Pairing: Mckay/Sheppard pre-slash
Rating: PG, for language
Sequel/Series: Part 7 of the Remedial Leadership series. I'll be done when you're tired of reading 'em.
Summary: Rodney learns a hard lesson.
A/N: Thanks to Laura for the feedback.
"Fuck you, John Sheppard," Rodney McKay screamed at the top of his lungs to his empty room, wanting to smash something, anything. "Why the fuck did I ever listen to you?" *Learn who they are...*
Rodney started to deliberately take a break in the middle of the morning in the mess. He'd pretend he was badgering Bates or Kusinagi out of coffee and cookies, although sometimes it was muffins, and they'd pretend they were going out of their way to bring it to him. The coffee and food turned up too fast to be anything but ready, but Rodney didn't want to expect that they'd have something ready. Expectations led to disappointments, he had learned early in life. So even something as simple as a mid-morning snack was never simply *expected.*
After a couple of days, the science staff quickly learned that Dr. McKay was generally in a better mood after some coffee and food – Rodney was rarely ever in a *good* mood, they did have to take what they could get. Approaching him during official meal times felt too much like imposing. But if they happened to drop by when Dr. McKay was finishing up his break, well then......
"Oh, Dr. Greene," Rodney called out to a woman passing by. Dr. Susan Greene stopped, amazed that Dr. McKay could match her name to her face. It was generally known that he still called Dr. Zelenka any number of variations of his real name, but maybe that wasn't the entire story. She excused herself from her companion and sat down opposite Rodney.
"Morning, Dr. McKay. What can I do for you?" she asked, keeping the suspicion from her voice. She ran through the list in her head... the report on the hydroponics project wasn't due until tomorrow, she hadn't asked for anything special in her last report, and she hadn't knowingly ticked anyone off.
Rodney finished up the last of his coffee and waved his hand. "Relax. This isn't the principal's office," he told her. That didn't make Susan much more comfortable; on the other hand, Rodney was always consistent. He'd tell you where you stood with him, in no uncertain terms. So, this couldn't be that bad, she decided. She waited for him to finish eating.
"Major Sheppard and Teyla are going to a planet Teyla knows to trade for food. It occurs to me that in addition to anything else we can offer for trade, we might be able to help with crops and whatever so that some places actually have extra food to trade for," Rodney told her in pretty much one breath. "Since you know something about plants, I thought you'd like to go with them."
Susan sat, stunned. Umm... oh, he was waiting for an answer. "You want me to go off world with Major Sheppard's team?" she stuttered.
"Isn't that what I just said?" Rodney said severely. "Mission briefing tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock. Go." He ruined it all by grinning at her. "You'll be fine. Just do whatever Major Sheppard or Teyla tell you. Piece of cake," he said. A fleeting look, was he *jealous* of her? she thought, and he continued, "Well, as much as anything is around here."
"Yes, sir!" she replied, more enthusiastically. "Thank you!"
As she was walking away, Rodney called to her, "And I still want the report tomorrow. This doesn't let you off the hook."
Damn. Now she'd be up late finishing that report. It would be worth it, she decided. Maybe Dr. McKay would let her skimp... Oh, no. Never. She sighed to herself. She hurried back to the lab to get her work done.
Rodney ate dinner that night with John and Teyla. "Found you a botanist to go with you tomorrow," he informed them.
"McKay...." John drawled. "What did you do?" he asked carefully.
"Since you're trading for food, and this is a planet Teyla knows, thought it would be useful to send someone who actually knows something about growing food with you," Rodney said, suddenly defensive. "We wanted to do some cross training," he continued.
John cocked an eyebrow. "Teyla? Will it be safe?" John had already run into too many surprises to want to take a novice off world without preparation.
Teyla considered the two men. Dr. McKay was trying to help, and these were people she had traded with before. "I do not see a problem with this," she offered. "Sergeant Bates and Dr. Kusinagi have proven to be capable in their trips with us." She turned to look at Rodney. "Who have you selected for this?"
"Susan Greene," he told them, "the one with the hydroponics project." He shrugged. "If you think she shouldn't go, I'll tell her it's off." Now that they were talking about it, it probably hadn't been a good idea to not ask John first.
"Nah, she can come," John said, easily. "Since Teyla knows these people, it should be fine."
"Remind me where you're going again," Rodney asked Teyla.
Teyla answered, "The people of this planet are simple farmers and are known as the Genii."
"I don't like it, McKay," John insisted. He was losing the argument, but he had to fight to the bitter end. Nothing about this supposedly simple trip to trade with the Genii – simple farmers his ass – for food had gone according to plan. He didn't want to make it any worse than it already was.
Rodney persisted. "But I'm an expert on atomic bombs," he stated again. "If the Genii are going to build them, we might as well make sure they do it right. According to Kusinagi, their shielding is sloppy, they don't have the energy ratios correct and they don't know how to purify the uranium. They'll kill themselves before they kill any Wraith."
"No," John repeated. "I don't want you to go there. Let Kusinagi handle it."
"And I'm insisting," Rodney said firmly. "I can do it better, and faster, than she can." He crossed his arms across his chest. And mentally crossed his fingers. If John really fought this....
John threw up his hands, "Okay, fine. You can go. On the record, I'm not happy about this." He leaned in to Rodney and said, "I'm in charge out there, not you. Clear?"
Rodney took a second before he nodded. "Clear."
