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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-05 11:37 am
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Angles Thus And So 1/4

Title: Angles Thus And So, 1/4
Rating: R (Weir/McKay, Sheppard/McKay, the latter closer to PG-13)
Summary: The city belongs to Sheppard and McKay, and the boys belong to Elizabeth -- especially Rodney.
Warnings: Canonical character death.

Now available at AO3.


It starts the day after the storm, or anyway a few hours after the storm, when everyone's diurnal cycle has been thrown off by the lingering clouded darkness at any rate.

Evacuees are returning, maintenance is beginning, and when Elizabeth finally comes down off her adrenaline high she decides to throw in the towel on being Boss Of Atlantis for a while and let everyone get on with their jobs. Which is how she has the time to notice that McKay's still in the gateroom, working furiously on a laptop, and he has a bandage wrapped around the outside of his jacket. She recalls seeing this earlier, but she was thinking of other things and her eyes just slid away from it.

"McKay," she says.

"Working," he grunts.

"I need to -- "

"Genius at work!" he snarls, without looking up from the laptop or, indeed, stopping typing. It's one of his most disturbing traits, that he can hold entire conversations and actually absorb them at the same time his fingers are constantly moving. Like the programming is some autopilot subroutine. Or maybe the listening is. Or maybe he isn't typing anything meaningful and he just knows that it messes with peoples' minds; that's not something she'd put past him.

"Just give me until the endline of this code. Trying to ensure we aren't all gassed in our sleep by the Ancients, who built in some pretty ruthless failsafes against sinkage," he continues.

She waits patiently rather than fight it out, and it's only forty seconds before he clicks one last time and leans back.

"Now, what?" he asks.

She touches his arm and he jerks it back, confused defiance on his face.

"You need to get that looked at."

"Carson's busy," he replies.

"Well, you could wait for infection and gangrene to set in," she says, and he gets a little white around the lips. McKay's levers are glaringly obvious.

He lets her lead him to the medical bay, and when it proves that Carson really is too busy to have a look at what is "probably just a scratch, you big baby" (she hasn't told him how McKay got the wound, McKay's warning fingers tight around her wrist) she seats him in an empty chair and herself across from him so that their knees touch, a tray of instruments nearby.

He hisses when she unwinds the last layer of bandage and, like most of McKay's quick-and-dirty fixes, it's a clean tight binding over a messy, jagged wound. He didn't seem to have any concern for the physicality of it, just that the gore was covered in bandage. Sometimes it's easier not to lift the shredded corners and survey the actual damage, she supposes.

The jacket and shirt underneath it are caked to the wound, and she slits his sleeves from wrist to elbow before he even notices she has the scissors in her hand.

"Hey! That's my shirt!"

"This," she says, "is your arm. Would you like to go through life one-handed, Rodney?"

He sets his jaw and stares at her. "No."

"All right," she says, and begins dabbing at the wound with a gauze pad soaked in alcohol. He doesn't hiss anymore, just closes his eyes. Which is good, because then he doesn't see the needle with the local anaesthetic in it until it's in his arm and the plunger is shot.

"You jabbed me!"

"You need stitches," she retorts, setting his arm on the tray. "Sit. Stay."

"Oh very nice!" he calls after her, but she's already looking for the surgical stitch kit. When she returns with it, he eyeballs her. "Are you trained for this?"

"Relax. I've done it before in the field. Close your eyes again."

"What, so I can't watch you embroider your name on my arm?"

She rolls her eyes slightly, but since he's obeying anyway she doesn't push it.

As she stitches she notices that he's sitting oddly in the chair, almost on the edge, and it can't be comfortable. She thinks about Kolya sliding the knife into the flesh of his arm, so close to the tendons that control movement in the fingers. She thinks about Kolya pressing him up against the rails over the roiling ocean, McKay's whole body bowed backwards.

She wraps the bare arm in fresh gauze when she's finished, and only then does he open his eyes.

"I need to check something," she says, holding the scissors up questioningly. He doesn't nod, but he doesn't react either when she circles him and slides the blades from the waistband of his jacket to the nape of his neck, parting the fabric cautiously. Two parallel lines, vivid purple, one just below his shoulderblades and one a few inches below that. They're uneven across his broad back, the higher one blossoming into a bright knot of colour along his scapula.

