Spoilers: "The Storm."
Author's Notes: John helps mend McKay's emotional wounds.
Warnings: Slash. Pre-slash, really.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not making any money.
I've been sitting cross-legged on a table in the corner of Rodney's lab for about an hour and ten minutes. Rodney finally stopped telling me to get off the table about ten minutes ago.
Atlantis is still picking up the pieces after our most recent encounter with the Genii, but overall everything's back to normal. Earlier this week, we had a ceremony for the two men we lost. I still have a resonant ache in my gut because I couldn't save them, but I was glad to honor their lives.
The one thing that hasn't snapped back to normal is Rodney. Well, if you think about it, "normal" and "Rodney" are words that don't usually get used in the same sentence anyway. But even so, he's just not quite himself, and everyone's worried about him. Now, I'm not the kind of guy who's big on emoting, or the "healing power" of getting things off your chest. But even I think the guy needs to talk.
So, here I am. Trying to get him to open up. Rodney's been somewhat . . . less than responsive to my attempts, though. All I've gotten so far are frosty glares and a handful of four-syllable words. Since I haven't been able to coax Rodney into spilling his guts, I've decided to fall back on two of my more dubious virtues—I'm stubborn and annoying. So, I'm sitting here, waiting him out.
Right now, Rodney's fiddling with an impressive-looking gizmo. Since I've been here, he's taken it apart twice and put it back together twice. Now, he's tearing apart again. Every now and then, he lets out a frustrated sigh and mutters under his breath. I guess to a casual observer, this might seem like standard-issue Rodney McKay behavior.
I really hate to see him like this.
Finally, Rodney's head snaps up. "What?"
"What?" I repeat.
Letting out a breath, Rodney places the gizmo onto the table in front of him. "Can't you see I'm trying to work?"
"Yes, I can," I say simply.
"Well, I don't need an audience," he says.
I lean forward slightly. "Rodney, would it help I reminded you for the thousandth time that it wasn't your fault?"
He turns his back to me and starts to purposefully shuffle equipment around. "Are you still harping on about that?"
I continue. "Nobody blames you."
"Good," he snaps, "Let's move forward, shall we? And get off the table."
"I'm just glad they didn't hurt you worse than they did."
Rodney gazes at me for a second, an unreadable expression ghosting across his face.
Since he's not saying anything, I keep talking. "It could have been any of us, Rodney."
He walks over to me, his arms folded tightly across his chest. "Okay," he challenges, "What if it had been you that told them about our plan? Hmm? It would have been just fine?"
I shake my head. "I'm a trained military officer. You're not."
Licking his lips, Rodney says, "I . . . I am a member of your team."
"Yes, you are," I say.
He stares at me for a moment, and then he lets his shoulders slump. "I should've been able to take it."
Jumping down off the table, I put my hand on Rodney's shoulder. "It's over. Don't keep beating yourself up."
"It's over? Well, Major," Rodney says, "What if I'm captured again, and what if I'm . . . tortured? And what if I give my captors crucial information?"
The guy's got a point. That's a very real concern, not just for Rodney, but for any of Atlantis' scientists. I wonder how Daniel Jackson made the transition from scientist to soldier. He must've gotten there somehow, or General O'Neill wouldn't have kept him on the team.
"Look, Rodney," I say, "I've seen you stand up to so many things since we've gotten here. A lot of people would've folded. You're still in the game."
Rodney raises an eyebrow. "You're trying to reach me with poker metaphors?"
I grin. "That was supposed to be profound, Rodney."
"Profundity isn't one of your strong suits, Major."
"My point is," I say dramatically, "You don't have anything to feel ashamed about."
Scowling, Rodney yanks his shoulder away from me. "I don't feel ashamed."
"You feel something," I say.
Leaning against the table, Rodney releases a staggered breath.
"Rodney," I say, "Come on. Talk to me."
Standing up straight, Rodney advances on me. "All right," he says theatrically, stopping just short of running into me, "All right. Major, I not only could have lost the city, I could have gotten you killed." He gestures wildly. "Do you realize what was going through my head when I stood there, impotently listening to that melee? I heard those gunshots; I thought you could be dead."
I stare at him. This is new information. "So," I half-laugh, "You were more worried about me than the whole damn city."
Rodney averts his eyes.
Deciding to take a chance, I place my hand back on his shoulder. "Imagine how I felt when I saw your bloody arm."
"It's not the same thing," he says.
"No?" I shrug. "You were worried about me. I was worried about you. Sounds the same."
Rodney shakes his head. "I created the situation that could have gotten you killed."
"The Genii created the situation that could have gotten me and you killed," I counter.
For once, he doesn't argue with me.
We stand face to face, letting the awkward silence swell around us. As we stand there, I feel my breath begin to hitch and my chest begin to tighten. Suddenly, I'm very aware of how close to me Rodney is standing. Finally, when I can't take it anymore, I say, "Look, you didn't do anything wrong. That's that. Okay?"
"All right," Rodney says softly.
"We're both here," I say firmly, "We're fine."
Reluctantly, Rodney nods. "Yeah," he says with mock-irritation, "You're definitely here. You've been here all day."
"In your way while you're trying to work," I add.
Pasting my sloppiest grin on my face, I quip, "You love me and you know it."
Rodney looks up at me and then quickly looks away.
Holding my breath, I tentatively run my free hand up his arm.
"Don't do that," Rodney says, almost pleadingly.
"Why not?" I ask.
He shuffles around uncomfortably. "Well, for one thing," he says, "That's my sore arm."
I wince. "Sorry." After a few seconds, I squeeze his shoulder and say, "Look, Rodney. I don't know exactly what's happening between us right now . . ."
I put two fingers on his lips. "Let me finish, Rodney. You don't have to dominate every conversation." I nod authoritatively. "Now, I don't know what's happening. But I think I want to find out."
There. I've said it.
Rodney gazes intently at the floor. "Do you think that's wise?"
"I don't care," I say bluntly.
After a few seconds, Rodney finally looks up at me. Flashing the first real grin I've seen on him in days, he says, "That must be the disciplined military officer in you talking."
Smiling, I say, "It is."
Rodney shakes his head. "So, Major," he says lightly, "Why don't we talk about this?"
Now he wants to talk?