The title took forever to come up with. We spent the better part of two hours quoting things back and forth at each other and pulling our hair. I was about to give up and either take one of the ideas that almost worked or just post it untitled with a field for suggestions.
Then wham. The word 'cleave' comes to me and I'm all a flutter because instantly it describes this fic with it's diametrically opposed meanings.
Rating: NC-17, ~15,000 words.
Author's notes: OMG z_rayne the evil bitch gave me a deadline. *collapses in fatigue* . Though I suppose since she was the beta, it's okay. Considering she mainlined this fic for SEVEN hours the night before she went to writercon? I'm okay with the deadline.
Also for those of you waiting one that live fic that I started posting here? This is it. Sorry for the delay, but as I started adding more I realized it would be done fairly quickly, so I just kept on chugging instead of posting directly.
The part where the author admits that she was Jossed: This was started before the premier, so just imagine them starting off from a similar precarious situation, only you know, ending on the Daedalus.
Okay, this is where I admit that I completely
Summary: v. cleft (kl ft )
1. To split with or as if with a sharp instrument. See Synonyms at tear.
2. To adhere, cling, or stick fast.
Rodney bit his lip and shrugged. "Welcome to my world Colonel. Want your EpiPen engraved?"
So I was all alone when I had to pick my summary and it was a big deal because there was flailing and nail biting and me not wanting to really give away the plot too much, but at the same time I wanted to give potential readers enough of a bite to really sink into. So I figured, hey, let's do both, that's a hint of a plotline AND a little intrigue.
Rodney wasn't sure how they hadn't figured it out before. Maybe it was the jackets or the rush or that Ronon had somehow become his personal bodyguard, step-stool and all-around underfoot grunt as soon as Sheppard had released them from their cocoons. Could that man do stoic guilt or what?
After they'd made it off the hive ship there had been the whole running for their lives thing, which wasn't to be mistaken for the running for their lives thing from seconds earlier. This time there were two pissed-off colonels and two kick-ass spaceships helping them along.
Did you see that? That was me getting Jossed not 12 hours after I wrote these lines. But that's okay, because Rodney getting trapped on a Wraith hive ship doesn't strike me as unusual anymore. Hey, it could totally happen more than once.
Post-almost-dying routine, and good God there was an actual routine, was busy and hectic and just as terrifying as the actual not dying.
Rodney is really starting to worry here, because his first impulse after a harrowing adventure should not be to check his email. The impulse of life affirming sex, or in his case, masturbation has been subverted by the fact that he kind of misses that cocoon a little because napping while standing up is totally a time saver. And then he starts to worry that somewhere someone is embroidering his initials on a funny white coat with lots of buckles.
They were, all three of them, sitting in the mess in the belly of the Daedalus, eating with varying degrees of intensity. Rodney is partaking of a delightful meatloaf and fresh coffee.
"You took the last cup," Sheppard sat down next to him, looking at his own mug of water mournfully.
"I got wrapped in Wraith cocoon; bite me." Rodney took another deep sip, enjoying the rich flavor happily.
I really like the idea of Rodney saying "bite me". I don't know why. But you can see my kink coming through because this is not the last time he says it in this fic.
"I saved your life!"
Rodney made a face. "Do you know where the cocoon stuff comes from?" He shuddered visibly just thinking about it.
And now I'm going back to the Spiderman place everyone was in when Spiderman I came out and they were bringing up little biological inaccuracies in canon that had been wandering around since before they were born.
Sheppard tilted his head thoughtfully, smiling to himself. "Shall I just pick an orifice at random?"
John has so obviously read all of those rants over on the antartic bbs.
Choking on his mouthful of food, Rodney turned and glared, only to see an arm snaking past his tray with a nearly full cup of coffee in its hand. "Hey!"
"Saved your life." Sheppard almost singsonged as he took a sip.
Sharing food and drink is actually really intimate. When you think about it you're sharing a bodily fluid in a decent quantity when you do it. I like the idea of John and Rodney drinking from the same cup. It also gives me a lovely place to have Rodney contaminate John in such a passing manner that I hopefully got it right under the reader's radar.
Also, John really likes that face Rodney makes when he does it. Not that John knows why he likes it or why he keeps doing it or why he doesn't think too hard about how he's proud about the fact that Rodney complains, but still lets him get away with it.
"I'm seriously trying to decide if my life is worth coffee." Rodney muttered, snagging the mug back and moving it to the other side of the table before changing his mind and putting it between himself and the tray, huddling over it protectively.
On a regular day, Rodney would admit that he would miss coffee terribly and that something pretty cool would have to replace it to make his life worth living. But considering he just got covering in wraith jizz, he's feeling a little down.
"You know, with thanks I get I should really consider--"
I really like having them cut off each other's dialogue. I don't know why, maybe because I am a total inconsiderate buffoon and do this all the time or I feel this is how these characters do actually talk on screen.
"Oh please." Rodney waved him off, huddling even closer to his coffee. "This is the nectar of the gods we--" He stopped because Sheppard had suddenly gone ten shades of white and was slowly sliding off his chair. "Sheppard?"
"Rodney," he wheezed, chest rising and falling fast, eyes wide and frightened.
"What?" Rodney demanded, already sliding to the floor, letting Ronon take care of calling for a medical team. "What's wrong?"
"Can't...breathe...." Each word was separated by a long and painful sounding breath.
Rodney knew, he could see it in the reactions, the slight puffiness around the neck and lips, the sweating and shaking. He hadn't rekitted when he'd gotten on board. Damn it. The pulse under his fingertips felt fast and thready and the ship's doctor got there just as Sheppard slid out of consciousness, and Rodney stumbled backwards, landing awkwardly on his hands and ass while he watched them do their work.