She shoves the fabric further and he shrugs out of it, pulling the shredded sleeve off his shredded arm and easing the other sleeve down over his wrist. His head is bowed, now, but his face is still a mixture of misery and defiance.

"I'll get you a shirt," she says, digging one out of the storage closet near the infirmary. He's standing when she returns and he lets her help him get his arms in the sleeves and the zip done up. She's cuffing one sleeve over the bandage so that it won't rub the tape off when he sways forward and kisses her.


This is not how Rodney remembers it.

In his version, and we're talking Rodney and Elizabeth here so it could very well go either way, she pulls him off his coding when he was doing fine, hauls him down to the medical bay, puts him through a voodoo ritual involving stinging alcohol and needles and stitches in his skin, and then strips him with a pair of scissors.

(It's true this version is a lot funnier, at least the bits he tells. That family-friendly edited-cut ends with her giving him a shirt and then locking him out of the computers for four hours so he has to sleep.)

He's shivering and mortified and every part of his body hurts when she returns with a shirt and makes a total screwup of helping him on with it. When it's finally on, as if to make apology for him getting knifed and almost thrown into the ocean, she gives him a fond look and leans up and kisses him.

She tastes like sea-water; they probably both do, which on Earth would be less pleasant, what with the toxins and god-knows-what floating all over the place. This is Atlantean seawater, salty, clean, untainted, and he takes a moment to lick it off her lips, to offer his in return. When she pulls back she looks surprised at herself, or maybe at him, or something, he can't really parse every time Elizabeth looks surprised or he'd never get any work done.

"You should go to bed," she says and, in an awe-strikingly inspired moment that he attributes to continued exposure to John Sheppard, Rodney manages to be cool about all this.

"We should go to bed," he replies.



Rumpled bedsheets in low light, not even much moonlight yet because the storm surge has left dirty clumps of cloud-cover in its wake. The furniture is not much more than shape in the darkness, thin highlights around the edges. Two pairs of boots, both neatly lined up by the door, streaked with pale saline residue where they've been soaked in salt-water and are still drying. Many more clothes strewn across the floor: a blue science-section shirt, an SGC jacket and red command shirt, two pairs of standard-issue trousers, underclothes, a thigh-holster.

What light exists slides across a man's back, artificial shadows thrown where the bruises are graining up. The curve of his spine up, muscles leading to his arm crooked across a woman's body, his head resting on her shoulder, his hand behind her neck. Her face tilted away, restful in sleep, cheek pillowed on his wrist. No fear, no guilt, no unhappiness; just sleep, entangled in each other, comfort where comfort can be found.

Rain rattling gently on the glass, streaking downwards.


And, somewhere in the city, John Sheppard wondering where the fuck the leader of Atlantis has gotten to, and what Beckett gave McKay to conk him out so hard he doesn't answer his radio, even though Beckett swears up and down he didn't give him anything. And anyway John doesn't wonder too hard, because he has bigger problems and Elizabeth tends to get in the way a lot.


Of course after the gorgeous moonlit cuddling, then there's anxiety, and weirdly enough it's all on her side.

Rodney's aware that he's been muttering for a couple of minutes before consciousness hits, because someone is beating him on the shoulder with something round and pointy. It turns out this is someone's fist, trying to wake him up.

"Baaah?" he asks, blinking.


"Yes, what, I can fix it," he slurs, because if someone's calling his name that means something is broken.

"What?" asks Elizabeth Weir, who is kind of close and kind of naked. Oh right. Sex.

"What?" he asks back.

"What did we do?" she demands.

"Umm." He processes this. "We had sex. Excellent sex. Are you okay?"

"Oh, god," she flops back on the bed, her face in profile from where he's lying on his side. "We did."

"Well, clearly some of us thought it was excellent," he sighs, but it's hard to have his feelings hurt, because the sex was awesome and it was sex, which has been a distinct lack in Rodney McKay's life as of late.

"No, Rodney, I didn't mean..." she trails off. "This is just -- the situation is bad. Not the sex." And then she narrows her eyes at him. "You're gloating. I just committed adultery with my second in command, and you're gloating."

"Yeah," he says, realising that he is.


"What? Jesus, it's not like we killed anyone," he replies. "I'm going to enjoy my gloating. I'm very good at that. Stop freaking out."

