Thirty-Eight

Feb. 17th, 2008 11:19 am

Fandom: SG: Atlantis

Series: Parallels 'Verse

Characters: Team

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: Slash, whump, language

Disclaimer: Not mine!

Summary: Some back-story for Colonel McKay.

Author's Note: So. Soldier!Rodney and scientist!John are pretty much my hands down favorites from the Parallels 'Verse. Which of course means more of them!

So, first there was Taking the Long Way Home and then there was Rising and now there is this.

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Meredith McKay is eight years old the first time he sees Texas and his father's parents.

Meredith's grandfather is a short, stocky man, thick and broad from his shoulders to his waist. He has legs that bow out, big leathery hands, and cowboy boots. Meredith's grandmother is tall, wiry thin, with bright blue eyes so similar to Meredith's own it hurts. They're both wearing leather cowboy hats pulled down low on their foreheads and dirty jeans.

Meredith finds them in the waiting area of the little airport. He recognizes them from the two photographs his parents had shown him. The Kodaks had been fading and fraying with age. Meredith finds himself slightly unnerved faced with the living, breathing, people from the photos. Meredith hefts his suitcase and struggles towards them.

His grandmother says, "Let me see you, boy," and, "Told you he'd have my eyes, Mitch," and, "Didn't your momma feed you nothin'? Well, ain't no matter, we'll get that taken care of soon enough." And then she leans down and draws Meredith into a crushing hug, and he stiffens. Meredith can't remember being hugged, but she doesn't seem likely to let him go. It's oddly comforting, the warmth of her body and the way he can smell flour and dirt in the cotton of her shirt.

Meredith makes a sound that gets caught in his throat, drops his suitcase and fists his hands in his grandmother's shirt.

When his grandmother pulls back a small eternity later she keeps her arm around Meredith's shoulder. His grandfather already has Meredith's suitcase in the back of the pick-up truck they drove to pick him up. There are three big dogs in the back of the truck and they jump all over the suitcase, tails wagging, jowls hanging open, tongues wet in the hot air.

Meredith's grandfather says, "Lets get you home, son, we got a room all ready for you. Mom here's been on about it for a week, can't get her to talk about nothing else."

Meredith sits between them in the cab of the pick-up, the windows down because the A/C isn't working, not wearing a seat belt for the first time in his life. There are scars on his grandfather's arms, white against his brown skin, and his grandmother's elbow is pointy against his side.

Meredith says, "Please don't send me away."

His grandmother's fingers are strong and rough around Meredith's arm, her voice low and thick, "Ain't no one taking you away from us." She says it like it's the truth, like there's not even an option of them doing anything but keeping him.

His grandfather's hand is big enough that it almost covers Meredith's skull when he reaches over. The man says, "She's a momma bear, boy, ain't no one gonna get you away from her now that you're ours." It's oddly comforting.

Meredith stares out the window, at the miles of hard, flat land that they're driving through. He says, "I'd like to be called Rodney."

His grandmother says, "Sure thing, darlin'. Rodney." And drops a kiss on the top of his head.

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Ford's panicking, but doing a passable job of pretending he's not. Rodney swallows, hates the way it drags the skin of his neck against the thing sucking out his life, says, "Steady hands there, kid. It's good. That's good."

Ford winces, like maybe he doesn't believe it, and Rodney makes a note of that. He'll have to have a talk with the boy if they survive this, because the field is no place to suddenly have an attack of insecurity. Rodney hisses as the bug around his neck shifts, digs its fangs a little deeper into his throat.

Teyla's hands are cool on his forehead, and she's at least legitimately calm. Rodney's glad, once more, that he put her on his team. She says, "You must hold on just a little bit longer, Doctor Sheppard and the others will get us through the 'gate very soon."

Rodney's mouth twists up. He makes himself focus on Doctor Sheppard. The man is standing in the far end of the Jumper, two tablets hooked into the ship's systems, working with an intense, razor sharp expression on his face. Rodney says, "It's only been eight minutes, you've got plenty of time. You're all going to be fine."

Ford's fingers tighten briefly on Rodney's arm. Rodney's so numb he barely feels it. The boy says, "We're all going to be fine, Sir."

Rodney smiles, because he knows a lie when he hears it.

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Rodney's mother comes to visit him once, after she and his father ship him off to another country because he's too much trouble. She shows up in the middle of the night, pounding on the door of his granddaddy's rancher and Rodney jerks awake, knowing that his grandparents aren't supposed to be back from the cattle auction for another day.