I ah, was going for subtle. Mostly because I don't like to tell you things. I don't the internal monologues to sound like textbooks or information glut. Also I wanted Rodney to feel a little terrified because he recognizes it pretty instantly.
The hives were sticking around; Rodney could see them from across the room, swollen red dots all over Sheppard's neck and face. Dr. Gordon had said they'd even appeared inside his mouth and throat.
I once got hives because of stress. Or rather, we don't actually know why, but I was on a school trip on another continent with classmates up until then I had only mildly disliked but now hated with an active passion, I was pretty sure that was it. Plus they itched like a mother fucker and they were all over my face. So possibly this is some sort of internalized bubble wrap thing where I take pretty people and I put icky bumps on their faces. What? It's art we're supposed to invest in it or something, right?"
When he was a child, Rodney had gotten an especially bad case of chicken pox, the itchy patches extending inside his body in ways his ten-year-old brain had never imagined. It had been horrible and painful and pretty much the definition of misery for most of his life, only being replaced by one or two incidents involving a lemon.
The chicken pox thing? That's me too. Um. Yeah. Ow. Did you know they could show up anywhere outside or INSIDE the body. In like… orifices and stuff? Yeah. I tell you just so you know that there's like… realism in this.
Also possibly I imagined young!Rodney with the worst case of chicken pox ever all miserable and sad wrapped up in his blanket with his super soft mittens and thermos of chicken soup. And then I went to adult!Rodney in the same position, but with John making the soup.
So yeah… What was the point I was making again?
"Severe allergic reaction," Gordon had told him. "We'll monitor him, treat his symptoms and keep him comfortable. He should be fine in a day or two."
Meanwhile Rodney was alternating between watching Sheppard sleep and watching Dr. Gordon and his staff prepare a scratch test based on everything Sheppard had come in contact with in the thirty minutes before his reaction.
Watching Sheppard sleep. Heh. So yeah, he doesn't wax poetic or anything, but he totally loses time while doing it.
"Only thirty minutes?" Rodney pressed, eyes stuck on a particularly nasty hive just under Sheppard's eye.
"You wouldn't believe the number of items we need to test already, Dr. McKay," he assured calmly. "If we don't find anything, we'll go back further. All of your food has been packaged and sealed for testing too."
"Fine," Rodney muttered and went back to sitting in his uncomfortable chair and poking listlessly at his laptop.
And watching Sheppard sleep.
"Relax, Rodney," Sheppard slurred at him.
Slurring John is hot.
"Why are you talking?" Rodney didn't look up from his very important graph. "There are tiny little bumps inside your throat; some people might take that as a signal to not talk."
"Some people are just sheep," Sheppard whispered and then coughed dramatically.
"For God's sake," Rodney muttered and put down his laptop. "Here," he said and grabbed a plastic cup and poured some water from a nearby pitcher. "Try not to choke on your own saliva."
This is me being all subtle again. Rodney and John are doing something incredibly subtle and hopefully something innocuous a motion that was meant to convey concern so none of you quite caught on yet that it's Rodney doing the sick making.
"Thanks," Sheppard said gratefully, clumsily taking the cup from his hand, scraping against Rodney's fingers before finally closing securely around the plastic.
"This is what you get for stealing an innocent person's coffee," Rodney said, watching Sheppard sip his water, blissful face deepening with each drop.
In a small place deep inside his mind, he really does believe that.
"Sharing is caring Rodney." Sheppard took another sip.
John says that mostly because the only way I can imagine that phrase not grating so hard I start to bleed somewhere is if someone like him says it. And I concentrate on the pretty.
"You really are twelve."
"Maybe." He carefully put the cup down on the nearby table, eyes still closed. "Any idea what happened?"
John doesn't deny it because on weekends he likes to go the beach and builds sand castle. Maybe he'll bring Rodney later on and they'll build the Versailles of sand castles and then sit behind it and watch the sun set holding hands and somehow it will not make us all gag on the sap.
Rodney bit his lip and shrugged. "Welcome to my world Colonel. Want your EpiPen engraved?"
In some AU somewhere, this happened to Rodney, and it was diamond encrusted and resembled a tampon. He was scarred for life.
"Does it come in gold?" Sheppard coughed and frowned.
SEE! THE UNIVERSES ARE BLEEDING INTO EACH OTHER!
"More water?" Rodney reached for the cup.
Sheppard shook his head. "No, Rodney." He coughed again. "Get the doctor...." This time it ended in a wheeze. His color was changing the definition near his chin was starting to soften.
Oh shit, a secondary reaction.
"Gordon! He's having another reaction!"
They swarmed, like a group of white-coated freaky insects, gathered around Sheppard's bed, buzzing and clicking in a cacophony of sounds that meshed together before they even hit Rodney's ears. All he could do was watch and wait and stare pointlessly at the thin line on the heart monitor, as Sheppard's body fought to keep going.
This is how Rodney would have liked his parents to behave. Or his girl friend. Or someone, but I sense no one really did. I think possibly if he really is allergic ******and I'd like him to be a little) he's had a long time to deal with it and mostly on his own. It really would explain his initial really loud mutterings about it. Though having had several meals with someone who really does have a deathly food allergy, Rodney's antics in public are about right.
"He had a multiphasic reaction, that is--"
I actually looked that up. Or had someone else look it up. But still! There was effort!
"Yes, I know what that is," Rodney interrupted. "Are you sure that's what it was?"