"I am not -- " she huffs, but he rolls his eyes which oddly enough silences her.

"You are freaking out. Which is totally unnecessary, because it's not like we even like each other most of the time, so obviously there's nothing intimately emotional about all this and you're fine, okay? So I'm going to lie here and gloat for five minutes, you can keep count, and then we'll get dressed and we can pretend for the rest of time that this never happened."

Her look of immense relief is one that he's often encountered before, though admittedly rarely in bed. It's amazing how a little frank logic can ease a person's mind sometimes, and if there's one thing he's good at (there's way more than one) it's frank logic.

He will try not to take it personally that she's relieved they never have to talk about the amazing sex they had ever again. She turns to look at him, to give him a real and grateful smile.

Then he has a brilliant thought (this is not uncommon).

"Or," he says, slowly, "considering we're going to be pretending this never happened for the rest of time, we could do it again."

"Okay," she agrees, a little too quickly, and starts to shove him on his back and oh holy shit ow.

"No! Stop sitting on me, stop it, stop it!" he cries, pushing her away and sitting up as fire burns across the bruises on his back.


"Ow, my god, Atlantis is going to kill me," he gasps. "I'll be bruised to death."

"I'm sorry," she mutters, drawing the sheets up as if she's going to get off the bed. He touches her arm, stops her.

"Just, you know," he says. "Don't shove. Here, come here."

He pulls her back, startled at how light she is, pulls her across his body.

"We can do this," he says, only it sounds more like we have to do this now please. "I have several advanced degrees in what essentially boils down to how things fit together. Trust me."

She bursts out laughing and rests her forehead on his shoulder, and he pulls her close against him, her thighs on either side of his hips. He can't lean back and he's going to cramp if he stays like this, so he tightens his arms around her and lets her take some of the weight. And she leans back and oh -- that's good. Yes.

"Condom," she mutters, trying to remember if McKay took more than one from the open supply drawer when they left the infirmary.

"I try not to live in hope," he informs her drily, and she groans and bangs her fists on his shoulders ruefully. "Come on, Elizabeth. We all had screenings when we were prepping for the mission. Unless you make a habit of this kind of thing -- "

"What kind of woman do you think I am?"

"Almost unbearably hot," he replies. "My point being, I know I haven't had sex with anyone since we got here, which, couldn't really be less happy about that, and assuming you haven't, and you can do basic math..."

"Fine," she mutters, and he lets go of her long enough to cup one of her really very nice breasts, thumb brushing across the nipple. "Oh -- fine -- "

"Better," he murmurs, and then she's hitching her hips and well, who needs foreplay anyway.

Later, they pretend it never happened, until the next time everyone almost dies.


There are four stages of sleep, and REM is the second stage, but you can only get there by dropping into stage four and then coming back up to stage two. Generally this takes a while, but sleep-dep bypasses the complications and goes straight to the hallucinations.

A minute ago he was sitting on the ledge of the chair-platform taking a thirty-second break while he tries to get it operational because two Wraith hive-ships are coming to take Atlantis. He's never had a sex dream while sitting up before, or while facing imminent death before, but as he drifts and his head tips forward he can feel someone smoothing their hands over his shoulders, gripping his arms, the adrenaline-endorphine rush of being touched by another person.

Eyes-closed he doesn't know who it is, though he is aware enough that he's still on Atlantis to narrow it down to one of four or five people who feature regularly in his dreams -- Elizabeth, John, Radek, Sam Carter, that cute biologist he doesn't know the name of.

(Consciously he always disclaims Radek as a fluke because he often spends twenty hours a day with him. The others all make rational sense given their 1. amazing good looks or 2. past history of awesome sex with him.)

"This is Weir," someone says in his ear. Oh, okay, it's Elizabeth. That's nice. In the hyper-collapsed way that dreams bend time, he gets a nice kiss and a hand curling around his cock before he hears the rest -- "I've got the prototypes."

He's immediately awake. The prototypes. The nuclear warheads, those prototypes.

"Prototypes, right," he mutters, and grunts as standing makes his trousers constrict around his erection.

No time now; it'll fade off as soon as he gets to work.

Nice while it lasted.