At age eleven Rodney's gained a lot of skills he lacked at eight. Granddaddy's shotgun is familiar in his hands, the shells are beside the sugar in grandma's cabinet where he watched her put them. Rodney loads the gun, pads across to the front door and has the gun braced against his shoulder when he cautiously opens it.

Rodney's mother looks different, smaller than he remembers her, but he still recognizes her. Her blond hair is standing in a halo around her round face and her eyes are very dark in the shadows of the front porch. She takes one look at the gun in his hands and makes a choking sound before saying, "You put that down right now, Meredith."

Rodney shifts his gaze from her to his little sister, peering out from behind his mother's legs. Jeannie looks small, too, all big blue eyes and pale skin. Rodney lets the shotgun rest in the curve of his elbow, because granddaddy's made sure he knows that you only point guns at people you intend to kill, and says, "What're ya'll doing here?"

Rodney can barely read his mother's expression, it's something sour and unhappy and she says, "Jesus, you even talk like a hick now, don't you? It doesn't matter. I'm sure it'll wear off. Come on." She reaches out for him and Rodney steps back. "What are you doing? I said come on, we don't have time for this."

Rodney shakes his head, scowls, "I ain't going nowhere with you."

His mother rolls her eyes, makes an impatient tsk-ing sound, "I am your mother and you are coming with me right now, young man. I never should have let your father talk me into sending you down here. The boarding school was a much better option. Now get over here, for God's sake."

"You ain't my mother no more." She reels back like she's been struck, and Rodney doesn't understand why. He'd seen the papers they signed, the ones that said they rescinded their parental rights and that his grandparents were his guardians until he was eighteen. He'd written the damn things up. "And you're attempting kidnapping right now, you best leave before I call the sheriff and have you taken to jail."

His mother's cheeks are flushed bright red with anger and Rodney remembers this, never forgot this. He always was making her and his father angry, impatient and frustrated, and Rodney doesn't understand why the same thing didn't seem to apply to his grandparents. She snaps, "Goddamnit Meredith, why must you make everything so difficult?"

His mother reaches for him, smooth white fingers wrapping around Rodney's elbow and he calls, "Grimp! Merv! Stumpy!"

Rodney had known the dogs were watching him from the kitchen since he answered the door, waiting the way they'd been trained. They swarm around him now, big shaggy bodies knocking against his legs, crowding themselves into the space between Rodney and his mother.

They're good dogs, friendly dogs, and none of them are so much as growling, but none of their tails are wagging either. Rodney reaches out with his free hand, winds his fingers into Merv's long, dense coat and holds on. His voice isn't as steady as he wants it to be when he says, "Go away. Go away and don't come back here. Ain't no one taking me away."

His mother hisses, "Impossible child!"

Rodney never even gets the chance to say goodbye to Jeannie.

When his grandparents get back late the next afternoon they find Rodney sitting in front of the door, the dogs all lying around him with their ears down and their tails tucked in close. Rodney's still cradling the shotgun, dizzy and convinced that his mother is going to come back through the door any second.

His granddaddy curses the minute he sees the gun, crouches and takes it out of Rodney's hand, emptying the shells as his grandma takes the more direct approach of grabbing Rodney and shaking him. One of them says, "What happened? Rodney? Son, are you alright?"

His grandma smells like biscuits and cattle and oil and he buries his face in her shirt and says, "She tried to take me, even though she didn't want me."

She's still holding him tight, but Rodney can feel her shift her attention to his granddaddy, hears her, "Get that girl on the phone. And you best talk to her Mitch. I'm in no mood to be decent with her. Make sure she knows she's not to come here anymore if she's got designs on my grandson."

Rodney doesn't see his mother again.

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Rodney's trying really hard not to concentrate on the fact that he's losing feeling in his limbs at a disturbing rate. It's hard to ignore, when it's the only reason he's not going completely out of his mind from the pain.

In front of him, Sheppard makes a soft, triumphant sound and punches a button. The hatch over the event horizon closes immediately, and in the darkness Rodney almost thinks he's already dead. Beside him Ford startles, shouts, "What the hell are you doing, Sheppard?"

Rodney can guess. He croaks while Ford and Teyla scramble for the lights in their packs, "Not a big fan of explosive decompression, Doc?"