"Dr. McKay," Caldwell said. He was now in on it too, since it was sort of his business to know what was going on with the incapacitation of the second-highest-ranking officer. "While the depth and breadth of your knowledge is astonishing and awe-inspiring, perhaps you could give the rest of us a little time to catch up?" He nodded to the doctor to continue speaking.
I think Caldwell and Rodney totally understand each other and maybe Caldwell is glad that he can actually say what he means to someone and know they won't take is anything other than what he's saying.
"Basically, his body wasn't done having an allergic reaction," Gordon finished, throwing Rodney a sour look.
Uh, just in case some of you didn't quite know what polyphasic was. Was that unsubtle?"
"You're assuming it was a reaction to the original cause." Rodney looked sour right back. "Which you can't know because you haven't figured out what caused it yet!" He waved a finger in triumph.
I love Rodney's brain. I do. I sincerely believe that he just thinks so much faster than everyone else that it's frustrating for him at times. Also once when he was younger he had a secondary reaction that was from a new source. So there.
Caldwell nodded slowly. "He does have a point."
Rodney crossed his arm and smiled grimly. Yes, he did have a point. He always had a point.
Even if it was to tell everyone how this soup was too salty and that he had very sensitive arteries.
"I can't very well test him in his condition," Gordon said, hugging his clipboard close to his chest. "We'll note everything that goes near him, but if Dr. McKay is right, other than clothing and soap and detergents the only thing that is truly consistent is water." He looked thoughtful. "Or possibly air, but I doubt that one based on the pattern of reactions."
Rodney snorted, yeah right, water. Then he froze in slowly dawning horror. Water. Was that possible? He checked his watch, three hours until they were in range of Atlantis and he could talk to a real voodoo practitioner and not just a charlatan like this Gordon guy.
Right here Rodney is afraid that John will never drink coffee again. He would be sad for him and in his honor drink John's share too. Of course this is before Rodney realized that he really wants to suck John's dick. So the plan of honor and sacrifice will have to be revised later.
"So I've been thinking about how cool it would be to live life in a bubble." Sheppard looked only slightly better than last time; that might have something to do with the super-clean room and the new rules being enforced. "I mean, I could probably get people to do stuff for me."
John watched that movie and cried. He broke his VHS copy and was frantically searching for a DVD version before he left the galaxy.
"Bring you food," Ronon offered from his corner.
This, ladies and gents is Ronon's paradise. Though occasionally he'd go out and hunt something, because there's nothing more relaxing than hunting your prey though miles of woods and stinky entrails.
Rodney tried not to look at him. He kept reminding him of a big, walking condom, which was not something he really needed to think about.
First, honestly? This is foreshadowing. See how super slick author like I am? No it really is. Of course to truly understand why this is foreshadowing, you'd have to know how the original notouch!sex scene was supposed to go. But still. I maintain its literary status as foreshadowing.
Also, Ronon sized condom. *snicker*
"Yeah!" Sheppard said brightly. "Though with my luck I'm probably allergic to salt."
Rodney made a face, "That would actually really suck, but I think it's highly unlikely." He shifted around in his seat again. The damn suits they had to wear were uncomfortable and creaky.
"Yeah, but it'd be better than water." Sheppard pouted, his lower lip jutting out slightly, shining in the overhead light.
"Probably not," Rodney muttered and the turned to Ronon. "I can't believe you slept through all of that."
He shrugged. "I was tired."
Uh this is where I admit I was really tired and mainlining tea, obviously not enough tea because I'd forgotten that Ronon was supposed to be there too and he'd totally be all growly and impatient in the back of the infirmary too. So I had him napping. What? He had a long day!
Of course he was.
The silence descended on them awkwardly and there was no possibility of a casual hello from someone in the background, not with the twenty-minute public shower and stripping that was needed to get into the room.
So the loud hissing sound of an airlock opening and closing came as a relief to Rodney, who was just about to go insane from staring the small patches of flaky skin all over Sheppard's face, a slowly fading remnant of the hives.
It was Dr. Gordon. "And how are you feeling?"
"Well enough for a laptop?" Sheppard looked hopeful.
A black rectangle appeared on Sheppard's lap. "Dusted and vacuumed to within an inch of its life." Gordon nodded. "You've pretty much been cleared for basic plastics and polymers, in a few hours we'll have the results of about 30 different substances to see if we can narrow it down further and possibly provide you with some food that you can eat with a fork."
Sheppard totally hoped to find a secret stash of porn. Instead all he found was Halo. He wasn't too disappointed.
"Carson! Thank God, I was starting to fear for my own life with this guy in charge of the medical care!" Rodney wanted to hug him he was so happy to see him.
Sheppard had been transported directly from his clean room on the ship to a newly prepped room on Atlantis; however, Carson had taken a detour to grab Sheppard's medical files personally.
I probably should have added that Carson made sure he was fine and not suddenly exposed to the mysterious allergen again and that he just wanted to talk to the doctor in person because there are just some things you don't get with the medical files. Oh well.
Oddly, the whole Carson is just a bad procedural doctor thing doesn't really throw anyone too far out of the story. Hmm.
"Now Rodney, I'm sure Dr. Gordon has done everything he can with the limited resources on the Daedalus," Carson said absently.
Ha! Proffessional jealousy! *koff*
Rodney's eyes narrowed and he clicked his heels together in frustration. "You people and your non-specific answers." He knew when he was being placated. He poked Carson in the chest. "I don't know what I was thinking when the idea that you might be able to help sprang to mind."
"Rodney." Carson's eyes narrowed. "Let's not insult the man who does your annual physicals."
I love the whole threatening with large needles and unlubed prostate exams, but its been done enough that I sort of just… alluded to it.
"I want a new doctor!" Rodney shot over his shoulder, already walking out of the room.