Sleep is something to savour when you're this tired, and Rodney learned that during his orals for his first Master's. Contrary to popular belief, graduate studies are not that difficult when you are focused, when you love your work, and when you could give a goddamn about social lives and your VCR has a timer on it. The first time he was really ever afraid was during his orals, when the exam was so vigorous and scrutinising that he really was worried they would bounce him from the program. He'd got over it in time for the next one, but during that first one he didn't sleep much, and that was when he learned to enjoy it.

He's curled up in his bed, the blanket is snug and warm, and each vertebra slowly pops, easing his hips, the tension to his legs. His feet tangle up in the sheet, pulling it closer, protective, like the shield over the city, like the walls of his quarters. His jaw eases, and the throbbing behind his temples ebbs. This is it -- the instant just before unconsciousness, stretching out to infinity, warm and painless, when everything has gone away.

He wakes flailing, uncertain who or where he is, mouth dry, hair matted. After a second it returns -- Rodney McKay, his quarters in Atlantis, four days with little or no sleep -- oh god, did he really hop himself up on stimulants and then rewire a nuclear warhead?

He stumbles into the shower and opens his mouth to catch the water, which is gross but he doesn't care because it washes the grit and soreness down his throat, leaving clear cool wet behind. He probably has a briefing; his watch says it's nearly six o'clock and the light through the windows confirms it, so he dresses and laces up his boots and grabs his tablet on the way to the door, and when the door opens two enormous men with guns are standing there.

"Holy Jesus -- " he flails backwards, falling, and one of the man grabs him by the arm, pulling him upright. "Oh god, what did I do?"

The men exchange looks.

"Glad to see you awake, Dr. McKay," one of them says, releasing him.

"Am I under arrest?"

"No sir. Security detail," the man says. "Major Sheppard's orders." The other soldier is already radioing Sheppard that Dr. McKay is awake. "To prevent anyone disturbing you."

"THIS is disturbing me!"

"Yes, sir. We'll be on our way. Major Sheppard and Dr. Weir are requesting you in the mess hall," the other man says.

He's expecting early, quiet breakfast, but instead the mess is full of people talking and it smells like cooking meat and boiling water in the hall, and the food is distinctly un-breakfast-like. It must be dinner, then. Which means he's been asleep for far longer than he should have.

Before he's sitting down he's opening his mouth, but he hasn't got time to speak because Sheppard shoves a piece of fruit into it.

"Hello to you too," he manages, setting down his tray and biting down so he can take the other half of the fruit out of it. "I'm capable of feeding myself, you know."

"There have been doubts," Elizabeth says, seated next to Sheppard at one of the long tables. "How are you feeling?"

"Rested. You should have woken me up sooner, I could have helped get some of the damage control done," he says, but he feels kind of good that they didn't. "How's the work coming? Also, soldiers on my door? Seriously?"

Elizabeth and Sheppard exchange a Look.

"Well, you needed to get some sleep," Sheppard says.

"Yes, thank you, four days without, I covered that. And thank you for the twelve hours uninterrupted," he says. "But really -- "

"Thirty," Sheppard interrupts.


"You slept for a day and a half," Elizabeth says, and smiles at him. It's a strange smile and he hasn't had the time to learn yet what this smile means.

"Oh my god," he says.

"And, miraculously, the city didn't sink," Sheppard adds with a dip of his head.

"Thirty hours? Have you any idea the kind of waste of time that is?"

"I tried to wake you up, twice," Elizabeth says. "We had Beckett in to make sure you weren't dying. Then we thought we'd let you catch up."

"Catch up? I'm so far behind it isn't even funny! I need to talk to Zelenka -- " he starts to get up, and Sheppard yanks on his arm and shoves another piece of fruit in his mouth. "FTOP NOOING NAT!" He spits onto his plate. "Stop doing that!"

"Rodney. Sit."

He finds his legs buckling underneath him before he can register that Elizabeth's given a command.

"Eat," she adds, and Sheppard looks at her like she's nuts, but suddenly all that food looks really good and clearly if Atlantis was going to blow up without him, it would have done so by now.

"I'll brief you after you've had a meal, and then you're going to sleep some more, because tomorrow at 0800 we're going to Earth," she continues, and he chokes on his reconstituted mashed potatoes.

"Why?" he asks.

