A BEE IN THE BONNET By NotTasha -- here's
PART 18: ABOUT THAT LETTER
McKay grimaced as toggled about on the laptop, reading the latest reports from Zelenka and the others. He sighed, wondering how the hell they functioned without him. "Look at this!" he called across the room to Beckett. "They started working on the portable water purification device without me. What were they thinking?"
"Oh, I dunno," Beckett responded without looking up. "Maybe about purifying water… portably?"
With a harrumph, McKay jabbed at a button. "Well, they're going about it totally ass-backwards. Oh! This will never do! Look at the experiments they've set up? Do they honestly think this will show them anything? Beckett! Call Zalonka for me. Get him here right now. I have to set him straight before he wastes any more valuable time."
"For the twentieth time, I'm not calling anyone in the lab," Carson replied with a tired sigh. "And the man's name's 'Zelenka'. You're to rest up and relax. I dunno why I let you have that computer. Soon as you fall asleep, I'm takin' it from you."
"Oh, that's mature," McKay responded petulant, as he reached for the bottle of blue Gatorade and took a swallow. "Well then, I'll hide it and you won't be able to get it. So ha ha on you." He poked at the keys, groaning again. "Look at what Grodin's been up to! My God, is the science department run by chimpanzees in my absence?"
"I wouldn't go around calling your coworkers chimps," Sheppard stated as he strolled into the room.
McKay, momentarily surprised by the major's appearance, rolled his eyes and settled the sports drink on the little table at his side. "I wasn't calling them chimpanzees. Certainly you realize that? I only have the highest respect for my colleagues. Of course they'll never reach my level of understanding, so they need a little extra hand-holding. I was referring to the reports…"
"Which were chimp-like?"
"No," McKay grumbled. "Simply that the manner in which the information recorded here made it appear as if chimpanzees had invaded the… oh, forget it." And he jabbed again at the keyboard. It was jerked from his hands before he could pull up the next report.
"Enough," Sheppard stated holding the laptop above the head of the frustrated astrophysicist.
"Thank you!" Beckett exhaled, stepping quickly across the room and taking the computer away from the major. "Finally!" He shut it down and jammed it into a cabinet, then locked it.
"Wait! That's mine!" McKay called out.
"No, it's not yours. Yours is in your room. That's one of the 'loaner' machines." Sheppard grinned.
"I knew that," McKay shot back. "I can recognize my own laptop."
"Relax, McKay," Sheppard returned, sitting down at the chair beside Rodney's bed. "I just came by to talk to you a bit before Beckett releases you tomorrow." And he glanced to the harried medical doctor, who threw up his hands in exasperation. "How're you feeling?"
"Like I should be out of here and back in the lab," McKay responded bluntly.
"You're not going back to the lab!" Beckett told him. "Tomorrow, you're going to your room, and you're stayin' there until I tell you that you can leave."
"We'll see," McKay replied, and then smiled as he realized something.
"I'll take care of your laptop," Sheppard promised. "Don't want anything to happen to it while you're convalescing. I'll keep it safe."
McKay snorted and folded his arms at his chest. "How am I supposed to relax if I don't have any work to do? With so much that needs to be completed, you can't expect me to just do nothing."
"Better get him temporary quarters," Sheppard said to Beckett. "Consider where he lives."
"Ach," Beckett groaned. "Nearly lives inside the lab. Yes, I'll requisition something for a few days."
"Now see here!" McKay protested. "I'd like to be in my own room, thank you very much."
"We'll fix the room up nice for you," Beckett said with a charming lilt. "You'll see. You'll feel right at home."
"McKay…" Sheppard started and then shook his head. He glanced to Beckett and asked, "Can I talk to him a minute… you know… privately."
Beckett looked relieved. "Have all the time you want. I'm blasted tired. The both of you may like staying up to all hours, but I, for one, am going to get some sleep." He turned toward his quarters, but called to Sheppard before he left, "Ring me if you need me."