Walking down the corridors, Rodney could recognize that he was worried. Okay, possibly more than worried. Sheppard had perked back up just twenty-four hours after his last reaction, looking downright bored by the time they'd made it to Atlantis, but Rodney didn't like that they hadn't been able to find anything the man was allergic to. Not even fungus. Who wasn't allergic to fungus? The freak.
John is really one of those freakishly healthy people that annoys other people who have things like seasonal colds and hay fever. He's got no mold allergies which is secretly why his live in girlfriend dumped him in his late 20s, because she couldn't use the bathroom anymore.
In the distance he heard the thundering of footsteps; automatically Rodney moved to the side of the corridor, not really wanting to be run over. The Marines had a habit of resembling a Mack truck, all lumped together when they ran. They also had a habit of running right over you if you weren't paying attention.
Turning the corner, however, Rodney saw that it was not a group of marines getting their exercise on, but a medical team racing through the city, gurney in hand.
Rodney blinked. While medical emergencies weren't exactly unknown on Atlantis, it was still a little unusual.
"Where are you headed?" He shouted to the group, already feet past him.
Huh, where the Daedalus had landed for repairs. Maybe someone had gotten a crate dropped on them or something.
Then a horrible, horrible thought occurred to him.
Mmm. See Rodney's brain? See how it jumps? Yes, this is where it spits up this wacky, wacky conclusion that he totally does not believe only it's Atlantis and a few days earlier he was covered in Wraith jizz and before that he broke another law of physics while solving a math problem. So he's learned to embrace the wacky even when he wants to dismiss it outright.
He ran all the way back, making it just in time to see them strap the oxygen mask over Carson's face. He was conscious at least, and that was some comfort. Rodney leaned against a wall and closed his eyes. Okay, maybe he was being paranoid, overreacting, or possibly guessing past his own knowledge. It could happen. Possibly.
The only time Rodney will really consider that he doesn't know something is if it has to do with medicine or if he really wants to be wrong. Lucky him, this counts for both.
When Rodney made it to the infirmary, Carson was still conscious and fighting with Dr. Gordon. "Look, monitor my vitals if you want, but let me work. It's not nearly as bad as Colonel Sheppard's reaction."
"Yes." Gordon nodded, still holding Carson down with a single hand to his shoulder. "But that doesn't mean diddly when we don't know what caused it."
"I may have an answer to that," Rodney spoke up, wringing his hands. "I'm fully prepared to be wrong on this one."
That sentence right there should trigger alarms somewhere. Rodney McKay is prepared to be wrong. Seriously, there's a car alarm in Cleveland going off and it should really be that loud ass claxon in the gateroom.
Carson looked at Rodney, eyebrow raised. "Are you now? Okay then, what's your sound medical opinion?" He coughed a little and swallowed two pills that Gordon handed him before taking a few more deep breaths from the mask in front of him.
And Carson KNOWS it. Also, he knows that Rodney doesn't like to read the bio books because he breaks out in hives and Carson is not above rubbing in the idea that there are things he knows more than Rodney about from time to time.
"Uh...I think...that is...it might be...." Rodney grimaced. "Me."
"You?" Gordon went for disbelief.
Carson on the other hand, obviously more used to the really fucking unusual, just tilted his head curiously. "Hmm. Okay then, come here and shake my hand."
Everyone say it with me, 'Carson, did you fail ethics?'
Only he does sort of fall into the Dr. McCoy school of thought a little, because he totally would try something on himself before others if he needed it too.
"What?" Rodney backed away from Carson, because the man had obviously gone certifiable while he was gone. "No thank you, Doctor Insane Person."
Rodney has this terrific way of insulting people, that is giving them clunky, only smooth coming out of his mouth names. It's awesome.
Gordon renewed his effort to keep Carson on the gurney.
Carson pushed at the hand on his chest. "Look, if Rodney's right, then this was caused by very little contact, through clothing even. Let's repeat the conditions and see what happens. I can handle a little respiratory distress for a couple of hours."
In emo!world, this is Carson punishing himself for all the crap he's fucked up. *looks shifty*
"He's obviously lost it," Rodney said, still backing up.
Rodney does a lot of this. If I were mean, there'd be this scene where he trips over a box and falls on his ass.
Gordon shrugged, looking mildly defeated and still very close to just sedating Carson outright. "It'll be quicker than a blood test."
See, Gordon is new, but not that new. He knows insanity when he sees and has learned to just go with it and blame the insane people later. Possibly several days stuck caring for Sheppard and the company of his trusty sidekicks helped hone this instinct to a fine point.
Also I firmly believe Janet left behind a tack vest full of advice ala the sort the president's press secretary gets handed when they take the job.
"Oh that's it! You've all snapped!"
I have this thing. This thing where I like to take actual dialogue from the show and pretend I thought it up. But to my credit I use them differently. Mostly.
"Rodney! Just touch my bloody leg!"
Uh yeah, mostly I really wanted him to say that. *sniggers like a five year old*. It's also my heavy hand at subtext. I'll point it out again later.
"That is the worst come-on line I've ever heard," Rodney said, slowly inching forward. The closer he got, the surer he was that the Wraith had honed their sense of irony to a razor-sharp point. "Are you sure?"
Actually it's not. Back when he was playing the piano at crappy bars for extra cash and yes he totally did it and it totally made him cry into his pillow at night because it was like reliving that childhood trauma every single time, but also because he was stuck doing it in crappy clubs among the plebes who couldn't possibly get the subtly of the music. But he's not going to quit, do you know how much those types of piano players get paid? Anyway, back to the come on line, it was actually some drunk government lawyer in a bowtie who'd just gotten a drink thrown on him earlier in the evening and had spent the rest of the time slowly getting drunk until finally he asked Rodney if he'd ever lived out that scene in Pretty Woman. Needless to say, Rodney now has.