"Senior staff need to speak to SGC. We'll gate back to Earth, then take the Daedalus to Atlantis when we're finished. This is non-negotiable, Rodney," she adds, as he's forming an objection through a mouthful of tinned beef stew. He swallows and finds he hasn't actually got anything to say, because he's still getting over 1. thirty hours of sleep, 2. guards on his door, and 3. going back to Earth.

"Did you put some kind of whammy on him?" Sheppard asks her, when Rodney continues to eat without speaking.

Elizabeth smiles at him and this time, he gets it.

After dinner, which takes a long time because hey, it's been thirty hours since he's eaten, they break off from Sheppard and he finds himself following her down the hallway to Senior Staff Quarters.

His Senior Staff Quarters.

It is the most bizarre and enjoyable briefing he's ever had, and no briefs jokes were involved, because she didn't so much let him talk. But as he's walking her backwards into the wall of his quarters she starts with a list of the damaged portions of Atlantis, and when her shirt comes off she's breathlessly informing him of the repair work that's begun.

He listens to a concise account of the computer systems patches with her breasts in his hands and his lips grazing lines down her throat, which is unreasonably hot, but some of the stuff they've thought of while he's been out is brilliant, and brilliance gets him worked up.

Wraith body-disposal follows, while she's undoing his belt and hitching one bare leg around his hip, and that's good too, makes him angry, Wraiths in his city, and by the time she gets to the part where they're being autopsied and incinerated he's got his hands on her ass and both her thighs around his hips and he's very, very hard, cock rubbing against the warm, tender spot just below her waist. She tilts her head back and swallows.

"Supply manifest from the Daedalus," she moans, back arching against the wall as he slips inside her, and he kisses her quiet for a minute, kisses along her cheekbones and bites her earlobe and she digs her fingernails into his back. "You wouldn't believe -- oh -- "

"I think I would," he mumbles, as she angles her hips so that he can push deeper. She manages to get her eyes open and lock them on his.

"They brought coffee," she says, her voice low and throaty, and doesn't get anywhere past that because she's curled around him, he's inside her, and they're both gasping and slick with sweat and alive, oh god, they're alive, he had his hands inside a nuclear warhead, the same hands that are stroking down her ribcage, holding her still, and her tongue grazing across his teeth is the tongue that negotiated for those warheads and it's some kind of insane fucking circuit they're completing, or maybe they're just so glad to be alive and going to Earth tomorrow that they've actually lost their minds and when she bucks against him he pushes back and almost whites out, it's so good.

Afterwards he's apologetic because wow, hey, sex against a wall, but she just leads him to the bed and he's asleep again before he realises that she isn't in the bed with him, just sitting on the edge and running her fingers through his hair.

When he wakes up to the alarm at 0600 (the right six o'clock this time) there's a bag sitting on his workdesk, packed with his clothes and personal items and his favourite laptop. There's a slab of Cadbury's milk chocolate sitting on top.

In two hours they're going to walk through to Earth and speak to SGC, and then she's going to go away to Sean or Simon or whatever his name is and have a nice reunion with her loved one.

He picks up the chocolate and unwraps it and hitches his hip against the table and decides he's okay with that.


"How was Earth?"

"You mean aside from almost dying on the way back here? Pretty pleasant."

"Did you see your family? You have a sister, yes?"

"I -- well. We had a lot of work to do, it wasn't like it was a vacation."

"Rodney, you must not always be working."

"I didn't work the whole time!"

"So, then. What did you do?"


"Now that," Rodney says, breathless, "that felt like a revenge fuck."

Elizabeth sighs and turns away, and despite the postcoital glow she knows the anger is practically thrumming through her body. "You can be an asshole sometimes, McKay."

"I can be an asshole all the time. It's a natural talent, but I only bother for special people," he replies. "Don't assume that I care that it was revenge, I'm just pointing it out."

"Simon isn't coming to Atlantis," she mutters.

"Then Simon's not worth Atlantis."

Not worth you, he should have said, but Elizabeth knows that Rodney doesn't deal in humans the same way he deals in theories and objects. It wouldn't occur to him to use a personal scale; if Simon doesn't want to go to Atlantis then Atlantis doesn't want him, never mind whether she does or not.