Once the door shut, McKay grabbed the Gatorade, took a slug and looked up to Sheppard. The major was giving him a pointed look. "What?"
"He's been doing an awful lot for you," Sheppard stated.
"I know that," McKay responded, his voice suddenly quiet. He swirled the bottle in his hand. "He's been running himself ragged looking after me. I know I'm not the most pleasant patient. I'll make it up to him." McKay ran his free hand over his face, still looking incredibly worn out. "I'd be dead if it wasn't for you. You and Carson. I'll make it up to both of you. I don't know how I can begin to thank you for…"
"You know that nearly every person on this base was looking for you? Teyla even had some of her people patrolling the coast on the mainland."
"You're kidding me."
"Soon as everyone heard something had happened to you – they looked. Everyone was looking for you – non-stop, around the clock."
"Hmm," McKay looked nonplussed as he settled the bottle beside him on the bed. "Well," he finally stated, "I suppose I'm an important commodity. I mean, my brain is something that cannot simply be misplaced and forgotten, right?"
"They weren't looking for your brain," Sheppard stated firmly.
"Well, of course, but what I meant was… they realized the importance of finding me. Think about the sheer number of personnel it would take to replace me. They'd probably require six or seven normal men to equal my brainpower. Anyone with a basic grasp of math could figure out that equation. It would be best to keep me around. Even you should understand…"
"McKay…" Sheppard ground out. "They were looking because they were worried about you. I was worried about you. Goddamn it, Rodney… I was worried." Rodney actually looked shocked by this revelation. Aw hell! It was that goddamn letter again, Sheppard realized. He thinks that everyone is just like that idiot, Roger "Dodge" Murphy. "Listen, about that letter…"
McKay's face fell, then looked pinched and pained, "Oh, not that again. Please, that's what started all this mess."
"It's what put you in the floor?" Sheppard asked, confused by this news.
Rodney just groaned and shook his head.
"Look, he's a jerk, a punk-ass kid, Rodney, that doesn't know his ass-hole from a hole in the ground."
"Well, he obviously had his hand on the pulse of the personnel in Antarctica."
"The hell he did! Goddamn it, McKay, why do you believe shit like that?"
"Because he's right. I'm not good with people. I just can't read them," McKay admitted. "I'm gullible as hell on some matters. I honestly thought the man 'liked' me. I thought he was a friend. You see, I just can't tell if someone is being honestly friendly toward me, or just jerking my chain."
"You don't have to have any doubts about me, Rodney."
McKay paused, narrowing his gaze at the major, not knowing what to think. So he went on, "I'm the foremost authority on the StarGate and Ancient technology. Hey, it's like ABC to me. If can produce hard evidence, if it if can be measured and relied on… I'm your man…"
"But people are … difficult for me."
"Because you can't rely on us?"
"No, no… not that at all." And Rodney grimaced and changed his position in the bed. "Because I can't be relied on."
"Oh, now that's a crock. You're Mr. Reliable. Come on, did you ever play hooky from school? Have you ever called in sick for work?"
McKay waved a hand. "That's not what I'm talking about. I'm just not 'friend' material, okay? I'm the 'Answer Man', yes, that's right. I'm not the 'buddy' or the 'pal', now am I?" McKay's voice rose as he spoke. "I'm the one you seek out when something's broken, the man you want when something perplexing is happening, the guy you go to for long convoluted answers, but who the hell wants that out of a friend?"
"I do," Sheppard returned. "Ford and Teyla wouldn't hesitate to say the same. I'm thinking Weir and Beckett would, too. Zelenka, Grodin, whoever else you want to mention. Heck, they might not want to listen to you all the time… but EVERYONE was looking for you, McKay. Nobody was looking for answers. There was nothing broken. Nothing needed fixing. They just wanted to find you. I wanted to find you. Don't you get it? Not because you're smart as a goddamn super computer, not because you answer every frickin' question anyone ever asks you, not because you can spout Prufrock in your sleep… but because we were so damn worried about you. We thought you were hurt. We knew you were alone and couldn't get to us. We wanted to find you and make sure you were okay."