"Yes, Rodney." Carson rolled his eyes. "Grope me like fifteen-year-old on his first date."
"I'll have you know--"
Rodney was totally smooth when he as fifteen years old on his first date. Sadly it has jinxed him for life because every time he goes out on a date he thinks of Martha Jenkins and how awesome he was and his palms automatically start to sweat.
"Fine! God, I know some find me irresistible but you could have just sent flowers!" He reached out to touch, just under Carson's knee. It was awkward; who touches another person's leg with ten other people watching? Twelve if you included those nurses in the far corner.
"Carson?" Thirteen. Elizabeth appeared, looking worried. "What happened."
This is Rodney's secret nightmare, it's pretty much like having your mom walking in on you masturbating, only instead it's his boss walking in on him groping his doctor's leg. Trust me, it's just as traumatizing.
"We're working on that right now. You can let go, Rodney."
He snatched his hand back and stuffed them both in his pockets, trying to become as small as possible. If he was correct, he didn't want to take any chances, so he backed up into a corner.
"We are?" Elizabeth raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Yes." Carson nodded, reaching for his mask again. "I think we just figured it out...." He wheezed horribly. "Might want to get some adrenaline." He whispered to Gordon.
"You're a very stupid doctor!" Rodney yelled from his corner.
See? This is Rodney flummoxed. Watch as his insults go down hill. Only somehow, calling a doctor stupid for experimenting on his own body seems to strike a chord, because he's right. It is stupid. We all know that Rodney's allergic to stupid.
Rodney finished taping the edges of his gloves down and sighed. He rolled his sleeves over the tape and flexed his fingers. This was going to suck, but at least he wouldn't have to worry about his hands so much.
Also, Carson was seriously the worst doctor ever. "Extra genes?"
If Carson were part of Rodney's department, he would so be stuck at the white board writing "I will follow all FDA procedures" one BILLION times. Probably followed by the Hippocratic oath.
"Yes. When creating the gene therapy, I had to choose very specific bits of information to copy. I was pressed for time, among other things, and I didn't have the time to fully explore every nook and cranny of ATA expression."
To be fair I can see Elizabeth pressuring Carson about this without really taking the time to fully think out the ramifications, or to ask Carson… or to care.
…so maybe I have some issues I need to work out. I haven't killed her in a story, have I?
"Great," Rodney said, "now what?"
"Now I explore." Carson was already back on his feet; John too, only he was staying on the other side of the room. "And you be careful. I don't know how long this will take."
"Great." Rodney sighed. "Call me if you need another gallon of blood." He left, head down and hands in his pockets.
Rodney hates this, hates that he has utterly and absolutely no control over this. Because he's the problem solver, we've seen it time and time again, he likes to solve his own problems, it makes him feel in control. This is another reason I think he probably dealt with a lot of health problems on his own.
First order of business was to reassign every member of the science lab who had a natural expression of the gene. There was another lab open down the corridor that would work out nicely.
Mmm. Slice of life/how they do shit. I live for this stuff. To this day this would be the reason I reread my Valdemar books.
The next step was to put a box of gloves and a several rolls of tape anywhere he spent any amount of time. It wasn't worth wearing them all the time, because he could still accidentally set someone off, but they would be good to have around.
Third was to find Colonel Sheppard. He took his time about that one, not really looking forward to the conversation.
"So, I guess I quit the team," Rodney blurted when he did find Sheppard leaning heavily on a railing on one of the balconies.
"Temporary displacement." Sheppard smiled. "Carson will figure it out."
Really, he knows better. He knows that it's temporary. He just wants to hear it.
"Sure." Rodney moved as far away from Sheppard as the small balcony would allow. "Of course he will."
That is shades of GUP for me. There's a whole intellect vs instinct thing going on. Isn't it hot? Seriously, can't you hear the little voice wobble?
It was awkward and it made Rodney's stomach unhappy. A tension was palpable in the air, and something strange was creeping just under Rodney's skin. "So I guess...I'll see you around...."
"Yeah," Sheppard breathed, "I'll see you."
Sheppard's clue starts here. Barely. But that's a promise, it's part of the whole 'you're not off the team permanently' and the seed of something more. Sheppard doesn't abandon people and he'd see not making an effort as abandoning Rodney.
Rodney left because he couldn't stay, even if he wasn't sure why.
Rodney spends an awful lot of time doing things and not knowing why and he spends the rest of the time absolutely hating it.
They didn't see each other, though, and it wasn't really unexpected. Senior staff meetings, of course, where Sheppard and Carson sat on the extreme other end of the table and waited for Rodney to leave first instead of attempting to walk past him. In the mess, where Rodney had become a sort of pariah, as too many of the tables had mixed groups; they'd gotten nearly two dozen natural carriers, and as much as Rodney wanted to complain, it was easier to relocate one man than twenty-four.
Lonely!Rodney. I'm sorry, maybe I’m projecting, but man I love this stuff because later he gets cuddles.
Finally, they saw each other in the corridors, where Sheppard would nod and Rodney would stuff his hands in his pockets and his chest would squeeze tightly.
Around day four, he admitted he was lonely.
See, not totally unaware. Notice how he admits he's lonely after he sees Sheppard?
Carson and Sheppard were out of the question and Zelenka had suddenly become very busy as the new go-between Rodney and the natural carriers in the city. Also as the new guy in Sheppard's team, and didn't that grate just a little bit.
