Feb. 7th, 2008 11:30 pm
Fandom: SG: Atlantis
Characters: John, Rodney
Rating: PG-ish for this section
Warnings: Pre-slash, whump, language, AU
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Beta: ferret_kitty overworked and underappreciated.
Summary: Doctor Sheppard's always known exactly what he wanted, how to get it, and who to manipulate. He's just not sure what to make of Colonel Rodney McKay.
Author's Note: So, you know Taking the Long Way Home? Yeah? Apparently I can't leave well enough alone. So. Spin off number one. All you need to know is that it was all julorean's fault, because when I left the below comment she told me to continue it. And no is not a word I'm familiar with.
Doctor Sheppard is in the middle of explaining to General O'Neill exactly why they need to use the ZPM to go to Atlantis, why naquadah won't work, why nothing else will work, the first time he meets Colonel Rodney McKay. O'Neill is saying, "Now that's just a waste of a perfectly good explanation--"
And someone interrupts from the doorway, "What he's saying, General, is that using naquadah to try to power the 'gate to another galaxy would be like using unleaded gas in a fighter jet." John jerks his head up in surprise, because that's a very rough simplification of the process, but it's still almost true. And it made O'Neill smile and nod.
The man he finds in the doorway is smiling himself, a sharp, lopsided grin. He's wearing the Air Force uniform that John's gotten used to from working in the base, a shiny set of wings on his chest. The man's got short hair, bright eyes, and a cup of steaming coffee in one hand.
John pushes his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose, "If you're supposed to be in this meeting then you're late. If you're not supposed to be in this meeting then--"
General O'Neill interrupts him, "Doctor Sheppard, meet Colonel McKay. I'm going to let you talk to him about what exactly it is you want to do." John opens his mouth to protest, O'Neill waves a hand, continues, "Believe me, he'll understand it more than I do. And then he can come and explain it to me. And we'll see where it goes from there."
O'Neill's already standing, exiting the room with a brief pause by McKay to allow the other man to salute. John sighs at O'Neill's stage whispered, "Good luck," to the officer. It figures that his one chance to get O'Neill to sign off on the project would find him handed off to some subordinate instead of taken seriously.
And then McKay sits down, and listens to absolutely everything John has to say.
Three weeks later, they're on Atlantis.
Atlantis opens up to John like a lover, tells him all her secrets at the whisper of his touch while around him the others wrestle with their laptops and too-slow technology. She brightens at his smile, lays out all her systems in order at the slow drag of his fingertips. And he whispers to her all the sweet nonsense women need to hear, and takes everything she offers.
Around him John can hear the military moving, securing the area, their footsteps almost silent even in their heavy boots. He ignores them, and their guns. As far as he's concerned they shouldn't even be here in the first place, it's a scientific expedition and there's no place for guns in places of learning. Not that the US government is ever likely to learn that.
Still, John has bigger things to worry about. The city's informing him, sorrow and regret all over the messages she sends, that they're underwater. That the shield can't last and none of the commands he types in, increasingly demanding, can convince her to rise to the surface.
It's a bitter twist in John's gut to have to go to Weir with it, but maybe if he can convince her to get everyone else out of the city it'll buy him enough time to boost the power enough to save them all from watery graves. He's surprised to find her standing in front of the Stargate, a grim look on her face as McKay checks his P-90 in front of her.
John makes it down the stairs in time to catch the tail end of her words, "—hope you know what you're doing, Colonel."
McKay's smile is tight, polite without being particularly nice, "So do I, ma'am. We'll let you know as soon as we find someplace friendly enough to take us all in." And then McKay's looking up, waving a handful of his men forward, saying, "Alright boys and girls, you've all been through the 'gate before. You know how this goes. Let's go be heroes."
John scowls, steps up beside Weir, "What's going on here? We've got a serious situation and I don't think sending a team off-world is anything other than a horrible idea. We need to conserve all the power we can, the city is—"
Weir gives him an odd look, one of her eyebrows arching almost up to her hairline when she interrupts him, "Underwater? We know. I assume you've not come to tell us that you've found a way to raise it?" Weir sounds vaguely expectant and he stares down at her, trying to read the emotion behind her calm façade.