A broad hand brushes her shoulder, and there's a hesitant touch against the nape of her neck, his nose nuzzling against bare skin, breath warm between her shoulderblades. Rodney will never take this personally, this thing they keep doing. He touches her, he reassures her, he grounds her, but if she told him tomorrow that they had to stop, he'd stop, and nothing would change. He'd regret the loss of a bed partner, maybe, but he wouldn't treat her any differently. She wonders if he's capable of actually caring about someone anymore beyond the basic human instinct to protect the tribe. Or maybe he is, and she doesn't see it because he doesn't care about her, not like that.

"I could write us an equation," Rodney says quietly.


"An equation. That calculates us, that makes us add up and make sense. I could write a formula that would take into account the variables, the exterior forces, my trajectory, your fixed point. It would have to function so that all possible permutations equal out to the same result. Could be fun," he muses. "Simon wouldn't be a factor anymore, would he."

"No," she says, and thinks she'll break and cry and let him hold her, but she doesn't; she wonders if that's something she can't do anymore.

"Definitely not worth Atlantis," he repeats, and actually maybe, after all, when he says Atlantis he means something other than the city.


There's no reason not to look anymore, no reason not to find someone on Atlantis she could be with, but Elizabeth is head of the mission and it gets awkward when everyone you know could sue you for sexual harassment if they weren't comfortable going out with you. She could try and make something out of this habit she and McKay have fallen into, but she doesn't want to. That's something different, and besides she can't imagine spending leisure time with McKay (if he even knows what that is) or going on a date, oh my god, the awkwardness, or living with him.

The scientists are her direct subordinates and the Marines are, well, such typical Marines, and John Sheppard doesn't have eyes for women, even when he's winking at them, and Dr. Beckett knows way too much about her intimate bodily health for comfort.

She's too busy, anyway; there are new faces in Atlantis and they all have to be trained and the inevitable small frictions between new and old smoothed over, and there are supplies to distribute, and before she knows it time has passed.

She goes offworld, which is rare, to negotiate a trade agreement with a reasonably-advanced society that wants to swap their root crops for seed from the mainland, to hybridise the hardy Atlantean grains with their own. Because the seed is technically the Athosians', she is mediating a complex deal, and at the end of the day she's tired, grateful for the small empty house they show her to -- a house whose last occupants were Wraith-culls.

She doesn't want to eat the food that's in the kitchen, dead peoples' food, and she makes do with whatever's in her vest as she lights a fire to warm the chilly house -- there are fireplaces in every room, and apparently the town hasn't got as far as electric heat yet, though they have light-bulbs powered by solar cells. Or maybe they just like fires.

Outside she can hear voices. She recognises some of the Marines, as well as Sheppard's low rumble and Rodney's strident tones. They fade off and she's about to find a blanket and sleep here on the floor by the fire in the dead peoples' living room when there's a knock at the door.

"Sheppard sent me," Rodney says, and that's a lie. "With food." And that's not. The food is sweet vegetable-bread and something that passes for butter, made from sap in the local trees. She offers him some as she eats, but he waves it off.

"I don't like to eat the local food," he says, as if there's some story behind it. She stops chewing. "N -- nono, no, it's okay for you. Just. Allergies," and he waves vaguely at his face. She tilts her head at the seat next to her on the low sofa (dead person's sofa) and he sits, watching her eat. After a while, tired of his focus, she swipes her thumb through the not-quite-butter and smears it on his lip, grinning.

His tongue darts out, automatically and without thought, cleaning it off, and something in her catches.

"If I die, I'm blaming you," he says, quite seriously.

"You won't die, Rodney," she replies.

"I am constantly on the verge of death."

"That must be very stressful."

"Katie Brown asked me to have dinner with her," he blurts, and she closes her eyes. It's been a very long day. But, Rodney-like, he just keeps going, so she doesn't have to formulate a reply. "So I thought I'd ask, and we haven't had any time to talk actually and this is probably not the greatest time anyway but I need to know if this habit we have is actually a thing, or rather a Thing with a capital letter, and if so if it's an exclusive Thing -- you know what? This is bad timing, huh."

She nods, looking down at her hands.

"Yeah, I do that," he says, almost thoughtful.

"I hadn't thought it was exclusive," she says, "given that at the time we began I had a boyfriend."

"And then had sex with me when he -- I'm going to stop talking now."