Rodney wasn't one to sulk, but if he had been, he figured he'd never have a better reason.
Oh Rodney, you totally sulk. And then you decompile zork just for fun.
The surprise came later that night when Sheppard arrived with gloves, two masks, and a chess set.
Does anyone else think that Sheppard totally kicks ass in chess? Is anyone else noticing the Kirk/Spock strategy pattern in fanfic? Yeah. Thought so.
"Are you nuts?" Rodney asked, stepping back from the doorway hastily.
Rodney routinely thinks everyone is insane. It's like a stop valve. By questioning their sanity he avoids thinking about his own and that really large popsicle sculpture he keeps planning.
"Nah, just figured you might want some company. Here, catch." He threw the mask at Rodney. "Chess?"
"What is this?"
"It's a mask; it goes over your mouth." Sheppard mimed putting it on. "Come on, put it on."
"This is stupid," Rodney protested, putting it on and grabbing his own pair of gloves as well. They wouldn't help too much if he and Sheppard weren't careful, but they made Rodney feel better nonetheless.
Sheppard set the board up and then nabbed two pawns and hid them behind his back. "Left or right?" He looked ridiculous, all zipped up and hidden in his coat, mask covering his mouth, eyes blinking expectantly.
Actually I think he looks adorable, if I could there would have been parkas and scarves and small tufts of black hair peaking out. Ahem.
"No seriously, are you insane?" Rodney sat down.
Rodney has an entire city of popsicle sticks planned and there's a rec center and a bowling alley and a… *glazes*
Rather Rodney can't really believe that someone is risking their life because he might be bored. Then again, when my dad is bored he makes up Urban Legends and posts them to strategic usenet boards. Anyone hear about the one with the cat pee and the tire planters? Yep, that's my dad. Smart people should never, ever be bored.
God's honest truth.
"Fine, I'll be white," Sheppard said, starting to move his arms.
"Put those hands back!" Rodney narrowed his eyes. "Fine. Left."
"Cool," Sheppard smiled. He got to be white anyway.
Sheppard had a really short battle with his consceince about switching the pieces really fast, he was only into the pros list when Rodney chose the wrong hand. He'll always wonder what he would have done.
"Carson any closer to figuring out what happened?" Sheppard moved his knight.
"The Wraith," Rodney said, studying the board. "He thinks I'm patient zero, so to speak. A test case." He frowned. "Don't you read the memos? Or stay awake during the senior staff meetings?"
"Huh." Sheppard nodded. "Maybe and yes. I meant in more detail, Rodney."
"Who ever understands what that man is talking about?" Rodney shrugged and moved a pawn.
"Got a mission tomorrow," John said, not looking up from the board. The fake nonchalance was a little annoying.
"Yeah, good luck with that."
If I were crueler, this would have meant that Sheppard's day started with a splinter and just went on from there. Later he'd end up married to the chief's goat and there'd be accusing looks from the women when he tried to leave it behind. So they take the goat with them and Elizabeth tries to stay dignified but Sheppard totally hears her shriek of laughter after he leaves the briefing room. The goat would get shipped to the mainland and then one day he'd be over there for some lunch or something and have the best sandwich ever… but feel oddly sad.
"So then the priestess offered us the equivalent of several hundred pounds of that potato-like thing in exchange for Zelenka." Sheppard laughed and moved a piece on the board.
I couldn't help it, he's just so small and tradeable. Like a grumpy Czech beanie baby. Collect them all!
"Why didn't you take it?" Rodney frowned. Damn it, Sheppard might be beating him. Again.
"I don't trade personnel for anything less than ancient tech or an entire ton of cargo," Sheppard said mildly.
"Hrmm, good priorities." Rodney smiled, reaching out carelessly, pulling back barely in time. "Sorry," he mumbled. The impulse beat restlessly under his skin.
Rodney would gladly trade some of his department for good food or pretty electronics. Especially if the anthropology department falls under his auspices.
Sheppard didn't say anything and Rodney, frantic, moved the first piece he could think of and then winced because it gave Sheppard check in twelve moves. Crap. Long, gloved fingers carefully moved a pawn. Rodney blinked. If hadn't know better, he could have sworn Sheppard had deliberately sabotaged his own game.
"Your move, Rodney," Sheppard said, leaning back in his chair.
This phrase becomes important later. It gets all deep and meaningful. And one again, I suck at the subtle.
Okay, then. Sure. He studied the board, narrowed his eyes and made a move that made him cringe. Sheppard smiled at him and bent forward with renewed enthusiasm.
It was the worst game of chess Rodney had ever played, and he wouldn't have traded it for anything in the universe.
I totally like the idea that they deliberately play the worst game of chess ever. It's the equivalent of flirting and declaring each other BFF.
Later there will be an argument.
Rodney: I totally sucked more than you did.
John: In your dreams.
It took a few days, but Rodney noticed that Teyla and Ronon had started hovering more than usual. At first it made a little bit of sense; Ronon took over firearms practice and Teyla made sure he got a little bit of exercise everyday.
Uh yeah. I totally didn't forget that there are other characters in this show until these lines. Not at all.
He got suspicious, though, when they both tried to make plans with him within hours of each other.
"I'm trying to figure out if you're an incredibly clever evil mastermind, or an incredibly bad one," Rodney said conversationally that evening during their chess game. The entire team had been off-world for two days, only getting in late the previous evening, so Rodney was practically starving for the company.
My vote is for bad. With a side of dork.
"What are you talking about, Rodney?" Sheppard bit his lip and carefully moved his queen.