Sheppard doesn't spare him a look in the dim light, but does snort derisively, opens his mouth to say something just as his radio chirps to life. Rodney can't hear what's said, his own radio is laying forgotten back on the planet, but Sheppard's response is, "Honestly, just stop trying to help me now if that's the best you can do."

Ford makes a sour face, and even Teyla seems uncomfortable when Sheppard rips his headset off and tosses it down onto the seat. Sheppard runs a hand back through his unruly hair, takes a deep breath, and reaches for the tablets he had temporarily abandoned. Rodney swallows, thrilled that he can at least still manage that, chokes out, "How long?"

Sheppard responds before the others can, his voice whip-snap sharp, "A whole three minutes since you last asked. Look, I'm going to get this ship through the 'gate before my time is up, but if you don't shut up then you might not make it."

Rodney rasps, "Charmer."

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Rodney's seventeen when he joins the USAF. He has a lot of reasons, that it makes his granddaddy and grandma smile so wide tears prick the corners of their eyes, that it'll pay for any schooling he wants, that it's what everyone in his tiny little town expected him to do, that it's the last thing in the world his father would have wanted.

No one talks about why his father ran off to Canada, but Rodney's smart. It's not hard to put together that his father would have been of an age for the draft, that he must have fled north of the border to escape the war. It makes Rodney's granddaddy--proudly retired from the Navy--uncomfortable to talk about, and so Rodney never does.

In all honesty, Rodney's been planning the join up since he was twelve years old, and he's molded his life so that there's no way they won't give him everything he wants. He plays varsity football and baseball—quarterback and short stop, specifically. He aces every test his school throws at him, including the SAT, and his recruiter nearly creams his pants when Rodney breezes through the ASVAB.

People used to throw around 'genius' a lot while Rodney lived with his parents, but that had gotten him sent away, and Rodney hadn't wanted to be thrown away anymore. He hadn't pretended to be stupid, but he'd stopped going out of his way to show just how smart he was.

Rodney had still never scored less than perfect on a test, and there'd been considerable surprise among the student body when he graduated valedictorian of his year. He'd never made a big deal of studying, spent more time doing the things it was expected that he do. Rodeos when he wasn't playing sports, girls when he wasn't doing either.

There's a boy. Just once. Frankie Mitchell behind the bleachers after they win the Home Coming game. Rodney presses the taller boy up against the warm metal, not thinking about what's coming at the end of the school year.

Rodney's not thinking about how the Air Force told him he could go into any program he wanted, and he chose aviation because his grandma had always wanted to fly and because Rodney loves the idea of controlling something with that many moving parts, and because the recruiter says he's the right build for it, short and sturdy.

Rodney's not thinking about how he'll graduate all the schools they send him to at the top of his class, get perfect scores on everything. He's sure there'll be some awkwardness at first when they think he's cheating, and then a kind of barely concealed glee when they realize that he really is that smart. Rodney'll ride the fast track to aviation.

Rodney's thinking about Frankie's thin lips against his, the taste of sweat in the corners of the other boy's mouth. Frankie's hands are big and warm, sliding up under Rodney's shirt, rough fingers dragging across Rodney's sweat slick skin. Around them the crickets are singing, and the stars are painting the world pale blue, and Rodney groans into Frankie's mouth and slides a thigh between Frankie's legs.

Frankie slides one hand up, tangles his fingers in Rodney's blond curls and grinds his hips against Rodney's body. Rodney slides his mouth sideways, stubble rough against his lips as he sucks kisses across Frankie's jaw. Above him Frankie's voice has gone high, desperate, he's gasping, "Jesus—Jesus, Rodney, put your hands on me, please, please—"

Rodney smiles against Frankie's neck, pushes his hands up under the other boy's shirt, against the ridges of his stomach. Frankie strains against him and Rodney braces his feet and keeps Frankie against the bleacher with his shoulders. Frankie whimpers, his fingers clawing at Rodney's shoulders, tugging on his hair.

Rodney mumbles into the flushed skin of Frankie's throat, "Tell me what you want, c'mon, Frankie, what do you want me to do to you?"

Frankie's hips jerk, he stutters, "Want your hands—your hands—Christ, your fingers, please, just like—" Rodney learned when he was eight years old that life was better once you figured out what people wanted, and then figured out how to give it to them. He sucks on the warm skin under his mouth, drags his teeth across the other boy's pulses point and slides his hand back down Frankie's stomach, thumbs his jeans open and tugs the zipper down.