Not responding, McKay seemed to stare off into space.
"You're our friend, Rodney," John added. "That's all there is to it."
McKay was silent -- a unique situation -- so Sheppard continued. "Ford threw that letter in the crapper, so that should tell you what he thought of it. No one else has read it. He only let me see it because he was so upset about it. The pages are gone, along with everything that was written on them. Forget it. That moron is in another galaxy. You understand what that means, Answer Man?"
Rodney started to speak, but Sheppard cut him off, "It means we thought Rodger Dodger was full of shit and we wanted nothing to do with him. Now, get over it and get better, okay?" He gave McKay a slap on the knee, then leaned closer and said, "The opinion of that jerk means nothing to me, to Ford or to anyone on this base, you got that?"
"Okay," McKay responded tentatively.
"Good," Sheppard said and straightened. "One more thing… a thread?" And John gave McKay a dark look.
"…And…. What's that supposed to mean?"
"I was supposed to see a little thread waving around on the ground?"
"It's all that would fit through the hole," Rodney declared.
"It was a very small hole and I had nothing else to work with," McKay stated. "And I frayed it so that it would be easier to see! If I'd had my pack, well, I might have fashioned some sort of a homing beacon, or sent up a flare, or tapped into the station's communication system." He looked thoughtful. "If I'd been able to see, it would have been fairly easy to decipher which cable to cut into, then it would only be a matter of finding the right wiring and I would have been able to reach nearly anyone on the base, send out a message in Morse Code or something. Do people still know Morse Code?"
"I'm sure there's a few," John responded. "You've been thinking about this a lot."
"If I had my tools and a decent light, I would have been out of there in less than a minute."
"And if you weren't so sick that you could hardly think straight…"
"Well, there is that, too…" And Rodney jabbed a finger at Sheppard. "In any case, fishing with that thread did the trick. You saw it!"
The major grinned, realizing that there was no disputing that fact. "Yeah, but that was one hell of a Hail Mary."
"And you didn't need to transport yourself into the floor, you know," McKay admonished. "Grodin would have figured it out how to find a means into that space."
"Yeah, I did have to do that," John returned. He shook his head, still wondering at how he'd managed to see that little thread – what had made him stop and look? He remembered that dark, cramped, uncomfortable place and didn't want to think about being trapped there for a day. "I wasn't going to leave you there alone."
And he let that thought hang for a moment -- again, Rodney had nothing to say.
Finally, Sheppard stated, "I got to be going. I'll be seein' ya, okay?" He turned to leave, waving over his shoulder as he passed through the doorway.
"Oh, Major?" McKay called after him. When Sheppard turned, Rodney smiled sheepishly. "What did you do with it… the bee? You didn't just… hand it over to Zelenka or Kavanaugh, did you?"
Sheppard smiled and patted his breast pocket. "When you're feeling better, maybe we can try some more experiments. This time, we'll be a little more restrained. Once or twice… maybe three times."
"What if we bring water, a little something to eat?" McKay sat forward in his bed, looking livelier than he had since before this began. "Maybe we can find someone who smuggled in some Smartfood?"
"That's popcorn isn't it?"
"It's only the best snack food you can buy in a bag." And the doctor seemed to be getting some of his color back as he grinned. "Well, there's also the really cheap cheese puffs that they sell on the bottom shelves in the supermarkets. You know, the off-brand, neon-orange ones."
"I'll see what I can round up," Sheppard responded. "Don't know if I can find any more popcorn, but at least I know where we can get a popper." Then, he turned and moved into the hallway and out toward the rest of Atlantis beyond.
McKay watched Sheppard go, actually feeling good about their little discussion, feeling better by the minute. As the door slid shut behind the major, a thought struck Rodney and he frowned about something John had said.
"Prufrock?" he uttered, scratched his head and pondered what the hell Sheppard had meant.
A/N: There you go. I hope you enjoyed my first foray into this fandom. I really didn't know what I was doing and you've all been so kind. Thank you for your comments.