I’m going to mention, but probably thinking about…”
“Is this also a reminder that you always manage to surprise me?” Elizabeth asked, the smile curling her lips.
Rodney tensed, and probably would have said something, except she slid out of his grasp. The shadow of confusion appeared in his eyes – only briefly, to his credit. Elizabeth took his hands and wrapped them in her own.
“Thank you, Rodney. For pointing out the obvious.”
“Oh, sure, when you just happen to want a soundboard, don’t forget to dial 1800-waste-my-time.”
“I meant that…that…you’re welcome,” he finished, half-formed scowl breaking as the uncertain smile appeared beneath it.
And then she was alone again, watching the Stargate for a lead that might not come.
Chapter 48 - McKay and Mrs Miller
Set before Rodney goes to see Jeannie towards the end.
There was something entirely unwelcome about being invited to explain one’s actions, when said actions resulted in a depleted ZedPM and a few angry minorities. Or majorities, as Rodney McKay very deeply suspected. It wasn’t his fault the universe had been on the brink of collapse - debatable for this moment, but forgetting that. However, it was his fault that the universe still managed to exist, therefore also ensuring the survival of…angry majorities.
Rodney paced outside Elizabeth’s office, pulling at the sleeves of his jacket agitatedly. Stalling generally worked in his favour when encountering Genii or any other people waving guns who clearly wanted to be included in that year’s alumni of Bad Guys. Unfortunately, stalling wouldn’t work on the leader of Atlantis – who also happened to mean a lot more to Rodney.
Rodney waved a hand over the door mechanism, rolled his eyes to the ceiling towards whatever glowing entity happened to be passing by in the atmosphere and entered Elizabeth’s office.
She had barely glanced up from her desk when Rodney decided to get in first. “Lizbeth, I know what this is about and you should just listen for a second – or for however long this takes. The ZedPM is depleted but if I hadn’t saved the universe – as you expected me to, don’t even try to deny it – then you wouldn’t even be mad because you wouldn’t even…be.”
“Rodney.” Elizabeth sighed shook her head. “I much prefer being mad at you than not being here at all. As it turns out, I’m not mad.”
This was an unexpected bonus. Rodney asked hopefully, “Really? Because – ”
“Not…that mad,” Elizabeth interrupted dryly. “But the IOA may disagree with me on that.”
“Oh, like they wouldn’t do it any differently,” Rodney snorted.
“No, I think they would. Jeannie told me what you did for Rod, and I can’t fault that. You acted honourably, and I am proud of you.”
Rodney dug his hands into his pockets, mentally reminding himself to have a very long and very unpleasant discussion with whoever had botched the city’s air systems – it really shouldn’t be this hot near the control room. He shuffled over towards the desk, noting, “That’s so encouraging, but I think you happen to be forgetting the ‘mad’ thing.”
“It’s forgotten,” Elizabeth assured him with that smile. “However, I would like to know just what you’ve been telling your sister about me. She seems to have heard quite a lot in such a short time.”
Rodney’s hands had escaped his pockets and were wringing themselves uncertainly. This discovery was not agreeable in any sense, but if he pocketed his hands again, she might notice. After this conflict warred for a few moments in his head, Rodney leaned against the desk casually and crossed his arms. “Oh, just…might have slipped out once – twice – maybe every day…er, look, Elizabeth, apparently there’s some stupid rule about giving gifts to children and last time I was at Jeannie’s – ”
“You forgot to take a gift.”
“And I can’t exactly just stroll down to the nearest Toys’R’Us,” Rodney reasoned and looked around her office before tapping a statuette on her desk. “What about this? You don’t need it.”
Elizabeth titled her head to one side, regarding him with a frustrating lack of expression. “Rodney, I was given that by the ambassador of – ”
“Yes, yes – but do you actually need it?”
“Take it,” she said wearily.
Rodney grinned and leaned back across her desk to kiss her. Predictably, she didn’t object.
And she wasn’t mad – ha!
Chapter 49 - Phantoms
On so few occasions did Elizabeth Weir approach the infirmary with a smile, especially if it involved her head scientist. His bed was against the wall, mostly away from prying eyes, and he was at that moment arguing with the nurse that had brought him some food. Clearing her throat, Elizabeth waited until Rodney stopped mid-sentence, and was amused when he failed to relocate his thread of argument. The nurse discreetly left.
“How are you feeling?” she asked, sitting next to him.
Rodney opened his mouth, but Elizabeth immediately thought better and held up a hand. “No, wait, I think I know. Carson tells me you will be released tomorrow, and his recommendation is that I keep your off active duty for at least a week.”
“Please, I think I can handle a few spears and stun blasts after being shot,” Rodney said tersely. “And you expect Sheppard to get himself out of trouble off-world without me? We’ve seen how that works out, even with me along for his joyride.”