Frankie is whining nonsense sounds into Rodney's hair, and almost comes off the bleachers when Rodney slides a hand into Frankie's boxers and tugs on his cock. Rodney shoulders him back into place, bites the boy's throat as a warning, and pumps his cock, slick with sweat and pre-come.

Frankie whimpers, tips his head back, and lets himself go limp against Rodney as he comes, hot and sloppy, all over Rodney's hand. Rodney lets the other boy lean on him, breathing in sharply through his nose, buried against Frankie's throat.

Rodney's hard, it's an almost painful strain against the front of his zipper, and when Frankie reaches for him, murmuring, "Let me—let me touch you, please—" Rodney almost lets him. But he's got expectations on his shoulders, he's got his granddaddy and grandma waiting at home, he's got his recruiter planning to send him off to the rest of his life, he's got Maddie Jenkins waiting for him at the dance.

Rodney steps back, absently licking at the mess on his hands, distantly aware that Frankie's eyes are following the movement, like he's hypnotized by it. Rodney pats Frankie's shoulder with his clean hand, says, "Nah, don't worry about it none, let's get to the party, alright?"

Rodney joins the Air Force. It's everything he thought it would be, and sometimes, flying the planes they give him, controlling a thousand different systems, he thinks it might almost be as good as building them would have been.

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Rodney's pretty sure he doesn't like the implications of Ford and Teyla setting out the contents of their pockets while talking grim faced to Beckett over the radios. The thing sucking on his neck shifts again, a flex of its tail under his arm, a tightening of the legs it has wrapped around his neck.

Ford's saying, soft, like he's trying to keep Rodney from overhearing the conversation, "Teyla found a portable defibrillator in the ship stores."

Sheppard snorts, derisive, "If you want his job that badly, Lieutenant, why don't you just put a bullet in his head?" Ford jerks, expression clouding over, and Rodney clears his throat to distract the younger man. Ford turns back, mouth still turned down harshly in the corners. It's not hard to figure out that the boy needs some reassurance, and so Rodney marshals what control he has of his limbs and pushes himself slightly straighter against the wall.

The movement tears an involuntary groan from Rodney's throat as the bug around his neck squeezes tighter. Sheppard is the only member of his team that doesn't jump, that doesn't look stricken. The doctor just keeps working, his glasses and the sheen of sweat on his upper lip catching and reflecting the light.

Twenty-one minutes until the end of the line. Rodney wishes it'd hurry up.

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Rodney's twenty-six the first time he steps through the Stargate. He knows he beat Sam Carter out for the position mostly because she's pregnant with her second child, but he's not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Colonel Jack O'Neill shakes his hand and pats him on the back and says he's read Rodney's record and is Rodney sure that this is what he wants to do. Doctor Danielle Jackson looks at him and doesn't say anything, grief for her husband bleeding out of her expression.

Rodney's twenty-six the first time he fights aliens, the first time he eats dinner beside an alien with a potentially evil slug in his gut, and the first time he saves everybody's ass.

Afterwards, the adrenaline still burning in his blood, Rodney goes down to the gym, because that's what everyone expects him to do. Besides, he doesn't really want to sit in front of a computer right now. He doesn't want to think about the Stargate, or the Goa'uld technology he's so good at manipulating.

Rodney's never had a six pack, never been one of those skinny wiry guys, and he never will be. He's built solid like his granddaddy, all big shoulders and strong arms and a thick chest. There are other soldiers—with those perfect bodies—in the gym, which is just as well, because Rodney needs someone to spot him when he stretches out on the bench press.

Somewhere around his third set Rodney becomes aware that he recognizes the smirking face looming over him. Rodney resettles the weights, his arms, chest, shoulders burning from the strain. He pushes himself into a sitting position, wiping his face against his shoulder, says, "Colonel."

O'Neill smiles, a quick expression that's gone almost as soon as it appeared. The Colonel braces his hands on the dumbbell, leans his weight onto it and says, "You did good today, kid."

Rodney snorts, ducks his head and pulls up the hem of his shirt to wipe at the sweat running down his forehead. He says, "It was nothing special, sir," because that's what people expect you to say, and because he learned a long time ago that life worked out better if no one realized how smart he actually was.

O'Neill shrugs, "Sure looked like something special to me."