Speaking of forgetting things… I kept blanking completely on the names of any of the chest pieces beyond pawn, knight, king and queen. No I could not have looked it up, it would have disturbed my groove. Yes really.
"Like you aren't in charge of the Rodney McKay Friends Network." Rodney frowned. Damn. He might lose.
Someone please tell me you got this really wrong imagine of John in a gold lame turban, heavy beaded knecklaces, fake nails and a… okaaay then. Maybe it was just me.
"Maybe." Sheppard shrugged.
"Maybe what?" Ah ha, there. He moved a piece.
"Maybe I worry," Sheppard said quietly.
Somewhere before now Sheppard has sat alone in his room and tried to figure out why he's doing all of this. He's sat alone in his bedroom ******NOT PAINTING HIS NAILS BLACK DAMNIT) and realized he was thinking an awful lot about Rodney and trying to understand why.
Also, John is totally a worrier from way back. His mom used to worry about him crossing the street… when he was TWENTY FIVE
Well, that truly shot his concentration. The bastard.
Oddly enough, Rodney hadn't figured on needing to be rescued while confined to Atlantis. Which was stupid, but he'd spent the last few weeks worried that Sheppard. Teyla, Ronon, and Zelenka would come through the gate in various states of bad health that it simply hadn't occurred to him that he might have the same problems, only without the off-world activity.
Also, whoever's project exploded was so fired.
Rodney is mentally composing a letter to someone's mother right here. "Dear ma'am, please keep your son/daughter away from anything that I might ever touch again for the urge to do something permanent like hack their bank accounts and make them a penniless idiot would suddenly surge and I'm sure you're a lovely woman and all the idiocy stems from the father's side and I wouldn't want you to suffer through something like that.
Because Rodney wants to be a mama's boy so bad.
Actually I think Hot Zone was just a small example of all the shit they can get into right there at home. Atlantis is far from safe. It's a 10,000 year old advanced city. Dude, NYC is like a gnat compared to that and I wouldn't want to come back to it TWENTY years post abandonment.
Something was pinning his leg down, but he could still move his toes so he was only mildly panicking. He pulled, dragging his body across the floor, his leg slowly coming free. Long sweaty minutes later, he lay panting on the floor, staring at the ceiling.
I wanted to do this whole thing with a fulcrum, but I wussed out, I wasn't sure I really needed four paragraphs of Rodney looked for the right lever.
"Rodney, this is Sheppard, do you read?"
The voice sounded far away, and that was when he realized the blast had knocked his radio out of his ear. He reached for it and put it back on. "Rodney here. What the hell happened?"
Oh Rodney has it almost all figured out, but he does recognize that other people might have access to more information than him. Especially when he's stuck in a room that just exploded.
"Are you okay? We're working our way in, but a lot of tunnels are blocked without power." Sheppard sounded out of breath.
Sheppard is running. Hard. Yes because he knows what Rodney doesn't, that there's something waiting to explode, but that's not the reason he's got that pain in his side from running so fast.
"Something landed on my leg, but I'm free." He touched his temple. "And oh wow, blood. That would explain the headache."
There's something so utterly tragic in giving Rodney head wounds. Just… precious resource being maimed!
"We'll be there in ten. If you can, clear any debris by the door. Sheppard out."
With that, the radio channel was closed. Rodney spent his time moving away from the door and trying not to throw up. When the door did open, it startled him enough to make him jump and his head spin. "God what took so--"
It was Sheppard standing there, gloved and masked.
Okay so Rodney was being a little slow there, come on, he's got a head wound!
"Are you insane?" Rodney backed away.
"Come on, Rodney. They're on their way, but Zelenka is fixing the power and there was only one viable route, and guess who was near the starting point."
Yeah, sure, for loose definitions of near.
"No, we can wait, really." Rodney curled up on his side and realized his ribs ached a little to.
"It might take a while and I'd really rather get you out of this room and into the hallway where there's less of a chance of things falling on you. Why were you working all the way over here anyway?"
Because it was easier than avoiding people. "Fine. But no touching."
This is me being all subtle again. I didn't want to actually hit you guys over the head with the concept that Rodney was lonely. He works on the side projects or the things that can be done alone and that wouldn't require him taking up valuable lab space because someone with the gene could be working there too. He hates waste. Especially wastes of time and energy and work space.
Rodney is the original anal retentive in this area and I bet there's a white board somewhere with all sorts of scheduling and room information because his department will NOT WASTE RESOURCES DAMNIT! Of everyone, Rodney is fully aware that they are indeed, finite on resources, including people.
Also, he hates being whispered about and people? Are not as subtle as they think they are, especially around people who can look at 2+4+x+y= 56.2 and know what x and y are based on who wrote the equation. That's what Rodney does, his brain gets that conclusion because he takes in all that information and processes it ridiculously fast. He's good at making suppositions based on possibilities. So yeah, he'd totally pick up on people talking about him. And he would hate it.
At least, if it wasn't about his latest nobel prize.
"Rodney, I've got some antihistamines and an EpiPen in my jacket. Take my hand and let's get you out of here."
Now later I let Sheppard imply that he's only been carrying it since they had the Rocky Horror like finger sex, but he's already been taking smaller precautions, especially after that weird dream where he woke up feeling funny and only remembered shaking hands with Rodney. I'm not saying he understood his own motivations yet, but he's the head military dude and Rodney is the head scientist dude and it's NOT unreasonable to think they might still have to interact fairly regularly. This is me going 'Sheppard can strategize with the best of them, really.'
Rodney eyed Sheppard's hand and took it warily only to be hauled up onto his feet unexpectedly. "Whoa, wait!" He listed to the left only to find Sheppard bracing him. "Come on."