McKay interrupts, yelling towards the command level and John wonders what could possibly be wrong with the man's radio, "Dial us out, Grodin." And then, as the 'gate spins and dances and bursts to life, "This is only a precaution, of course. Everyone keeps telling me you're the best, Doctor Sheppard. I'm sure you'll have us on the surface by the time we get back."
John can't help but noticing that while Weir got that tense little half-smile, he gets something dangerously close to a smirk from the other man. Like McKay expects him to fail. Like it's already a foregone conclusion. John glares back, stone faced, until McKay turns and follows his men through the event horizon.
John turns his attention back to Weir, "You do realize that the more power we drain the less time the shields are going to hold?"
Weir sighs, does a valiant effort to make it look like she's just taking a calming breath, "Yes, Doctor. But what other choice do we have, really?"
He stares down at her, tries to keep the disgust off his face, "You could have given the science staff some time to try to raise the city. You could have consulted with me before sending off our little soldier boys to sow discord and panic. And how did you even know the shields were in danger of failing, in the first place?"
Now both Weir's eyebrows are up. Her voice is dry, "Let's just say that Doctor Beckett's gene therapy worked and that Colonel McKay picked up more than conversational Ancient." She cocks her head to the side, "And surely if there was a way to raise the city you'd have found it by now, Sheppard? And initiated it without waiting for my permission?"
And he realizes then and there that arguing against so many of her suggestions for the city had most likely been a mistake. John grits his teeth, because fine, he's had to work with idiotic employers out to thwart him at every turn before. They're not that hard to deal with. He grinds out, "Well, I guess I'll just go see if I can salvage enough power to keep us alive until McKay gets back."
The next few hours are a blur, trying to wean the city along on next to no power, watching the outer edges of the shield give up, section by section, creeping back towards the main spire. John thinks it would be easier if he didn't constantly have to be stopping his subordinates from opening programs and turning on systems that serve no purpose but bringing upon their mutual destruction even faster.
John knows, damn well, that no one but him could have held the city together this long. That's not stopping the sick feeling of dread low in his gut that it's not going to be long enough. Even the lights are a drain they can't afford right now and they won't turn off. He's half-buried under a console, looking for the control crystal that should manually shut them down, when there's an unfamiliar voice over his headset, "Doctor Weir? Doctor Sheppard? I believe I have found something you should see."
He shifts the flashlight in his mouth to one side, grinds out, "Busy keeping us all from dying, here."
Whoever it is on the other line sounds almost ecstatic, "But we found ships. Lots of ships. I mean, couldn't we use them if—"
Weir interrupts, and John wonders how she can sound so calm with millions of tons of water just waiting to crush down on her, "Where are these ships? Can we fly them?"
The man on the radio is babbling. His voice is accented, John thinks eastern European, but isn't sure, "They are above the control room. I do not know why we could not fly them, but perhaps it would be best to get someone with the ATA gene to make sure that they are not somehow damaged or—"
This time it's John that interrupts, squirming his way free from the console, straightening his glasses, "Don't touch anything. I'm on my way."
He's halfway up the stairs when the 'gate flares to life, and throws himself back down as Grodin announces that it's Ford's IDC and opens the shield. Watching the 'gate burst to life still twists something in John's chest, sets a fire in his bones to explore and probe and understand.
John doesn't get the chance to bask in it long, because then a bunch of incredibly dirty people in animal furs are running through the 'gate, followed by McKay and Ford. Both soldiers have their guns in hand, and McKay's reaching out and grabbing the front of Ford's vest, dragging him up towards the control room with a tense expression.
John opens his mouth to protest when McKay directs Grodin out of the way of the dialing console. McKay's ordering before John can even start, "Show Sheppard what you saw."
Ford casts John a nervous look, but obediently starts pointing to symbols on the dialer. Ford's moving fast, and John takes a step closer so he can follow, and then looks up expectantly at McKay. The Colonel says, "We lost people. They went through to those symbols. I need an address."
It's a completely ridiculous request. There are an insane amount of address that can be formed by the symbols and in anyone else's hands John would have deemed it impossible. He wonders if that's what McKay's expecting him to do, and narrows his eyes, shoves Ford out of the way. "Gimme ten minutes."
