DISCLAIMER: I own none of this. If I did, do you think I'd still be working for a living? Thanks to the show's writers for sharing their fun with us.

Rodney McKay sat in a comfortable tan chair, staring out the window at the sun setting over the ocean. "I see them every time I close my eyes," he finally said.

"Who do you see?" asked the blonde woman sitting across from him.

Rodney turned back to face Kate Heightmeyer. "Johnson. Dumais. Hays. They're dying right in front of me and I can't save them."

"Do you think you should have been able to save them?" Kate looked at the young scientist. Rodney had definitely matured since coming to Atlantis. (She had read some of Lt. Colonel Carter's mission reports about Rodney with a mixture of amusement and dread.) He was better able to handle himself in the field, and was physically in much better shape. But he looked older somehow, and his eyes were haunted.

"Of COURSE I should have been able to save them!" he snapped at her. "I was the smartest person there. That's my job!" Well, at least he wasn't any more modest than usual.

Instead of commenting, Kate changed the subject. "That wasn't the first time you lost someone you were trying to save, was it." A statement, not a question.

"I have no idea what you're talking about." said Rodney. But he wouldn't meet her eyes.

"I think someone close to you died, and you feel responsible." Kate said softly. Rodney got up and began pacing around her office. "I also think that's why you don't let yourself get close to anyone."

Rodney stared out the window again, eventually admitting "I didn't only have a sister. I used to have a brother, too. He was four years older than me and I followed him around everywhere." Rodney was silent for a long minute, while Kate just looked at him compassionately. She'd learned that it was better not to say anything during moments like this, instead letting the patient continue when he was ready.

Finally, flopping back into his chair, Rodney continued, "He worked in construction one summer. The building site where he was working caved in. Freak thing, never should have happened, totally negligent management. Anyway, he was trapped underneath a 6-foot pile of concrete blocks. But he was still alive! The engineers were trying to find a way to get him out, when a leaking gas line exploded." In an uncharacteristically low voice, he finished, "And I had just figured out the solution."

Kate opened her mouth to speak, but Rodney cut her off, yelling "I should have been faster! Just like I should have thought of that EMP faster! There's no excuse for stupidity."

She finally got a word in. "That must have been horrible for you. But it's unrealistic to think that you could have done something. You and Carson didn't even know it was a nanovirus when Hays died."

It was the wrong thing to say. "Yes, yes, that's my point!" he snarled. "As soon as we knew Wagner and Johnson died of the exact same thing, I should have had it! Instead, Hays bought it and Ford and Zelenka came close." His voice cracked on the last word. He'd enjoyed working with Hays and flirting with Dumais, and he didn't think he'd ever forget Aidan's look of terror when he realized he had less than half an hour to live.

Kate nodded. "So after your brother died, you needed to be smarter than everyone else. Maybe that way you could prevent someone else you loved from dying. But just in case it happened again, like today, you walled yourself off so that you wouldn't care for anyone."

"That is just so not true." said Rodney. "I haven't walled myself off. I'm funny! I'm outgoing! I'm...really dizzy. I think I may be going into hypoglycemic shock!"

Kate handed him the cup of orange juice and the power bar she'd left on her desk, anticipating Rodney's famous "hypoglycemic" attacks. He wasn't going to get out of talking that easily. Relentlessly, she continued, "There are other smart people here, McKay. Why does it always have to be you who saves the day?"

Glaring, Rodney tore the wrapper off the power bar and took a huge bite. Mouth full, he said, "No one else comes close! Radek is good, but you can't count on him figuring things out. I don't trust anyone else besides myself in a crisis."

"That's it, isn't it, Rodney? You can't control if someone else comes up with an answer, but you're convinced that you always can, so you feel more in control of a situation. This is hard, I know. Everyone on this mission is an achiever, always pushing their own limits. It's painful when those limits push back."

When he didn't respond, Kate continued. "Can you tell me what you felt when you told Carson to stop CPR?"

"Are you kidding? How did you think I felt? Sad, afraid, anger at the randomness of it. At least I wasn't hungry, though. That was a plus." He smirked, trying to lighten the discussion. Kate made a mental note to explore his use of humor at another time.

"Yes, it was random. And it wasn't anything you did that saved yourself, it was the fact that you had received the ATA gene therapy."

Rodney slammed his hand down on the armrest of his chair. "Great, this is really fascinating, I'm thrilled to learn about my unconscious mind, but are you TRYING to make me feel worse?"

Kate sighed. "No, Rodney. But I am trying to get you to look at things a little differently, to realize that you are human like everyone else and can't always be right."

"That's what I said to Elizabeth." Rodney muttered.

Kate looked down at her watch. "I'm sorry, Rodney, but I have someone else coming in. I'd like you to think about this, and come back to talk more about it."

Rodney nodded and headed towards the door. This was always a tricky part of a visit. He needed to leave quickly and quietly so no one would see him.

Suddenly, though, the door slid open. "Teyla!" he exclaimed.


A/N Yes, I know that Rodney is allergic to citrus. Kate, however, appears to have forgotten... ;-)