Rodney makes himself smile, polite and sweet like his grandma taught him, and decides it's time to change the subject, "You want me to spot you?" Rodney stands, cracks his neck from side to side and waits expectantly. He stretches his shoulders while he waits, one arm across his chest and then the other.

O'Neill's just watching him when he finishes, eyes sharp and considering when the Colonel says, "So where'd that accent come from, Major? What was that, south Texas?"

Rodney shifts, makes himself smile wider, the good 'ole boy grin that everyone expects once they realize where he grew up. The accent he'd dropped somewhere around a week away from home, because it was one more thing for his DI to ride his ass about, and because he was not going to get saddled with 'Cowboy' as a nickname for the rest of his life if he could help it.

Stress still brings it to the surface. Anger and fear drag Rodney's words out, spin the drawl in his throat thick as syrup.

Rodney lets it show now, because he thinks it'll amuse O'Neill, get him to forget the events of the day, "Proud to be from the Lone Star State, sir." He's got the belt buckle to prove it, though he only wears it when he goes out with the intent to get laid.

Rodney expects O'Neill to move on now, to go make sure Jackson's handling the stress of the latest mission, or that Teal'c is doing okay. Instead the Colonel says, "You know, now that they know how good you are, how big that brain of yours is, they're going to be counting on it when the shit hits the fan. We're all going to be counting on it."

Rodney's smile stays bright from force of habit, he drawls, "Don't know what you're talking about, sir."

And O'Neill smiles, and doesn't call him on the lie. Rodney sits back down on the weight bench after the Colonel leaves, puts his head in his hands and tries not to be ill. His fingers are shaking, his skin cool and clammy and he thinks that people almost died today, lots of them. That they only lived because he figured out the technology, that he'd taken over when he should have kept his mouth shut.

He promises himself that he'll never do it again. That next time he'll keep his mouth shut and let the scientists handle the genius sections of the job.

But next time it's him pulling the miracle out of his ass. And the time after that, and that's just kind of how it goes. O'Neill saves all of them on a day to day basis, Jackson manages to evolve to a higher level of being at least twice, and Rodney plays soldier and scientist whenever they need him to.

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Rodney's team talks about putting him through the event horizon like he's not still conscious and aware of exactly what they're saying. Beckett throws a fit about the creature still being attached to him before they attempt 'gate travel and Rodney thinks that even in another galaxy, they're waiting for him to come up with solutions to their impossible problems.

Rodney chokes out, "Hit me with the defibrillator," and listens with half an ear as they argue amongst themselves over it. His head is pounding and he feels rough and death doesn't seem like so bad an option, really. He's had a good life. This isn't the worst way it could have ended.

Rodney makes himself concentrate on the argument going on over his head, realizes that someone has slid a radio into his ear while he wasn't paying attention and says, vowels slow and lazy from blood loss and shock, "I'd really like this damn thing off me, if it's all the same to the rest of you."

That seems to be enough permission for Ford, who's barking orders and Teyla's cutting Rodney's shirt open. Rodney tries to smile at her, but isn't sure if he manages it. She squeezes his hand, her tiny, warm fingers lifting his dog tags and moving them to the side.

Rodney's zoning out, vaguely hears Ford ordering Sheppard to get the bulkhead door open and Rodney's definitely going to have to have a talk with the younger man about the proper way to manage a scientist. Snapping and yelling only pisses them off, and Rodney's seen Sheppard pissed off. It's not a pretty thing.

Rodney makes himself look up, and is surprised to find Sheppard looking at him, skin glowing in the light from the event horizon. Sheppard's expression is carefully blank, but his hands are clenched very tight around his tablet, and there's a line of stress in his shoulders that Rodney's never seen in the other man before.

Rodney recognizes the tension, but before he can bask in the epiphany Ford is lowering the paddles to his chest, and there's pain, pain and then darkness.

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When Rodney's thirty-five, O'Neill—who had become Jack at some point over the last nine years—gets promoted and Atlantis gets discovered and Rodney finds himself staring at the biggest decision he's ever had to make. It's surprisingly easy.

SG-1 has always been Jack's show, and Rodney knows there's no way that him taking over would end well. Either he'd do horrible and bring nothing but shame upon their good name, or he'd do better than Jack ever could, and Rodney's not sure he could live with himself for doing that. And he can't imagine following anyone else into the field after nine years of following Jack.