McKay goes still, head cocking to one side, eyes suddenly considering and sharp. John thinks it might be the first authentic sign of emotion that he's seen from the other man. He smirks when McKay lingers, snaps, "Something else you needed, Colonel?"
John never gets an answer, because then Weir is storming up, visage nothing like calm as she demands, "What are these people doing here, Colonel? This shield is about to fail and you've brought other people here?"
McKay's got that blandly friendly look on his face instantly, "We were attacked off-world, ma'am. Apparently there's some kind of problem here that the Ancients neglected to mention and—"
McKay doesn't get to finish his explanation, because Grodin's shouting, "Oh, my God, there go the shields!" And the city lurches and John thinks they're going to die. That this is how he dies, stuck in the mausoleum of a dead race. He has the brief, bizarre desire to walk up to McKay and kiss him, just to see if it might get another flash of honest emotion out of the other man before they all end up in their watery grave.
John's saved from his own insane impulse by the realization that the shuddering the city is doing feels more like movement than collapse. He reaches for a computer and catches McKay looking up out of the corner of his eye. John's blinking at the screen, speechlessly watching Atlantis rise from the sea bed when Weir says, soft and awed, "My God. It's beautiful."
John looks away from the computer and discovers that she's right.
It doesn't last. McKay and Weir are having one of the politest arguments John's ever seen within seconds. Weir's throwing around words like reckless and ill-planned and not worth the risk. McKay's taking it and reiterating that he isn't going to leave his men or the people from that village behind with what apparently are evil alien space vampires and then raising his gaze to John over Weir's shoulder and saying, "You got that address yet, Sheppard?"
It's been twelve minutes. John leans one hip against the dialing console, rolls his eyes and rattles off, "R3X-229. If you'd been paying attention you'd have heard me ordering your underling to get a MALP ready to send through." Weir flashes him a sharp, indignant look, and he smirks at her. She's the one that cut him out of the loop, that started any potential disagreements between them. John figures she should have been expecting him to side with McKay, any personal dislike for the Colonel aside. John drawls, "No harm looking."
McKay's giving him that sharp, considering look again. John clamps down hard on the urge to shift, and Elizabeth heaves another sigh, breaks the tension by addressing McKay, "Come to me with a workable plan and I might reconsider. Until then, I have twenty extra people to handle. If you'll excuse me."
John tilts his head to the side, says, "So our first trip through the 'gate in a new galaxy and you managed to find the plot to a bad sci-fi movie, huh?"
And John can't tell if the slow stretch of McKay's smile is sincere or not.
Twenty minutes later they've lost a MALP to the black of deep space and McKay's expression is frozen somewhere carefully, painfully blank. Beside him Ford hisses out a curse, but the Colonel is just staring at the stars spinning by in front of the MALP, blue eyes unreadable.
Sheppard lets the two stew in their juices for a while, wondering what he'd see if he could poke around inside McKay's head. When he's decided that neither of the soldiers seem likely to have a violent incident, burst into tears, or otherwise amuse him, he braces his hands on his hips, says slow and lazy, "Of course, there are those ships we found while you were gone."
John kind of likes that McKay doesn't throw a fit about not being told immediately. Or ask what ships. Or, in fact, ask for any information at all beyond, "Where are they?"
Once McKay's contented himself with the fact that the ships do fly, the Colonel wastes no time tracking down Weir. John tags along, anticipating another one of their incredibly amusing little fights, and isn't disappointed. He wonders what it'd take to get either one of them to yell. He wonders which one he should target first.
McKay's saying, "We can take the ship—"
John decides he might as well go for McKay first, since he's making it so easy. John says, leaning against the doorway, "Puddlejumper."
McKay's shoulders tighten, but it's barely enough to be noticeable. The Colonel continues like John hadn't spoken, "—through the 'gate, do a quick scan of the planet, at least get a lay of the land. If the situation on the ground is bad we'll come back without engaging the enemy."
John snorts, because he knows a blatant lie when he hears one, and Weir levels a flat look on him. Her lips are pressed together so tightly they're white, for all that her voice is still carefully contained, "This will be a strictly recon mission, Colonel, understand? I won't risk more of my people on a half-baked rescue."