Elizabeth sighed and rested her hand on his leg. This did little to placate his mood, but it did manage to silence him for a minute or so while a vague little grin spread over his face. Dr Beckett had assured her Rodney was no longer on morphine, but the cheerful countenance looked not dissimilar to that of a certain arrow incident. Shaking her head, Elizabeth leaned forward and reminded him, “Colonel Sheppard was not in control of all his faculties.”
“Huh, more like not in control of the whole campus,” Rodney added.
“And you think you were not as influenced by the device?”
His expression became incredulous. “Elizabeth, did you see me decorating the landscape with a P90? No – you weren’t there, so you didn’t – but you wouldn’t have, I can give you the Rodney McKay guarantee on that.”
“As long as I see your report for the mission,” she said lightly, “then I won’t make too many judgements on your character. You can be as truthful as you like in your report and I’ll still give you the respect you deserve.”
“Oh. In that case…it was all Sheppard’s fault, because if he wasn’t running around like he was trying to get the high score in a shoot ‘em up…you know those games where you shoot anything that happens to move instead of using actual strategy - ”
“I’d just like to take this moment to point out that you did not specify any restrictions on verbal statements.”
Elizabeth sighed and resolved to be very cautious of anything she said to him in the future. The best solution for the smirk he was currently shooting her was obvious, though – she kissed him. Rodney’s lips attempted to mumble something against hers, so she deepened the kiss, which was more than enough distraction.
At least, she hoped it was.
Chapter 50 - The Return (Pt 1)
Set during the episode, probably 2 weeks after they've returned to Earth.
For the tenth time in as many hours, the phone rang out and cut to a message bank that seemed to grow more tired each time it told Rodney McKay to leave a message after the beep. The other nine messages would have to suffice, because he didn’t have the time or energy to think up something else to say. That decided, Rodney still frowned at his cell phone. One more time couldn’t hurt – and besides, it would give him an excuse to look busy. Not that he ever needed to, especially when it was eleven at night and no one else was around.
Three rings, but it was definitely picked up this time.
“Elizabeth!” he burst out. “Thank God. Are you alright? Are you…awake?”
A pause followed this, and then she replied tiredly, “Rodney…it’s midnight. What is it?”
“Oh. Well, I hadn’t actually thought that part out since it took so long to get your attention. You weren’t out at some – er – you weren’t with anyone were you?”
“Hardly. And yourself?”
Rodney beamed vacantly across his workspace then quickly remembered himself. Adopted a scowl, he paced backwards and forwards in front of his desk, free hand tearing more holes in a new pocket. He cleared his throat. “No such luck either. Makes you wonder if Sheppard can pick up in this galaxy or not. How…how are you?”
“Pensive,” Elizabeth replied shortly. “You?”
“Huh, I don’t have Zelenka weighing me down anymore,” Rodney informed her. “And my office makes the Daedalus look like a UAV…so I guess you could say good. Good…except for one or two people that I miss.”
The lack of detailed answers started to bother Rodney and he momentarily pulled the cell phone away from his ear to consider this. Midnight, come on. It wasn’t like it was that late or anything. Never mind that it was only eleven at Area 51. And anyway, that was just an hour’s difference. The silence finally stretched a few seconds too long and Rodney corrected, “Or one…one probably. That brings me to the next point. Dinner. When should we do it?”
“I thought you were in Nevada?”
Rodney glanced over his shoulder at his desk, checked the time again and shrugged to himself. “It’s not a…big setback. And you could always move here. Maybe even move in with me. Or…or maybe not.”
“Rodney…” Her tone sounded suspiciously gentle. “This is not Atlantis.”
“Yes, yes, I tend to notice that when I find a window in this place. If I find a window…”
He heard her sigh ghosting over the receiver. Rodney stabbed a particularly large hole in his pocket and managed to scratch his leg in the process. Wincing, he prepared himself for anything she might say.
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said carefully. “But my place is here. Not there. And I would appreciate it if you didn’t try to contact me again.”
Rodney sat down abruptly on the floor. “That’s it? You’re going to hang up and never speak to me again? Well that’s mature.”
“I’m sorry, Rodney.”
Blankly staring at his knees for a moment, Rodney had to blink away the darkness suddenly encroaching on his vision. A light. Who was the idiot who didn’t leave a light on when they left? His eyes landed on the lamp on his desk…the very bright and painful lamp that would probably be finding a new home after this. Preferably a dump.
“But I…” Rodney stopped, drawing a ragged breath. “But I lo – ”
The phone beeped once, his only warning that Elizabeth had hung up. Rodney pushed away the cell phone and just stayed there. He couldn’t move. Breathing seemed the least important function in the world, though his lungs burning reminded him that this was not the case. Rodney breathed again, but it was hard.
He drew his knees under his chin and murmured, “Lizbeth…not again…”
She couldn’t do this. Not now.
Breathing was an overrated experience.