"Miracles may happen," she murmurs.

"Nice," he says, but his heart's not in the sarcasm.

"Can we talk about it back at Atlantis?" she asks, and he nods. Bastion of self-control, Rodney McKay.

This is really unsettling, sitting on a dead person's sofa in a dead person's house. Atlantis, of course, it's all dead peoples' things, but it has the appeal of age, and the wound on this house is fresh.

"Are you at all as creeped out by -- "

"Yes," she says.

"Want me to stay?" he sounds nervous, as if this actually is a Thing, and not just a habit. "Or should I -- "

"No, stay. Rodney. Stay," she says, and kisses his lower lip, sucking gently. He makes a quiet hmmm noise. "But...I'd really like to sleep."

His hand on the back of her neck is affectionate and only slightly possessive. "Sleep it is."

He's warm, tucking her between himself and the back of the sofa that's really too small for him alone, let alone them together, but they find a balance and she curls into his chest, feeling like she used to when she read under the covers after bedtime -- something she could get in trouble for, but something also private and safe and right.

Later she manages to explain to him that she had never thought it was a Thing, though she uses better words than that because he might be a genius but sometimes he's completely sub-coherent. He looks relieved.

Apparently his date with Katie goes really, really badly.


And then Doctor Rodney McKay wipes out a solar system. Just like that.

He's the original mad scientist. The man homebrews his own sunblock, redesigns weapons of mass destruction for fun, runs an entire city using a computer system written in a different language, and can actually hit what he's shooting at, most of the time. He's spent years training to understand The Way The Universe Works, from wormhole physics to the reason a toaster toasts bread (and can connect the two in unsettling ways -- imagine the Stargate is the coil of a multidimensional non-Newtonian toaster...)

God fucking forbid he ever use his powers for evil.

Sometimes it feels like she's holding a leash on a very dangerous wild animal, or sometimes it's Sheppard holding the leash. Either way, both of them let it slip, and it mauled a solar system to death. Rodney can't hold his own leash, and neither of them realised that until today.

The door to his quarters opens for her -- very few doors in Atlantis won't open for Doctor Elizabeth Weir -- and in the dark room inside he's sitting on the bed, knees drawn up, elbows resting on them and wrists askew, head bowed, laptop at his feet, blue-lighting the black of his trousers.

"So, interesting day," she says, and he looks up. She can see what he's thinking -- resignation, another round of shouting that he knows he deserves. She steps inside, and the doors close behind her. He's quiet, waiting, and that's the scariest thing of all.

Because he didn't know they were holding the leash either, and now he thinks he has to do it all by himself.

She sits on the bed next to him, rests her cheek on his shoulder. On the laptop, the sensor footage is looped, playing again and again as the little dots representing planets wink out one by one.

"I wish we had MALP footage of it," he says quietly. "It'd make it a lot more real."

"I don't really think you want it to be any more real," she replies.

"I fucked it up badly today," he says. "Sheppard's nine kinds of angry with me. You're about twelve kinds, huh?"

"Just two," she replies. "One for being an arrogant asshole, and one for being too persuasive for your own good. But, hey. I knew about the arrogant asshole part a long time ago."

He nods, which is not the laugh she was hoping for. She draws her arm around his shoulders, tilts his head against hers.

"So why are you here?" he asks wearily.

"You're smart," she says, and then he does laugh, a single dry catch in his throat. "And if you weren't fast on your feet, we'd all be dead three or four times over. I don't want this to scare you, Rodney, not like that. I don't want it to make you...timid."

He nods against her hair, eyes still on the endless sensor loop. Planets; explosion; out they go, one by one.

"I want you to be brilliant and talking too fast for people to follow you and always willing to take the risks you need to take," she continues. "I don't want this to crush you. Shouting aside."

"You shout pretty well," he observes.

"You deserved it. But." She inhales. "Sheppard and I are supposed to be watching out for you, so you don't have to keep it in check yourself. You need to trust us to tell you when to stop. That's what I want you to take away from this. Not that you aren't a good person, not that you shouldn't use your brilliance. Just...that you should listen."

She closes the laptop, and the little universe in the computer, which is probably often more real than the actual universe to Rodney, winks out. His breathing slows fractionally and, when she doesn't say anything more, he finally starts to talk.