"I didn't like leaving Greene back there, but she's with Bates and Teyla. If she keeps her head, she'll be okay," John said. "But despite the claims of friendship this is the closest thing to a hostage situation I've ever seen without actually being one. I refuse to put you in danger. We've already lost Dr. Weir, I'm not going to lose you."
"Why Major, I didn't think you cared," Rodney teased lightly. *Don't go there, Rodney....* he told himself.
"Nah. Don't want to have to break anyone else in, is all," John said in a similar tone. "I have too much time invested in you to lose you now."
"Like anyone else would put up with you," Rodney snarked back. He couldn't resist.
"See? Another reason for me to take good care of you," John said. They grinned at each other. Sobering, John continued, "Okay, let's get you ready. Full field gear for this."
Rodney let the murmur of voices wash over him on the trip back to Atlantis in the jumper. There was nothing that could be said and nothing to be done, so he ignored them all. He sat on the floor of the rear compartment and held Susan Greene's limp hand.
As the rear hatch opened, he didn't see Carson Beckett look into the bay or John's slight shake of his head at Carson's raised eyebrows. Carson didn't need to know more. He walked in and squatted down next to Rodney, "Come on, lad. You need to be checked out in the infirmary." He put his hand on Rodney's shoulder to get his attention.
Rodney was long enough in answering, that Carson was starting to worry. "Are you hurt anywhere?" he asked.
Somewhere from deep inside Rodney came a grating voice, "No. I'm not hurt. I...." Rodney's voice trailed off.
Carson put his hand under Rodney's elbow, "Come on," and he tugged firmly to get Rodney moving. John moved to the other side and between them, they got Rodney to his feet.
Only when they started to move him, did Rodney let go of Susan Green's hand. He looked at John, and John winced at the pain he saw there. "We'll take care of her," John said roughly. "You go with Carson." He gave Rodney a small push in Carson's direction.
"Okay," Rodney said distractedly, following Carson down the ramp. As he got to the bottom, his eyes rolled up and felt himself falling....
The next thing he knew, Rodney woke in the infirmary. He had been in and out regularly to see others, meet with the medical staff or get treatment for minor problems. This was the first time he was actually a patient in the Atlantis infirmary. He decided immediately he didn't like it so much. He had hated hospitals on Earth and he suspected this wasn't going to be a terribly different experience.
"Hey!" said John's voice gently from one side. "Let me get Carson.."
"When can I get out of here?" Rodney demanded hoarsely. He wasn't going to spend a minute more here than he had to.
John laughed. "Suspected you'd want to get out of here. Let me get Carson first," John said firmly. When Rodney started to struggle to get up, John put a firm hand on his shoulder. "Stay?" he asked softly.
Rodney couldn't refuse the gentle tone. He lay back and closed his eyes, the brief struggle exhausting him. He shouldn't be this tired..... He heard John walk away and unexpectedly felt alone. His shoulder felt warm where John had put his hand on it. It wasn't long until Carson came in.
"How are ye?" Carson asked Rodney gently, checking the monitors and taking Rodney's pulse.
Rodney could feel the doctor's eyes watching him critically. He went for enough of the truth to get him out of here. "Like crap," Rodney admitted. "But there's nothing wrong with me that food, a hot shower and some sleep won't cure. I don't need to stay here to do that."
Carson nodded, reluctantly. "Okay, before you go, then," he agreed. "Wait here for a minute." He went out of the room and came back with a small bottle of pills. He shook two out and handed them to Rodney, who didn't immediately take them. "Just a mild sedative for pain and to make sure you sleep. If you fight them, they won't even put you to sleep." Rodney took them reluctantly and swallowed them under Carson's watchful eye. "Okay, I'm going to have a tray brought here so I make sure you actually eat. Once you've finished, you can go back to your room and I want to see you at some point tomorrow morning."
Rodney nodded and looked around. Fresh clothes were on a chair. "The Major got those while you were," at Rodney's glare Carson smoothed his words, "..resting."
Rodney dressed and the tray with soup and a sandwich showed up at that moment. He ate enough of it to make Carson happy, but the food sat hard in his stomach. At Carson's nod, he left the infirmary as quickly as he could and still maintain some sense of dignity.
Rodney's thoughts whirled in his brain and he needed to turn it off. He had to stop thinking... He needed to be alone.... He needed to get to his room. He didn't understand what drove him, but he knew he had to get away... In his haste he didn't see John watching over him as he hurried down the corridors. As the door to his room closed, Rodney didn't see John hesitate, reach out to knock, withdraw his hand and walk slowly away.
Rodney shed the clothes on his way into the shower, dropping the clothing on the floor haphazardly. He stumbled into the shower and turned it on as hot as he could stand it and then just stood under the water trying not to remember. The pounding of the water helped clear his head somewhat. After a period of time, Rodney turned off the water and toweled himself off. He got clean boxers and a t-shirt from a drawer and put them on. He almost tripped over some of the clothes he shed earlier and kicked the shirt out of the way. The physical motion broke him.
"Fuck you, John Sheppard," Rodney McKay screamed at the top of his lungs to his empty room, wanting to smash something, anything. "Why the fuck did I ever listen to you?" *Learn who they are...it's easier, and harder, that way.* The adrenaline left his body as quickly as it had appeared. He crumbled against the wall and slid down it until he was on the floor. He put his head down and wrapped his hands around his knees. "You didn't tell me how *hard* it would be," he moaned. "It was a fucking trading mission... no one was supposed to die....."