Atlantis is in another galaxy, a one-way ticket away from Earth. It's a command of his own, and it's a 'gate team that'll be his, the way SG-1 was Jack's. Rodney goes to see his granddaddy and grandma, lying side by side in the little cemetery on the outskirts of the little town they lived and loved and died in. He tells them where he's going, because it's not like they're going to break the non-disclosure agreements he's been living with for nearly a decade.

Rodney thinks about going to find his mother, his father, his sister, but it's been over two decades since he spoke with any of them, and they don't feel like family anymore. He thinks, standing in front of the marble grave markers, about going to find Maddie Jenkins who everyone had thought he was going to marry back in high school. He thinks, remembering what he hasn't allowed himself to for years, about Frankie Mitchell and how maybe he'd have been happier if everyone had thought he was going to marry Frankie, instead.

They allow Rodney to fly his own chopper back to the Antarctic base, and he walks through the 'gate beside Doctor Weir.

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They let Rodney out of the infirmary after a day. More accurately, he escapes. Nine years of off-world travel has taught him that if you let the medical staff think they can baby you, they'll never let you out of their sight. He breaks himself out with some help from Ford and doesn't look back.

Rodney's not really hurt, anyway. The blood loss has him feeling slightly light headed, and the burns on his chest are going to be bitches while they heal, but he's had worse. And he definitely prefers it to the alternative.

Ford follows him out of the infirmary, frowns when Rodney starts towards the Jumper bay and says, "I thought we were going to the mess hall, sir?"

Rodney makes himself smile at the boy, and thinks the last thing he needs is this puppy-dog obsession that Ford seems to be nursing. Rodney says, "Go ahead and get us a table, I have something I need to take care of first."

Ford looks doubtful, but takes off in any case, a visible spring in his step. Rodney shakes his head, and makes his way to the Jumper bay.

He finds Sheppard where he thought the man would be, standing in the middle of Jumper One. The doctor has all the access panels open, three tablets hooked up to various crystals, and a frown on his face as he goes through the pathways.

Rodney leans against the side of the Jumper, feeling his own pulse pounding against the bandage on his neck when he says, "Next time it won't be a Jumper system, you know."

Sheppard tenses up, doesn't turn to look at him, or put down the tablet in his hands. The man's voice is slow, lazy for all that there's venom and razors under the words, "Shouldn't you be in the infirmary? Or celebrating your good luck with your side-kick?"

Rodney ignores the other man's barbs. Sheppard isn't as hard to read as he wants to be, and Rodney's always been good at giving people exactly what they want. He steps forward, just enough to put himself in the other man's space, remembering the look on Sheppard's face when Teyla had cut his shirt away.

Sheppard's sharp intake of breath says a lot, and Rodney reaches past him to brush his fingertips against the crystals that comprise the Jumper's computer system. Rodney says, "So how many of the pathways have you memorized so far?"

Sheppard stares at him, just for a second, eyes narrowed behind the ovals of his glasses, "Five hundred and twenty three."

Rodney hums, drops his hand and lets his thumb drag down the outside of Sheppard's arm. The doctor shivers, his eyelashes fluttering, and Rodney wonders when the last time someone touched him was. He wonders if it's really going to be that easy to figure the man out. Rodney says, "Come eat dinner with me."

Sheppard's eyes are wide, he's breathing fast and shallow, still manages to infuse his voice with disgust, "I have very important work to be doing, Colonel, which I'd think you'd appreciate since I am responsible for saving your life. Does that make it twice now?"

Rodney smiles, steps back and heads for the door of the Jumper. He calls over his shoulder, "Don't work too hard, Doc."

Rodney's half-way to the door to the Jumper bay when Sheppard catches up. The man has a tablet tucked under his arm and is holding another in his hands. He says, harsh and defensive, "I'll have all the systems memorized by the next time we go on a mission."

And Rodney thinks that for nine years, he was expected to pull miracles out of his ass. For nine years, it was his responsibility to be the resident genius, even if no one ever said it. They'd all danced around his brain back on Earth, even as they waited for him to come up with the solution to the calamity of the week. He'd wanted it that way.

Rodney looks across at Sheppard, and feels the increasingly familiar swell of relief in his chest, because here, here he's not the one they're looking to for that. He thinks about warning Sheppard about what he's in for when they step into the transporter, but Sheppard's the smartest man in two galaxies.

Rodney's sure he'll figure it out on his own, sooner or later.

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