They made it out of the room, only when Rodney tried to pull away, Sheppard just held on tight and kept moving. "What the--"
"Keep walking, Rodney," Sheppard said grimly.
This is sort of where Rodney should notice something is up, but come on head wound! He's totally making his will out in his head. John gets his snappy t-shirt collection.
There was an arm around his waist, supporting him when his leg couldn't, and Rodney was too dizzy to hold himself away from Sheppard's body for any length of time. "But--you--"
"Keep walking." Rodney couldn't decide if the slight rasp had always been there when talking through the masks, or if Sheppard was starting to have a reaction.
That's when the world exploded again and Rodney found himself on the ground, Sheppard piled on top of him. "What the hell just happened?"
Mm Touchies. Here is a list of things Rodney McKay has learned to appreciate since coming to Atlantis:
1. Guns. Like in a functional sense, not in a 'these are really cool mechanically' sense.
2. Toilet paper.
3. Concussive blasts that plaster you against another warm body.
I tried to sort of highlight actual touching, because it's not something you actually think about and even people who aren't touchers would have a hard time adjusting to not touching anyone at all.
"Secondary power coupling in the area was building up a charge," Sheppard told him, climbing off.
"And you couldn't tell me this before?" Rodney pushed off his stomach, happy to give his ribs a break.
No Rodney, because then you would have gone off on a tangent about imminent doom and you're pretty little brain would have been smooshed to bits right when you got to the really good part about car insurance.
"It seemed easier to tell you after." Sheppard leaned against his own wall and popped two pills under his mask, carefully not touching them with his gloved hands.
Worried, Rodney watched him swallow. "You okay?"
"Precaution only," Sheppard said before tapping his radio. "We're fine, just waiting for the cavalry."
"How are you fine?" Rodney asked. They'd been all over each other, more so than when he'd gotten Carson sick.
"Now who doesn't read the memos and pay attention?" Sheppard smiled. "Carson slipped you a little something this morning."
Rodney blinked and thought back. Oh, so that had been why he'd shown up in the room. "I'm a little put out that they didn't tell me."
"They did," Sheppard said, moving his legs until they were stretched out straight in front of him. "You were just ignoring them, which is a little strange for you."
Rodney has stopped listening to 95% of all medical information. Partially because he thinks they're often wrong, especially in regards to himself and partially because OMG THE THINGS THEY ARE DOING THERE IS AN ANCIENT GREEK SOMEWHERE ROLLING IN HIS GRAVE.
I have this personal theory that when Carson's wraith retrovirus thing was introduced he was appalled and went off on medical ethics and the possible consequences (because Rodney is Mr. Worst Case Scenario) only because it was Rodney they sort of let it fuzz over their heads. Either that or he was sleeping in that morning. I mean come on, who really thinks Rodney would have that all that was a good idea?
Rodney was not going to admit to a bout of melancholy that had taken up most of his thoughts during his morning visit. "Well, the bloodletting was getting routine; I stopped paying attention after they stuck me with the needle."
His morning medical exam, and wow thinking back I probably should have made that clearer anyhoo *shrug*, was probably the most touching he got all day and it was all clinical and careful and a very specific reminder of what was wrong with him. By day seven he started doing differential equations in his head to keep busy.
Sheppard let it go and just shrugged. "How's your head?"
"Bleeding." Rodney frowned. "I hope I didn't lose too much blood."
"You didn't lose too much blood." He rummaged through his vest, pulling out some bandages. "Hold on."
Sheppard scooted over to Rodney and broke open a sterile wipe. Rodney reached out to take it, but was surprised when Sheppard just moved to carefully dab at his temple.
*Shivers in delight.* No seriously. Guy cleaning other guys wounds. *drools*. Also this is Sheppard deliberately touching Rodney. It's his active decision here and also his own internal revelation of a sorts. This is Sheppard's step one, where he thinks that the strange feeling he had, that had been upped by the chess boards might be mitigated by helping the guy out. I mean he hasn't head bopped him for weeks at this point.
"Can't see it anyway," Sheppard answered his unspoken question. He dabbed some more, the cold feeling good on the over-warm skin by the injury. "Yeah, just a nasty cut; maybe some bruising," Sheppard said quietly.
"Oh...good," Rodney murmured, eyes closed. He could still feel the heat of Sheppard next to him.
"Yeah." Sheppard moved the wipe a bit more. "How're you feeling?"
Hadn't they covered this? "Dizzy," Rodney mumbled. "And my leg is throbbing."
"Carson will fix you right up."
The brush of a latex covered finger across his temple startled Rodney's eyes open. "No he won't." Sheppard was right there, next to him, hand still working gently at his temple.
And now Sheppard has just groped Rodney's brain. No really, this is the touch that is just about touching and he's sort of freaking out a little because he really wants to run his finger over it, there was possibly a moment where the urge to brush it gently with his lips crossed his mind. Sheppard is practically in Rodney's lap and thinking real hard about crawling right in.
"Right." Sheppard's eyes looked shadowed and away. "The whole...thing."
And as usually Rodney is the big pill. Actually think more like bucket of cold water.
"Maybe he's got it solved?" Rodney suggested, because somehow that small bit of hope warmed him in the pit of his stomach. Sheppard's eyes glowed, and small smile graced his lips. "That'd be nice."
Anything else they might've said was interrupted by the sound of feet running through the corridors.
The idea that the problem is fixed is where Sheppard starts thinking about what he'd do if it was and he sort of avoids Rodney for a few hours dissecting what he's feeling while going running with Ronon and then he thinks about skipping the chess game and his chest gets all tight and he gets this miserable feeling in the pit of his stomach.