"When they built the atomic bomb, they did a lot of tests," he says, in a low and slow voice she's never heard from him before. "There are still arguments in ethics classes about whether or not just showing the New Mexico tests to the Japanese would have ended the war. I think they would have had to be there in person, myself. There's film footage of Oppenheimer talking about the first atomic blast he saw, you know. He's got these really deep black eyes, because it's old film so you can't see the colour of his eyes, they're just black."

"He quotes Hindu scripture," she says. "I've seen it."

"There's another thing he says," Rodney continues. "The physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose."

She slides her fingers through the soft hair around his temple, comforting. They stay like that for a long time.


When Sheppard starts going haywire, like Ford did, and then they have to hunt him, like they did Ford, and then he's put into a coma (unlike Ford, small favour) McKay holds it together surprisingly well. He doesn't haunt the infirmary where Sheppard is being un-bug-ified. He focuses on the job, he gets things done, and he's still so essentially McKay that nobody notices the added tension in his jaw, the higher, angrier pitch to his voice, and the way that he starts using sarcasm to defend himself instead of offend others.

Elizabeth notices.

In those weeks where Sheppard is confined to the infirmary, first unconscious and then conscious and then conscious and bored and annoying, she spends more of her nights in McKay's bed than her own. Even then he isn't frantic or demanding or miserable, not on the surface. Half the time they both sleep, exhaustedly, with not even the thought of sex, and she leaves early in the morning before Atlantis wakes.

"Do you miss him?" she asks quietly, one time.

"Of course," he slurs, half-asleep. Not who? or it's his own stupid fault or why do you ask? just, Of course.

She and Sheppard have always been a team when it comes to McKay. She wonders if he's told Sheppard about them. She wonders what Sheppard said in reply, if he did.


On their first mission out after Sheppard's approved for duty again, Rodney gets shot.

It's not like it's a big deal, it was inevitable, but it went pretty far into his shoulder and there's a lot of blood and he can't really talk because Beckett shoved an oxygen mask on him and a gurney under him the minute they came back through the gate. He tries anyway but his hands don't seem as coordinated and then someone's holding them down -- Elizabeth, leaning across his body in the Gateroom.

"You're going to be okay," she says, and he trusts her because now, barring her being an idiot (which happens with depressing regularity), when she says, he does.

So he closes his eyes and when he opens them again he's in medical, on the really good drugs.

It takes him a few minutes to surface, as much as he's going to surface on the really great drugs, and when he does he finds Zelenka sitting next to him and a neat row of pudding cups on a tray next to his bed. Zelenka immediately wins his Person I Dislike The Least award for the day.

"It is good to see you awake," Zelenka says solemnly, and offers him a spoon.

Rodney works his way through the pudding cups as Zelenka gives him a full report, a steady monologue: he was unconscious for nine hours, two of those in surgery. Colonel Sheppard has been talking darkly about firebombing in regards to the planet they were on, but it has mostly blown over now. The computers have been registering minute power spikes in unexplored areas of the city, and a team has been dispatched to investigate and report their findings to him. They have been warned not to touch anything. They are awaiting his return to begin activating a new set of sensors they've found in one of the maintenance subroutines. Rodney is gratified by this consideration for their fallen leader.

As he's finishing eating, Zelenka grins and nods at a corner of the room. "Soon you will simply be having the staff meetings here, I think. Is Doctor Weir, is Colonel Sheppard, is Doctor Beckett..."

Rodney follows his gaze.

Beckett isn't in evidence, but Weir is sitting on a chair set against a wall, her head tipped back, sleeping. Next to her, in a second chair, Sheppard is also asleep, his head tilted to rest on hers, and it makes Rodney's neck cramp just looking at them. Neither of them look particularly happy, faces worried even in sleep, and Sheppard has his legs tucked in under the seat, a sure sign of tension. Normally he sprawls as if that's what he was designed to do.

He glances back at Zelenka, who is looking a little impressed. Rodney wonders what conclusions he's drawing, then dismisses it.

"I have a very complicated life," he says to Zelenka, not so much explaining as summarising.

"So I see," Zelenka replies.

Link to Chapter Ia (Gratuitous Bondage Porn, hooray!)
Link to Chapter 2 (You won't miss anything if you skip)