McKay heading for the door before she's even finished speaking, calling over his shoulder, "Understood, ma'am." And then thumbing his radio on, "Ford, gather a team, meet me by the," McKay pauses, casts John a brief, unreadable look as he passes, "Jumpers."
John watches the other man go, and then turns back to Weir. She's sitting behind a desk that apparently got moved in at some point, fingers threaded together in front of her. She's staring at something in the middle distance, and John is content to wait, knowing it will unnerve her to find him still there when she comes back from wherever she's went.
John's not disappointed. She jumps when she spots him, says coolly, "Something else, Doctor?"
He shrugs, drags the movement out as long as possible before saying, "We found some information about the vampires McKay pissed off. There's a recording down below the control room, explains all about them. Apparently they're called the Wraith. Wiped out the Ancients single handedly. You might want to watch it."
He leaves her staring at him with huge, dark eyes, trying to hide the tremor in her hands.
McKay comes back through the 'gate with fire and panic, hours after any recon mission could conceivably have lasted. John finds his way up to the Jumper room, right behind Weir who's gone almost white with rage.
John's surprised to watch the emotion drain off of her face when the Jumper's rear hatch opens. There are more people in it than they left with, a handful more of the natives, two of the three missing soldiers that McKay had been so bent out of shape over.
McKay steps out last, hands covered in some kind of green goo, eyes dark and shadowed. John expects the other man to try to brush past Weir, but instead McKay stands in front of her, expression striving towards calm and not quite making it. Weir's voice is soft, almost gentle, "Major Richardson?"
McKay jerks, just a twitch of his mouth downward in one corner, says, "Didn't make it, ma'am. And I think we might have a problem."
John steps forward, because like hell is he going to be cut out again, and almost steps back again at the quiet relief in McKay's eyes when the Colonel spots him. It's covered in seconds, but John's seen it, and he's not sure what to make of it. People aren't relieved to see him. Ever.
It's not important right at the moment, not with McKay detailing the rescue, explaining the Wraith methodically, saving for last the female's final words. And John thinks of course. Because a huge army of alien vampires is exactly what they need.
John hears later that there's a party. He doesn't attend. There's so much work to be done, so much of the city that he wants to feel and see and touch before anyone else gets the chance. He's humming softly to himself, immersed in the beauty of all the systems available to his manipulation, when someone clears their throat from the doorway.
John knows it's McKay before he looks up, just knows bone deep. He looks anyway, stares at the man standing in the doorway, the plate of food that McKay's balancing in one hand and the flute of champagne he's got in the other. John pushes his glasses back up on his nose, says, "You're going to have to actually deliver it to my table if you want a tip."
McKay doesn't grin, but he doesn't scowl either. And he does bring the food closer, setting it on the console and handing John the champagne with a nod. The food actually looks pretty good, and John intends to enjoy that while it lasts. There's no way they could have brought much fresh food, and he wonders how much of it they used for this pointless celebration.
He slams the champagne back, hands the flute back to McKay, says, "Too bad Richardson couldn't be here to see it, right?"
That earns John what might have been a twitch of emotion. He's not completely sure, but the side of McKay's mouth, the one that always dips south, might have jerked. McKay's voice isn't sharp, irritated, or even hurt, "I want you on my team."
It's not a question or an offer and for a long moment John just stares at him blankly. He'd expected the proposition, of course. Been fully prepared to refuse just to be difficult. And then to have McKay make it an order just so they could hash out the military and civilian boundaries early on. But this is just a statement of intent. John finally covers with, "Obviously."
McKay does smirk then, like he knows something John doesn't. The Colonel says, "Enjoy your food, Sheppard," and turns on his heel, heading for the door without a backward glance.
John says, "I'll do it," just to make McKay stop and turn back. Just to see if the man's expression is anything like surprise. It's not.
McKay taps the champagne glass against the door frame, tilting his face up towards the ceiling. The man doesn't say anything, just nods after a long moment, and resumes his exit. John watches him go, and wonders what the hell he's thinking.
He decides the Colonel McKay is potentially a very dangerous man.
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